Archive for August, 2009

Don’t Mess With the Zoe-han
August 28, 2009

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We can’t let the week go by without mentioning the second-season premiere of The Rachel Zoe Project, can we? In this episode, our heroine has to style all five of her top clients for one event, the Golden Globes of last January. Naughty-children assistants Brad and Taylor (formerly at odds but now besties, apparently) stage an insurrection by moving their desks down from the attic (er, “loft”). A lost Dior Haute Couture gown refuses to be found.  A shortage of dresses threatens – because of the recent economic unpleasantness, designers are not sending out things willy-nilly if there’s no guaranteed red-carpet payoff.  There might not be enough one-of-a-kind vintage baubles fit for all the ladies. Rachel’s hubby/biz partner pouts because Rachel won’t be able to have dinner until 10 p.m. at the earliest.  And somewhere, paint is drying.

I kid, I kid … and for fashion insiders, the cliffhanger of  whether  Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld will let Rachel detach the sleeve from a couture gown for Cameron Diaz to wear, possibly altering it forever, must qualify as some sort of drama (in the end Karl assents, Cameron glows, and Rachel gets a treasured mash note from the designer). But the problem, as in many so-called reality shows, is that once again the real dramatics are happening offstage.  She has five major clients, yet the show blithely frames her task as presenting one perfect dress to each of them – as though things were really that simple in Tinseltown. (which, by the way, my dictionary defines as “Hollywood or the superficially glamorous world it represents” – ha!)

As any stylist out here knows deep in their overworked bones, an actress (and often their publicist, spouse, best friend and/or kids) will need to see an array of gowns and usually has lots of dithering and second thoughts – and they often go back and forth right up until they get in the limo. There’s a cliffhanger for ya. Obviously Rachel’s big-name clients – Hathaway, Diaz, Moore, Mendes and Messing – weren’t gonna let the cameras in on their dress fittings, where everything is really hashed out. But there wasn’t even a hint of any worry about whether the actresses would embrace Rachel’s favorites. Not that the women didn’t end up looking great – I especially liked Eva Mendes who rocked in the once-MIA white Dior and bold jewels (always a Zoe hallmark.)

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It made me wonder if Bravo filmed the prep scenes after the Globes, backtracking when everyone knew what choices the actresses made. Or maybe there was other equally riveting footage that revolved around discarded dresses.  Only your editing room knows for sure.

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The September Issue: Elle
August 27, 2009

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Elle, Elle, Elle…was it just last year that your fall fashion issue featured Jessica Simpson on the cover in jeans and a flannel shirt? Well this year, you’ve stepped up with a major “get” and give us Jennifer Aniston in black strapless leather (provoking a WHO-WORE-IT-BEST frenzy in cyberspace since tabloid rival Angelina Jolie, who likes to wear the same things over and over on the red carpet, has donned the same look at least twice.) There was also an artyJennifer-Aniston-Photos_inmagblock black-and-white subscriber cover with a tighter shot of her in down-home  jeans and biker jacket and a Sharpie-scrawled “JENNIFER!” headline.  I guess the leather dress shot was just a fashion tease, because the portfolio inside is just the usual “dressed-down” T-shirt, jean shorts and work shirt. But back up just a minute, because way before the feature “well”, Elle does what it does best – distilling current trends (all 25…numbered!) and the myriad ways you can find them across all price points. These pages are succinct and placed in the front of the book, not shunted to the back pages like Vogue does. Even if you don’t buy their exact suggestions, the pages are so crisp that the mental image of number 9. Deep V-Neck Blouses or whatever is seared on the brain for handy reference later when you’re in the mall. Elle also has a sense of humor – in their full-on ’80s trend pages they cite “The People’s Princess” with witty houndstooth shoes and a tartan Bo-Peep jacket alongside more-often seen memes like “Pretty in Pink” and “Brat Pack”.

So the front-of-the book pages are loaded with “merch” but it’s all so festive it comes off as great reader service not overweening commercialism. Farther along things get more problematic, when in the middle of endless bucolic outdoor portfolios (not one fashion shoot was done in studio), you linger over a beat-of-the-city-chic story and then notice all the clothes in the entire 10-page spead are by, um, Tommy Hilfiger.  This is directly followed by a four-page Marc Jacobs”beauty” portfolio touting Lola, his new frangrance, which includes the requisite portrait of Jacobs as well as a model dreamily lolling around in a blanket of roses with an oversized version of the perfume’s bottle.

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I guess it’s like those irritating pop-ups for this weekend’s rom-com when you’re just trying to read the LA Times online or like more product-placement wedged into your favorite sitcom since most people speed through the commercials when they get around to watching them on their DVR.  I know it’s tough out  there for magazines but I hope Elle at least got Tommy to chip in on the production costs of the “feature.”

The September Issue: Harper’s Bazaar
August 24, 2009

Bazaar 1004In honor of this Friday’s release of the Anna Wintour documentary, The September Issue, I thought I’d take a look at the current September or fall fashion issues currently on the stands. When I was working as a fashion editor, I was always employed at general-interest magazines  so I had to produce stories that functioned as both fashion content for the already stylish and entertainment for the style-challenged reader. That was the first thing I thought of while flipping through the fall fashion issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Each of the best portfolios has a vastly different look, from Jean Paul Goode’s pictures of Naomi bonding with the great beasts of Africa (including wrestling with an alligator!) to show off clothes in animal prints to Karl Lagereld’s Peggy-Guggenheim-in-Venice fantasy to Terry Richardson’s subscriber cover and portfolio of Agyness Deyn as a style tribute to the King of Pop – in sparkle-plenty styles from Dries, Balmain and Stella. Since we’re in the second round of Michael Jackson covers (GQ has a Michael Jackson cover this month too) and they still seem to be selling, it’s curious that on the newstand the Bazaar cover is yet another starlet on standby, Leighton Meister of Gossip Girl (though seemingly dressed from Jennifer Lopez’ s closet).  Bazaar 1005Maybe it’s just the concept of two covers that I don’t get – like a tree falling silently in a forest, is a cover really a cover if it’s not out there on the newstand competing with all the other covers?  And that’s where I think the Deyn cover would have shined, by looking completely different than all the other business-as-usual fashion covers of celebrity portraits. It’s almost a pop-art poster it’s so stylized an image and that’s a good thing for covers – they’re really an ad for each magazine, saying “Buy Me!”  That’s why I think the current uproar in some circles about cover retouching (unless it’s so bad that the person is rendered unrecognizable) kind of misses the point – a cover is not really supposed to be a a documentary photograph. It’s an advertising tool and if you have to slim out a celebrity’s arm or clean up their complexion to get somebody to look twice, pick the magazine up and buy the damn thing, then the cover has done its job!

3SHORT TAKE: I picked up the fashion issue of New York magazine last week on a newstand but I didn’t end up buying it because it largely consisted of text pieces – notably a full-bore dissection of Annie Leibovitz’s financial implosion and a halfhearted dissection of Christian Lacroix’s  – that I had already scanned online. But the real letdown was looking at the portfolios – of which there exactly two – one an array of arty b&w images backstage at fashion shows (how fresh, how new, as a friend of mine used to say) and second a portfolio of a few runway photos (!!!) grouped by trend, hugely blown up over several mind-numbing pages. Since I  (and everyone else in the world)  had seen this type of thing on the web for months already from style.com on down the blogroll, you have to wonder what were they thinking? It hardly needs to be said, but if a fashion issue doesn’t offer something visually compelling in its print version, then why bother?

Mad Men – and Women
August 18, 2009

Mad Men premiered Sunday night and I loved the episode. But I have to question some of the costuming choices of the series, especially now that we are well into the sixties – 1963, to be exact.  Let’s start with the men, which is the series’ strong suit (as it were). Jon Hamm’s Don Draper is so perfectly turned out that I rarely notice what he is wearing, his clothes are so at one with the character.  Sexually confused art director Sal is more appropriately a bit of a show-off, in florid styles that just barely fit his beefier frame and gild-the-lily accessories – pinky rings, vests, flashier ties. Newly-promoted account head Ken wears his suits as easily as his sunny disposition while his counterpart, tortured Pete, is correspondingly costumed as all-wound-up in his dark woolen armor.

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Where I often part company with the show is with the women, whose clothes largely seem stuck in the fifties. I know everyone doesn’t replace a wardrobe all at once, and especially in those days when clothing purchases were meant for the long haul, but on the other hand we’re talking about an ad agency in New York City, albeit a second-string one, but with some pretty major accounts. As someone who was roughly the age of Don’s children at the time, I have a pretty good memories of the shift dresses and two-piece suits my non-working young mother wore in those days – and we were far from New York.

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I get it -the costumes telegraph that Joan’s a vamp and Peggy’s still hiding behind her girlish exterior (the jury’s out on Don’s wife Betty, right now she’s pregnant; in previous seasons she struck me as a looking like a perfect Hitchcock’s blonde heroine of the fifties with her full skirts and side-parted hair).  But the early sixties were a sea change in women’s fashion  and the youth and freshness of young Jackie Kennedy’s simple sheaths and easy suits completely banished the image of the corseted post-war silhouette.

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In retrospect, nothing in fashion ever seemed that unforced and innocent again and then it all came crashing down – in 1963.