It's OK for intellectual feminists to like fashion

Blog title from Hadley Freeman's book The Meaning of Sunglasses : "Prada styles itself as the label it's OK for intellectual feminists to like".

The author is a bilingual fashion editor, writer and translator with a serious blog, cinema and magazine habit.

Subscribe to the Fashion Abecedaire newsletter

Twitter @FashionAbecedai

Email: fashionmemex(at)gmail.com

1 - McQ and Stella McCartney coming back to London Fashion Week

Since Burberry made the move back and under Harold Tilman stewardship, London Fashion Week (LFW) has been gathering momentum. All major fashion editors now attend LFW, rather than hoping from New York to Milan, even though recent scheduling problems might have something to say to that. Showing in London will be a comeback to their roots for both the Alexander McQueen diffusion brand McQ and Olympic team tailor Stella McCartney. Both brands have a strong British identity and Britishness has become a marketing USP. With even Kanye West rumoured to join the capital, cool Britannia is regaining its pedigree. Will Alexander McQueen be next to join?


2 - A new designer at Dior and John Galliano’s future

The 2011 fashion year started with a bang with Galliano’s dismissal and ensuing conspiracy theories. Rumours after rumours have given everyone from Marc Jacobs to Raf Simons at Dior, to the extent not being named as a potential designer was a bad sign of your credential in the business. Is the job cursed? Is the house enjoying seeing its name pop up on social platforms too much to make a decision? Can Dior release another collection without proper artistic direction? Could Franca Sozzani get her wish of seeing Galliano reinstated? Is Sidney Toledano making a conscious decision to mark the end of the designer superstar?

As for Galliano, the moment backers decide he is once again a sound investment, I have little doubt he’ll find a new designer position. The industry is already being nice to him, his Internet ranking is on the rise and memory fades at the prospect of money.


3 - The Arab spring going into its second year

I spent some of the best days of my life in Cairo three summers ago. The city was nothing I’d experienced before. I’d been warned about the smell and the noise and that I would hate it but I ended up loving it because of its smell and noise and because it had an identity of its own, so different from all the European cities I was used to. Back at the LSE, I took a course on Nasser and Arab Nationalism which turned out to be the best of my third year. Watching a country fight for its future is very different if you’ve been there and if you know its history than if TV is your only link with it.

On a fashion-related note - the textile industry represents a significant part of the Egyptian GDP, not just as Egyptian cotton but also as clothing factories. The ongoing unrest, the lack of democratic resolution despite the elections and the role of the military and Muslim Brotherhood could mean rising prices on the long term, especially in the UK, the main European Union market for Egyptian apparel and home textiles.


4 - Presidential elections in France and the USA

April and November will be key electoral months in France and the United-States with Presidents Sarkozy and Obama running for reelection. Will France go against the European trend and elect François Hollande, the left candidate everyone dismissed as a joke two years ago? Will Obama’s West Wing-reminiscent administration loose the White House to the Tea Party? Even though the Carla/Michelle effect doesn’t translate in sales as well as the Kate effect, I hope any first lady taking over would have as much fashion taste. As for the fashion repercussions of new elections, they are more likely to be found on price tags following tax choices than in terms of policies. Despite fashion’s importance in the economy, the current economic situation puts us years away from making the craft a priority.


5 - The Artist released in UK cinemas

If you grew up in France in the 1990s, you might take the buzz surrounding The Artist and Jean Dujardin’s mute performance with a pinch of disbelief. Jean Dujardin will forever be Loulou, of 1 gars 1 fille, a long-lived, short-format sitcom about the triviality of a couple’s daily life. Seeing a full page dedicated to Dujardin in US Vogue is somewhat surprising, the possibility of his Oscar nomination difficult to fathom. Not that his acting doesn’t deserve it but because no one would have predicted him this kind of career. Jean Dujardin is the French George Clooney, from ER to The Ides of March.


6 - Another royal year

An exhibition dedicated to the Queen’s portraits at the Victoria & Albert Museum! New Diana, Princess of Wales dresses on display at Kensington Palace! The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations! Many new Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge outfits! The Royals on display for a month of Olympic joy! Another four day bank holiday weekend!

Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton, A Diamond Jubilee Celebration; at the Victoria & Albert Museum 8 February - 22 April


7 - Aaron Sorkin back on TV with The Newsroom

I loved him in The West Wing, loved him in The Social Network, loved him in A Few Good Men. A year after his Oscar win, Aaron Sorkin is back on TV with The Newsroom, scheduled for broadcast on HBO. Although the topic might be closer to Studio 60 than The West Wing for comfort, I expect dialogues between Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer delivered “while walking rapidly through a work place”* and Dev Patel as the “lone, down-to-Earth black man who brings calming wisdom to neurotic white people”*. Alison Pill could make a great “cute conservative blond woman who exists in a mostly liberal world but everyone ends up loving anyway”* while Daniels will likely keep the role of the “emotionally stunted male lead who is bad with relationships”* for himself.

*All quotes from “4 Things Aaron Sorkin Puts In Every Show”. And yes, I do know Dev Patel isn’t black.

8 - Sherlock and Mad Men back on TV

Contract negotiations meant we were deprived of Mad Men in 2011, while Sherlock's broadcast was pushed back to 1 January 2012. Will AMC and the BBC see a drop or a surge in ratings as a result? Can Don and Betty marriages last? Will Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat go the pop culture way and turn Irene Adler into Sherlock’s only love? Should we expect Holmesian influences and 1960s revival in the autumn/winter menswear and womenswear shows this winter?

9 - Marc Jacobs - Louis Vuitton and Van Cleef & Arpels at Les Arts Décoratifs

Marc Jacobs will open the fashion season at Les Arts Déco in March, followed in September by jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels. Described as “an analysis rather than a retrospective”, the Jacobs/Vuitton exhibition will show how both men influenced fashion and accessories at the end of the 19th and in the early 21st century. Drawing a parallel between the two designers is a new curation angle which should add to the fashion house’s myth and to the ongoing heritage trend. The Van Cleef exhibition should be more traditional with over 400 of the jeweller’s best work on display.

Marcs Jacobs - Louis Vuitton, 9 March - 16 September; Van Cleef & Arpels, 20 September - 10 February 2013, Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris


10 - Carine Roitfeld

Having christened her 2011 liberty by styling the Chanel campaign, posing on the cover of i-D magazine, featuring with her children in the Barneys window displays and releasing instant best-seller Irreverent, Roitfeld should know an exciting second year post Vogue Paris editorship. We know little of her projects for the year, except she will become a grandmother and launch a magazine, and it’s just as well since part of her 2011 appeal was her capacity to rebound and surprise us.

11 - Google’s iPad killer

Fashion brands and magazines have just started embracing Apple’s iPad tablet with platform-specific sites, dedicated apps and targeted subscriptions. Will they be able to carry their strategy and technology over to the Google iPad killer, announced by the company’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt? Google + was slow to release brand-specific pages but fashion brands were amongst the first to publish pages. Will the company follow a similar process, brand-wise, for the new tablet? Will the public be quick at buying the new gadget or shy away from yet another Google item in their life?

12 - Another year of Ryan Gosling

With Crazy, Stupid Love, Drive and The Ides of March, Ryan Gosling managed to be in three of the best films of 2011, in three very different categories. Will 2012 be the year of his first Oscar win? If his two Golden Globes nominations for best actor, drama and best actor, comedy are anything to go by, a nomination should at least be locked. This should be enough to keep everyone waiting for 2013 and his three new film Lawless, The Gangster Squad and The Place Beyond the Pines. Yes, I’m a fan and yes, I struggled to find a 12th reason to look forward to 2012. Not sure I’ll do Thirteen reasons to look forward to 2013 next year.

Pictures: London Fashion Week Begins At Somerset House, Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images Europe; Dior petites mains, Jamesbort.com; The pyramids in Giza, © Fashion Abecedaire; French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Senator Barack Obama, Jae C. Hong/Associated Press on the New York Times website; The Artist, publicity shot; The Newsroom, HBO Watch trailer screenshot; Princess Elizabeth, Cecil Beaton, Gelatin silver print, Buckingham Palace, March 1945, Museum no. E.1361-2010; Sherlock Series 2, BBC publicity shot; Spring/Summer 2008 womenswear show bags from the Toile Monogram Jokes line created by Richard Prince, © Louis Vuitton / Chris Moore; The 9 Lives of Carine Roitfeld, New York Times website; Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone on the set of Gangster Squad

Posted at 5:56pm and tagged with: Classy film, TV series, The West Wing, Vogue Paris, carine roitfeld, politics, technology, Sherlock, Mad Men, dior, john galliano, Alexander McQueen, London Fashion Week, Royal Family, cambridge, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, 2012 Olympics, Egypt, france,.

On 17 July 2011, my sister and three of her friends turned up at the MET hoping to visit the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition. Timing, queues, heatwave and lack of tickets decided otherwise. However, she didn’t leave the premises without a stroll through the museum grounds and purchasing her beloved sister (that’s me) the show catalogue in the gift shop.

With no trip to New York City before the exhibition closed and and a memory-less sister, I can only rely on the book and segments seen on blogs and TV to mind-visit the exhibition.

For a long time, I had my eyes set on either McQueen or Galliano designing my would-be wedding dress. His death upset me more than I expected and I can only imagine how I would feel discovering his work in four dimensions rather than on flat pages. I can only imagine how the changing background perfectly completes the Plato’s Atlantis collection. I can only imagine how, once in the context of his lifetime oeuvre, McQueen’s bumsters suddenly change meaning. I can only imagine how windblowing and turning platforms brings the garments to life. I can only imagine how tailoring completes diaphanous, how structured completes volume. I can only imagine how, no matter how beautiful the exhibition looks in the pictures and videos, the real-life thing is much be more striking and disturbing, more dreamy and macabre. I can only hope the exhibition will come to London or Paris after all.

As for the book, it’s a rather complete rendering of McQueen’s work and vision with a great interview of Sarah Burton by Tim Blanks where she details his work process (“Lee always designed each look as a complete look, with shoes, hair and makeup”), his love of big shows (“He used to say, “This is the last big one we’re doing”, but he couldn’t help himself”) and how he saw himself (“he always called himself a designer, not an artist. He was a showman more than anything”). The hologram cover is a tribute to McQueen’s love of the fantastic and the macabre: depending on the book’s orientation, you either see a skull or his face. One regret though: it is displayed on mannequins on a dark background rather than in situ, as shown in the museum.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty Andrew Bolton (Yale University Press, 2011)

Posted at 8:25am and tagged with: exhibition, Alexander McQueen, book review,.

Because we’re all broken —- every single one of us —- and yet we pretend that we’re not. We all live lives of imperfection and yet we cling to the fantasy that there’s a perfect life and that our leaders should embody it, but if we expect our leaders to live on some higher moral plane than the rest of us, well, we’re just asking to be deceived.

The West Wing Season 6, “2162 Votes”

Written by John Wells

Pictures: YSL, Christophe Decarnin, John Galliano from Harper’s Bazaar, Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs

Posted at 3:57pm and tagged with: Alexander McQueen, john galliano, Marc Jacobs, Christophe Decarnin, yves saint laurent, The West Wing,.

Dear ELLE,

What happened to us? You used to be one of the few mainstream fashion magazines I had few problems with. Hell, at one point I thought you were the closest UK thing to Paris Vogue, and that says something. When the Spring_Summer 2010 ELLE Collections came out, I thought it was brlliant: the paper experiments, the Pulitzer Prize winner author, the full page Miu Miu print…

And then the April issue happened.

For a start, I received my subscription issue a week after it hit the news stands. Apparently, according to a Lorraine Candy Tweet I vaguely remember but can’t find, there were some distribution problems. Those things happen, but the least you can do is email the subscribers and inform them of the issue. Twitter just isn’t enough. When you’re a media entity, you have no excuse for mishandling communication.

The core of the magazine is made of 24 pages reporting on the ELLE Style Awards 2010. It’s 24 pages of extremely well laid-out though shameless, information-less and pointless self-promotion. As a reader, I found it slightly alienating.

But most importantly, why is McQueen not mentioned anywhere? It surely isn’t a deadline problem: the Style Awards took place during LFW, McQueen died days before that, giving the team plenty of time to put together a nice in memoriam. Tatler did it, and pretty well too. The only vague McQueen mention comes from the Style Awards report in which Naomi Campbell, dressed in McQueen (as was Candy) dedicated her Outstanding Contribution award to “her close friend Alexander ‘Lee’ McQueen”. I can see only one reason for the lack of McQueen tribute: they felt they couldn’t do it properly because of page constraints, such as publishing a rather boring first-person account of Alistair Campbell’s relationship (“A Labour of Love”, pp.175-6).

Candy could have at least mentioned McQueen in her editorial, as did Alexandra Shulman at Vogue. Instead, her Editor’s Letter is a lazy-looking six lines plugging for the Grace Kelly exhibition at the V&A. I’m sure between LFW, organising the Style Awards and editing a magazine she’s been pretty busy, but this Letter is often the first contact the reader has with the issue. What hers told me was that April would feel lazy and disappointing.

Lastly, I believe ELLE has a role as a campaigning magazine, highlighting issues faced by women today. It has been one of the ELLE  raisons d’être since its first, French days. A survey on sexism in British society (“ELLE vs sexism”, pp. 159-62) is an excellent thing. The write-up, by Guardian columnist Lucy Mangan however was slightly off-key, focusing more on her own experience of sexism than actual analysis of the data collected in the survey. If you face sexism, or any form of abuse, knowing that other people have been in your situation can be empowering. Yet it falls short of suggesting real solutions besides reigniting feminism. 

So ELLE, I’m hurt. I will give you one last chance before canceling my subscription though, in the name of all those memories we’ve shared over the past three years.

Yours,

Mlle. L.

PS: Congrats on the Chloe Sevigny cover and collaboration with Frank Stanley. No matter my content grudges, I’m still in love with your arts department.

Posted at 9:16am and tagged with: ELLE, Alexander McQueen, Chloe Sevigny, Lorraine Candy,.

Stylist, Grazia and Drapers

Posted at 7:09am and tagged with: drapers, magazines, Grazia, Stylist, Alexander McQueen,.

The news coverage of McQueen’s death has once again shown how hard it can be for magazines and newspapers to cover a key event when nearly everything about it has been written and shown online.

Last week, I bought Stylist, the new-ish free London fashion weekly, Grazia and Drapers. Neither Grazia nor Stylist really modified their usual format. Their tribute to McQueen feels like an afterthought, something they felt obliged to include and tried to do without modifying their already planned features.

Stylist

This is the fashion week issue, with three “collector” covers. The magazine dedicates a mere full page to McQueen which lacks in originality and catwalk pictures.

Stylist explains that

As we went to press last week, Stylist was devastated to learn of the tragic death of über-British fashion designer Alexander McQueen.

A short paragraph retracing his rag-to-riches life is next to quotes from fashion editors, designers and stars.

Grazia

Grazia's tribute to McQueen is limited to three pages (Jennifer Aniston holidaying in Mexico gets 2).

Editor-in-chief Jane Bruton considers herself “privileged enough to have seen his work from the front row, for me her created the most memorable fashion shows in history”.

The feature was written by style director Paula Reed, mixing her personal memories of his show with snippets of his life.

Drapers

Drapers alone went out of its way to publish a tribute issue. With a black, white and red cover of McQueen saluting at the end of his show, the magazine dedicated over 20 pages to his life and career.

In her editorial comment, Jessica Brown names McQueen “easily the UK’s greatest creative fashion designer”.

The news pages ponder the future of his labels, the possibility of a “foundation to find design students”. Eve Oxberry wrote a two-pages biography which for once took the “I” out of the equation.

Playing on its strength of fashion industry contacts, Drapers compiled “Memories of McQueen” from industry figures such as Joseph founder Joseph Ettedgui or consultant and former McQueen PR Kim Blake.

A timeline of his catwalk accompanied by quotes from the Drapers archives retraces his career from 1994 to October 2009. Chris Scott Gray pays tribute to McQueen, the menswear designer often forgotten by the press those past few days.

The tribute closes with industry figures choosing their “Iconic pieces” which incidentally were often picked from recent collection. “McQueen in his own words” and ‘Industry hails ‘irreplacable’ McQueen” round up the coverage.

Posted at 6:57am and tagged with: Alexander McQueen, magazines, magazine writing, Stylist, drapers, Grazia,.

Since McQueen’s death, newspapers and fashion websites have been in a slightly sick race to publish as many “tributes” as possible.

This weekend, the Sunday papers took the exercise one step further, getting his friends, real or imagined, to write tributes. Forget about being on first name or nickname basis, all those people prided themselves in knowing him and calling him by his birthname. Whether or not you called him Lee has become, for the past five days, a proof of your fashion credentials.

More than about McQueen himself, those articles were about the writers, about how fashion connected they were.

Detmar Blow, husband of Isabella, wrote for the Daily Telegraph about McQueen and his wife. From their first meeting to her funerals, the first person narrative doesn’t really shed any light on McQueen, the character. It tells very superficial anecdotes. Crucially, the article ends with the mention that Blow has a biography of his wife out later this year.

Still in the Daily Telegraph, Plum Sykes wrote about “Alexander McQueen, my clever but vulnerable friend”. I found the headline in itself is incredibly offensive. Sykes most likely had nothing to do with it, but with the opposition of clever and vulnerable, the Telegraph managed to insult about every vulnerable person in the world.

As ever, the last word on the subject should go to Colin McDowell:

"And so they did. The Observer, a newspaper that once employed writers of the calibre of AJP Taylor and commentators like Malcolm Muggeridge, had managed to drag up somebody who had once interviewed McQueen and had become a ‘friend’, and The Sunday Times had cobbled together a series of quotes from the same kind of ‘friends’, several of whom wished to preserve their anonymity. Neither piece said anything, really"

Yours,

Mlle. L.

Posted at 7:00am and tagged with: Alexander McQueen, magazine writing, Daily Telegraph, Colin McDowell,.

Alexander McQueen died yesterday. After the initial shock and disbelief, the long staring at the Daily Mail page hoping that the news was nothing more than a Internet hoax, comes the grief and search for answers.

Of course I didn’t know McQueen personally. He was however the first designer I bought into, last year, at sample sales. A beautiful jacket, jeans and a pair of silver peep-toe heels. When I came back home last night, I got those clothes out and looked at them. I looked at catwalk picture after catwalk picture, followed link after link on Twitter. Nothing brings answers, no one has answers, even though the media are trying to write up some. After the initial shock and tribute will come the time for speculations, and I fear some will border on bad taste.

In her blog, Drapers’ editor Jessica Brown called him “the designer of his generation”. A Central Saint Martins graduate, often copied by the high-street for his skulls-adorned tops and scarves, master tailor and star as well known as his clothes, he truly is representative of a generation of British designers who started their career in the 1980s/1990s. Unsurprisingly, considering how technologically forward his collections were, the McQueen company is a model of web 2.0 embracing, thanks to the launch of its trading website, its Twitter presence and attempt at live streaming of its spring 10 collection.

Une fois n’est pas coutume, The Sartorialist used words rather than pictures to react to McQueen’s death. His writing is, I believe, reflective of the shock of the industry:

All very nice but I still feel so unsatisfied, so empty, even a little mad.
When a bigtime movie star or politician dies someone like Tom Brokaw has always been there to help put it into perspective.
If it was a sports star, fans would talk about it for days on talk radio.
However, for someone that loves fashion Alexander McQueen is just gone and no one seems to be able to make sense of it.
There doesn’t seem to be anywhere to turn to make it feel right or understandable.
I don’t have any answers for you either. All I know is this sucks.

Since 3pm yesterday, I have been trying to guess answers to the following questions. It’s a lot easier than wondering why he killed himself.

Starting with, how on earth did the Daily Mail, a newspaper more focused on sensationalism and populism than fashion, got to break the news? I’d really like to see how many hits the story got in the first 20 min before anyone else wrote about it. The link to their article was all over Twitter.

Secondly, questions about the effect his death will have on the Alexander McQueen and McQ sales. At the moment, only four items are sold out on Net-a-porter, and the Selfridges concessions yesterday afternoon were rather empty. It’s a slightly different story on The Outnet, where half of the stock seems sold out. Can McQueen’s clothes automatically be considered vintage now?

Lastly, will his fashion house survive? This would make it one of the first, if not the first contemporary fashion house to go on without its founding designer. In an interview with LOVE magazine, he said: ‘When I’m dead, hopefully this house will still be going. On a spaceship. Hopping up and down above the Earth’

Image from Worn Journal

Posted at 6:43am and tagged with: Alexander McQueen, Drapers, LOVE, The Sartorialist,.