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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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.

Call Her Anna
September 22, 2009

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The September Issue, the documentary about Vogue, Anna Wintour (seen above in a scene with photographer Mario Testino) and the making of the magazine’s largest-ever September 2007 issue, brought with it a ton of publicity, culminating in her appearance on David Letterman’s show just before Fashion Week. Finally the film has opened in LA (and it expands across the country this coming weekend) and, for all you Anna-philes out there, the movie reveals some amusing and arcane remnants to ponder about the legendary editor.

1. Anna doesn’t like black! I had never realized this before but think, quick, have you ever seen her photographed in a little black dress? And she isn’t very partial to it in the pages of her magazine either. In one segment, Anna’s palpable gloom is hilarious as YSL’s designer Stephano Pilati determinedly tries to assure her that the muted morass of his new collection includes some murky green and red. She doesn’t see it (and, really, neither do we).

2. Anna lives in a cottage! Or rather, a ersatz cottage inside a Village townhouse with goldenrod decorator-sponged walls (so ’90s!), pretty painted pottery and a jumble of coats hanging in the entryway. I don’t know why I was so surprised – her ex-husband was an academic, not the corporate type like Miranda Priestly’s withering spouse in The Devil Wears Prada. But in contrast with her chilly, walk-the-plank office….

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3. Anna loves prints!  You can take the girl out of England but you can’t take England out of the girl, apparently.  Her uniform is unvarying – a print dress (often Prada) worn with or without a cardigan.  Add fur at the slightest hint of a breeze. Delicate Manolos in summer (no lumbering Louboutin platforms for her!) and sleek boots in winter. More often than not, she accessorizes only with what appears to be a very fine vintage citrine necklace. Customarily a floral print gives your run-of-the-mill fashionista the worst kind of the heebie-jeebies so it’s kind of perversely wonderful that they’re the unvarying uniforn of the queen.

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.