The Istanbul report: A weekend of cool with Courtney Love, Tilda Swinton, Kirsten Dunst, Haider Ackermann and more!

Left: Courtney Love and Michael Stipe. Right: Tilda Swinton and Love. Photography by David Benett. 
Left: Courtney Love and Michael Stipe. Right: Tilda Swinton and Love. Photography by David Benett.

There’s something dangerous and sexy about Istanbul: the clash and dance between East and West, between hot new scene and ancient culture. It makes it the right place for culturati to collide and let loose in a way you’d never see at, say, a New York Fashion Week party. Hence: Istancool, which is a Liberatum Global festival (in association with Vakko, Istanbul ’74 and AnOther) in its second year, and how I spent my weekend.

Liberatum’s stated aim is “connecting Britain’s finest minds with the world”⎯in addition to Istanbul, they’ve done festivals in Rio, Moscow and Papua New Guinea. But it’s best understood as a travelling circus: the hyper-charming, 27-year-old Liberatum founder Pablo Ganguli plays ringleader, while fashion (and art, and culture) freaks tag along.

The biggest freak at this year’s fest? Courtney Love, wild child forever. In vintage slips, with roses in her hair, she was the fan fave with some serious competition: Kirsten Dunst, Michael Stipe, Sophie Calle, Tilda Swinton, Haider Ackermann, Ryan McGinley, Sam Taylor-Wood and (not enough, perhaps?) Turkish talent, like director Reha Erdem. All and sundry gathered to watch Love headline Istancool’s big party, playing a show (one hundred candles, maybe two hundred people) that transcended a slightly cheesy seaside-lounge venue.

Kirsten Dunst and Ryan McGinley shot by David Benett.

Her voice raw and bloodshot, Love did an acoustic “Malibu,” covered Madonna and duetted with her good pal Stipe, while McGinley, pressed against the stage, recorded every last breath on his iPhone. Dunst swayed along in Chanel Haute Couture and flats. Later, while Jefferson Hack spun tunes, Swinton got way down, busting (actually busting) moves to “Personal Jesus” with Ackermann and Derek Blasberg. Ice queen who?!

But, as a Canadian girl in fashion, my number-one “sighting” was Tim Blanks, the venerable fashion writer and Hogtown expat. When I told him I wrote for FASHION, which he edited back in the ‘80s (“Toronto was the best city in the world back then,” he said). He told me to tell y’all hello and then he said he needed another drink. “It’s crazy here, isn’t it?” It was.

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