Synergy: Desire, Necessity and Sustainability

I began writing this article in late January, in the midst of a fashion-charged stupor from which there seemed to be no relief. The menswear and haute couture collections had just finished in Paris, and New York was about to kick off another month of fashion shows. As my mind drifted off to the long, long list of designers who were finalising their collections, I started thinking about the clothes hanging in my own closet. Then I thought about my upcoming deadline and how I was going to approach the theme of synergy.

The Rana Plaza in Savar, Bangladesh collapsed in April 2013.

The Rana Plaza in Savar, Bangladesh, collapsed in April 2013.

It suddenly hit me. The theme of synergy—as broad and cryptic as it seemed when I read the editor’s first email—was perfect for a discussion about fashion. Synergy describes the close, cooperative interaction between two or more moving parts. Money and creativity are the two primary gears that turn the fashion wheel. But what is it that compels people to spend so much money on clothes? The answer is something even more basic: what we need versus what we want. If this industry were based on products that people truly needed, marketing departments that spend millions of dollars a year on advertising would be nearly obsolete. Luxury would be undermined by necessity. Designer names would lose their allure. In other words, the fashion industry would look completely different.

To understand the current culture of desire we must take a step back in time. In the glory days of haute couture, some designers would sell their patterns to American department stores for limited reproduction rights. These designers understood that Americans wanted to wear their clothes, but very few could travel to Paris, let alone afford the high prices. Christian Dior, precocious on every level, went a step further and explored the potential of licensing. It was the perfect way for Dior to widen his luxury business without incurring any major costs or management responsibilities, and soon “Dior” appeared on everything from scarves to sunglasses. To this day, a licensing program is necessary when a designer wishes to diversify their product range, but lacks the expertise or resources to make those products. Italy’s Luxottica, for example, manufactures high-quality sunglasses for almost all the major designer labels.

Continue reading

Posted in Fashion Issues, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Child Model and the Big, Bad Fashion Industry

Thylane Blondeau’s name first rose to prominence, or rather, notoriety, back in 2011 when photographs of her in the December 2010 issue of Vogue Paris fuelled debate about the sexualisation of children in the fashion industry. Jenna Sauers, former child model and contributor to the popular feminist blog Jezebel, wrote an article in which she expressed appreciation for the satire: “I personally found the Vogue Paris editorial refreshing. Sure, it was disturbing, but it seemed purposefully, knowingly disturbing—disturbing in the sense that it aimed to perturb and provoke a reader to question the fashion industry’s treatment of young girls as a kind of natural resource to be transformed into product, which is, you know, itself disturbing.” Others, however, were less understanding and condemned Carine Roitfeld, the “queen of porno-chic,” for publishing the photographs.

Kids these days...

Kids these days…

The fever eventually passed, and Blondeau was able to return to life as a happy, healthy, normal (albeit ridiculously photogenic) kid away from the glare of the fashion industry. But everything in fashion is cyclical, even controversy.

Blondeau, who celebrates her 13th birthday this year, is now on the cover of the latest issue of French magazine Jalouse. This photograph is much more age-appropriate: she is wearing natural make-up and a studded leather jacket, with an electrified ponytail running down her neck. Written across the cover is a huge hashtag (“#Bornin2001”) and the words, “La Nouvelle Kate Moss,” adding Blondeau to a seemingly endless list of young models who are “the new Kate Moss.” How many names are now on that list?

Though this picture is much more palatable than the ones in Vogue Paris, hiring such a young model is still a very controversial decision. In May 2012, Condé Nast International announced that no Vogue titles would “knowingly work with models who are under 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder,” choosing instead to work with mature models who are “healthy and help to promote a healthy body image.” Adherence to these guidelines has been somewhat lax, but to have these rules codified is better than to ignore a swelling problem, as Sara Ziff, founder of the Model Alliance, has stated: “The use of underaged models is linked to financial exploitation, eating disorders, interrupted schooling, and contributes to models’ overall lack of empowerment in the workplace…we’re glad that Condé Nast International is making this commitment.”

You can read the rest on The Style Con.

You can support the Style Con on Twitter and Facebook!!

Posted in Fashion Issues, Opinion | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Kimye Cover Vogue, Leads to Twitter Meltdown

Kim and Kanye on the cover of Vogue, April 2014. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

Kim and Kanye on the cover of Vogue, April 2014. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

I was on Twitter when I found out that Anna Wintour had put Kim Kardashian and Kanye West on the cover of Vogue. Not surprisingly, #BoycottVogue started trending, with even Sarah Michelle Gellar threatening to cancel her subscription. I admit that I have been very vocal about my distaste for the Kardashians and everything they slap their name onto, but even I felt a little embarrassed reading through people’s angry tweets. I mean, really: is this the kind of cover that’s going to break the magazine? No, it’s not. I refuse to believe that Kim and Kanye wield so much power that their presence alone could crumble the illustrious walls of Vogue. Besides, I’ve seen worse Vogue covers recently. What about Sandra Bullock, who had that horrible helmet hairdo? Or Jennifer Lawrence, the most sinfully boring actress alive (she ties with Emma Watson)? Or Lena Dunham, that obnoxious ball of upper middle class white girl privilege?

I’ve received a lot messages from readers asking for my take on the cover. This is my official statement: I like it. Shocker. I think it’s hilarious that Kanye lobbied so hard to get Kim on the cover, and in the end managed to get himself on the cover too. That’s such a Kanye thing to do. So are they a package deal now? Does he hold her hand when she pees as well? Anyway, the cover itself isn’t so bad. Annie Leibovitz captured Kim and Kanye beautifully, and they should seriously consider hiring her to be their wedding photographer. Even that frouffy wedding dress looks good on Kim.

One thing I don’t like, however, is Kanye’s facial expression. He has such a severe-looking face (he perpetually looks angry) that now, when he softens and relaxes his lines, it looks as though he’s smelling her neck. Their hand arrangement is also quite awkward because it makes them look like two nervous kids at prom. Maybe that’s the look they’re going for.

Continue reading

Posted in Fashion News, Media & Magazines | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

Retail Architecture: Building Dreams and Desire

I still remember the first time I walked into Chanel. It was a dreary Friday afternoon with dark, threatening clouds lingering overhead. My friends and I were on our way home from a class excursion to the museum, and having just reached the lower end of Collins Street, which runs uphill, made us vulnerable to both nature and gravity. The rain came rushing down the street, hard and fast. For some reason I suggested that we walk into Chanel. It was right behind us, and it looked so clean and warm. Walking up the steps, I could feel the water seep into my clothes. My socks were wet and my glasses were foggy. There to greet us at the top of the steps was a doorman, who quickly looked us up and down, as if to assess whether we were there to steal or seek shelter.

The new Chanel store on Flinders Lane in Melbourne, Australia. Image courtesy of Moluxury.

The new Chanel store on Flinders Lane in Melbourne, Australia. Image courtesy of Moluxury.

When we stepped past the glass doors, I could feel my legs slowly turning to jelly. Nervous heat spread through my face and down my chest, though it was difficult to tell rain and sweat apart at this point. I was completely in awe: there, in clear glass displays were thousands of dollars’ worth of jewellery, perfume, and sunglasses. In a chamber to my right was the ready-to-wear collection, displayed like art. I caressed a navy tweed jacket, familiarising myself with its texture (because I knew that I’d never have the guts to walk into Chanel again), though applying the lightest touch because secretly I was terrified that it would crumble to dust. None of the sales assistants bothered to speak to me. Was it because I was wearing a school uniform? Or was it because I was wearing sneakers? I guess I’ll never know. All I can say for sure is that walking into Chanel for the first time was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

Fashion and architecture have always been related art forms, as both must accommodate human bodies, human lives, and human experiences. We celebrate Cristóbal Balenciaga as one of the most innovative couturiers in history for his bulbous, cocoon shapes that encased the body like fluid armour. However, it wasn’t until the late 1970s that architecture separated itself from fashion in its purest form and joined a different conversation: retail. It is a conversation that is still had today, in high-rise executive offices filled with blueprints and sketches and budget estimates. Oddly enough, flashy retail superstructures started in a place we generally associate with the silent schools of avant-garde designers, with their deconstructed layers and amorphous silhouettes: Japan.

You can read the rest of this post on The Style Con.

And you can support The Style Con on Facebook!

Posted in Opinion | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

5 Thoughts about (Australian) Fashion Bloggers

Everyone likes to complain about fashion bloggers. The editors of Vogue, W, and Harper’s Bazaar complain about them; traditional fashion journalists like Suzy Menkes and Colin McDowell like to complain about then; PR firms complain about them; digital publishers complain about bloggers, as do designers and retailers and everyone else living under fashion’s lingering sun. Heck, even bloggers complain bloggers. How a group of young people harnessed the power of social media to create doors where door once never existed has everyone baffled. Who are they? How much do they earn? And, more importantly, can they be trusted?

Left to right: Tash Sefton, Jessica Stein, Elle Ferguson. Photograph by Peter Brew-Bevan for The Australian Women's Weekly.

Left to right: Tash Sefton, Jessica Stein, Elle Ferguson. Photograph by Peter Brew-Bevan for The Australian Women’s Weekly.

These are increasingly important questions, so much so that The Australian Women’s Weekly (AWW), which typically only reports on the royal family, published a seven-page feature in its March issue on the topic, titled: “ The rise of the fashion blogger–is it over?” I haven’t covered a lot of Australian fashion on Antwerpsex because, well, there’s not much to report on. The industry here is very small, and there always seems to be something more interesting happening overseas. There have been many, many, MANY posts written about the business of blogging (and the ethics behind it), but most of them overlook the situation in Australia. In this post I’d like to talk a little bit about the Australian fashion industry and our fashion bloggers.

Continue reading

Posted in List of Five | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Apotheosis of Kim Kardashian and Why it’s a Farce

As some of you may know by now, I make weekly contributions to The Style Con. Arabelle Sicardi, who runs one of my favourite blogs, The Fashion Pirate, and who is also my editor, wrote an interesting piece about Kendall Jenner and Kim Kardashian for the site last week, and I invited my friend “E.M” to respond to it. In the interest of keeping her voice authentic and powerful, I did not make any edits to the article. The views expressed in this article are hers, not mine. Thank you for this piece, E.

The Kardashians. They are internationally known, ubiquitous, and inescapable. Some laud their popularity, others abhor it. This article will not be one in the style of the former. Arabelle Sicardi recently wrote an article for The Style Con hailing Kim Kardashian, the ringleader of the family, as a businesswoman and “Madonna,” someone hated on for the sake of being hated on. But to say so is laughable.

Whoa, so dramatic.

Whoa, so dramatic.

To begin, there is the ever-present myth that the Kardashians are some sort of self-made millionaires on the level of Sara Blakely and Oprah Winfrey. But this fallacy has a hilarious oversight in what is blindingly obvious: We built the Kardashians. Like the Jersey Shore cast and The Hills cast before them, the power lies in our collective reinforcement of shallow, obnoxious people with “dramatic” (read: scripted) lives that allow us to unwind after a hard day of working 9-5 jobs that barely cover our yearly expenses. So how did we make the Kardashians happen?

Kim rose to her initial fame through a sex tape made with then boyfriend Ray J. It’s not okay to shame Kim for her sex tape, as Sicardi states: “She had sex with someone she trusted and he broke her trust and people will never let her forget it.” This is true. What’s also true, and commonly left out in articles about Kim, is that she filed suit against the company distributing her tape, but instead of seeing the case through to the end and attaining justice for herself and her image, settled, for (what else?) money. To the healthy tune of $5 million, to be exact.

Continue reading

Posted in Opinion | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments

Louis Vuitton Fall 2014

This is my last review of the season, and definitely my most important. When Nicolas Ghesquiere was announced the new creative director of Louis Vuitton, I experienced a range of emotions. Firstly, I was excited: he’s my favourite designer, and I felt that he could adapt to and face any challenge head on, even the huge, soul-sucking, money-making machine that is Louis Vuitton. But then I felt afraid: he left Balenciaga due to conflict with his bosses, who, he felt, cared more about increasing profits than making innovative product. When these details were revealed in an interview with System Magazine, the Balenciaga people sued, demanding over US$10 million in damages. The trial is set to begin in July*. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to now work for Bernard Arnault.

Now I feel, well, a little guilty. To me, this season has been mediocre, and I put so much pressure on Nicolas Ghesquiere to be the saviour of fashion week that it became impossible for him to meet my enormous expectations. I don’t recall seeing a lot of great collections this season, and even the other “high-expectation” designers didn’t produce anything that I feel we’ll be talking about one, five, or ten years from today. There was nothing in this collection that will mould the future of fashion, which Nicolas Ghesquiere has proven himself more than capable of doing in the past, but there wasn’t anything seriously offensive either. It was a nice collection, a clean slate for the new Louis Vuitton. I hope he can product something utterly amazing and conceptual (but not too conceptual; not Comme des Garcons conceptual. I’m worried about Rei.) in September. In the meantime, I’ll just appreciate the fact that Freja Beha Erichsen just walked her first runway show in ages.

*An earlier version of this post stated that the trial is set to begin in September. It will in fact begin in July.

I love…

love 8

This pattern/texture/print/whatever it is. I want to run my fingers through it.

Continue reading

Posted in Runway Review | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments