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.

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Email: fashionmemex(at)gmail.com

Arthur Conan Doyles’ Sherlock Holmes series was one of the first pieces of literature I read directly in English. So it figures that these great detective stories, and all their contemporary iterations, are particularly dear to my heart.

Since summer 2010, re-reading Sherlock Holmes has had a new purpose beyond improving my language grasp: figuring out what Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffat would include in their next BBC Sherlock series.

The Baker Street Babes podcast, blog and community of Holmesians has been a key part of my (often unsuccessful) attempts at forecasting spoilers.

I asked Kristina Manente, one of the founders and the main editor of the podcast, how she kept abreast of the latest news in the Holmesian world, how much work went into each show and her thoughts on the recurrent sexism charges levied against the Holmes stories.

As Series 3 of Sherlock was being broadcast in the UK, you recorded and published episode-centered podcasts really quickly. Run us through your process to do these?

It’s a little different based on the episode. I managed to see all the episodes before they aired through either screenings or being given access, but we’re a collaborative podcast, so we couldn’t record until everyone had seen it.

For The Empty Hearse and His Last Vow, we recorded the day after, as early as many of us were able to do it. This gave us enough time to digest the episode and possibly re-watch it a few times to get all the nuances and little tidbits that we wanted to talk about. As soon as we finished recording, I went into speed-editing mode and would immediately go through the recording, taking bits out that weren’t necessary and putting it all together. We managed to get The Empty Hearse episode out within twenty-four hours of it airing. His Last Vow took a little longer, but it was definitely out within a day and a half.

The Sign of Three was different because we were given access to the episode for review purposes a few days before it aired. So we were all able to watch and rewatch it a few times and then record the episode before it had even aired. That’s a luxury, but it was really useful as we could put up the written review and our podcast review right after it aired. People were amazed at how fast we were…I didn’t spoil the illusion for them!

Now run us through how you pick your topics and prepare your podcasts when there is no series being broadcast?

It’s based on what we’re interested in talking about or if there’s something happening in the Holmesian world. We’re in post-series interviews at the moment and we’ve got a few set up. It’s nice to talk to people involved in the production of the various adaptations when it’s off air because they usually have more time and can talk freely about it since everything has aired.

We keep trying to go back to the canon as much as we can and like to do character appreciation episodes. We had our followers vote on who they wanted us to talk about and Lestrade won the first round. Mrs. Hudson is up next.

We have a massive list of things to talk about, and a lot of the time they get pushed to the side because something else will happen, whether it’s a new book or a Kickstarter that’s relevant to our interests, etc.

The Baker Street Babes website also hosts a blog where you write about all things Sherlock Holmes. How do the writing and podcast complement each other, both for the reader and in terms of how you prepare them?

Our Tumblr blog is constantly pouring out content. It’s on a queue most of the time, though if certain episodes are airing or we’ve done a podcast about something in particular, we’ll manually blog in relation to that.

Our website blog is more tailored to complement the podcast itself. We do a lot of reviews on the website and if we’re having an author on the show we get the review of their book out before the episode airs, to drum up interest and give people the chance to read it if they haven’t already.

We haven’t written a huge amount of articles at the moment, but a few are planned, and we always take guest submissions.

There are quite a few of you on the team. How do you split the workload?

In general, I handle most of the social media and general PR. There’s a Tumblr team (Lyndsay, Maria, and Kafers). We have a dedicated review team who write all the reviews (Amy, Liz, Ardy, Sarah, and Maria). I’m the chief editor, but a few of the other girls are trained in audio editing. Kafers and Liz handle some of the graphic and video work, though we also have a selection of graphic artists we use who have volunteered from fandom. We’re good about sharing information and asking for help from others and pitching ideas and deciding things as a collective body. We operate in a very flexible manner, I think.

If it’s a piece of Sherlock Holmes news, you cover it in the podcast. There’s been podcast dedicated to Mastermind, Elementary, comic books, more recently the Finger Slip webseries Kickstarter campaign etc. How do you keep track of the news and what is your relationship with PRs?

We get sent things quite often actually, which is nice. There’s a joke amongst us that I sort of know everything that’s happening all the time. I think it’s because I’m so addicted to Twitter and everything seems to appear there first, so it’s a nice surprise when we’re sent something I haven’t heard of. Since I’m head of PR and responsible for setting up a large portion of our interviews, I do inquire after a lot of things. Also, a lot of tips come in from our followers and listeners who are like, “oh, have you heard about this?”, suggesting we do an episode or write about something. It’s really nice to have that input.

How has The Baker Street Babes evolved since its first podcast in May 2011?

We’ve gotten bigger! We started with seven and now are up to eleven. Some members have left and others were invited to join. I think we’ve all grown a lot in terms of presenting and especially interviewing. I cringe listening back to some of our earlier episodes. For the past few months I’ve been doing an MA in Radio and I have learned so much, so I’d like to think the actual audio quality and editing of the podcast has gone up quite a bit. We’re experimenting more too now, doing live reports from conventions, adding some music in… It’s constantly evolving, and it’s a giant learning experience as well as edging towards a professional one, which is lovely. I can’t believe it’ll be three years this May.

You’re incredibly active across social media platforms, Twitter, Tumblr etc. How does it fit in with your podcasts and what’s your strategy for them?

Interaction with followers is the big thing. We love that, and we keep Twitter and Tumblr particularly active in order to facilitate that relationship. Also, those platforms the best ways to spread information and share news because of how easy things are to spread. We obviously share our podcasts through these mediums, but we also ask for topic ideas, questions for interviews, feedback, etc. They’re very open channels, so it’s easy to get responses and I think it’s mutually beneficial.

Organising fan-aimed events seems to be an increasingly important part of The Baker Street Babes. What was the motivation behind starting and how are you planning to evolve it?

I always loved throwing parties, so it just seemed like the next logical step to throw fandom parties. We started with just meet-ups for fans and it quickly evolved to things like Sherlopolooza (Sherlock Series 2 screening in Leicester Square) and the Daintiest Thing Under A Charity Balls (raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project during the Baker Street Irregular Weekend).

SherlockeDCC was insane and it was so much bigger than I thought it would be. When we started planning, it was just going to be a little meet-up, and then it just kept… growing. I underestimated how massive SDCC was, and suddenly we were being listed in all these event guides for what to do at SDCC and I felt the pressure of just needing to deliver. I think we did. We sold out at 400 people and Steven Moffat, Sue Vertue, Mark Gatiss, and the PBS and BBC Worldwide teams showed up, as well as quite a few other big names in the geek world. It was an absolutely mad night, but we’re doing it again and want to make it even better. We have lots of ideas planned, but as ever, timing and how to raise the money are always the two big things to figure out!

There have been many accusations of sexism levied at Sherlock Holmes, whether the original short stories and novels or the BBC scripts. As the only women-only Sherlockian podcast what’s your reaction?

The original stories were written in a time when women were seen as sub-par, and as Sherlock Holmes was written as a contemporary hero, one can hardly blame him. He’s a product of his time. He didn’t wholly hate women though, he just distrusted a number of them. It’s because we’re so crafty and think differently to men on many levels. It was something that I don’t think Holmes could wholly understand.

As with the BBC series, I don’t personally see it. I know some of the other girls do on occasion. It’s all subjective and personal and it’s good that we have a chance to discuss these things. I’ve had conversations with some of the girls and we’ve debated and agreed to disagree or have changed each other’s minds. It happens. We’ve experienced sexism quite a lot, and we’ve risen against it, we’ve debated it and posted about it and we’ve come out stronger for it. I think the important thing is to not only to discuss it, if you think it necessary, but to come out stronger. It’s a fight we’ll all, as women, have to continue fighting, and fight we will.

Posted at 7:43am and tagged with: blogger adventure, TV series,.

Helen Santos’ West Wing Wardrobe

For proof of how far First Lady fashion has come under Michelle Obama, don’t look to Laura Bush or Hillary Clinton, but rather to Helen Santos, wife of fictional presidential candidate Matthew Santos in Season 6 and 7 of The West Wing

Whereas the last two seasons of the show foresaw many early Obama administration appointments, from the election of a coloured candidate (in The West Wing, Santos was Latino and kept referring to himself as “the brown candidate”) to appointing Josh Lyman, a character loosely based on Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first Chief of Staff, as Santos’ Chief of Staff, it showed no foresight when it came to the First Lady. 

Addressing a Yale law class in a 2001 commencement speech, shortly after the end of her tenure at the White House, Hillary Rodham Clinton advised: “Your hair will send significant messages to those around you…Pay attention to your hair, because everyone else will”. She could have made the same point about her wardrobe, considering the number of (often unflattering) column inches, it has generated over her 40 years in the public eye. Yet The West Wing, downright ignored the issue of clothes when it came to Helen Santos, possibly because its writing room was dominated by males who never had to wonder why fashion questions get asked to women more willingly than political ones.

Ignoring clothing could have been a way to make a point about how unfair the treatment of female versus male politicians outfits is. Instead, it is just another proof of how badly developed Helen Santos’ character, like so many other female characters on the show, was. To this day, despite watching the series multiple times, I have no idea about her education or professional background, just a vague feelingthat she came from a poor family.

Santos’ role was twofold. She gave the average Jane viewer an idea of how overwhelming a campaign, not to mention moving to the White House, might be if you are not the well educated Daughter of the American Revolution Abbey Bartlett was. Santos was her husband’s liberal conscience, reminding him where his heart was when he wanted to make the political choice rather than stick to his beliefs.

Dressed in a wardrobe of primary, block-coloured skirt suits, with a preference for red and blue (traditional political hues), and black or grey for more serious events, including church visits and the Democratic Convention, Santos is a blank canvas. The tops she wears underneath are equally boring; with neck types varying from the turtleneck to the round neck t-shirt. As much as I hate the concept, and as stupid as I find it, this is the definition of non-threatening dressing, and not a very good one. She’s neither sexy nor dowdy.

Santos’ single-breasted jackets, often with one button, emphasise actress Teri Polo’s waist. Her pencil skirts are knee-length and there is nothing in the way she dresses which expresses her personality. At best, you can surmise that her expected, business-like outfits, and the absence of imagination in her fashion choices, were a way for the wardrobe department to highlight how uncomfortable she is with her husband’s presidential bid and to express her fear at how it might affect her family. Yet, even as she warms up to the idea, for instance accepting to mortgage the Santos’ Houston house to fund the campaign if necessary, her clothing doesn’t change. 

A few times in Season 7, Donna Moss urges Santos to define the kind of First Lady she would want to be, an issue which never gets resolved. She holds liberal views on healthcare and education, two key issue of Matt Santos’ platform, yet is never more than as a way to prod her husband into debate or provoke campaign manager Josh Lyman. We never actually get to know much about what she thinks as a person, as an entity separate from her husband, and her wardrobe reflects that. 

The only moment Santos’ clothing becomes part of the narrative is in Running Mates (7x10), when tabloid photographers get a picture of her with her thong popping out of her trousers, starting a vague debate about candidates’ privacy which ends as quickly as it begins.

In Power Dressing: First Ladies, Women Politicians and Fashion, Robb Young argues that Jackie Kennedy’s outfits worked because they “echoed the mood of the country and indeed the world” just like Michelle Obama’s do; they, in turn, embody her husband’s promised change. Santos’ wardrobe could have echoed how groundbreaking a serious Latino Presidential hopeful was, or how important a candidate who took a more liberal position than Jed Bartlett was, even for a fictional America. Instead, it just reflects how much The West Wing shortchanged many of its female characters with poor character development and aborted story lines. 

 

Posted at 8:31am and tagged with: The West Wing, TV series,.

The Black Vera Wang

The only West Wing episode to name-check a fashion designer, The Black Vera Wang (season 3, episode 19) is mostly noticeable for setting up the last two acts of the season.

It contains all the tropes of an Aaron Sorkin teleplay: Josh and Donna banter, a staffer getting screwed over for trying to Do The Right Thing (Sam), further proof that the Republicans are evil (Sam), a fictional Middle East country used to discuss America’s real foreign policy issues (Qumar) and CJ’s love life clashing with her role as press secretary.

The episode title comes from a black Vera Wang dress CJ tries on in a department store while helping her niece buy an outfit for junior prom. The dress symbolises both how CJ is attracted to the Secret Service agent in charge of her protection, and reciprocally, and the threat she’s under, which warranted the protection in the first place and means their liaison is not to be.

Posted at 5:32am and tagged with: The West Wing, classy films, TV series,.

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* Please note this article contains potential spoilers for all three series of Forbrydelsen.

Having a strong, smart female lead at its heart in Sarah Lund (Sofie Gråbøl) is one of the reasons for the success of Forbrydelsen The Killing. The series is good, the acting first class but the plot lines aren’t groundbreaking, following the traditional codes of thriller writing, especially in series 3 which calls upon plot devices seen in previous installments. Throughout the series, Lund puts her job and search for justice first, to the price of personal sacrifices.

She follows her instinct. Lund is smart but her gut often knows something before her brain can articulate it, and she accepts it. Her extraordinary ability to solve the most complicated cases stems from her gift for linking clues no one else thinks of and her taking her reasoning further than anyone else.

"She’s at peace with herself". In a March 2011 interview with The Guardian, Sofie Gråbøl explains she picked her Faroe Island sweater because “It tells of a person who doesn’t use her sexuality – that’s a big point. Lund’s so sure of herself she doesn’t have to wear a suit.” She’s smart, she knows it, she’s not afraid of showing it and she doesn’t feel the need to fit in.

She’s unfazed by power. Lund has a gift for working cases linked to powerful Danish men, yet whether she’s dealing with a mayoral candidate (season 1) or a shipping magnate (season 3), she always makes them feel the law is above their influence and millions. To hammer the point home, the Forbrydelsen writers ensure a couple of corrupt policemen feature in the plot.

Her EQ is all over the place. Part of this not caring how she fits in means she doesn’t to show emotions, which puts her at odds with the victim’s parents in series 1. On an EQ-i Model of Emotional Intelligence, she’d rate low on emotional expression, impulse control but high on self-regard, independence and reality testing. Lund’s tendency to run away from feelings is a subplot of series 3, in her dealing with her son, her unfinished love story with her new Special Branch partner and the suggestion she’s still haunted by the death of her partner from series 1 (episode 4).

She disobeys orders and lies to get her way, but only if it’s the right thing to do. Lund’s goal is always the truth, and even though her means are never fully illegal, she often snoops beyond her mandate, particularly when in a war zone (series 2).

She cares little about consequences, in a way only a TV character can. I wouldn’t advocate going for a midnight walk with someone you suspect of being a repeated killer (series 2), or turning up at a morgue if you think a kidnapper might use it as a killing ground (series 3) but it seems to work for her.

She doesn’t know fear, whether it’s the fear of losing people or the fear of her own death.

She sticks to her values, a trait shared by the women in the show at the end of series 3, whether it’s killing a murderer who would otherwise walk free, wanting to reveal dodgy political and police dealings or wishing for more family time.

Posted at 10:00am and tagged with: TV series, career, management,.

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* Please note this article contains potential spoilers for series 2 of The Hour.

"And this is my wife". Camille Mettier (Lizzie Brocheré), French wife of journalist, TV anchor and general show hero Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) is introduced at the end of the first episode of series 2 of The Hour, the Abi Morgan miniseries on the behind-the-scenes of a 1950s TV show.

The clues were there but they only fall into place at the last minute, leaving the viewers as shocked and saddened as Bel Rowley (Romola Garai), Lyon’s British producer, best friend and love interest.

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The season (and possibly the show) is now over, yet Mettier’s role is still unclear. Trouble-maker for viewers meant to root for a Lyon/Rowley happy ending, Mettier is young, pretty and very Nouvelle Vague meets Beatnik. She has a Jean Seberg crop, swears in French when angry, says “oui” rather than “yes”, “can’t help flirting”, rarely wears pants and always wears her husband’s jumpers and shirts. When she goes out, it’s always in black: black turtleneck, little black dress, black coat. 

Mettier is the cliché Anglo-Saxon take on the gamine and androgynous French woman,  in sharp contrast with the British woman exemplified by Rowley, who lives for her story and her career.

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Although both characters are typecast late 1950s women, their contrasting personalities filter through their fashion and beauty choices: Mettier’s loose, dark clothes to Rowley’s colourful, nipped-in suits, her dark crop to her wavy blond hair.

Both are women of their time, exercising their gender’s newfound freedom their own ways: Mettier sitting at home reading books and planning the next revolution and anti-nuclear war protest with her leftist friends is merely a study on how only Rowley, who understands and shares Lyon’s ambition and life goals, is best suited for him.


Posted at 7:59am and tagged with: Mad Men, TV series, bbc two, france, Classy film,.

"Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is an enemy action" wrote Ian Fleming in Goldfinger. Or if it’s fashion rather than Cold War, three is a trend. As it approaches its 25th birthday, Dirty Dancing hit and final scene soundtrack Time of my Life has been trending on the screens, big and small, becoming shorthand for seduction and great love stories. It has reached trope status in romantic comedies as a turning point scene for plots and characters.

The scene is so ingrained in pop culture the viewer is bound to know it (even if, like me, this is the only thing s/he’s seen of the original movie). S/he projects his/her own feelings and take on it. It acts as a blank canvas, strengthened by the role the song has played in his/her own life and assists in the identification of the viewer with the characters reenacting the dance.

1- The accident: Glee (2010)

The early days of Glee saw the cast reenact many American classics. Considering 2010 was in the midst of a 1980s revival, Time of my Life was particularly well timed. It adds seriousness to the Sam-Quinn relationship while hinting to the difficulties they’ve met and happier times ahead. That’s the advantage of a classic song: the background is so strong and well-known it can tell more than a dialogue, even if the rendering verges on appalling.

2- The coincidence: L’Arnacoeur (Heartbreaker)(2010)

In French hit romantic comedy Heartbreaker, Romain Duris breaks up couples for a living by convincing women they’re better off single or with a different partner. His latest job is oenologist Vanessa Paradis, an heiress with an immoderate love of Dirty Dancing. The 1980s film becomes a thread unfolding common interests, real and assumed, culminating in a rendition of the dance scene in an Italian restaurant with both actors wearing clothes updated from the original movie. It reveals what we all knew: they’re in love.

3- The trend: Crazy, Stupid Love (2011)

The Dirty Dancing reference in Crazy, Stupid Love follows a similar aim: showing that the serial dater who never falls in love can, in fact, fall in love. Ryan Gosling introduces the dance as his ultimate move to get girls into bed, which seduces an already willing but very sarcastic Emma Stone. The filming was apparently less romantic, with Stone suffering from a panic attack and a double replacing her during the scene.

Posted at 7:07am and tagged with: Classy film, TV series,.

One day, psychologists will write about the two stages of the female development: the day she realises she’ll never marry her father and the day she realises Aaron Sorkin is a misogynistic, egotistic one TV-series, two movies wonder. Psychologists will suggest that there had been hints (doing another TV-themed show when the previous one had tanked, women on The Social Network, The President and Miss Wade) but that women, those feckless* beings, were too smitten by the walk-talks and C.J. Cregg to notice. Short of any appropriate Greek myth to explain this behaviour, psychologists will immediately devise a three step coping technique:

Step 1 - Avoidance: Avoid The Newsroom. Especially easy if you live in a country devoid of HBO and benefit from an Internet connection with a tendency to break down on Saturday mornings. Also avoid: any Newsroom review or recap, any article on the show misogynistic tendencies, any interview where Sorkin calls a reporter “Internet Girl”.

Step 2 - Reminiscence: Watch The West Wing, A Few Good Men, The Social Network and if you’re stuck Moneyball. Repeat. This should take you till after the end of the first season. Repeat when season 2 hits the screens. Repeat at will or until your DVDs wear out.

Step 3 - Moving on: Cheat on Bartlet with Birgitte Nyborg, his only rightful heir on 2010s TV. If subtitled Danish isn’t your thing, Veep and Political Animals are not “Two Cathedrals” yet, but they do have political drama potential. 

* A word I learnt watching The West Wing, as in “Have I displeased you, you feckless thug” (this is not a guess the episode post)


Posted at 7:35pm and tagged with: TV series,.

Summer has arrived and with it my annual project of picking an author and reading all her books. This year, I’ve chosen Imogen Edwards Jones' Babylon series and Amanda Cross/Carolyn Gold Heilbrun' Kate Fansler mystery novels.

In the past, with various degrees of academic pursuits, I’ve spent my summers reading Kathy Reichs, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (mostly his Sherlock Holmes and Challenger work), Emile Zola (never got to the end of it), Guy de Maupassant (it carried on into the school year), Molière, Agatha Christie, Freud and biographies of queen Victoria (the only time I picked a theme over a name).

Initially, reading all an author’s work had a purely school-related purpose: the books were on the curricular and getting a head start made sense. Reading Agatha Christie somewhat changed my motivation and set the theme for my summer projects ever since. After reading four of her mystery novels in a row, I discovered that her writing always followed the same structure and that I could pick the culprit quicker than Poirot or Marple, generally within the first two chapters. True, it somewhat defeats the purpose of a mystery novel, but the smugness more than makes up for it.

Ebay, Amazon, my local library, my local charity shops and Wikipedia are my best friends during the summer projects. The first four because I refuse to ruin myself in books (yes, I do feel slightly guilty for all the royalties authors won’t earn despite my enjoying their writing) and Wikipedia because reading books in the order in which they were written, rather than in the chronological of the series, is key to understanding how the writer’s style evolved, to pick up on slight inconsistencies (I’m looking at you, Sir Arthur and your John/James Watson) and to track character development.

Kathy Reichs was my 2011 summer project, motivated by my love of the TV series Bones. This year, Jo Nesbo was strong contender after seeing and reading Headhunters but I settled on Kate Fansler thanks to Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard University, describing the series as a “murderous take on academic life [which] has provided me with a great deal of pleasure” in a New York Times “By the Book” interview. The Babylon series I’ve wanted to read since tasting Fashion Babylon five years ago. I don’t expect any surprise from the rest of the series: the recipe is tried and tested, an industry we’ve all used at some point surrounded by urban myths with anonymous insiders willing to spill the beans.

Both book lists display a quality key to the success of the summer projects: their flow of writing and page count ensure they are quick and light reads. This is not about writing quality. Zola and Molière were all good when I could pack up my books to a farmhouse in the French countryside, or when Fashion Carrousel and I could take turns reading aloud while ironing but right now, my summer projects are leaning more towards trash, entertainment and instant gratification. I need to know today that no matter the menswear shows, womenswear prep and other work-related projects, comes 21 September I will have read what I planned to read and it will have taken my mind off things and relaxed me the way holidays in the sun would. This is summer after all.

Picture: “Girl Reading Under an Oak Tree,” oil on canvas, 15 1/2 by 22 1/2 inches, 1879, Winslow Homer

Posted at 6:29pm and tagged with: reading list, TV series,.

Eighteen percent, nearly one in five French woman voted for far right Front National candidate Marine Le Pen at the first round of last Sunday’s French presidential elections.

Trying to explain this number, many a political pundit suggested women chose Le Pen because she’s a woman. Said sociologist Sylvain Crépon on radio Europe 1*: “Marine Le Pen is a busy woman, a divorced lawyer with a modern image. That she’s living in a blended family anchors her in her time, and it might have contributed to the female vote.” 

I won’t dignify the suggestion that women are so void of political sense they cast their ballot based on sex, ideas be damned, but this highlights the absence of strong female candidates amongst the 10 politicians running. Aside from Le Pen, the other two women in the race, Eva Joly for the green party Europe Ecologie Les Verts and Nathalie Arthaud for Lutte Ouvrière, a party so left of the political spectrum it nearly falls off it, never stood a chance. They respectively got 2.31% and 0.56% of votes.

Women weren’t absent from the campaign, but they stuck to more “traditional” female roles of support and communication. Nathalie Kociusko-Morizet, who, no matter what you think of her boss Sarkozy, is one of the brainiest and smartest women in politics, was spokesperson for the Président-candidat. Clémentine Autain was on every TV station throughout the campaign defending Front de Gauche candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Nadjat Vallaud-Belkacem was François Hollande’s spokesperson. All these women are smart, locally elected politicians who have sometimes held ministerial jobs. Yet as things stand, I can’t imagine any of them running for president, and winning.

Denmark, despite having a Queen never had a female Prime Minister before Borgen was broadcast on TV. Now Hell Thorning-Schmidt has been in power since October 2011. The West Wing dreamt Obama, as Matthew Santos, before he happened. To change mentalities and finally elect a woman at its highest office, does France also need its own (quality) TV series proving fictionally, week in, week out, that yes, a woman can do it too?

* Sylvain Crépon quoted in "Qui sont les nouveaux électeurs du FN ?", Europe 1 24 April 2012, “Le fait que Marine Le Pen soit une femme, qu’elle ait une image assez moderne, de femme active, avocate, divorcée, qui vit dans une famille recomposée, c’est un peu la femme de son temps, ça a pu contribuer à un vote féminin” (Translation my own)

Still from Borgen, Season 1 episode 1, Link TV Borgen Press Room

Posted at 2:53pm and tagged with: france, politics, TV series, Borgen, The West Wing,.

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,.