But first: a word about New York. Is it too late to write about Opening Ceremony? Maybe, but I went, and so I’ll do it: It was fun! Which means a lot more than what it sounds. Reading everything trying to “make sense” of the show really made me cackle. “WW CHARLES ISHERWOOD DO?” screamed all of New York. “DID THIS WORK AS A PLAY?” “WHAT ABOUT THE CLOTHING? IT WAS KIND OF UPSTAGED IMO.” And my favorite: “THE PLAY IS NOT THE THING”—an accusation that staging a play was too try-hard, too-cool.
Are we really so uncivilized that a play is a brazen act of pomposity?
Sitting in the audience, I kept thinking of 18th and 19th century British novels in which rich people, happy and leisured and fat with tea at their country houses, would put on plays together. Take Mansfield Park, where the team puts on the RACY and WILD Lovers’ Vow: two characters in a dangerous and semi-surreptitious flirt-off get to act out their sexual tension, and no one—not even our ingenue, the fussy gussy Fanny—can do anything about it because #plays. (Eventually Fanny’s parson uncle puts a stop to this immorality.) Plays have long been a means for diversion and a way to say what cannot be said or done IRL (hello, Murder of Gonzago!).
The Opening Ceremony play, staged by a brand that is most certainly fat and happy, and plunked in the high theatre that is fashion week, functioned in the same way. It was—to use that beautiful British upper caste buzzword—diverting! But it also allowed the brand to express that which they couldn’t say through a big catwalk and lights and a new specially commissioned song by MGMT, which was that their brand is a lot of fucking fun and they don’t take themselves too seriously and—most importantly—you’re going to buy and promote their clothing even if you don’t see it flitting by in a blurry runway moment.
Just because we don’t take in plays with the same appetite we take in movies or Netflix Original Programming doesn’t mean they are crusty old barrels of high seriousness. “Wow man,” everyone seemed to say this summer, “Tavi is in a play.” As if she’d written a philosophical treatise about whether Americans are facing a metaphysical crisis. Plays can just be fun. This one was a lot of it.
Supremely stylish Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo is weighing a “happiness” grade for tourist-centric businesses. On the eve of PFW, Hidalgo, who is so beautifully put together that I think a Henry Mancini theme follows her to all her meetings, tells WWD she’s unsatisfied with the city’s unfriendly reputation. “We might consider, for example, a label rating the quality of the hospitality of places such as restaurants.” I love it. So European: while New Yorkers need to know if rats are unwittingly seasoning our hamburgers, Parisian brass is worried about whether the waiters ask if they can get you anything else. Is anyone actively canceling trips to Paris because the waiters are rude? Is this a crisis to which I am entirely unhip? And what’s this rating system going to look like? C if you get business as usual, B if the waiter asks before he brings the check, A if there are cockroaches in the kitchen but they bring you your entrée on a silver platter and bow? Is Ratatouille the new face of Parisian hospitality?! And: how do you earn an F? (WWD)
Jimmy Choo to issue IPO in London; are we in the age of the it-shoe? I dunno, maybe. Should we expect a Stiletto Cam at the next Emmys? Vanessa Friedman makes a compelling argument that the it-bag age is over and the shoe now reigns supreme. Shoes are even getting the Big Museum Show treatment in Brooklyn, an honor never granted at that level to handbags. (This interests me because handbags have a more dynamic relationship, I think, to the changing roles women play: as women have gained more equal footing, their bags have gotten bigger and bigger.)
Heels are more impossible than ever to walk in. Are we not walking anywhere, or could it be that shoes photograph work better for selfies than bags? Perhaps that sounds doltish, but the photogenicity of clothing has been driving design for some time now. Otherwise, why are we so suddenly invested in what we’re putting on our feet?
And finally, is this Peak Headline?
All the news I blogged about!!!!
WWD seeking teeth, bloggers left without them. I pair these stories together because they seem to illustrate a trend in fashion media: blogs have just become point-of-sales, and the fashion news game is about to get really crowded.
Blogging was once considered a “wild west,” where new voices and new ways of consuming and interacting with fashion could emerge. Blogging reinvented street style, it changed the way young talent breaks into the fashion industry (notably, though, this doesn’t hold water for designers), and it transformed the general public’s understanding of and access to the fashion industry. Can you imagine Alexander McQueen putting on his groundbreaking Spring 2001 VOSS show today? It would be Instagrammed, tweeted about, and blogged over to excess; your average sixteen-year-old girl would have an opinion on it.
In the latest issue of Texas Monthly, Francesca Mari profiles Amber Venz, the empress of the fashion industry’s most powerful affiliate site, RewardStyle. (Diclosure: I used RewardStyle in my personal style blogger days, which ended in 2013.) That bloggers are making bank is no big news (remember that WWD story earlier this summer), but it’s the corporatized aspect of the game that’s so shocking here. Looking through the bloggers interviewed, you find a slew of sites in which women are all wearing the same things, styled the same way. And these cash cows aren’t going to be plucked from obscurity and into the front row: the bloggers mentioned in WWD’s story are women you’ve never heard of and probably never will. Their already making $1m a year; what’s a seat at Dior?
Mari writes that bloggers are desperate for brand collaborations, and I think that’s led many bloggers to do what other, more successful bloggers are doing (down to the design and layout of their blogs, and the way they dress) so they look “legit” enough for a brand. They wear stuff they know readers will want to buy (Venz even recounts telling a blogger to dress “down” when the blogger’s sales mean she can starts buying higher end clothes). Times was, kiddos, bloggers wore newly discovered brands, or styled things in an unexpected way, or showed the same ole, perhaps, but with an engaging or surprising voice. That was what bloggers brought to the fashion industry, and the ones who did it well broke through.
Now, the fashion industry and its observers have clearly tired of blogging. I could count the number of “fashion blogs are dead” think pieces that have appeared in the last year on my hands and feet and have to borrow someone else’s hands and feet to finish counting. It doesn’t mean blogs are going away—in fact, I think there is a “masthead” of bloggers who are the “establishment,” and here to stay.
The original purpose of blogging—a kingmaker for the obscure and reasonably well-attired—is what’s dead. That is over. (She writes, on her fashion blog.) The craze for anyone who is wearing clothes on the internet is over. That no longer gives a brand legitimacy. You can’t just start a blog and get in anymore, and the type of bloggers discussed in Mari’s story (save for a few exceptions, who may have made money from RewardStyle but whose success isn’t driven by it, such as Into the Gloss and Man Repeller) are not exactly rolling in and disrupting the game. They’re all doing the same thing, and no amount of Marc Jacobs or Louis Vuitton collaborations, which RewardStyle says it has in the works, is going to change that. Here’s a blogging secret: the clothes don’t make the blogger. The blogger’s point of view does.
Whether there are any people getting into the blogging game with an original point of view is what remains to be seen. Susie Lau told the Financial Times’s fashion critic, Jo Ellison, that new talent will always crop up online, but I certainly have not seen any over the past year.
What we have seen is a new interest in fashion news. Perhaps in response to the soft and mushy fashion experience blogging came to offer, fashion news sites have been nailing it: Style.com, The Cut, and Business of Fashion are must-reads, even for casual fashion followers. Vanessa Friedman said in a recent interview that she wants the NY Times to break more news. Vogue has relaunched its site, which will include more fashion news; an ad that appeared in WWD a few weeks ago suggested Style.com is also relaunching. And about WWD: the New York Times reports today that the fashion paper of record will undergo a makeover under its new owner. People are radical in their devotion to Vanessa Friedman or Tim Blanks, Robin Ghivan or Suzy Menkes. I had friends who were frothing at the mouth when Cathy Horyn penned her first story for the New York Times since her resignation this past winter. And that leads me to think that the next big thing in fashion media is going to be hard news.
It’s kind of a fairytale.
DVF proud of our hot mayor and his hot family. It was just last February that a number of NY fashion insiders seemed to thumb their nose at Bloomberg’s predecessor, a feeling DVF tempered by telling the NY Times, “I am sure we will seduce the new mayor, too.” At last night’s Gracie Mansion party for the city’s top design talents (to my eye, Oscar de la Renta and Zac Posen look like the only major absences), she gushed: “Aren’t we all so proud to be living in New York City and to be in this beautiful house and that our mayor and the first lady and first daughter are so hot?” The mayor announced three new fashion initiatives, as well. (WWD)
Manhattan to convert into department store by 2018. Neiman Marcus will open a store in Hudson Yards in 2018. Nordstrom is also opening in NYC, you may recall. And Barneys is moving back into their original flagship in Chelsea. The seal of New York City will be replaced with this image. So: is Prada going to make 5 versions of the same freaky frock to satisfy the stores, or will brands snob up and go exclusive? (NYT)
Proenza’s forthcoming collection is inspired by junk food; Betsy Johnson’s is inspired by rice. (WWD)
All the season’s hottest, nowest newz!
OK, let’s complicate Gap’s “simple clothes.” Whoa boy. David Fincher has directed four glossy, black-and-white ads for the Gap’s new “Dress Normal” campaign—elusive, noir-ish vignettes in which various hip people in Gap’s signature bland make out or flirt or take off their pants. “Each one features a confident woman at the center and tells a story of how liberating it is when you are being your most authentic self. We believe everyone who watches them will identify with one or more of the characters,” Gap’s marketing head tells Adweek.
So who are the characters with whom we’re meant to identify? A black man rushes up the stairs towards a motionless, serene white woman (the ad ends before he reaches the top, leaving him in a perpetual state of exhaustive escalation towards the woman above him); two white hipsters make out as the female half checks herself out in the mirror; three white people in a car look on nervously as a wet, non-white woman takes off her pants (wow, how exotic!); and two more white hipsters hang out at that totem of white suburbia, the driving range.
The ads each have their own tagline: “Simple clothes for you to complicate” (the stairs). “Dress like no one’s watching” (the makeout). “The uniform of rebellion and conformity” (the vehicular striptease). “Let your actions speak louder than your clothes” (at the driving range). Then: “Dress normal,” the ad concludes—a slogan that reads more like a brainwashing command than a slogan suggesting you gotta head to your nearest Gap.
To begin with, the word “normal,” especially in fashion advertising, is ridiculously troubling. You’re saying, “Let’s establish that this is what everyone should look like.” The corresponding print ads revealed earlier this month use celebrities like Angelica Huston, Zosia Mamet, and Michael K. Williams as models, which suggested “dress normal” was a mantra to rely on your something other than your clothes to define “you” (that something being your…celebrity, I guess?).
But according to AdAge, Fincher was adamant that the Gap should use unknowns for the TV spots—and the use of anonymous stand-ins provides a pretty complicated definition of “normal.” Gap seems to assume, without much thought, that “normal” as an aesthetic is very narrow indeed: skinny jeans, little leather jackets, and boxy James Dean-like t-shirts, mostly shown on super svelte white women. In other words, white and middle-class. Sure, this is an image that we see all the time in fashion advertising, but never is it so exclusively stated and promoted as the standard. “Dress normal,” the ad commands, discounting all other modes of dressing. Dress is limited to just a few pieces that fit in a very specific way. Unless this is an ironic send-up of how fashion advertising promotes such an exclusive and narrow image—which could be brilliant, but seems impossible—this will probably go down as one of the most controversial and troubling fashion ad campaigns in recent memory.
I guess all those boring ad guys got what they wanted: propaganda.
Hillary Clinton boutique is the dopest shopping spot in Kosovo. Around the corner from Bill Clinton Boulevard in Kosovo’s capital is HILLARY, the hottest shop to find all your Hillary Clinton clothing needs. They don’t carry Nina McLemore, but their red pantsuit is flying off the shelves. (NYP)
Is this the world’s largest turban? Here’s an incredible video of a man putting on and cruising around town in his 100-pound, 645-meter-long turban. (YouTube)