After producing The Director, a documentary about Gucci designer Frida Giannini, do-everything guy James Franco is back to direct a new Gucci eyewear video. Titled Techno Color Sunglasses, the video was filmed at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles and stars Franco himself alongside model Natalia Bonifacci. They both wear Gucci’s colorful new frames and instantly engage in a romantic pursuit. The vibe is cool and retro, with washed-out colors, classic cars, and plenty of Hollywood glamour.
Fashion loved Kurt Cobain from the moment the Nirvana front man stepped onto the cultural stage. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the airwaves in August 1991, and less than a year later Marc Jacobs presented a career-making collection of flannel shirts, Dr. Martens, and cashmere thermal underwear inspired by the musician and his grunge scene. The controversial show got Jacobs fired from his creative director gig at Perry Ellis—the press loved it, his bosses hated it—but he would go on to launch his own label.
Cobain died less than three years after Nirvana’s first big hit—this month marks the twentieth anniversary of his death—but his look remains a touchstone. In 2006, Jacobs himself revisited grunge’s messy layers. And on the current runways, Cobain’s plaid shirts, granny cardigans, and floral dresses keep on trending. See Dries Van Noten Spring ’13, Saint Laurent Fall ’13, and any number of Fall ’14 shows, including Calvin Klein Collection, Isabel Marant, and Max Mara. Cobain’s look is equally influential in menswear. John Galliano and Raf Simons have both lifted ideas from his rule-breaking getups.
On the eve of Nirvana’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a slideshow of Cobain’s lasting impact on fashion.
My mother used to work with Haven, a shelter for abused women, when we lived in Detroit. One night, she came home very shaken up after a meeting for the charity. I asked her what was wrong, and she recounted a 911 call she’d listened to, in which a little boy was trying to save his mother, who had been beaten by her boyfriend. The boy kept saying, “My mommy’s not moving,” and just before hanging up, told the operator, “My mommy’s dead.” I was 10 years old at this time, and at that age, I had no idea such horror existed in the world. I sobbed for hours, and to this day, I feel sick when I think about that little boy, that haunting call, and that woman whose life was stolen from her.
I don’t care who shoots it—a scenario like that one cannot, and should not, be translated into a fashion photograph. Franca Sozzani, however, attempted to do just that in her April issue of Vogue Italia, which hits newsstands today.
Sozzani, who serves as the editor in chief of Condé Nast Italia, as well as Vogue Italia, is an original and often fearless creative thinker, and she has frequently addressed hot-button issues through the pages of her glossy magazine. In 2005, she ran a clever editorial about plastic surgery. In 2007, she produced an issue that tackled the elite’s rising obsession with rehab. These editions sparked controversy, too—and Sozzani should be commended for her commitment to asking important questions through her often forward-thinking spreads. But the abovementioned problems more or less affect the privileged classes, and the shoots were done in a certain tongue-in-cheek manner. That approach is not appropriate when discussing domestic abuse.
I’m sure that April’s Steven Meisel-lensed cover story, dubbed “Horror Movie,” was conceived with the best intentions. In a statement, Sozzani explained, “Violence towards women has never been so hard-hitting as it is now, so reminiscent of a ‘real horror show’…The intent is in no way to shock, but rather to raise awareness of a horror that must be condemned!” However, “Horror Movie” takes away from the seriousness of the topic at hand.
The first problem is that, while it’s allegedly meant to raise awareness and provoke conversation, this spread is still selling clothes. It’s using violence to push product. The images—like the one of Natalie Westling laying bloodied and lifeless on the floor in a red Moschino dress, ruffled Melissa Levy garters, and Alexander Wang shoes, her lover slumped in a chair, staring at her while drenched in her blood—are underscored by clothing credits. How can a photograph like this be seen as respectful and empowering to domestic abuse victims, or even taken seriously, when it reads, “chiffon smock, Marc Jacobs” in the corner?
Furthermore, these images are glamorous. They star young women dressed to the nines in the hottest new wares. The models’ faces are elegantly painted, and the girls look pretty while cowering in the corner, hiding from a man with a knife, or grasping at a railing, pressed against a wall smeared with blood. Abuse is not glamorous, and the brutalization of women should never be portrayed as beautiful, especially in a fashion magazine. Additionally, these images are based off of classic horror films, and by design there’s an almost comic quality to them. In a different context, as a commentary on our addiction to the nasty thrills of the ever-popular horror genre, say, they might have worked. The problem arises when Sozzani claims the intent is specifically to raise awareness of domestic abuse. Abuse isn’t funny, period.
Of course, we’ve seen images like these before—in varying degrees of offensiveness and insensitivity. There’s Helmut Newton, whose sexualized photographs of naked women in heels or bonded with rope bordered on misogyny. There’s the particularly macabre Guy Bourdin, who often posed models as if they were dead—one of his snaps features a made-up woman lying in a pool of blood; another depicts two dead models, the first hanging from a noose, the second naked on a table. “Fear is something that we, despite ourselves, want to experience. And I think the violence does add glamour in a kind of perverse way,” Nick Knight told the Guardian while speaking about Bourdin’s photographs back in 2003. I don’t necessarily agree with these images. But in the cases of Newton and Bourdin, the male character isn’t pictured, there’s an air of mystery and ambiguity, and the women aren’t explicitly being abused. And—though again I wouldn’t necessarily concur as quickly as some male critics would—you can argue that these are two great artists walking the line in the way that great artists are driven to do.
Vogue Italia‘s latest outing also calls to mind last year’s Vice editorial, in which models were snapped while pretending to commit suicide. Unsurprisingly, the shoot sparked public outrage. Fashion photographs have an element of fantasy, and, as Knight mentioned, there is something unsettlingly sexy about death—this has been the case throughout history (Sir John Everett Millais’ 1852 painting Ophelia comes to mind). But suicide, and domestic abuse, don’t fall into a “fantasy” category. They’re tragedies that real people struggle with every day. “Photography is such a powerful medium, which we read as being a literal depiction of reality,” explained curator and fashion historian Dr. Valerie Steele when I asked her about this particular issue. “It can be very problematic when you have images of violence that have been staged for a photograph. The image of the fashion model being physically attacked and murdered is one that has considerable existence in pop culture, considering films like the Eyes of Laura Mars ,” she continued. “That further complicates the issue of trying to make a photograph have an ideological point against violence, since the exploitation of violence against beautiful young fashion models is something that has another fantasy existence, apparently.”
It seems strange to me that, judging by social media and editorial responses, people can’t seem to make up their minds about “Horror Movie.” Perhaps they’re afraid to take a stance because, as I mentioned before, it may have been created with the best intentions. But just because one’s intentions are good, doesn’t mean the results are, too.
During her twenty-six-year tenure at Vogue Italia, Sozzani has successfully confronted a bevy of heavy global concerns. For instance, her July 2008 issue, which featured only black models, was the magazine’s best-selling edition. She has proven to be one of the most progressive editors of the last thirty years, constantly championing young designers; driving Italian fashion forward conceptually, commercially, and creatively; and helping her readers to understand fashion in a broader cultural context. This misstep won’t change that.
Sozzani’s more tasteful attempts, as well as efforts by the likes of Vivienne Westwood (always fighting to save the environment), Iman (who frequently speaks out on behalf of models of color), and Riccardo Tisci (who’s aimed to rectify the lack of diversity in the biz with his multicultural runways and Spring ’14 ad campaign), prove that fashion can have an impact. Considering ours is one of the biggest industries on the planet, we can absolutely change the world through fashion. We can get important messages across in magazines, during runway shows, through garments, and in newspaper articles. We just can’t do it like this.
If you still aren’t excited for the weekend, On Pedder’s new fashion film might do the trick. The leading Asian accessories retailer teamed up with CL (Korean fashion icon and lead singer of 2NE1) to create a trippy, bass-heavy video set against imagery from its Pedderzine SS14 issue, “Fragrant Harbor.” CL is decked out in off-the-runway Kenzo looks, as well as various accessories from On Pedder. Needless to say, we’re into it.
To achieve the dreamy visuals, French video artist Laurent Segretier merged his signature blurry imagery with Korean art director Junu Ahn’s impressive multimedia techniques. As for the addictive background music? 2NE1′s “Mental Breakdown,” fresh off their brand-new album. Consider it this weekend’s jam.
Dion Lee, Tome, and Zimmermann helped prove that Australian designers are a force to be reckoned with. And while two of the trio have decamped to New York’s catwalks, plenty of talent remains Down Under for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia. Headed to the shows and unfamiliar with Oz? RUSSH editor in chief and Style Map contributor Jess Blanch has curated her insider’s picks to see you through Sydney well-fed, -clothed, and –cultured. Happy trails!
Wine and Dine
There’s never a wrong time to go to Fratelli Paradiso in Potts Point. The charming Italian owners Enrico, Giovanni, and Marco have made it the place to meet for a coffee and biscotti or pasta at any time, on any day. They also have a wine bar called 10 William Street Paddington, with an equally great wine list and a tiny upstairs balcony—the best place to be if you can find a spot.
Swim and Steam
All the off-schedule action happens in the early morning at Bondi Beach, where the water is at its warmest this time of year. Take your swim at North Bondi early and head to Porch and Parlour for a green bowl and coffee made by its friendly baristas. Weather permitting, on the other end of the beach, go for a swim and steam at the Icebergs pool, then upstairs to the dining room and bar for organic bircher and Orchard Street Juices. It’s got to be the best view in the world.
Paddington is a neighborhood shopping spot and home to many of our authentic Australian brands. Go to Jac + Jack for luxe basics in linen jersey and cashmere; Ellery for something beautifully on-trend; and visit Jane behind the blue door at the Land’s End Store farther around Glenmore Road for some Céline, Balmain, and Proenza Schlouler. It’s a one-off, special boutique like your mum used to shop at. Also, at Paddington’s The Intersection, you can find Scanlan & Theodore, Bassike, Camilla and Marc, Zimmermann, Willow, Bianca Spender, and Josh Goot.
The best way to slow down after fashion week is with a Chinese food coma, and Mr. Wong is the best Cantonese in Sydney. Ask its charming maître d’ Jonny Rockstar (really his name) for a table upstairs and experience the best prawn toasts and dim sum outside Guangzhou before eating wok-fried lobster with champagne. It’s old-school heaven.
See the Biennale
The only place you’ll spot more fashion people than at the shows is at art venues around Sydney, as this is Biennale time (our biggest and best contemporary visual arts festival). Running until the start of June, the nineteenth iteration, You Imagine What You Desire, will run across multiple venues, but I particularly love exhibitions at the Art Gallery of NSW, the original venue for the event.