Archive for the ‘Fashion’ Category

Lady Gaga is Madonna

March 11th, 2011

I liked Lady Gaga’s Madonna impression at the end of the video for her very Madonna-esque new single ‘Born This Way’. I’m not sure if we’ve ever had such an openly self-aware and culturally reflexive pop star.

Andy Warhol, perhaps, comes closest in my estimation — however, as is evidenced in the recent Banksy film ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’, Warhol somehow seems to get the credit/blame anytime anything in popular culture eats itself.

I remember having an animated conversation with several of my classmates back in art school about the existence of creative genius. Andy Warhol and Madonna are the two names from that conversation that I remember everyone agreeing on. I am curious to see what Gaga will be able to create as she moves forward with her entourage of art directors and fashion designers, somehow embodying the spirit of both of these bigger-than-life artists in one unlikely package; Sexier than Warhol and artier than Madonna. Maybe this is what post-postmodernism looks like.

Fashion, Music , , ,

Blue Fever

August 15th, 2010

They had a good run, but I’ve moved on to other footwear after nearly a year donning a pair of distinctly blue shoes. Now, having given them up to search out greener pastures, so to speak, it seems the rest of the world has come around to the appeal of untraditionally bright kicks. When the Sartorialist points something out, I can’t tell if that means that it’s fast approaching trendy, or already overexposed — but I think I’m ready to try something new.

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July 16th, 2010

I saw this t-shirt from the band Yeah Yeah Yeahs and liked it. A smart riff off the classic Beatles’ Abbey Road record cover — a well worn image reference that somehow totally works here.

Get the shirt here.

Design, Fashion, Music , , ,

Youth Appropriates Its Distant Future

April 2nd, 2010

When I was a teenager, I couldn’t wait to be able to grow facial hair. The stubble-hued chins of the Grunge-era slack rockers had captured the fancy of most of the young women I knew and, well, I figured my mug would be vastly more desirable were it rough to the touch. Be careful what you wish for; Now I have to shave, like, twice a day.

It seems entirely natural for young people to yearn to be a little bit older. A teen may even heroize the high-school dropout that lives in a van down by the river (as Farley would put it) simply because the vagrant represents that most anticipated attribute of adulthood: the pervasive freedom to choose. Seeking control of one’s destiny is a central theme of life, but it is in the young that it is most exaggerated. Rock and punk music, promiscuous sex, flash mobs, driving fast, throwing big rocks into the river — they all exaggerate one’s presence in the world in order to demonstrate mastery over that world. We reject our parent’s generation so that we can feel like we are able to direct our own. All of this acting out serves as practice — so that we may take our parent’s place one day as the keepers of ourselves and our own families.

What do we do, though, when our parents are the generation of rejection, of revolution? What happens when we know full well that our parents smoked pot, rode glittering motorcycles, threw rocks at ‘the man’, had ratty long hair, and wandered barefoot through a field while Zeppelin echoed through the trees? How do young people rebel against rebellion?

Apparently, the answer is: by becoming our grandparents.

Yes, many young people are expressing themselves by appropriating the traditional European symbols of power and wisdom that their hippie/grunge parents fought long and hard to abolish. For men, this means donning earnestly dandy getups such as flannel suits, patterned ties, daintily kempt mustaches, parted hair, and vintage tattoos. We’ve also developed a real love of gadgets, and are proud to admit we work in real estate or *cough*advertising*cough*. Popular street fashion sites like The Sartorialist champion a return to the rolled sleeves, bespoke tailoring, and tailored suits your grandfather wore. Visit bastions of hip such as Brooklyn, Silver Lake, or Seattle and you’ll see these kids everywhere.

For women, the phenomenon is more specific. It’s all about the hair. Power is rarely defined within the fairer gender by appearing older than you are, but the photo collection above shows that even women are not immune from the mystical allure of the elderly. For young women, going gray is now sort of a cool ‘fuck you‘ to the status quo. Pixie Geldof (upper left) is a British fashionista, and Tavi Gevinson (lower left) is only 14, looks 65, and she writes one of the most read style blogs around. Doing the unexpected will always be a great way to get noticed, and it certainly helps to have good timing with these things. So, if you’re looking for a bold hair move — and bleach blonde looks too trashy and jet black looks too goth — maybe you should go granny.

So, what is behind all this preemptive old? Why now? The expression of power story seems key for the guys. Especially in this recession, the old adage ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you’ve got‘ seems to have struck a nerve in the population. Alternately, from the rebellious youth perspective, young people haven’t been left many avenues of taboo to explore. The internet has flattened time, in a way, to make the last 60 years seem like one big Best Of record. Old may be the last remaining realm that young people can claim as a new territory for differentiated self expression. I mean, you’ve got babies in skull T-Shirts, little kids with mohawks, preteens dressing slutty, and your parents are smoking grass in the den. Drastic measures must be taken! So everyone act now before your local drug store is sold out of mustache wax and gray hair dye.

EDIT: The New York Times, as usual, is right on top of this phenomenon. As I prepare to publish this article, I see they have a report on girls gone gray. Great minds think alike, it seems. :)

Fashion, Ideas , , , , ,

Lady Gaga, Beyonce & Product Placement

March 23rd, 2010

There is a whole lot of product placement going on in the new long-form music video for Telephone from Lady Gaga and Beyonce. Virgin Mobile, Diet Coke, Beats (by Dr. Dre) Headphones, Chanel, Polaroid, Wonder Bread, and Miracle Whip(???) are all featured prominently within the Quentin Tarantino-styled narrative. Oddly enough, most of these product placements make a bizarre sort of sense in an artistically contextual kind of way. Let’s review:

POLAROID – Polaroid has hired Lady Gaga as a Creative Director for the company — so the fact that we are treated to Gaga taking a bunch of tiny instant photos of Beyonce (contractually) follows. However, the appearance of a full-screen Polaroid brand logo on a photobooth outside the diner at the end of the video was less gracefully implemented. As an aside, this partnership has the potential to be rad. Nice one, Polaroid execs!

DIET COKE – This was my favorite brand placement in the video. The appearance of empty cans of Diet Coke as impromptu prison-style hair rollers in Gaga’s hair is one of the most creative and inventive examples of product placement in recent memory. It’s sort of a classically feminine version of a shiv. Since we never explicitly see the Coke logo, I wonder if Gaga got paid for this one – but in a just world, she certainly would have been.

VIRGIN MOBILE – I get that Gaga has (rightfully) built up a cache of credibility in the realm of music videos and concert appearances (if not with her actual music) – but I am impressed that this cache is strong enough that Virgin Mobile would acquiesce to their logo being in the same shot as Gaga stroking the crotch of a butch lesbian in the yard of a prison. My guess is that Richard Branson and his millionaire buddies are just out to prove they’re down to party, after all.

(A side not on this one… ha ha… Virgin Mobile = virgin = ironic = good joke. Too bad that Twilight: New Moon beat them to it. )

CHANEL – Ooh! Lady Gaga is wearing Chanel sunglasses! Meh. The Haus of Gaga-designed actively smoking cigarette glasses were cooler.

WONDER BREAD – This is one of those WTF!? moments in advertising. I get that Wonder Bread is associated with lower income individuals, who are associated loosely with criminal acts, which is associated with whipping up a batch of poison, but I wouldn’t imagine that the Gaga image would do much to sell Wonder Bread, and the brand’s appearance in this video in the same kitchen with food that kills people doesn’t seem like a smart PR move, from where I’m standing.

MIRACLE WHIP – All my misgivings about the appearance of Wonder Bread in this video also apply to Miracle Whip, only double. It just doesn’t make sense. The only saving grace, in my mind, is that Miracle Whip strikes me as a great name for Gaga’s next record. Now that I think about it, maybe I’ll steal it for one of my projects.

BEATS BY DR DRE – Lady Gaga also has a partnership with Beats. She designed her own line of jewel encrusted in-ear ‘phones with them that she can be seen sporting in the kitchen scenes (they just look like triangular earrings). However, the way that the Beats logo is featured in the video, arbitrarily stuck to the back of the guard’s laptop, seems like a little bit of a disconnect. Brand white noise is worth something, though, I suppose.


After beating the viewer over the head with all this product placement, you would think that the project would have lost it’s spark as it tripped over itself to sell out. However, given the many instances of blatant sexuality, ever-present lesbian undertones, gratuitous violence, group homicide, swearing, and near total frontal nudity that are keystones of both the style and narrative of Telephone, the most surprising element of all this is that the brands were willing to be associated with the project at all. In a way, Gaga seems to have subverted the selling-out process. Her popularity has forced corporations to bend to her wonderfully strange, freaky, and dirty vision of the world instead of the other way around. It obviously isn’t for everyone (Kraft, I’m looking at you), but one has to bet on any company that figures out a way to really hang with Gaga – the reigning master of brand ingenuity (sorry Bjork/Barney).

Here’s to the weirding of media!

Advertising, Fashion, Movies, Music , , , , , ,

Patitz, Lindbergh & the Supermodels

March 10th, 2010

When I was young, everything I knew about Fashion was embodied in the long legs and plucked eyebrows a small group of elite models that were known simply and ubiquitously as the Supermodels. They were in all the makeup ads and all the best music videos. Photographers like Peter Lindbergh (who took the above photo for Vogue in 1991) and Herb Ritts (taking a break from his typical muse: well muscled men) captured these amazons in crisp black and white photographs that exposed us to these mythically unattainable figures in an era that otherwise heroicized the flawed and the authentic. I have a hard time reconciling Cindy Crawford and Kurt Cobain, but they somehow managed to both rule MTV at the same time without any irony whatsoever.

One of my favorite Supermodels is the now largely forgotten Tatjana Patitz. When I look at photos of her now, I can’t help but think that she seems especially austere — so German. This photograph looks like it could have been taken by Leni Riefenstahl. The image below, also by Lindbergh, casts Patitz as a sort of blue-eye to blue-eye match for Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia.

I did an image search for Patitz recently after a random memory trip while riding the bus to work. I was struck by the unassailable way that the Supermodels were styled and photographed back in the 90s. They seem especially statuesque and hard-edged compared to today’s magazine girls. The Supermodels all look like real grown up women. That Crawford, arguably the most approachable of them all, was the the most popular of the group seems to have taught advertisers to go with a look that is a little more friendly, a little more girlish.

Linda Evangelista

Christy Turlington & Elaine Irwin

However, given our collective penchant for Mad Men, the Rat Pack, and classic cinema, I can easily imagine this type of mature, composed and strong feminine model coming into favor again as a representation of our desire. The era of the 16-year-old model could be coming to a close. Also, I can imagine all of our current economic woes pushing the country temporarily back towards a conservatively European model of beauty like they did at the end of the 80s. Adriana Lima watch out!

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