Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Looks can only get you so far…

         I must begin this post with an apology: my recent trip to Edinburgh and subsequent moving house has left me internet-less over the past few weeks, and whilst this does suggest that it’s about time I scrimped and saved to replace my ancient Nokia with a more modern phone, it has also given me plenty of blogging inspiration.


Whoever’s been to the Edinburgh Fringe before will know that it’s a wonderful array of money-spending madness. Whether you’re being gently harassed with a smile on the Mile, laughing like a pig on ecstasy in the midst of a sketch show or contemplating murder in a down-right dismal production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, it’s quite an event.

Amongst the crap…and there is a lot of crap - there are gems. This year’s highlights were a quirky production of ‘When Women Wee’, which consists of 5 girls playing 25 different women going in and out of a night club cubicle, dance troupe Flawless and the Nineteen Eighty-Four meets Glee-esque ‘Melody Blog’.
Although, perhaps what stood out most, was ‘Action to the Word’ and each of their various productions. From a Tim Burton like new musical: 'Constance and Sinestra', to a cut-throat interpretation of 'Titus Andronicus' - the company stood out, not to mention their startlingly homoerotic version of 'Clockwork Orange', which stunned me, my friends and reviewers alike.

However, whilst the man, who played Clockwork’s protagonist Alex, Martin McCreadie undoubtedly deserves a great deal of credit for his incredible acting ability, I can’t help but think that if McCreadie weren’t so McDreamy, the production would have failed to receive quite the same response, or at least the same audience ratings.
It is a fact that acting success often goes hand in hand with good looks. Hollywood icons are Hollywood icons for more than just their sought after talent, their looks play an important part too. Would Brad Pitt be the phenomenon he is today, without his chiselled features and would anyone have cared for Marilyn Monroe, had she not had that effortless smile? Probably not.

The reality is that, whilst film and theatre often aim to give an honest interpretation of life, they are also very visual mediums…if someone is going to spend a couple of hours watching an actor perform, innately they want to spend hours watching someone visually or at least stylistically pleasing, rather than someone who lacks in both of those departments.
Looks guarantee that even when a script drags, the film doesn’t because you could quite happily gaze at the actors and actresses it beholds, even if the film were mute. Would boys turn up to Transformers without the likes of Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whitely and would girls bother with Twilight had it not featured its fair share of alien like abs and flawless face screen shots - Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner? Again, probably not.
Like fashion, film and theatre follow beauty because it pulls in the ratings, and makes for picture perfect posters or even, and perhaps more wonderfully, clothes, as the recent Dolce & Gabbana collection demonstrates, with its selection of Marlon Brando t-shirts and James Dean vests.

The design duo unashamedly celebrate the appeal of aesthetics in film by placing the most handsome  of Hollywood icons in the forefront of their designs; their appeal is universal and there is nothing wrong with it. Of course, you can and should be successful, if you have the talent, whether you are Timothy Spall or Tom Cruise…it’s just looks help, and who doesn't love to look at someone beautiful?

Monday, 15 August 2011

Crazy in LOVE

      'L is for the way you look at me, O is for the only one I see, V is very very extraordinary, E is even more than anyone that you adore can...LOVE.'

      Now whether you associate those lyrics with Nat King Cole himself or, indeed, the Lindsay Lohan remake of 'The Parent Trap', one thing is certain - they did not refer to the genius of a magazine that is Katie Grand's biannual fashion extravaganza 'LOVE'. However, if a man or woman as stylish as Cole were to sing those lyrics now, I assume that their thoughts may digress to it, after all it is 'very very extraordinary'.
       Ever since it's launch just two years ago in February 2009, it was clear that LOVE was going to be a fashion lover's essential, in that, whilst like any fashion magazine it drips with pages of high-end designer advertising, it goes against the curve with it's edgy in-your-face editorials and in-depth interviews. 
       Through LOVE Grand has created a brand so brash it defies conventionality and so unique it always excites..and what better way to premier this ideal than by putting a  naked  Beth Ditto on it's front cover. A shot which could have so easily lead to disaster, yet under the talented stylist-turned-editor hands of Grand is the modern equivalent of a renaissance painting; Ditto becomes a Botticellian goddess.

File:Beth Ditto Love Mag.jpg

     The secret to LOVE - it has no fear. As opposed to compromising its ideas for commercial appeal it shoves two fingers in your face and does what it likes. It's the magazine, which all free-thinking photographers and journalists like Stephen Lock and Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot need to work for in order to avoid the constrictions of monthlies and express themselves. 
        Coincidentally Mert and Marcus have taken every cover shot of LOVE, since its start, helping it become the masterpiece it is today. From naked portraits of the worlds most well-known supermodels to an unabashed lesbian kiss between Lea T and Kate Moss, they create beauty in the most unassuming  of ways and defy the boundaries of modern photography; LOVE defies the boundaries of modern magazines.

     And as it transpires, even after 6 consecutive issues the duo are hardly running out of ideas. The latest issue is perhaps their most intriguing yet in that through the simple use of tears it makes both teen sensations and beautiful models evolve into human beings; making their extreme looks even more so and giving the shots an honesty rarely captured in photography.

      However, the magazine does not rely on it's photographs alone; it's journalism is also key in that gives you an insight into the lives of people, who are not promoting a brand or a latest project, but their ideas. Where else would you learn of Diane Von Furstenburg's sexual history and Christopher Lemaire's vision behind Hermès?
       LOVE is crazy but crazy-good. From it's content to it's elaborate font it works and for that reason I like most of the fashion world are crazy in LOVE with it...the question is: are you? 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Testino's Testimony

   Having finally taken and passed my driving theory test, I no longer have to face the boredom of watching DSA's Hazard Perception DVD on repeat and flicking through the utterly dull pages of their theory test book. Instead I can read and watch whatever I want. So, having now seen the hilarious Vanessa Paradis French rom-com 'L'Arnacoeur', I have also finally read and enjoyed GQ's September Issue and seriously, it's a good one.

     From Simon Emmett's so-sexy-it-could-turn-you-straight shoot of Bar Rafaeli to Tony Parson's take on first class flights and GQ's presentation of the AW collections to Johnathan Heath's insight into the peculiar world of Craig Gross' XXX church, the issue does not disappoint.
    However, what struck me most, was neither the shoot nor the articles themselves but instead, the ten Testino portraits and interview in the midst of the magazine. The shots are taken from Testino's upcoming exhibition. The one, which is beginning to invoke an orgy of excitement in the fashion world, as each breathless photograph gives us a unique and intimate look into the lives of today's biggest stars, whether they're Gwyneth Paltrow or Gisele, Claudia Schiffer or Lady GaGa.

      They're stunning. Testino captures beauty in a way which few fashion photographers do. He captures it with honesty, even when under the limited direction of a magazine or a designer he somehow finds it. Although, even he himself acknowledges that this is hard. In GQ he states 'I do pictures and sometimes they don't get published. And I think it's usually the more risqué ones and they're the ones I tend to like more.'
     It's so easy to forget that within fashion shoots there is a constant hierarchy which rarely falters. The models lay at the bottom of the heap, then the stylist, hair and make-up artists, then the photographer and finally the magazine or designer because the purpose of a photo shoot is to act as a selling tool for a magazine or a brand. Of course it can be quirky and different but not so much so that it will put off its readers.
      Consequently, even a photographer as famous as Testino, is submitted to the restrictions and guidelines of the magazines he works for because each magazine has its own reputation; each Vogue has its own reputation. American Vogue is 'commercial', French Vogue is 'sophisticated', British Vogue is 'shabby-chic' and Italian Vogue is 'out-there'.

     And, although American Vogue is the most popular of them, with 1.25 million readers, even Vogue Italia, which is known for the generous freedom it gives to its photographers, has to commercialize itself in order to sell. Thus, a photographer such as Testino does not have the creative liberty, which he would need to devise or at least publish images, pertinent to him.
     However, whilst I do long for a day in which 'alien', unique shoots can dominate magazines and the general public will come to love them, there is something wonderful about all facets of fashion working together to create images not only for themselves but for us.
     Of course Vogue Italia's recent use of Beyoncé in an interview and photo-shoot was a brilliant commercial plug to satisfy our celebrity driven desires but she is beautiful, and, combined with the old Hollywood setting of the set and photographer Francesco Carrozzini's talent, magic happened. Beyoncé has never looked more high fashion.

    A photographer's preferred personal work is and always will be their most intriguing; no doubt Testino's exhibition will prove that. However, the combination of a fashion team's efforts and opinions creates beauty, which no one man or woman can do alone, not even Testino.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Not-So Hipster Girls

       As we find ourselves in the midst of festival season, it appears that they're everywhere - those girls. Those girls who are so anti-fashion yet so stylish, so scruffy yet so sexy, so cool yet so indie - those girls GQ's Jonathan Heaf has deemed the 'Hipster Girls'.

        Now, I myself am not a hipster boy, let alone a hipster girl. In fact, being the stereotypically gay teenager that I am, my musical taste seems to have predominately stemmed from T.V. talent shows and don't-diss-me divas alike. My iTunes 'Top 25 Most Played' playlist is crammed with songs by Alicia Keys carefully mixed in with a bit of Whitney and Mariah back in the day when I used to listen to the likes of 'Hero', on repeat.
       However, in recent years this has changed - I still love a good sing-a-long to 'I Will Always Love You' and will often be seen dancing it out to 'Wannabe', as if I were the undiscovered sixth member of the Spice Girls but now, among chart-topping hits, I have begun to listen to the music, which the Hipster Girls listen to. I mix my Madonna with my Mystery Jets, my Wanted with my White Lies and my LMFAO with my Lykke Li - in other words, the hipster with the not-so hipster.



     With music it is so easy to become pretentious, hipster or not. 'Folk is so the foie-gras right now, darling.' 'What - that Mumford, shit?' A good tune is a good tune regardless of whether it's alternative or mainstream, if it makes you feel good and it's catchy it deserves just as much credit as something kooky, which strikes a chord within you. 90s music may be good to us for it's nostalgic memories, whilst dub-step may suit us for its club potential.
      In the same way, a good dress, is a good dress - regardless of style or make. The clean, minimalistic lines of a mainstream brand like Calvin Klein can sill be appreciated by those of us who prefer the designs of lesser-known labels, such as the tongue-and-cheek Ashish or the individual Acne.

    Of course, designer labels and songwriters do have their own individual styles and clienteles: Balmain attracts a rocker customer, whilst Tommy Hilfiger attracts a preppy one. Laura Marling sells to folk fans, whilst Rihanna sells to Pop fans. However, we needn't separate these genres and styles into two groups of hipster and not-so hipster
     The reality is no-one can  be a  hipster girl or boy because everyone has their cool-down point, no matter if it’s a guilty pleasure for Britney Spears or an eternal inner-love of Ralph Lauren, as people we’re far too three dimensional to limit ourselves to a sole hipster lifestyle.
     We crossover both designers and music tastes and enjoy each for what they are. Whether we love a chart-topping song for its simplicity but are more accustomed to The Vaccines or a Jean Paul Gaultier dress for its quirkiness yet prefer the cuts of Chloé, we mix it all up. After all most of the borderline hipster girls I know are diehard Glee addicts anyway.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

A Campaign in Support of September Issues

        Finally it is August: a month devoted to summer holidays, reading in the garden and perhaps most importantly, September issues. The September issue of a fashion magazine is to fashionistas what an indoor play area is to a hyperactive kid - a special annual treat that has the potential to satisfy all your deepest desires within seconds, yet keep you occupied for a couple of hours. When one reads a September issue one is most definitely #winning.
        Whether it's Freida Pinto in Pucci, Kirsten Dunst in Miu Miu, Beyoncé in Gucci or model of the moment Freja Beha Erichsen in Dolce & Gabbana that entices you this month, each will lead you into a 400 plus page world of wonder. A gateway into the clothes and trends of the season to come, which allows us to escape from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life that creeps back upon us as the summer sun begins to fade away.

        A September Issue is more than a mere monthly magazine. Instead it is a full-fledged fashion novel destined to be read and re-read throughout its subsequent season, as it guides its owner on a journey of   beauty and style with it's abundant mass of on-trend tips, star-studded shoots and in-depth articles. 
        However, what else is becoming more noticeable about September issues year on year, is the increasing amount of advertising that drips from their picture perfect pages, which suggests that the only ones #winning  from them are the magazines themselves, as they make millions from both their designer advertisers and those of us they 'trick' into buying an entire collection of AW campaigns.
        Now, in a sense this is true.  There are many more designer spreads - the three double pages, centered in the middle of GQ's editor's letter this month just isn't cool. However, these adverts allow magazines to devote more money to both their articles and their photo shoots, with the result that they can create a detailed magazine with a double helping of everything, ads, articles and all. Besides who doesn't love a good gawp at the new campaigns and collections said magazines lay before us? - they are beautiful, just look.

       In the case of Karl Lagerfeld and Calvin Klein, the two have once again proved that the rule 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' can apply to fashion as well as D.I.Y., as they use model muses Freja Beha Erichsen and Lara Stone to headline each of their respective campaigns again. Stone looks effortlessly stunning throughout the minimalist Klein campaign and Erichsen plays on her humorous side in cat costumes and ball masks alike for Chanel .
       In contrast to this continuation though, a change of tune appears to be working in favour of brands such as Chloé and Miu Miu, as McGibbon exchanges Chloé's staple building backdrop for the ethereal setting of a wood and Prada nabs young star of the moment Hailee Steinfeld to front it's campaign in place of last seasons array of mannequin-posed models.

        However, the campaign/collection combination, which has undoubtedly stolen the show this season is that of Givenchy, as Ricardo Tisci presents his jaw dropping panther print fetish collection with a fierce growl from the likes of Natalia Vodianova, Naomi Campbell and Kristen McMenamy. That yellow jumper/skirt mix is the outfit of the season.

      So there we have it, the September issue is an issue of a magazine filled full with campaigns, but it is these campaigns which support the issue and thus allow them to be the masterpieces they are and looking at this years campaigns, who cares about a few extra adverts. This year everyone is #winning.