ROMANIA’S POSHEST TWEEN POP SENSATION
BY IOANA MOLDOVEANU
PHOTO BY ZOLTAN LORENCZ Ionut Cercel is the Justin Bieber of manele, a genre of Romanian music that can best be described as a questionable combination of Gypsy folk and modern dance pop. He is 14 years old, has five solo albums under his belt, and is the subject of dozens of fan-created Facebook pages. All of this while dressing like a 45-year-old Vegas lounge singer (which, unsurprisingly, is a popular style in Romania). Recently, his brother started a clothing label under Ionut ’s name. Its target demographic? “Posh people.” I met Ionut for a coffee at a gas station—a place he “felt comfortable”—where he told me more about his style and I had a hard time resisting making jokes about coffee and Ionuts. VICE: How do you select your clothes?
Ionut Cercel: Clothes are the only thing I spend a long time thinking about. I am very picky. I usually choose a suit, together with a shirt and a tie, depending on how they match and on my mood. I’ve liked wearing matching items since I was little. It makes people respect me, and it also shows I respect myself. If you are a serious kid, you don’t like to dress casual. How would you categorize the items in your wardrobe?
Stage costumes, school outfits, TV-show outfits, and accessories. I have about ten hats and 20 pairs of glasses. I like the round ones from Ray-Ban, because they cover up my face when I’m tired. I always wear this chainlet I got as a present from a Brazilian guy who owns a disco in Greece. I have to alter the watches I buy, because I have small wrists. When I want to look older, I wear a tie. What is the difference between your stage and school outfits?
The stage outfits are more serious—very elegant and expensive. The school clothes are classical. Everybody knows who I am at school; I don’t need to show off. But I have to look good onstage, because that’s what my fans care about. I dress quite posh. What does “posh” mean to you?
Fashionable. Clothes should show your best features. If it’s cheap, but I like how it looks, price doesn’t matter. Still, I feel expensive clothes fit you better. The shirt doesn’t need to have cufflinks, but it has to have a hard collar. I prefer fitted clothes; I don’t like clothes to hang about me.
KOALA DUNG EARRINGS ARE A REAL PIECE OF SHIT
BY HANNAH BROOKS Sometimes you don’t know what’s missing in your life until you see it. Such is the case with earrings made out of koala feces sold by the True Blue Roo Poo Company, an Australian business that specializes in making products out of animal poop. For the low price of $20 you can own a pair of plain brown drop-style earrings, or you can splurge and get koala pellets covered with 23-carat gold leaf for $35, which is surely the bargain of the year. After poking around the internet to learn more about koala caca, I came across a site called Diary of a Koalawrangler, written by a woman who cares for injured koalas in Port Macquarie. According to her blog, koalas excrete “uniformly shaped pellets” that look “almost mechanically produced” (except for when they have diarrhea, of course). And their shit truly doesn’t stink—thanks to the eucalyptus leaves they chew, the scent of their poo is “barely distinguishable from the general eucalyptus haze that prevails in an intensive [koala-]care unit.” The bad news is that after I placed our order for the earrings, I was informed the item was no longer available. Pissed off about the shitty situation, I found True Blue Roo Poo’s phone number and called them to give them a piece of my mind. Why were they out of koala shit that was designed to hang from your earlobes, and when the fuck would they have more? A heavily accented woman answered, muttering something about her sister, and hung up. We called back, and before we could say anything, the woman screeched, “You be careful! Don’t call this number. Goodbye.”
SILKY CANADIAN BEAVERS
BY BEN MAKUCH
ILLUSTRATION BY KARA CRABB Last October, Canadian senator Nicole Eaton called the beaver, one of Canada’s official emblems, a “dentally defective rat.” She made the case that the country should instead embrace the “stately” polar bear, setting off a mini-debate over what the beaver truly means to Canucks. In the 1600s, one of the region’s most lucrative occupations was clubbing, skinning, and selling these bucktoothed critters, which basically sustained Canada’s economy until the 19th century. But in modern pipeline-building, oil-exporting Canada, you might think that beavers don’t serve a purpose outside of being cute and gnawing on things; you’d also be wrong. Canada’s fur exports brought in more than $450 million in 2010, up 36 percent from the year before and more than triple the paltry $148 million the industry brought in during recession-tastic 1992. The upswing in the fur economy is the result of exploding consumer demand in emerging markets like Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and northern China, where the middle class is growing and discovering how smooth and snuggly Canadian beaver coats and stoles can be. And successful beaver conservation efforts over the past few decades means there should be enough warm, fuzzy beaver to wrap our bodies in for the forseeable future.
ROADKILL IS THE NEW BLACK
BY KARA-LIS COVERDALE
ILLUSTRATION BY MAIA RUTH LEE Gerry Armsworthy is a 73-year-old “roadkill specialist” who makes stylish and practical winter wear out of animals he finds dead on the street. His home in Regina, Saskatchewan, is also his workshop, where he keeps seven sewing machines and a giant freezer for storing his collected carcasses. He creates upward of 100 pieces per year, selling them at local craft markets and through his made-to-order business. VICE: How did you get into this very unique line of business?
Gerry Armsworthy: Back when I was working and traveling around the province, I saw all these lovely animals whacked and lying on the side of the road. I had a hobby of sewing leather and needed some trim for my slippers, so I went to the library and got a few books on skinning, fleshing, and tanning. Is useable roadkill hard to find? I imagine the majority is all torn up.
Not in Saskatchewan. On the highways there are a lot of wild coyotes, foxes, badgers, and raccoons that are always out forging for food. Most of the time they get hit at night. But don’t the animals’ bodies basically explode on impact with the car?
No, the only way they fall apart is if the vehicle runs directly over them, but even then it’s not very much. They’re only not useable if they get hit by a 16-wheeler and they become completely flat. But I don’t pick up the ones that are stuck to the road. I use the ones that are off to the side and in the ditches. Do you price your furs according to scarcity?
Absolutely. My most expensive item is a hat made out of badger fur. The badger is one of the meanest animals of the weasel family and has beautiful fur, but it hibernates in the winter. They only get hit by cars when they wake up to eat. Have you ever come across a cat or dog hit by a car and thought, “Hey, they’d make a nice hat!”
Oh no, I wouldn’t do that, but I have had some strange requests. I once had a guy who wanted me to process his dog. I told him he’d have to go somewhere else. I also had some fellow phone me up and tell me he wanted the skulls. My wife and I thought that was pretty strange. There’re all sorts out there. Do you have any advice for someone who wants to do this?
Most people don’t think of this, but when an animal gets hit by a car, one of the first things that happens to it is its bowels break. It can be very messy and stinky, and it’s rather discomforting when you skin it. When you’re cleaning the blood and innards just use water, but never hot water because it will cook the blood and you’ll never get it out.
MENTIONING UNMENTIONABLES IN SAUDI ARABIA
BY EZRA POUNDLAND
ILLUSTRATION BY GRACE WILSON The laws of Saudi Arabia are based on strict Sharia principles, which require genders to be segregated and forbid women from driving, traveling alone, and achieving the same professional status as men. Of course, the effects on civil rights are a total bummer, but perhaps the most awkward Sharia by-product has to do with lingerie. Strangely, almost unbelievably, most of the Saudis selling women’s underwear are men. And in a country where a man and woman dancing together is the Western equivalent of having anal sex in the middle of a nursery, many ladies find it uncomfortable to speak with a dude about panties and bras. Saudi women have been protesting this situation for years—activist Reem Assaad, for instance, was the leader of a campaign to boycott lingerie shops that employed men. Last July, their demands were finally heard by King Abdullah, who gave knicker merchants six months to lay off their male employees. (The king’s decree also extended to cosmetics stores.) This isn’t the first time officials tried to put the kibosh on men selling women’s undergarments. The labor ministry brought up the idea of banning lingerie salesmen three years ago, but for very stupid reasons it was opposed by the nation’s powerful clerics, who went so far as to issue a fatwa against women selling bras or lipstick. Women across the country protested the decision, culminating when a woman named Fatima Garoub launched a Facebook campaign called “Enough Embarrassment.” Though the clergy remain opposed to the idea that a woman might be embarrassed by talking about bras and such with men, Abdullah stood by his decision, and the ministry of labor recently hired 400 inspectors to make sure the country’s lingerie sellers are complying with the new law. While women in Saudi Arabia only recently won the right to vote and run for office (but can’t do so until 2015), and have far fewer employment opportunities than men, this small measure to make them comfortable under their abayas is certainly a step in the right direction.
SMILE AND SAY “PASSION GAP”
BY JAMIE CLIFTON
PHOTOS BY SYDELLE WILLOW SMITH Having your four top teeth removed for the sake of fashion may seem a little extreme to the squeamish, but in the Cape Flats, an area in Cape Town, South Africa, where many nonwhites were forcibly relocated during apartheid, getting your chompers yanked out of your skull is on par with ear piercings. It’s common for teens to have teeth removed so they can buy flashy dentures, which are seen as status symbols and range from basic, street-cred-devoid porcelain to iced-out displays of gold and diamonds. The trend is widely known as the “passion gap,” and according to urban legend it started in a South African prison where high-ranking gang members would beat the teeth out of their “wyfies” (prison bitches) so that they could give better blowjobs. Rapper Isaac Mutant was born and raised in the Cape Flats, so he seemed like a good person to ask about passion gaps. He wouldn’t tell me whether he himself had a gap but happily answered nearly all of my other questions. VICE: How did this whole passion-gap trend start?
Isaac Mutant: Ah, man, it was never a trend at all. Hell, the passion gap is a fucking way of life, my bra. It’s always been there as a part of colored culture. When you say “colored,” do you mean people who don’t fall into the classifications of black or white?
Yeah, colored people are, like, between black and white. It’s kind of a political thing, but colored people could be defined as all the fucking leftovers of South Africa. Doesn’t matter what their background is; colored is just all the people in poverty who were forgotten about. Poverty is what linked us all together, and also what forced us to deal with shit ourselves, so the passion gap came out of that as, like, a way of identifying yourself as part of colored culture. Does anyone just get grills and pretend they’ve had their teeth taken out?
Fuck grills. The passion gap is part of colored culture; all that grill stuff came afterward with people like Lil’ Wayne and all those American rappers. Fuck Lil’ Wayne, man. The passion gap’s got nothing to do with the hip-hop thing. It was around long before hip-hop ever came anywhere near South Africa. Where do people get their gaps done? Do they go to licensed dentists?
I mean, some uptight, snobby, larny [slang for “snob”] types will go to the dentist, but I personally don’t like to waste money. This is South Africa, man, so there’s always a bra with a brother who can sort it out. Of course, the cheapest way to do it is sip on a bottle of rum and just get them teeth beat out of your mouth by the bra with the hardest knuckles.
FASHION IS DESTROYING THE EARTH
BY BRUNO BAYLEY
ILLUSTRATION BY KYLE PLATTS When you go to a fancy-shmancy clothing store, you probably don’t think about the long process that caused your favorite new polyester thong-bottom leotard—or whatever—to get into your hands, but perhaps you should, you selfish little shit. Chances are the manufacturing of said garment resulted in either deforestation, pollution, a bunch of villagers in India being killed by bulldozers, or all of the above. Makes you feel pretty lousy, huh? To make you feel even worse, here are three of the fashion industry’s most harmful practices. TANNERIES
Cow skin gets transformed into handbags and boots through a process called tanning, the most common type of which involves chromium compounds being sloshed all over the leather before it’s wrung out and dried. Some of these compounds are carcinogens that can cause boo-boos like ulcers, respiratory ailments, and kidney and liver damage. For extra bad vibes, tanneries tend to be clustered in low-income areas, which get turned into chromium dust bowls of misery. ARTISANAL GOLD MINING
In its natural state, gold is often mixed together with crap like silt and nonprecious ores, so it has to be isolated. One method of isolation often used in small-scale (artisanal) gold mining is mercury amalgamation, which consists of getting gold particles to stick to liquid mercury, then heating the mixture until the mercury vaporizes, leaving only the pay dirt behind. Problem is, mercury is extremely poisonous and if ingested can wreak havoc on your kidneys, heart, and nervous and respiratory systems. Not only is this bad news for workers who inhale the fumes when they’re pumping it into the ground, mercury can also build up in the earth, where it contaminates the entire food chain. COTTON PRODUCTION IN INDIA
In the late 90s, many cotton farmers in India were convinced (or conned) to switch to growing genetically modified Bt cotton, which, while invulnerable to the troublesome bollworm, proved to be susceptible to numerous other pests. This forced farmers to buy more pesticides to protect their crops, sending them into a downward spiral of debt that has contributed to an epidemic of farmer suicides (200,000 in the past decade alone). Have fun showing off your “totes cute blouse” to your friends, though.