When I was younger (9-17ish) I pretty much only wore my older brother's cast off's. I wore a lot of Stussy shirts with big baggy shorts and airwalk sneakers, maybe a beanie here or there, and an assload flannel. I had really long hair, which I did nothing with, until I started dyeing it every color under the sun, and then started shaving parts of it. Essentially, I was a complete tomboy, and really wanted nothing to do with "girl" fashion or clothes.
It wasn't until I really went away to college that I started paying attention to clothes, and how much fun they could be to play with. This, I guess, was because I went to school with a bunch of "hip" people, all vastly hipper than I, who all looked pretty fabulous, even though a large quotient of them were ridiculous and paraded around mispronouncing Foucault. If you don't know how to pronounce it, that's otay! Just, you know, don't pretend you're know all his work, and worse, understand it when you don't even know how to say his name. (Foo-Koh.)
This is all to say that I'm totally intrigued by fashion now. I am constantly unable to make a decision about it.
But it's art that depends on the labor of those who can't enjoy it!
It's self expression!
That totally depends on underpaid, unseen workers!
Okay, but luxury brands mostly use highly paid, highly skilled workers!
But you hate brands! And isn't a $4,000 purse a complete FUCK YOU to most sane people?
Yes! I have no argument against that!
And so on.
Really my main argument that fashion isn't that bad is Tim Gunn. He's so classy! And so intelligent! To boot, he can explain fashion better than anyone. Are you ready for a meeting of the brain crushes? Here's Tim Gunn AND Jonathan Stewart talking on what fashion is really all about:
"I'm the first to encapsulate this realistically. Nobody needs it. We need clothes, do we need fashion? No. And fashion, when it's good, comes out of a context that's societal and cultural and historic and economic and political -- so it's of a time and a place."
Like any other art. Also: when in doubt, "Resolve the skirt." God, I love Tim.
But yes, fashion is a bizzaro intersection between art and capitalism, especially when it comes to models.
Ah models. If you live in New York, you run into them a lot. You could be walking down the street thinking, "Hey, I feel pretty good about myself today! I found a pair of skinny jeans that don't make me look like an ice cream cone, and my hair is somewhat swinging today! I am, in general, not totally unattractive!" And then, out of no where, there she is, and that thought goes right out of your head. And, of course, the city is chock full of modelizers.
But teenage self-confidence quandries aside, models fascinate me. Are they muses? Blank slates for the advertising fuckfest? Are they artists in their own right? I don't really know what to think of modeling. On the one hand I'm envious of model's lifestyles: they get to travel world, work on their own, meet fascinating people, and are involved in some sort of art every day. But then there's rumors of weigh-ins, 13-year-old slavic girls who are sent over totally alone, are always subject to someone else's vision, and then there's that high quotient of assholes in the business.
Here's a video of the old House of Style from MTV (which I miss), which has an interview with Haute Couture designer Jean Paul Gautier (you know him from Madonna's cone boobs circa (ha!) "Vogue.")He's hilariously French. Like UBER French. Frencher than Jean Reno, and that's saying something. While Cindy Crawford might be the worst tv personality ever, pay attention during the interview. If you didn't know he was a fashion designer, it would sound like he was your regular, every day nutso, artist, especially when she asks him if he's just out to shock people.
Frenchy aside, there's also an interview with Linda Evangelista, who was essentially the first super model. I love this interview for a couple of reasons. Firstly, look at her. NO ONE LOOKS LIKE THAT. Secondly, there's a bit of "a day in the life."
You really get an idea of how busy she is. She is really frickin busy! I didn't really understand how much models work it's constant. If you're at the top of the game, you're busy because of demand. If you're at the bottom of the game, you're busy because you're desperate for work to pay off growing debt to your agency (more on that later).
But I also love that she explains that every season she choses a new designer to walk for -- which must be like like Spielberg agreeing to come see a screening of your movie you just shot on a flip camera. The designer she walks for? Herve Leger! Don't know the name? S'ok. It's not like you're mispronouncing Foucault. Suffice it to say, he's really famous now. Known for his skin tight mini dresses, his work is every where.
Anyway, in this video, Evangelista is 26. My age. Oh. Ma. Ga.
(Side note: how well produced is that "House of Style" clip? With the showing of the old, bizarre French art film? Jesus MTV blows douchey ass now. Hard.)
I've been percolating about this "model" thing ever since I started watching "Model.Live," an online show that's been following around three models who have not made it "big" through the fashion week season: New York, London, Milan, Paris.
I sort of want to be BFF with model Madeline Kragh. She's funny, smart, and hip to how weird this modeling business is and how it can occasionally make your mind all screwy. She also does a really good job of explaining how models and money mix. In this week's episode, she explains how she has to pay her landlord in clothes, as that's all designers will pay her in for walking in their shows. On top of that, there's a whole thing about how models are "independent contractors" who essentially live in debt to their agencies, racking up thousands if not millions of dollars, usually before they're 20.
When I sit down with British Vogue, my favorite fashion magazine, I'm totally mesmerized by the beauty of it. It, I guess, being the whole shiny thing. The models, the clothes, the sheen of complexity it has.
"Complexity!" you say. "What's so complex? Vapid women, expensive crap no one needs, bah!"
It's like Tim says: do we need fashion? No, I guess not. But then, do we need art? You could say is sustains a part of the soul and the intellect that would otherwise not be nourished, and I would include fashion in that.
When I see a photo spread I really like, I think about everything that went into it. Because it's my frame of reference, I think about it like a movie. Even this shittiest of movies is the product of hundreds of people's time and energy. Same with the simplest of photographs. From the designers to the sewers, to the textile workers to the make up artists, to the model, to the photographer, to the editors. It's huge. It's simply amazing any of it gets done.
Would that everyone in that process was fairly paid and you know... gets to keep all their fingers at the end of the day.
On that note, I'll leave this brain dump from out favorite photog, Bill Cunningham. You might remember him from the old Cashmere Readings. While he usually runs around New York taking photos of passersby to document the look of the city, this time he's in Paris! Narrating about how this season women are wearing almost exactly the same thing they were wearing the first time he went to the City of Light for fashion week, in 1950 ("Or was in '49?").