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April 17 2014

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47 posts tagged "Steven Meisel"

Domestic Abuse Is Not In Vogue, No Matter How You Style It

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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.

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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 [1978],” 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.

Photo: vogue.it

Paris’ Musée Galliera Gets a New Show, More Dough

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Parkinson and Clarke

Olivier Saillard has struck again. For Papier Glacé, the second exhibition he has curated at Paris’ newly renovated Musée Galliera, Saillard riffled through one hundred years of Condé Nast’s photography archives, pulling mainly from a handful of international Vogues (American, British, German, French, and Italian), to spin a selective history of fashion-as-dialogue. The 150-image show scans like a who’s who of 20th-century lensmen: Images by De Meyer, Horst, Clark (above, right), Schatzberg, Penn, Man Ray, Parkinson (above, left), Beaton, Blumenfeld, Lindbergh, Meisel, Turbeville (below), and Weber, among others, feature in the show. The snaps are accompanied by a dozen or so dresses and accessories, such as an evening coat by Doucet (1913), a Mondrian cocktail dress by Yves Saint Laurent (1965), and a red molded bustier on loan from Issey Miyake (1980).

“Fashion-related exhibitions so often tend to run chronologically, looking toward the past,” offered Paris Vogue editor Emmanuelle Alt, “whereas a magazine comes out every month, it’s life, and it’s constantly changing. [With this show] you see what each brings to the other.” Saillard concurred, noting that fashion magazines are akin to archeologists.

Turbeville

For Alt and for Paris Vogue, the eighteen months spent collaborating on Papier Glacé was far from an end in itself. Rather, it marked the beginning of a new chapter for the nearly one hundred-year-old publication, with the establishment of the Vogue Paris Fashion Fund—a new initiative that will allow the Galliera to make new acquisitions, be they photographs, garments, accessories, or beyond. Launched with a contribution of 100,000 euros, the fund will be renewed annually and receive additional backing via fundraising.

When asked for his wish list, Saillard offered names ranging from Margiela to Corinne Day, Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe, Iris van Herpen, and Jurgen Teller. “I am always interested in auteurs. To look at our archives, you’d think that everyone has always worn Balenciaga,” he quipped. “I plan to shop myopically: Sometimes the exceptional can be found in an ‘ordinary’ shirt.”

It’s a fair bet that spending the Galliera’s first windfall won’t be too difficult for Saillard, but new acquisitions will be kept under wraps until July 9, the night of the first Vogue Paris Fashion Fund gala event, during haute couture.

Photos: courtesy of the Musée Galliera

Marc’s Louis Vuitton Farewell, Part 2

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Sofia Coppola, Catherine Deneuve and Edie Campbell for Louis Vuitton

For those who didn’t get their fill after Marc Jacobs’ decadent, retrospective farewell show in October, the designer today presented a bonus swan song for Louis Vuitton: the Spring ’14 campaign. Lensed by Steven Meisel, the ads pay tribute to Jacobs’ Vuitton muses, including Catherine Deneuve, Sofia Coppola, Caroline de Maigret, Gisele Bündchen, Edie Campbell, and Fan Bingbing. They may have been Jacobs’ inspirations, but we have a feeling these leading ladies will stay in the Vuitton family under Nicolas Ghesquière’s reign.

Photo: Steven Meisel

Isabella Blow: Beyond the Eccentric

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2. Isabella Blow, 2002 (c) Diego UchitelCurator Alistair O’Neill only met the late Isabella Blow once. He was at an art opening with designer Julien Macdonald, one of the late, great Blow’s charges, whom he studied with at the Royal College of Art. “Isabella was wearing a famous Philip Treacy hat, which is in the exhibition. It had feathers around the eyes, which covered her nose and her mouth and her forehead,” he recalled. “I spent the evening talking to her and was completely fascinated. But all that I could concentrate on were her eyes, because I couldn’t really see her mouth. I could only just about listen to what she was saying, and I was just mesmerized by this image of these eyes being framed by the feathers. The combination of her intelligence and her laughing was really intoxicating,” he continued. “I’ve never forgotten that.”

On November 20, O’Neill, along with Shonagh Marshall and Central Saint Martins, will aim to bring the editor, patron, and muse’s work and wardrobe to life with the opening of Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! at the Somerset House in London. Before her tragic suicide, in 2007, Blow was a pillar of London’s emerging fashion community. Having worked everywhere—from British and American Vogue to The Sunday Times to Tatler—Blow is credited with discovering such designers as Alexander McQueen (as the story goes, she bought his entire graduate collection after it walked down the Central Saint Martins Runway in 1992), milliner Philip Treacy, Jeremy Scott, and Hussein Chalayan, as well as models Sophie Dahl (whom she once described as a “blow-up doll with brains”) and Stella Tennant.

Alexander McQueen and Isabella blow

Aside from being a steadfast supporter of young talents (Treacy and McQueen both lived with her at one point, and she not only gave the designers financial and editorial support but also fed them ideas from her wealth of historical knowledge—fashion and otherwise), Blow, who came from a complicated aristocratic background, was known as a great eccentric—both in her behavior and her dress. Her infamous wardrobe comprised the most extreme pieces by all of the conceptual up-and-comers she helped along the way. And, of course, Treacy’s hats were her screaming signature. Following her death, her sartorial collection was to be sold at Christie’s to settle her estate, but Blow’s friend Daphne Guinness swooped in at the last minute and purchased every piece, because that’s how Isabella—or Issy, as she was known—would have wanted it.

O’Neill, however, did not want to simply paint Blow as an eccentric. “I thought it was important to distance Isabella from those literary ideas of the English eccentric, because they’re often quite tragic,” he explained. “And I’m not sure Isabella was fully tragic—she was quite brave, and very funny. She had a very bored and black humor.” Furthermore, Blow always wore her outfits—whether it be a metallic McQueen corset or an ensemble crafted from brightly hued garbage bags—in a deeply considered manner. “Isabella used her clothes, her hats, and her accessories as a means to modify and transform herself,” said O’Neill. “She had a great eye for silhouette, and her hats were almost a means of plastic surgery for her face, without going under the knife,” added Marshall. “She said they can lift you, they can make you look different, and I think that was something that she really indulged in.” Continue Reading “Isabella Blow: Beyond the Eccentric” »

Thirty-Five Years Later, Lori Goldstein Is Still Excited

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Lori Goldstein

If you’ve picked up an issue of W, Vogue Italia, or Vanity Fair in the last thirty-five years, you’ve probably seen the work of Lori Goldstein. Famed for her expertly piled-on, more-is-more aesthetic (with the exception of that iconic Demi Moore cover, on which the actress appeared nude, pregnant, and accessorized only with diamonds), Goldstein has collaborated with all the greats—from Donatella Versace to Annie Leibovitz to Mario Testino. On November 1, the New York-based stylist (along with Harpers Design) will release Style Is Instinct, a retrospective tome comprising her most memorable photographs, with a heartfelt introduction from close friend Steven Meisel. “It’s kind of the crescendo of my styling career,” offered Goldstein, who currently serves as the editor at large at Elle and designs her own line for QVC. While sitting in her closet, which Goldstein told us is filled with “every Proenza tie-dye shirt, Dries Van Noten’s entire Fall collection, and plenty of print and embellishment,” the image-maker talks the art of styling, how the industry has changed, and why, “after 400 years” in the biz, she’s still excited.

In Steven Meisel’s introduction to the book, he calls you an artist. Do you feel that styling is an art?
You know, if you had asked me that ten years ago, I probably would have laughed. I do, and honestly, not to use that term loosely, but I think that I’ve learned that when you follow your heart and you do something that you love and you’re creative, that you have an artist’s mind, and that your lifestyle is very different. I think tapping into that for all of us is so important. So today, I have to say, yes.

"Style Is Instinct" by Lori GoldsteinThe title of the book is Style Is Instinct. When did you first realize that you had the instinct for style? When I was born. That’s been my gift through life. I’ve just always loved beautiful things; I was always attracted to putting things together; I always loved playing with clothes; I loved, loved, loved clothes. I didn’t even call it “fashion,” because that’s a whole other thing. I was drawn to sparkly, gorgeous things. I was born in Ohio, and somehow I just saw the beauty in it all, thank God.

How do you feel that the role of the stylist has changed throughout the course of your career?
That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do the book. We all know how it’s changed—it’s become much more of a business. When I started going to shows, it was like Helmut Lang and Ann Demeulemeester, and this really organic, just awesome creative time; I was so lucky. I worked at Allure. We did Vogue Italia. And there was really no such thing as credits. We just did whatever we wanted, which was amazing. But I love the time now because I also love a challenge. Today there are parameters and there are rules, but within that, you’ve got to make something incredible. Continue Reading “Thirty-Five Years Later, Lori Goldstein Is Still Excited” »