Archive for the ‘MAGAZINES’ Category

GaGaggle!
December 2, 2009

Lady GaGa is on the January cover of Elle and I’m only half-surprised. She’s toned down her trademark bizarre appearance in her latest TV appearances on Jay Leno and the AMAs and starting to work the sexpot vibe, albeit the 2009 version of sexpot – big blonde bouncy curls, no pants just panties, tattered Balmain-style leather.

I saw the GaGa shots on Jezebel, which continues to fascinate me. They do have a lot of fashion content amid the post-feminist postings, like the thoughtful stories – yesterday’s about Lacroix – from Jenna, formerly Tatiana, the Anonymous Model (long story but basically she quit the runway and dropped her decoy byline). Also frequent red-carpet roundups. And, of course, their famed preoccupation with the airbrushing sins, inflated egos and mundane content (their view, not necessarily mine) of the “ladymags”, the fashion MSM – Bazaar, Elle, and especially Vogue.

So wading into the comments section of their post about the GaGa both bemused me with its youthful (at least I hope it was youthful) enthusiasms and frightened me a little about the future of women as fashion consumers. First there is dismissal of GaGa’s sexy turn, “…she looks like every other sexy-faced-fake-eyelashed-skinny-corset-wearing pop star out there.” Some back and forth follows – is she bi, what does it mean, does it matter?

Then, like the shark approaching in Jaws, comes the comment about the cover image itself: “I hate to be the one to point out an airbrush FAIL…but doesn’t her right arm look freakishly small at the armpit/ shoulder joint area?” Twelve posts follow about whether it really is the dastardly retouching or just foreshortening because of the photographer’s angle. Nothing’s really settled, but moving on, one commenter exclaims, “I hate ladymags, but I am buying the fuck out of this!

The convo then skips through a few posters comparing notes because their dads like GaGa, her makeup, her poses, and then a discussion of what to wear to a GaGa concert: “The lack of pants is key. We are all wearing redonkulous dresses from Forever 21 with crazy colored leggings.

Lastly comes the question of her artistic cred, including the touchingly honest, “You win, Lady Gaga. My head hurts whenever you do anything, but I’m okay with that.” Then the possibly naive, “Yes, she puts a lot of it out there for the world to see, but it’s obviously done by her because that is a part of who she is, not because she thinks it will sell records.”

And then, finally, a larger cultural context, “She also does a great job of referencing the fetish community and probably challenging vanilla and middle america more than they quite realize. Rock on Gaga…” What could I possibly I add? Rock on, indeed.

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Standard Gold
November 30, 2009

I was a little surprised to see that Vogue chose to dress the always-stunning Cate Blanchett in a gold column gown for their December cover – the dress is almost a dead ringer for the gown she wore on the cover of Vanity Fair earlier this year. Don’t get me wrong, the lady would look glamorous in a gunny sack but, for red-carpet outings, she often picks choices from the further realms of fashion: McQueen, Gaultier and showstoppers from the Armani Privé runway. So Vogue had the perfect opportunity to put a fashion iconoclast in something a bit more memorable. But instead it was same gold, same old.

The ’60s Eye
October 26, 2009

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You probably think this fabulous ’60s image is a page out of Vogue (“Makeup design by Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo” reads the credit!) but it’s from a magazine I found recently at my mother’s house, the November 1967 issue of McCall’s. The beauty story is “Feather Fantasies” and the issue also includes the debut of Truman Capote’s short story “The Thanksgiving Visitor” (his follow-up to  the classic “A Christmas Memory”) and an accompanying interview of Capote by Gloria Steinem, with his portrait by Avedon splashed across a page and a half of the once-standard oversize magazine (before postal regulations of the ’70s shrunk everything).

McCalls coverIn those days, McCall’s was the glamour girl of the “Seven Sisters” magazines – including Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Ladies’ Home Journal – aimed at the suburban wife, and enormously successful. (At their ’70s peak, the “Sisters” combined circulation was a staggering 45 million!) The McCall’s issue is an unbelievable time capsule, including the topical – a survey of doctors about the Pill (just six years old), then-First-Daughter Lynda Johnson’s tale of her engagement, a heartbreaking photo essay about a mining tragedy in Wales – amid the fashion and beauty stories and pages and pages and pages of holiday entertaining recipes, from cheese puffs and toasted anchovy rolls to candied grapefruit baskets (for gifts!) and three different and rather involved fruitcakes.

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Whether intentional or not, the avian theme continues in a fashion photo of the actress Anouk Aimee, just after A Man and a Woman catapulted her to fame, in a Donald Brooks gown of guinea hen and ostrich feathers. She’s exulted as a “Real-Woman” – hyphenated – (“All else about this classically-boned, chestnut-maned enchantress is this-moment-real”) along with cover girl Marisa Mell, a now obscure ’60s bombshell (in the era of Ursula Andress and Virna Lisi), who was about to storm Broadway in a David Merrick musical version of, I swear, Mata Hari, directed by Vincente Minnelli (Liza’s dad, of course, and apparently the overproduced $800,000 vehicle flopped out-of-town in Washington and so there was no storming). Mell seems an odd cover choice for housewives in Denver and Detroit, from her “Real-Woman measurements, 38-24-38” (shades of Mad Men’s Joan), but she reels (reals?) them in at the end: “Sex? Her ideas are both contemporary and ancient. ‘A Real-Woman doesn’t want sexual freedom; she wants to belong to a man. Men should stop the big hunt after business and money. Life is the important thing. Human beings are the miracles.’ Marvelous, miraculous Marisa.” Unfortunately my scanner is not big enough to relay the 14-inch high page of marvelous, miraculous Marisa in her floor-length fox and cheetah fur coat.

But wait, there’s more. After our proverbial homemaker has painted her eyelids like feathers, swallowed her Pill, relaxed with the new Capote fiction, zipped up her dinner gown and finished baking a batch of Fig Bonbons, she still has to have something to talk about – like the new music. McCall’s comes to the rescue with “How Not to Flop at Pop” with now cringe-worthy advice: “Don’t say. ‘it’s very pretty.’ Say things like, ‘It should go high on the charts,’ or ‘It turns me on.’ “

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One of the most amazing things is that nearly every photograph in the issue – from Marisa to the miners, from the eye shadow to the eggnog pie – was taken by the magazine’s art director, Otto Storch. Renowned in art direction history as part of the “New York School” of the ’50s and ’60s, he was a disciple of Harper’s Bazaar’s legendary Alexey Brodovitch, and helped hof_main_storchrevolutionize magazine design by integrating all the elements of a layout – headlines, text and photography – in his designs, often by twisting and manipulating type in this pre-computer era – as in his famed “forty-winks” layout. By 1967, Storch was nearing the end of his career at McCall’s – after two editors and with a 6-million circulation, TPTB veered more conservative as money men invariably do once something is a success – and he seamlessly moved into a full-time and lucrative career as an ad photographer for American Express, Volkswagen and others. Storch died in 1999, at age 86, and by then the magazine was on its last legs – if you don’t remember, it was sold in 2000 and Rosie O’Donnell became editorial director. Relaunched as Rosie, it tanked in 2002 amid lawsuits and widely reported infighting. The Golden Age of magazines, and McCall’s ‘’60s gloss and glamour were long gone by then.

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Weight for It
October 15, 2009

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Boy, fashion is barely standing on its spindly little legs this week, sorta collapsing under its own weight – or lack of it. By now you all know about Ralph Lauren model Filippa Hamilton – first she was deflated by a round of extreme retouching by her employer and lizzie-miller-2then we found out she had already been taken out of the lineup and fired altogether six months ago when her size-4 figure reportedly became too big for the clothes. From the news today comes a report that overweight women’s self-esteem plunges when they look at any model, whether she’s toothpick thin or flaunts a few extra pounds (like Lizzie Miller, left) Skinny girls had the opposite reaction: they always felt better when they looked at a model, whatever her size. In France and England, meanwhile, there’s a move to label Photoshop-crazy retouched images on a sliding scale with a health warning like they do for smoking. And in Germany, leading mag Brigitte will no longer use models in its pages, only “real women” that readers could identify with. Of course, Bavaria’s favorite-son fashionista Karl Lagerfeld dismissed that with a wave of his gloved hand: “No one wants to see curvy women,” Lagerfeld was quoted.”You’ve got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly.” Nice.

There’s no denying that Ralph’s retouching was absurd, however limited they say the use of the image was intended to be. According to insiders speaking out in blog comments,amd_lauren there was even a reaction inside the company before the picture was released. On the matter of Hamilton’s dismissal, their statement that she did not live up to the terms of her contract probably means that yes, her now size-4 body didn’t fit into their samples. No doubt that’s true – she’s 23 now and has been working for the company since she was 15, so she’s not a gangly teen-age girl anymore. And unfortunately that’s the problem and it’s a lot bigger than Lauren – the runways of the world are now populated by the beautiful beanpoles and the entire fashion system of runway and sample garments has been “downsized” to their 0 to 2 frames. The reign of the shapely supermodel, being long over, has been replaced by underdevloped hordes of mostly Slavic teens, like the Prada model at the top of the page.  And it’s Prada, headed by a woman I must point out, that usually gets the credit for turning the industry to the look-alike and lanky Lolita’s. They wanted the clothes to stand out and the girls to disappear on the runway; well it seems they got their wish and then some.

As for magazines, Diana Vreeland famously said they were “the places that people dream,” and now some people see only a nightmare. Overheated blog Jezebel doesn’t even believe the skinny on skinnies – that they like looking at models.  No, no, no – models are part of the “beauty-industrial complex (that) is basically designed to enscript” women everywhere. (Are they armed? Is Agent Orange the new trendy color?) I know the topic is serious, but the true wisdom comes from a reader who notes that models are, like always, just models – beautifully shaped and cellulite-free – whatever their size. Women need to look elsewhere for their self-esteem.”The “plus” and “real” women never look like us,” she adds. “It’s easier to ignore the message sent by the skinny model.”

Going into Schock
October 13, 2009

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I’d been meaning to mention GQ‘s October fashion spread with 28-year-old Illinois Republican congressional freshman Aaron Schock, where he mimes a typical day of political activity kitted out in Hilfiger, Brooks Brothers and Club Monaco.  6a00d8341c730253ef01156e44eb2e970c-800wiAmerica first got Schock-ed when TMZ ran this pic uncovering the effect of the rep’s reps – rippling abs and broad pecs – in a pair of red swim trunks that catapulted him to web fame as a Huffington Post hottie shortly after he was sworn in. And he’s a darling of Conde Nast, with his GQ photos and a Details profile earlier this year. The Washington It Boy takes all the attention in stride, he says in GQ, because it helps him to stand out “in a sea of 435 people in Congress,” and he slams the Bush-era Republican Party for “a failure to communicate” that’s keeping young people away from the GOP. Of course, the magazine doesn’t mention the committed conservative Baptist’s own stands against issues like abortion in any circumstance, affirmative action or gay marriage, much like many of his party’s “base” – which might also be part of the reason. I’m just not sure what exactly Schock thinks they are communicating (despite the headline “The (New) Conservative Agenda”) as GQ just twirls the youngest member of Congress around for his issue-free “Isn’t It Bro-mantic” model turn in front of the camera.

The Hardy Boy
September 30, 2009

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I was styling a fashion shoot yesterday in a photographer’s backyard in Venice when somebody happened to mention those two little words – “Ed Hardy.”  Suddenly there was a lot of hissing on that particular summer lawn. The healthy disdain of the cool kids didn’t refer to the person Ed Hardy but rather a glitzy and gaudy line of clothes – I feel bad calling them clothes, OK? – that bears the name of a once-revered tattoo artist (a lot about tattoos this week, right?) No, when people out here say Ed Hardy, they really are referring to Christian Audigier, the glitzy and gaudy designer/entrepreneur behind the line – our own little Count of Three-Card-Monte Crystal.

Audigier first made his dubious mark on fashion earlier in this decade by putting seemingly every straight guy looking to get laid in a Von Dutch trucker hat.  And, along the way, a truck-full of celebrities too, in those crazy Justin and Brittany salad days. In fact, he cheerfully takes credit for inventing celebrity marketing and just about everything else that’s happened since, in a devastatingly detailed profile in this month’s GQ that’s worth the price of the entire issue.

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When it came time to re-up, Audigier and the Von Dutch owners had a spat about putting his name on the label too, so off he went and either seduced or swindled Mr. Hardy (there was a lawsuit later) and now Ed Hardy by Christian Audigier is known across the land. His gold-foiled and rhinestone bedecked T-shirts covered in snake-and-skull-and-bleeding-heart tattoo motifs reached critical media mass this summer – for several tabloid weeks running – as the preferred apparel choice of one Jon Gosselin, the runaway “Plus 8” TV dad.

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Then came Michael Jackson’s untimely demise but never more than too timely for Audigier. I was driving home then, past his little cluster of boutiquelets on Melrose and BAM!, on the eerie electronic billboard looming large over the stores, was a gigantic and glowing image of Mssrs. Jackson and Audigier. TOGETHER. I wasn’t sure if it was real or photoshopped (Audigier is so fake-baked that he always looks a little retouched), though in fact Jackson did drop by the 50th birthday bash last year of the man who sports a tattoo across his back that reads, “Christian Audigier Est. 1958.”

Real or not, I didn’t know what to think then and I don’t know what to think now. Neither do the retailers who sell his clothes, who seem embarrassed by him, though they happily share in his $80-million T-shirt and accessory biz. Neither did the GQ writer, who didn’t want to believe that bling-y (there, I said it) vision of fashion goes so deep in American culture. But that’s Audigier’s genius. He doesn’t care what we think.

Cover Me…and Me…and Me!
September 24, 2009

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Gee, it’s getting a little crowded on the newstand. I don’t mean the number of magazines, but the number of people that seem to be crowding onto each magazine cover. If you’ve looked around lately, you can’t help but see plenty of heads among cover_self_100the headlines and sometimes it’s hard to understand at a running glance what they’re doing there, all smooshed together. Redbook offers Melrose Place’s Ashlee Simpson, movie actress Alicia Silverstone and Friday Night Light’s Connie Britton (who at first I mistook for the slimmed-down Nia Vardalos!) as their candidates for “hotties” of any age this month. Self also offers a trio, of Kristen Bell, Kristin Davis and Malin Ackerman of the movie rom com Couples Retreat, which I guess you could call a post-wedding He’s Not That Into You … Anymore. And then there’s Ladies Home Journal, which supersizes the concept by cramming all five of the ladies of The View into one shot. Besides having to share that precious cover oxygen with all of her pink-clad cohorts, poor Barbara Walters looks like she’s about to be strangled by the bottom headline deck. I’ll bet Babs would like to Refresh Somebody’s Life, once she stops gasping for breath.

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Even fashion magazines are getting into the act with the sorta-sapphic coupling of dewy Drew Barrymore and a glamorously wenchy Ellen Page on the cover of the current Marie Claire. This duo has been getting the most bang for their media buck – first they frolicked with their other roller-derby-saga Whip It cast-mates in the fashion pages of V magazine before they “got a room” on their MC cover. Of course we’ve all seen group covers before, like Vanity Fair’s annual movie issue or Vogue’s random model-stacked anniversary numbers. And obviously some of these October-issue ladies of the month are no doubt overjoyed because otherwise they would never get a cover on their own. Conversely, someone iconic like Drew enhances her good-natured “one of the gals” image by sharing her cover “candy” with her co-star – most actresses in insecurity-laden Hollywood aren’t that generous, to put it mildly.

But this new cover oversharing seems like something else – a desperate grab at something, anything, as magazines flail about in the new-media seas, looking for any port in a storm. And I think these cover multitudes are working against their interest most of the time – the monthlies are starting to look like the tabloids, with all those little faces. Is that what they really want? A single cover subject somehow embodies what a magazine is really about, what it endorses, what makes it unique. A crowd? Not so much.


The September Issue: Vogue
September 11, 2009

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When I started this little romp around the fall fashion issues of the big magazines, I thought The September Issue, the Vogue documentary that was my inspiration, would have opened nationwide but in fact only New York got it early and finally today it opens here in L.A.  So much has changed since that epochal flying-high September portrayed in the film – this year’s fashion issue clocks in at 200 or so pages less for starters.subscribe We will probably never see the likes of that 4-pound  2007 doorstop again. This year’s model boasts cover girl Charlize Theron, pretty, pared down with no accessories, certainly a big “get” but otherwise standard fare – nothing seems to link her image with fashion at this moment.  Inside she’s given a vaguely Georgia O’Keefe treatment, photographed in the high desert, styled with white T-shirts and men’s button-downs under long dark gowns, a conceit I feel like I’ve already seen too many times before.  Also old and quaintly amusing in that unintended Vogue way is the Last Look coda from the back page – a Manolo (of course) Blahnik lizard “take” on a Timberland boot, modified with sky-high heel and open toe – “fully equipped for any urban stomping ground” (at $1,595). Don’t get me wrong: when paging through the magazine I really don’t care what the items cost and I find some critics’ harping on Vogue‘s pricey merch to be oh so dull and dreary – it’s all a fantasy so just go with it. But the Manolo bootie is kind of like your grandma uttering the word “bootie” in reference to a hoochie  rap song. I cringe.

All is forgiven though by the opening fashion spread: who else but Vogue would lead off with most-likely-the-supermodel-of-today Natalia Vodianova as Little Red Riding Hood in a crimson collection of capes and other assorted get-ups?  Subtly recalling editor-god emeritus Diana Vreeland and her red reveries while also conjuring up the all-too-real recessionary wolf currently prowling around fashion’s fantastic forest, it’s also a proverbial Eve’s apple temptingly thrust at the consumer/reader to rush right out and buy something – and make it red! That’s Wintour’s commercial genius still firing on all cylinders.

The September Issue: W
September 1, 2009

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It’s September, it’s W magazine and Kate Moss is on the cover – and all’s right with the world. And what’s she wearing?  I’ll give you a hint – it’s September and it’s W magazine. That’s right folks: P-R-A-D-A.  With a cover line touting Miuccia and “Her Surprising New Collection.” Well, none of this is a surprise, but it still manages to be a very handsome cover, and sexy too – a tangle of golden curls and a seriously red-lipped pout prove Kate’s still got it – and how.

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Within the issue, W really outdid itself this time around. The magazine is the closest thing we have in the U.S. to the sublimely artistic pages of the Vogues Italian and French. And sometimes W goes overboard, veering way too precious, with stories built around frustratingly esoteric concepts that go on for spread after spread (20 pages, no problem!) But for this issue they brought out the all-stars, the photographer’s photographers,  and a haunting array of themes – starting with fashion’s hottest lensmen, Mert and Marcus, who bring a deliciously twisted Visconti-esque vision to what would otherwise be a predictable fall fashion story, the English country house party.

M and M do double duty with the aforementioned cover and the kinky inside portfolio of Kate Moss in Prada’s fall collection with a Weimar vibe. Jurgen Teller provides an ominous boho Woodstock fantasy featuring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Dree Hemingway. And Madonna’s favorite, Steven Klein, goes there in a naughty schoolboy reverie that summons Lara Stone as a dorm dominatrix in lots of power jackets.

But what I kept turning back to was stylist Alex White’s haute bag lady (photographed by Craig McDean) – pictures where parts of the outfits were crafted from designer shopping bags. Sometimes laying in the street, sometimes lounging in the studio, doll-like Sasha Pivovarova struck me as about as fragile as fashion itself these days: a little spent, not so much homeless as rootless, and coming out of an era when the name on the shopping bag often seemed more important than the clothes inside. And now she’s waiting. Waiting.

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.”