The freaky world of fashion is pretty unique, its closest comparison must be the music world. They’re both about creativity and expression while at the same time they are huge commercial machines. There’s conflict between the money people and the creative people in any arena both arguing that one couldn’t exist without the other. You’re either cool or you’re commercial. It is possible to be considered cool and still make tons of money without being a sellout but it’s very rare. The money provided by commercialism allows the artisan designers to go on creating, with bigger budgets. It’s just the way the cake bakes, lots of money is needed to keep the artists vision alive and in the public eye.
When we listen to a new album or look at a new collection we make judgments, like, this is too commercial or it’s too weird, it’s too artsy and impractical or it’s got no flair or originality. Opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one and there’s no accounting for taste. Each day these artists get to make a call about their direction. How commercial or how arty do I want to be? It’s not easy, that’s why we turn them into celebrities if they get it right. If they get it wrong and they’re lucky, they get another crack at the whip but we, connoisseurs, can be unforgiving.
Then there are the commentators, the journalists, the editors and the publishers. They have the same calls to make. What shall I celebrate this season and what shall I slate? Is this collection wearable, is that collection boring. The editors responsibility is twofold, keep the readers happy and well informed while at the same time keeping the advertising revenue flowing. Never do or say anything that threatens the revenue stream. The editor will often make calls which are based on the balance sheet or marketing rather that the art itself.
The masters at this are of course the big glossies like Vogue and Elle. Everyone knows that half of the content in these magazines are adverts but they’ve made such an art form of advertising that readers can barely distinguish advertorial from editorial. The ads and the in-house shoots are the best bits, amazing photographs of the most stunning models wearing clothes which are to-die-for, skillfully accessorised and styled by people who’ve devoted their whole lives to beauty. Page after page of perfect hair, perfect make-up, impossibly long legs and perfect skin, all draped with the objects of your desire. Clothes, shoes and handbags which are attractive enough on the shelf but as part of these incredible images they become a talisman of commercial desire.
The documentary “The September Issue” illustrates the conflict between artist and entrepreneur rather well. We get to see the creative Director of US Vogue and winner of the Isabella Blow Award, Grace Coddington battle with her editor Anna Wintour over the very important issue of what stays in the magazine. When Grace the Artist loses to her very business minded boss Wintour, you can really feel her pain. Industry takes precedence over art, the beast must be fed in order for creativity to continue!
At icône du jour we don’t have that problem, we publish what we want no questions asked. Furthermore our favorite glossy the biannual “pop” magazine seams to get away with doing the very same thing. Their editorial is uncompromising and unapologetic, the shoots are beyond edgy and none of this appears to bother their advertisers either. The first 40 pages of the most recent issue is all ads. Katie Grand, is my kind of editor, and her product is ‘so hip it makes Anna Wintour tremble,’ which is ironic because that’s the very effect Wintour has on almost everyone else!
I say screw the accountants and the marketing people, let the artists decide what’s in and what’s out. I want my editors to be like my designers brave, crazy and inspired, full of unique vision and with an ability to point to where culture should go next, not just to comment on where we already are.
This is why I’m more than a little disappointed with the newly appointed editor of French Vogue, Emmanuelle Alt’s recent choice of Gisele Bundchen as cover girl for their latest issue. How vanilla to choose the highest paid model in the world to do your first cover. Nothing brave there, when there are young undiscovered models all over the world who are fresher and much more “of the moment”. Fashion is supposed to be about looking forward. Perhaps it’s slipped the new boss’ attention that Miss Bundchen is something of the past! Maybe this is just Alt, clearing her thought editorially and what’s to come next will blow us away. What the world needs now is more creative visionaries and less corporate servants! Fingers crossed!
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