Mole Alert: Lady Gaga

July 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Lady Gaga was this week’s surprise guest judge on my guilty pleasure “So You Think You Can Dance.” She came onto the show with her standard nonchalance and opulent costume, but she also brought with her another special something – a ripe mole on her right cheek. It was a nice addition to her aesthetic repertoire, a bit of “pretty -ugly” to compliment her carefully crafted look.

I’m in a Korean Fashion Magazine!

July 22, 2011 § 2 Comments

The June issue of Cracker Your Wardrobe

Who knew I’d reach stardom this early in my fashion career?

Korean street style magazine Cracker Your Wardrobe (crazy name, I know) included yours truly in their June issue as part of a spread on people who own lots of glasses. I have 10, so I definitely fit the bill. Unfortunately, I left most of my collection under my bed in New York, but I’ve successfully goaded my boyfriend and co-writer Alex into buying a few pairs here in Seoul, so I borrowed some of his for the shoot. Problem solved!

The text in the picture I took is small and in Korean, so you probably can’t read it, but it explains the nicknames of each pair of glasses (which I made up – I don’t name my clothes), their price (don’t look too closely), and their overall “style.”

My spread in Cracker

I was also unexpectedly featured in the “Special Thanks” section. Apparently, the editor who came to my house to shoot the spread, Damee Kim, was impressed with my persistence to communicate with her in Korean and wanted to show her appreciation.

As you might deduce from my cartoonish spread and the cover featuring twins that resemble brunette versions of Napoleon Dynamite, the magazine is pretty zany. I’m grateful, though, that the care-free spirit of Cracker led my first experience in a fashion magazine to be lots of fun. Much thanks to Chang, my friend and Editor-in-Chief, as well as Editor Damee Kim and her photography crew for their kindness and patience with my limited Korean skills.

Hailee Steinfeld and Elle Fanning are Definitely Too Cool for School

July 6, 2011 § 1 Comment

Hailee Steinfeld for Miu Miu (via Fashionista)

Fashion’s darlings of the moment are very darling indeed. 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, Oscar nominee and Queen Bee of the child stars, is now the face of Miu Miu. Joining Steinfeld at the cool kids’ table is Elle Fanning the 13-year-old face of Marc by Marc Jacobs. Steinfeld and Fanning have been the envy of the fashion world recently. Fashion critics, including Vogue’s André Leon Talley cooed over Steinfeld’s black, pink, and tangerine striped Prada dress at the 2011 SAG awards, which she followed with a custom Marchesa at the Oscars. Elle has also become something of a fashion muse in her own right – wearing Marc Jacobs off the runway and starring in a video short for Rodarte.

Elle Fanning for Marc by Marc Jacobs (via Fashionista)

Both of their ad campaigns are fairly straightforward and demure. Critics and fashion bloggers are quick to approve of how “age appropriate” they are. In the Marc by Marc Jacobs ad, Fanning wears a mid-length red leopard print dress, oxblood librarian shoes, and a red bag. Her youth gives the slightly dowdy look the spritz it needs. Steinfeld’s Miu Miu photos are a more complicated play on a similar theme. There is an incongruity between her youth and the clothes –  skirts and dresses with long hem lines in a sedate color palate of navy, tan, and brown. The clothes and styling, a reference to the 40s, look as though Steinfeld pilfered her very fashionable grandmother’s closet. It is a play on child’s play.

Dakota Fanning for Oh, Lola! (via Tom & Lorenzo)

But when Hailee and Elle were merely non-famous elementary schoolchildren, there was the original child muse: Elle’s older sister, Dakota, who is currently fronting for Jacobs’ fragrance, Oh, Lola! Unlike Hailee and Elle’s ad campaigns, Dakota’s ad looks to provoke. Juergen Teller, a mainstay at Marc Jacobs, shot the ad (as well as the one of Elle). The flower-shaped bottle in between her legs, the seductive gaze, and the saturated red tones indicates a very heavy hand. She is Lolita! There is a fire in her loins!

Dakota Fanning for Marc Jacobs, Spring/Summer 2007 (via Styleregistry)

But Dakota’s first ad campaign for Marc Jacobs was even more provocative. Teller shot the ad when Dakota was 12-years old and still looking very much like a child. In the above photo, she wears sheer, white fabrics while standing bare foot in the corner of a bare room with a dirty concrete floor. The expression on her face is both fearful and creepy. All of the campaign images reflect a similar sensibility, dressing her in white lace and other virginal dresses as she poses, either mouth agape or with deeply vacant eyes. The photos are deeply unsettling.*

I think Dakota’s first ads for Marc Jacobs are interesting. They problematize our gaze. When I look at the photos, I get the sense that my presence is unwelcome, and more unnervingly, that I am a predator. She seems to ask, why are you here? In contrast, the ads with Elle Fanning and Hailee Steinfeld function on how chic and precocious they look. They have been lauded as style icons and as examples of how adult women should look.

I, for one, don’t want a 13-year-old fashion icon. I find the project of turning little girls into red carpet fodder or examples to emulate extremely pernicious, and frankly, kind of creepy.

*As a sidenote, I would like to point out that at 12 years of age, Dakota Fanning was an exceptionally mature child and no stranger to being a provocateur. In the controversial film, Hounddog (known pre-release as “Dakota Fanning’s rape movie”) she played a 12-year-old girl who is abandoned and raped. In response to accusations that the film amounted to child pornography, Dakota herself was characteristically thoughtful about it. She told the Times: “Because that has happened to her [her character, Lewellen], that doesn’t define her. Because of this thing that has happened — that she did not ask for — she is labeled that, and it’s her story to overcome that and to be a whole person again.” She then added, “There are so many children that this happens to, every second. That’s the sad part. If anyone’s talking about anything, that’s what they should be talking about.” Dakota is very self-aware, and her continuing work with Jacobs and Teller suggests that she has a good relationship with them.

Creating New Sexual Imagery: The Work of John Currin and Terry Richardson

July 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

A recent trend that has developed in both art and fashion is the use of classical technique to portray a modern sexuality. American painter John Currin cleverly draws from both contemporary pornography and classical art to create arresting and humorous work. In “The Women of Franklin Street” (2009), Currin uses classical painting techniques like “underpainting” – painting over a monochromatic base with pigmented glazes – and an Old World aesthetic to transport a common porn trope – a lesbian threesome – to the Renaissance. Instead of taking place in a freshman dorm, fire station, or other familiar backdrop, the women kiss and fondle each other in a plush, aristocratic salon. Similarly, in lieu of g-strings and nipple piercings, the women don elegant hosiery and flowing robes. The work makes clear references to canonical painters like Diego Velázquez (one of Currin’s favorites) with its rich colors, soft female shape, and dramatic background. Also, the arrangement of the women – a central figure, gazing outward, flanked by two attendants – is reminiscent of the Virgin Mary swaddled by buxom cherubs. But the act of three women hungrily having sex (one woman is eating another’s nipple and stroking her vagina at the same time!) lets viewers know that we are no longer in the 15th century.

Currin's "The Women of Franklin Street" (2009; via Artnet)

Like Currin, Terry Richardson uses classical artistic motifs to put a comical spin on modern-day sexuality. Take his Tom Ford Eyewear ad below. It depicts Spanish model Jon Kortajarena sprawled on the floor, only wearing glasses and a watch. The image works in two ways. On one end, the image bursts with a modern sexuality – the tanned body, the hardened gaze, the sleek accessories – but on the other, the nudity can be read as a return to innocence as in Sandro Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” (1485). In that work, nudity is a natural part of life, a state of being. In a way, Kortajarena’s pose treats nudity similarly – his flayed legs (as opposed to crossed or held tightly together) recalls an unknowing infant without bottoms.

Tom Ford Eyewear Ad (via republikcintamanagementstudio)

The humor in Currin and Richardson’s work, created by this contrast of the classical and the contemporary, allows them to subtly push sexual boundaries. Currin has mentioned in past interviews that the inspiration for his pornography-themed pieces arose in part as a reaction to an increase in media censorship. In light of this, it seems that his paintings are meant to antagonize the viewer and question the bounds of “acceptability.” To a large degree, however, the lightness in Currin’s work detracts from their vulgarity and his mission to provoke. Similarly, by incorporating a sense of humor into his photographs, Richardson disarms some of their sexual aggression. Is Kortajarena a horny playboy? Or is he just a grown man acting like a baby?

Despite the vast differences in aesthetic and medium between Currin and Richardson, they have both succeeded in changing society’s relationship with sexual imagery. They have created some of the most provocative visuals of our culture today, and the funny thing is that most of us haven’t even noticed.

Versace Goes Commercial, Just Like Everyone Else

June 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

For almost a decade, the Swedish mega-retailer H&M has collaborated with some of fashion’s biggest designers to offer their customers high fashion at commercial prices. The first line came out in 2002 with a collection by Karl Lagerfeld. Since then, the list has grown to include Commes des Garcon, Stella McCartney, Viktor & Rolf, and Lanvin, amongst others. Italian label Versace, known for its flamboyantly sexy aesthetic, is the latest designer to be tapped for collaboration. But this most recent choice is surprising, considering just a few years ago Versace’s queen bee Donatella explicitly rejected any possibility of doing a line with H&M in an interview with New York Magazine: “I work very hard to put Versace in the luxury section. I think to put the Versace line in H&M would confuse the brand.”

Versace working on her line (via NYMag)

A look from Versace x H&M (via NYMag)

Donatella was expressing the sentiment – once common in high fashion – that luxury and commercial don’t mix. That doing a line for H&M, a store made famous by offering cheap yet trendy clothes, would devalue the brand in the eyes of its rich clientele.

But clearly Donatella has since changed her point of view. Yes, luxury can mix with commercial! And there are already a number of designers who have come to this conclusion. Chanel, for example, shocked the fashion world last year by choosing Blake Lively as its new spokeswoman. In the ’90s, fashion houses used supermodels like Claudia Schiffer or Linda Evangelista as their public face, not teen idols who play superhero love interests. Choosing Lively made it clear that Chanel was going mainstream.

Blake Lively as the face of Chanel (via superstarmagazine.com)

As Chanel demonstrated with Lively, the most popular and probably most effective way for a luxury brand to put itself into the mainstream is by aligning themselves with celebrities. In 2009, Louis Vuitton took this method to another level when it released a line of shoes co-designed by Kanye West. This wasn’t a complete surprise, as Louis Vuitton had collaborated before with artists such as Stephen Sprouse and Takashi Murakami. But no previous collaborator had nearly as much commercial appeal as Kanye, who had already had several number 1 singles and Grammys by that time. Also, Vuitton’s previous collaborators had been visual artists who used their craft to add artistic dimension to existing Vuitton goods. Kanye, on the other hand, was a rapper designing shoes in the dark.

Kanye West and Marc Jacobs show off shoe from collaboration (via JustJared)

Later that year, in what many consider a moment of delusion, French fashion house Ungaro used a similar tactic by tapping Lindsay Lohan as artistic advisor for their S/S 10 line. Technically, the head designer of the line was Estrella Archs, but the runway show made it clear that Archs was merely serving as Lindsay’s puppet. That season, the Ungaro runway was lined in hot pink, and the models strutted down the catwalk in dresses that looked like chewed-up sticks of bubblegum wrapped around their bodies. To some, they simply read as glorified hooker clothes.

A look from Lohan's S/S 10 line for Ungaro

Lohan and Archs

But it seems that the products celebrities create for fashion labels often don’t matter – in truth, it’s only the association that labels care about. For example, although Ungaro’s Lohan collaboration resulted in a critically panned fashion show, the gesture put Ungaro’s name in the headlines in a way that even a stellar collection would not have. As a fashion house that had lost relevance over the years, this was an especially important jump start for the label.

Of all the ways a fashion brand can go mainstream, teaming up with H&M is one of the best. Both H&M and the brand benefit from increased media coverage and revenue, while fashion consumers gain access to the luxury brands they previously could only dream of. In doing a line with H&M, Donatella is just helping Versace stay in the game. We’re just happy she’s playing.

K-Pop’s Love Affair with Commes des Garcons

June 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

My favorite thing about male k-pop stars is that they’re not afraid of fashion.  In the last year alone, I’ve seen them wear blue leopard print, coats with furry gorilla sleeves, skirts, and a variety of drop crotch pants.  But among all the trends and designers I’ve seen them wear, Commes des Garcons has offered some of the most iconic looks for k-pop’s leading men, namely San E and G-Dragon.  I first noticed Commes in k-pop last September when I saw San E wearing a Commes blazer with cut-outs while performing his hit “Tasty Mountain” on Music Bank.  He wore similar versions of the same blazer at following performances of the same single, as well as on various promotional ads and the album cover for “Everybody Ready?”

San E performing "Tasty San" with Min of Miss A

Red cut-out blazer from Commes des Garcons S/S 11 collection (via Stylesight)

Cover of San E's album "Everybody Ready?

Cut out blazer from the Commes des Garcon S/S 11 collection (via Stylesight)

When Big Bang made their big comeback this Spring with the release of their album “Tonight,” G-Dragon followed in San E’s footsteps, wearing items from the Commes S/S 11 collection for various performances of their first single of the same title.

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GDragon performing at Music Bank

In many ways, Commes makes sense for San E and G-Dragon.  Although both artists cater primarily to adolescent girls who love everything pop and mainstream, their music offers a depth and texture that is often absent in mainstream Korean music.  In “Tasty Mountain,” for example, San E criticizes pop music with a wink, and G-Dragon, who writes many of Big Bang’s hits, constantly brings new sounds and music styles to the Korean entertainment scene.  Like Commes des Garcon, their art is high culture that can can translate to a mainstream audience that embraces showmanship, bright colors, and a playful attitude.

Also, Commes makes sense because, from what I can tell, San E and G-Dragon simply have good taste.

Too Bad Lady Gaga Isn’t Asian: Lady Gaga Graces Cover of V Magazine’s Asian Issue

June 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

Yes, it’s a pity.  Lady Gaga is, in fact, white.  If I remember correctly, she’s Italian.  I don’t think I would have cared much about this before V Magazine put her on the cover of their Asian issue that launched earlier this month.  And there’s not just one, but THREE white Lady Gaga faces on the cover of an issue that’s supposed to celebrate and promote Asian models who are too often underused, and thus underpaid, in the fashion industry.

Lady Gaga on the Cover of V (via VMagazine)

The issue has many Asians in it: Japanese footballer Hidetoshi Nakata, former Calvin Klein model Jenny Shimizu, and a slew of Asian models walking the runways today.  And although I doubt that any of these people could sell more copies than Lady Gaga at the moment, the absence of an Asian face on the cover undermines the magazine’s intentions for creating the issue and demotes the Asian theme into a mere gimmick.  The only Asian thing about the cover is the script written on the side that few readers can access.  And sadly, the inaccess reinforces the ubiquitous mystique that Westerners create around East Asian cultures.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m a big fan of V.  And aside from the cover, this issue has a lot of artistic and intellectual richness in it.  The “Girls on Top” spread, for example, beautifully showcases a handful of Asian models who are fairing well in the industry; namely, Liu Wen, Shu Pei, Tao Okamoto, and Fei Fei Sun.  And there are interesting articles about Diane von Furstenberg and Dolce & Gabbana are breaking into the Chinese market.  Take a look for yourself!

Tao Okamoto (left) and Fei Fei Sun (via VMagazine)

Liu Wen (left) and Shu Pei (via VMagazine)

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