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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Dear ELLE,

I take to my keypad with a heavy heart to record the end of our decade-old story. Receiving you in the post, unwrapping you has long stopped stirring any feeling in me. Page after page, all I felt was boredom, sometimes replaced by annoyance. The small defaults I used to find endearing, the inadvertent spelling mistake, the press release impersonating a feature have become an absolute pain. I’m no relationship expert but, according to the tips I’ve gathered from your pages over the past decade, it’s time to call it a day.

It had started well though. For years you were my favourite magazine, a glossy I would never imagine starting the week without (yes, you’re weekly in France). When I moved to London, you became a monthly must, a reassuring routine in a foreign land. No matter where I went, which country I visited, Great-Britain, Italy or Germany, you were here and I could count on you for a dose of feminism, current affairs and fashion.

You shaped many of my views of the world. To this day, I thank you for imparting in me, from a very young age, that the pill and abortion are not givens, that, as a woman, I’d always be treated according to double standards at work and that fashion doesn’t make sense considered as a stand-alone. I owe you partially responsible for deciding to pursue a career in fashion, and definitely responsible for all my journalistic ambitions.

Yet, for the first time in over a decade, every woman in my family has cancelled her subscription. My sister was the first to take this radical step. I can’t pinpoint when exactly I decided to cancel mine. There’s been a couple of issues so uninteresting I barely went further than a flick through, debate articles which left me feeling less knowledgeable than when I started, not to mention the never renewed tendency for sugar styling.

This might be a temporary break. I’ve loved you so much and for so long I don’t expect this to be an easy break. In fact, I still have a peak at both your French and British editions at work while weaning myself off. I’ll keep trying your ELLE Collection, which has an art direction and writing in a class of its own. For the past two years, this bi-yearly has been the only thing which kept me coming back, which maintained my hope and trust in the magazine.

I don’t wish you any harm, and I selfishly hope you’ll keep being printed for many decades. I already know you’ll be top of my present list when the next generation of women in my family comes of age. You’ll be my goddaughter’s birthday present, the day she turns 12. Even though you’ve disappointed me lately, I remember fondly how you were a great support to parental education at that age, how many embarrassing mother-daughter discussions you spared me. It’s better we split while the good memories still outweigh the bad ones.

It’ been emotional,


Picture: ELLEmagazine, Flickr user Howtedious

Posted at 12:08pm and tagged with: ELLE, magazine, first person, open letter,.

Dear European Union,

I know you’ve been quite busy lately but I really think it’s high time you sort out the sizing discrepancy within your member states. At the moment, an Italian 42 is different from a French 42 or a Danish 42, itself different from an English 12 and frankly, it makes shopping across borders a tad complicated. Of course, aligning labels wouldn’t sort out the issue of vanity sizing, and I doubt brands would be willing to let go of them, but it would make customers’ life the EU round easier. The Daily Mail might have something to say about it. After all, they do see British pride in the weirdest places, and I understand that you’re not in a mood to take yet another decisions which might anger your constituents, especially not the Brits.

However, I believe the advantages of aligning sizing would outweigh its issues. Of course, it would mean new labels, but this could be sorted if you decided the rule to be enforced from spring/summer 2013, or any season down the line which hasn’t gone into production yet. There would be some machine reconfiguration involved, especially in England where the current labeling system starts in the single digits rather than in the 30s. Even though there is something to be said for the intellectual gymnastic involved in converting sizes in one’s head, shoppers could do without this storage of unnecessary information. It would make online shopping easier, especially on multi-brands websites where the size conversion chart is the most boring to lay out and visit, speaking from experience.

The EN 13402 (oh, the poetry of European Union directives) was a step in the right direction. Based on “body dimensions, the metric system, data from new anthropometric studies of the European population performed in the late 1990s and similar existing international standards”, it aimed to standardise European labeling clothes size. However, its enforcement date of 2006 has been ignored by most clothing manufacturers. Eschewing the current numeral system in place in most European countries, the EN 13402 went for letters. You’re not a 34, or a 38, or a 6, or a 32 (French, Italian, English and Danish measurements) anymore: you’re an XXS. This is the cold and simple truth, but who wants truth when buying clothes? All at your great and laudable idea of aligning sizes, you forgot the most important role of the label: making the customer feel good about himself/herself. Who wants to know buying an XXS means one has a bust girth of 66 to 74cm?

Oh, there must have been difficult moments leading up to the adoption of letters. As always with the EU, tough time must have been had by all when deciding which of the current labeling systems would prevail. Here, I expect a diplomatic nightmare equal to deciding which language should be used first half-way through the Channel tunnel. The British envoy might have had to hold off peeing. However, considering the comparative fashion history of European countries, I’d have voted for either France or Italy, hell to national pride. After all, most high-end labels, even if they show during London Fashion Week, have adopted the system as a sign of quality.

So, dear European Union, the only thing I want for Christmas is to be able to go into any European shop and know I can buy a size which will exactly match the size I bought within a different set of borders.

Oh and while you’re at it, please sort out shoe and bra sizing too, will you?

Yours truly,

Fashion Abecedaire

Image: Random clothes shot, Flickr user Jess ☆

Posted at 11:05am and tagged with: retail, online shopping, European Union, open letter,.

Dear Cineworld Cinemas,

I’ve owned an Unlimited Card for two years now. In those two years, I’ve seen nearly 200 films, which means that I’ve spent on average £2 per movie. I’m thankful for the freedom it’s given me, for the many films I’ve dared to get a ticket for because I knew that no matter how disappointed I might be, I would at least have the smugness of not having forked £8 for a bore (most of those films turned out to be really good).

Yet, of late, I’ve grown dissatisfied with the card. Of course, it still allows me to see at least a movie a week without worrying about budget, but I’d like to get more from it. The card does offer side discounts on local restaurants and museums as well as half-price magazine subscriptions but what I’d really like is an enhanced experience within the walls of the cinema. Here are my suggestions:

Offer Unlimited Card carriers a discount on food. £2.75 for a bottle of water is ridiculous, you know it and we know it. I dislike the “at gunpoint” feeling of queuing at concessions. They are such a source of high-margins it’s tempting to go with Randy Cohen on that one: the no-food-from-outside rule is so ridiculous and the prices inside so extortionate it’s a civil duty to disobey it.

Offer Unlimited Card carriers a discount if they bring someone without an Unlimited Card along. Not a big one, 10% off would do. It’s a nice gesture.

Allow Unlimited Card carriers to book online, in advance, or at least have a priority line at the box office. At the moment, reserving your seat means you have to pay full price, which makes the card a hindrance when it comes to planning an evening out.

Allow Unlimited Card carriers to see any film, without paying an additional £1.50 for 3D. I get it, buying 3D equipment was expensive. The fee however feels like yet another thing to pay rather than ensuring a returned on your investment.

Allow Unlimited Card carriers to get in without paying when they forgot their card. Why not install a searchable database across cinemas? At least, make tickets refundable the next time a carrier walks into a Cineworld with his/her card. Again, it would be a nice gesture.

I understand many of my grievances might seem spoilt. After all, you’ve filled the terms of your contract and the promise of your advertising to a T. As agreed, I pay £17.99 a month, in exchange for which I can go see movies until story lines start blurring. This worked really well while I lived in Barnes, minutes away from the Hammersmith cinema, and spent my weekends in South Kensington juggling your Chelsea and Fulham Road outposts. Now I’ve moved to Angel, and only see one movie a week, I’m starting, like many card carriers before me, to question the profitability of the Unlimited Card. I don’t want to give it up yet, but I’d like it to give me more.

Cinéphilement vôtre,

Fashion Abecedaire

Posted at 12:56pm and tagged with: open letter, Classy film,.

Dear Tom,

Was naming one of your new nail lacquer shades Bitter Bitch really appropriate? You’ve been labeled a misogynist time and time again, at Yves Saint Laurent, at Gucci and for your own label. Your adverts have featured finger blow jobs, a model displaying a male fragrance on her Brazilian-waxed pubis, women feeling up men and the infamous G-shaped pubic wax. What’s a little name calling compared with the introduction of porn in luxury advertising? How do you even come up with a name like this? Is this a comment on the colour of one’s soul when one “is bitter about her (his) life and the things that have happened to him (her) and decides to take it out on the world”? A wink to Maria Sveland? I love the colour but the name will make me think twice about buying it.

Posted at 6:26pm and tagged with: beauty, Tom Ford, open letter, feminism,.

Dear UK Harper’s Bazaar,

That’s it. I’ve canceled my subscription. I’ve nearly done it many times before, but you always managed to publish a good or at least decent issue before I picked up the phone.

Your May issue, with Jennifer Aniston on the cover, was the last straw. Not because of Jennifer Aniston, but because this was the emptiest, most pointless magazine I’ve ever seen. There wasn’t a single informative, thought-provoking article in it. I merely learnt that Aniston’s parents were actors. You managed to get the date at which The Bounty Hunter was out wrong by a month. In itself, it doesn’t matter, but if you can’t get your infos on your cover girl right, what else are you getting wrong?  I expect better from a pseudo high-end magazine.

Your editorials were all right though. Of course, nothing too grundbreaking, but “Beautiful Chaos” and the very Majorelle-like “Block Party” were pleasant enough to look at. I also quite like what you did with your masthead. I think magazines should have a less reverential attitude towards their logo. Your arts pages always feature some of the strongest articles on the market.

Which is why I don’t understand you anymore. The bulk of your magazine is made of a rather dumbed down content, focusing on always rehashed celebrities, not too different from Grazia. But then in the last pages you run an interview with Danny Moynihan with interesting arts world insight.

So Bazaar, I’ve either outgrown you, or you’ve seriously gone down. Apparently not in readership though, since Vogue felt threatened enough by your numbers back in February to publish the following:

"Fashion upstart Harper’s Bazaar dances with the fishes by offering value packs at UK news stands to bolster sales.
"This packaging of inappropriate titles such as She and Coast with Harper’s Bazaar, bundled in plastic bags, will allow Bazaar to boost their numbers in the forthcoming ABCs. Without these inappropriate value packs to boost sales, the ABC posted by Bazaar would show a greatly reduced total.
"It is reasonable to question such tactics as the headline number could be taken as showing legitimate growth amongst upscale consumers, when in reality the Bazaar audience is dragged downmarket in the process, hardly what upmarket advertisers would expect."

I’ve been reading you for over three years now, and I have really enjoyed many of your articles and editorials. It’s time to part, and I’ve been so disappointed by you recently that I’m not even sad.


Mlle. L.

Posted at 10:25am and tagged with: Harper's Bazaar, Open letter, fashion magazine,.

Dear Net-a-Porter and The Outnet,

I admire your websites. I really, really do. I admire how you got the idea to launch an e-tailer when no one thought it could work. I admire how you’ve become the standard in terms of e-shopping, of online customer experience, of pioneering retail communication.

I do however have an issue with your shipping policy. If I could change one thing to the customer experience, I would add the possibility to opt for a different carrier than DHL.

I recently received a present purchased on The Outnet. Unfortunately, the day the deliverer came, I was at work. DHL only delivers Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm; in other words, during office hours. Unless you can get the parcel delivered at your workplace, receiving it can quickly turn into a bit of a headache.

Delivery can only be rearranged on weekdays from 9am to 5pm. You can choose the day but not the time, meaning that if you take the day off just to receive the parcel, you can’t run errands until you’ve signed for it.

I tried getting it delivered to my office, only to receive the following email from DHL UK:

Please be advised due to NET-A-PORTER rules and regulations we are unable to change the address on any of their shipments. We will continue to hold your parcel until we hear further instruction from yourself.

DHL has a reputation as a quick and reliable carrier, which is probably why you chose to use it. I know most people are incredibly happy with your services, and I must say that when I received my parcel, it was perfectly wrapped in a cute zippered tote.

There are other carriers offering signed-for delivery, such as Royal Mail. True, they are prone to strikes, but at least their sorting offices are local, rather than close to Heathrow, a nightmare to get to for Londoners without cars.


Mlle. L.

Posted at 2:55pm and tagged with: shopping, online shopping, open letter,.