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I got the new 10 Magazines last week, men’s and women’s issues. I’m quite particular about what magazines I buy for various reasons:-
1. Cost, obviously.
2. Space. I’m a serial collector so I’d rather focus my efforts than have to jostle for space with a million glossies.
3. Blogs seem to be taking over and are more effective at keeping you up to date.
4. Content. The most important factor. Quality writing. Surprising editorials.
My reading list is quite small: 10 Magazine, Butt, Monocle, Fantastic Man, The Gentlewoman, Frame Magazine and The Economist’s Intelligent Life. Occasionally, I’ll but the Acne Paper but that’s it, really. Oh, and INDUSTRIE. Actually, not that small really…
Anyway Back to 10 and their amazing issue to celebrate their 10th Anniversary. I’ll be honest – I was getting quite bored with 10. It was getting a bit predictable and didn’t hold my interest as much. Nevertheless, I still bought it. The Serial Collector in me likes lining up the spines chronologically! The new issues are dedicated completely to Guinevere Van Seenus, for girls, and Tony Ward, for boys and seem to be fighting blows that will hopefully usher in a decade where the magazine returns to form. Guinevere is an amazing model who’s been quietly getting on with business for ages now. No blood diamond debacles here. It’s funny, I kind of forgot about her and then noticed her appearing in more editorials as of late. She graced the cover of the new Acne Paper and now 10 have dedicated a whole issue to her.
From the cover shot I had a feeling that this was going to be a strong issue. I like the way the lines traced through foam on her body suggest Keith Haring-esque marks on Grace Jones via Jean Paul Goude teamed with the cheesy sordidness of a Playboy centrefold. It forms part of the Mario Sorrenti piece entitled The Beauty Sitting. You’d be hard pushed to call it a fashion story as it features hardly any product but as an art piece it is incredibly powerful, striking and emotional. Above all it showcases Guinevere’s strengths as a model and Sorrenti’s mastery of the lens. No clothes. Just muse, artist and one HELL OF A VISION. The issue is worth getting just on that one shoot alone. There are so many more references you could point out but the one that rings most true is the artist Hans Bellmer. Strange, darkly beautiful and thought-provoking. You don’t come across shoots like this often.
I quite like this_
FANTASTIC Man N° 11
| photography: Benjamin Alexander Huseby | Styling: Jodie Barnes | Model: James Wells |
Its refreshingly simple. Shoot nude-coloured clothes on a nudist beach. That’s it. To the point, witty and quite beautifully done.
pages 140-148, €7.50/ £5.00/ $10.95. GO GET IT. Out now.
As I flicked through the April issue of American Vogue – a mercifully thin, advertising-light edition – I noticed that every one of the three or so editorials were in the same style despite being the creative fruits borne from different creative minds. Grace C, Edward E, David S and so forth. All major players yet how come this similarity and reduction of their efforts to Dynamism? “Dynamic”. I loathe that word. Especially when used in the context of fashion to imply movement caught freeze frame. The jumping model, all gangly and wide eyed, arms flaying like spaghetti, caught in some contorted pose. Or the mock I’m-going-to-work executive power stride, model caught legs akimbo, feet comically just off the ground, bemused mock gasp at the camera, usually with a pair of sunglasses, arms tucked behind her ears, lenses perched precariously atop barnet.
Added to this, the way American Vogue portrays “serious” portraits of women of importance – goodwill ambassadors, presidents, first ladies – in a serious, classical style gives a mixed message. There’s a constant flit between composed worthiness and girlish excitement. Will the real SLIM LADY please stand up?
Its all very 80s. And quite repetitive yet stagnant for something that should suggest movement. What irks me the most is that this type of photography reduces the model to a gangly, that word again, school girl – hopelessly, haplessly happy! Women as time-starved hysterical beings, caught like rabbits in the headlights. I just don’t get it. It reduces American Vogue to a predictable door-stopper when really it should be breaking boundaries not just in content but also in the presentation of style. After all, it IS a fashion magazine first and foremost, is it not?
Movement implied, even when absent
American Vogue isn’t the only culprit but it has somehow made this style its trademark. Now signatures are crucial but at some point the line between them and cliché becomes blurred. In general, magazines really need to evaluate how they portray themselves. Nary a day goes by without the naysayers foretelling the print industry’s curtain call. A bit premature, perhaps. Nothing beats flicking through real pages. It’s a bit like smoking – sometimes its the routine and process rather than what is ingested where the PLEASURE lies.
Regarding content. Fashion to flatter every figure? Is that possible? Diets, eating disorders, cosmetic surgery – The Beauty Lecture. Haven’t women read enough of these dogmas masquerading as good advice? Its spring so what’s new? Well lose weight and slap on the fake tan. Escapism. For sure. But what about an issue dedicated to staying in? Finding your own paradise at home, in your own company? The wardrobe foibles of a stay-at-home executive? I don’t know. Something useful. Something real. Something fanciful. Just get the models to stay perfectly, beautifully still. (From time to time, at least)
PS Amazing hair on Liya Kibede.
Vogue Italia: Ease up on the soft focus romanticism.
British Vogue: Keep it up.
Vogue Paris: Let Helmut Newton rest in peace.
Its Carmel, Miss Snow if you’re nasty…
Paris: The Lean Black Line, The Cloud of White Fox_
Reading Carmel Snow’s report on the Paris Haute Couture from the 1954 September issue of Harper’s Bazaar invites a wry smile. For instance:
“In general new materials are at their inventive best…Wool and Orlon woven with a puffy surface. Jerseys ribbed exactly like corduroy. Acetate and wool shot with a gilt thread..
Balenciaga’s giant puff of white fox, abloom with a pale rose… News because it’s more hat, and more allure, than we’ve known recently…”
* * *
Funny Fact: Carmel White married a society lawyer called George Palen Snow so I guess you could say she was as pale n’ white as snow or just call her Snow White. Hilarious, no?
It all seems so quaint and outmoded now but flicking through the pages I realised how closely linked Couture was to general fashion for the masses. It wasn’t just a laboratory of ideas and overblown fantasies to help shift a few tubes of mascara and bottles of Eau de Piss in the duty free at Stanstead Airport. The clothes featured were fantastic but they were also real – real, expensive clothes for real, expensive women. And the not so expensive but nevertheless just as real women emulated those outfits or aspired to owning the real thing. It all seemed attainable. Couture was relevant. Nowadays ready-to-wear has more influence. Prada, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton, none show couture but their influence is irrefutable.
Snow-White’s many, many dwarves_
Richard Avedon, Louise Dahl Wolfe, Diana Vreeland, Alexey Brodovitch, Truman Capote, Jean Cocteau, Lauren Bacall… The list of photographers, artists and tastemakers Carmel Snow discovered, worked with or supported is endless. She coined “The New look” in reference to Dior’s 1947 collection. Genius? Most definitely. Its hard to comprehend how vital and influential she was but in her time she was every bit as powerful as Anna Wintour, if not more so. Carmel, we salute you.
PS Miss C was apparently fond of a noonday tipple or two. We like that in a girl round these parts…
I found this little gem in San Donato market on the outskirts of Milan. It was published in the early 80s, a direct descendant of the Sexual Revolution in the 70s and Kama Sutra mania. It’s partly hysterical, partly quaint and a touch naff but there’s something about these images that have always appealed to me. Lord knows why! They have a strange beauty and I’ve always thought they would make an amazing theme for a beauty special. V. French Vogue. Enjoy the naffness!
I came across this article in a departure lounge last December. Following this week’s Size Debate it got me thinking about that other taboo – Age. Fashion is undoubtedly youth-obssessed above all things. Whether models are skinny or “normal” sized the one thing they’ll share in common is youth. A fat older lady? Forget it, that just pushes things a little bit too far. Apparently new clothes and old bodies don’t mix.
British Harper’s Bazaar, January 2010
Photography_ Sofia & Mauro
Styling_ Carmen Borgonovo
Irony Number 1.
We live in an ageing population. In about 40 years time the global average age will be about 37.1. In Japan there are about 9 people under 20 for every person over 65. By 2025 the ratio will halve. So the Blue Rinsers are one of the fastest growing consumer groups. How does the fashion industry respond to this. Well, by projecting an image of unattainable youth, of course. Odd, no? Considering that its women in their late thirties upwards who have the disposable income to spend on designer frocks and other luxury products. The cosmetics industry operates by enhancing a fear of ageing but it still predominantly targets women with air-brushed images of Eastern European teens. Darlings, granny gots the cash!
Irony Number 2.
Some of the world’s key image makers are, if not already, a mere grey hair shy of becoming an old age pensioner. Miuccia Prada, Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour, Carine Roitfeld… The latter perhaps sets the best example of how a middle-aged woman can be sexy but flick through the pages of French Vogue. Nah, still in the Teen Ages. Older women seem to be relegated to celebrity profiles or the token annual “beauty through the ages” specials. How patronising! You can buy but just don’t look it.
The fashion industry is toying with the idea, skirting round the issue, so to speak. See an airbrushed Madonna in the Louis Vuitton ad campaigns or the odd editorial or campaign with the now forty something Supermodels. Older women are now in better shape, lead more active lifestyles, have longer careers, still have sex [shock! they always did] and want to feel desirable and sexy. Youthful, also, but not young.
Charlotte Rampling illustrates this perfectly. She looks bloody amazing. See also Meryl Streep, Sharon Stone, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton… The list goes on. These women are the future. Forget the size debate, older women is where its at.
Funny how things slot into place. The penultimate post was a photograph of an accidental “8” formed by electrical cables, the result of stage designers preparing for a show at the Hackney Empire in London. “8“. Model size. “8“. Hourglass. Bombshell. Perfect symmetry. Goddess. “8”. Past tense of the verb to eat.
It brings me round nicely to some articles I’ve been reading over the weekend. I came across a post on the New York Times blog that referred to a recent shoot in V Magazine where “real”, womanly girls – how paradoxical does that sound – modelled in a series of shoots. The Size Debate has been raging on for a while now and that’s a good thing – it needs to be discussed.
I guess we have to thank the Beth Ditto cover shot on the Love Magazine’s debut issue for the focus on “bigger girls”. A part of me is quite cynical – we’ve had Italian Vogue’s black girls issue and now this. A part of me is cautious. All women are as “real” as each other so to be critical of skinny women is wrong. Also, even though weight is not a direct signifier of health, to suddenly start promoting overweight models wouldn’t be correct either.
The women in the following shots aren’t overweight. They’re curvy alright but quite beautiful and aspirational. I applaud this. What would be great is if we started seeing this sort of variety on a regular basis without fanfare because there really shouldn’t be an issue.
Interesting to note is that even though these models are larger than the norm none seem more than a size 16, which is the maximum size most designer clothes come in anyway. What never seems to be involved in the debate is the issue of fit. Once you step into oversize territory how do you cut clothes to flatter all body types? Its insane to criticise the fashion industry for this. Some women might be size 22 on top, 18 on the bottom, large around the torso but with relatively slim legs. The permutations become endless. It’s mission impossible to do this. One thing the slimmer and larger girls have in common is a defined waist. The mean. It’s all about proportion. The hourglass. The “8”. In that sense size doesn’t really matter, shape does.
Photography_ Inez an Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin
Styling_ Emmanuelle Alt
Vogue Paris, November 2009
Fur Play Redux_ French Vogue had stopped feeling fresh to me for a while. I guess I got bored of the Helmut Newton references that plagued the magazine for so long. What I liked about this shoot was that it did fur, Africa and savagery in way that was arresting and contemporary but quite classically beautiful. No doubt they took their cue from Marc Jacobs tribal collection for Louis Vuitton I still feel that this is more than just a lip sync or lazy “homage”. There’s a feeling of Peter Beard and touches of Sam Haskins from his African Image period [See my earlier post on that book.] The images you see aren’t exact copies – I messed around with the exposure and tone. I quite like the way the model seems like she’s had her body painted. It seems even more tribal to me. Bravo, guys. Love it!
Photography_ Emma Summerton
Fashion editor_ Charlotte Stockdale
Location_ Dover, England
Pages 226 – 243
I thought this shoot was incredibly beautiful: unexpected, modern and out of this world. Shoot red clothes on the white cliffs of Dover. Simple, precise and clever. Lara Stone may rock the issue’s cover and stars in the headliner shoot by Mario Testino but this wins hand down. The editor’s letter talks of Vogue representing ” fashion, style, extreme beauty and a sense of the contemporary.” This shoot does it. The Lara Stone shoot, “Stone Age”, doesn’t. How can a faithful pastiche of a Norman Parkinson shot from 1952 of a model in a ballgown reclining on a chair read as contemporary? Even if shot on the model-du-jour, Lara Stone. Lovely? Yes. Escapist? Ditto. Old-fashioned? Un-huh. It totally misses the point. The “Red Alert” shoot, however, does extreme beauty, shows us winter in a fresh way, is achingly glamorous and yet alien at the same time. It doesn’t make sense but the strongest fashion imagery doesn’t. The red against the white, greys and cool blues is graphic. You wonder where these creatures have come from. Latter day castaway mermaids? Pale and interesting never rang truer. And the cinch? Its shot in Dover for crikes sake! HOW MUCH MORE BRITISH CAN YOU GET?
Pretty Obvious: Lara Stone shot by Mario Testino