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.

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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.