Karl Lagerfeld’s Heterosexual Fantasy

July 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

For Fendi’s latest ad campaign, Karl Lagerfeld shot Polish beauty Anja Rubik, American model Brad Kroenig, and his French pet, Baptiste Giabiconi, in what looks like a late 19th century artist’s studio. Kroenig positions himself behind an easel while the statuesque Rubik languidly poses on various scattered items of furniture: a mustard-colored chair, a burgundy love seat, a stack of frames leaning against the wall, a wooden side table. In the background sit glass jars filled with brushes and monumental paintings, which in their soft color palette and ethereality, vaguely resemble French Impressionist works.

The shoot draws a comparison between the Old World painter-model dynamic and the more contemporary designer-model relationship. In the ad, Kroenig utilizes Rubik’s body as the inspiration for transforming a blank canvas into a work of art. In a similar vein, Lagerfeld directs Rubik, Kroenig, and Giabiconi to carry out his artistic vision for the Fendi ads. Instead of paint, however, Lagerfeld uses luxe fabric, flattering lighting, and a camera to create his work.

The images have a strong heterosexual imperative, which starts with Rubik’s sultry poses toward Kroenig and culminates in Giabiconi and Rubik posing with their fictional children for a family portrait. The heterosexuality of the photos is bizarre in light of Lagerfeld’s conspicuous homosexuality. To my knowledge, Lagerfeld hasn’t had any public romantic relationships with men, but his continuing infatuation with Giabiconi alone is telling. For the past few years, Giabiconi has starred in virtually every ad campaign and walked in almost every runway show Lagerfeld has directed, most of which are for womenswear. He even starred in Lagerfeld’s video ads for Magnum ice cream, one of which casts him as a playboy photographer. If I didn’t know better, I would assume Giabiconi served as Lagerfeld’s pool boy on his off days, scooping up leaves in a g-string while Lagerfeld looked on.

The series of ads could collectively be read as Karl Lagerfeld’s heterosexual fantasy. He shoots Kroenig gazing at Rubik, then puts himself in Kroenig’s position, staring at Rubik as if he were Kroenig. In doing this, he grants himself a heterosexual gaze. In another image of the series, he creates a family portrait with Giabiconi and Rubik as the parents, creating an image of the nuclear family he can’t have. Rubik’s conspicuous wig, Giabiconi’s stiff pose, and the incongruity of expression among the family members create an artificial quality, suggesting Lagerfeld’s awareness of the scenario’s impossibility in his own life.

One wonders what led Lagerfeld to create this imagery that strays so far from his own experience as a presumably gay man. But perhaps the answer is obvious. Lagerfeld is just doing what he does best: creating a fantasy.

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What’s “Too Gay” For Fashion?

July 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m pretty sure most people would say that I dress gay. I’m not afraid of short shorts, my jeans are sometimes so tight I have to put them on laying down, and my t-shirts show off my time at the gym as well as my time away from it. But even for me, a flamer working in fashion, there are limits to how much flamboyance I want to project in my wardrobe. Just the other day, I considered buying a red, floral Engineering Garments shirt online. The pros included that it was cute and 50% off. Plus, I’ve always wanted a floral shirt; Simon Doonan, the Creative Ambassador for Barneys, wears them all the time and looks fabulous. But after some discussion with my boyfriend, Alex, I decided to forgo it. “Too gay,” I thought. “Too gay and not-on-sale enough to risk looking like a Rose Parade float.”

I realized recently that my seemingly silly concern about looking “too gay” was shared by other faggy fashionistas. Over the weekend, I saw clips from the soon-to-be-released documentary The Guts of Duckie Brown, which follows Duckie Brown designers Steven Cox and Daniel Silver as they create their latest collection. In one particularly endearing and utterly honest clip, Steven Cox discusses the conflict and eventually acceptance he experienced in dressing what some would consider a garish (or gay!) manner: “I admit sometimes that I have been homophobic and have been a self-loathing homosexual because I wanna be like butch and like a real man and things like that, but in the end you’ve got to own it. It’s ok to wear a floral, nylon jacket.”

The male desire to look butch – or stereotypically masculine – that Cox expressed serves as a strong marketing and design force in menswear. Fashionista reports that at a Q&A following a private screening of their documentary, the Duckie Brown duo shared that “their clothes have been criticized for being ‘too gay’ and unfit for mainstream fashion magazines that target ‘real men.'” As a result, their clothes don’t receive the attention from buyers or the coverage from media that they would need to grow as a brand.

Chris Evans on the cover of July's GQ (via deskofbrian.com)

Ryan Reynolds on the cover of Details' July issue (via modareel.com)

The value placed on conventional masculinity that the Duckies were expressing is seen in fashion magazines every month. Take GQ’s July cover, which features Chris Evans sporting a double breasted navy blazer, blue jeans, simple white t-shirt, and a tuft of chest hair. With no pattern, color, or new design ideas, the outfit doesn’t push any sartorial boundaries. And I don’t think anyone is going to argue that Evans is a fashion icon. But despite the seeming lack of fashion on this cover, GQ chose this image because it reflects a mainstream ideal of masculinity that America covets. Evans is straight and buff, and his clothes are understated and follow a classically masculine silhouette. Male readers can see it and think, “I want to look like him,” and because of this, GQ will probably sell more issues.

Details Magazine’s July cover demonstrates a similar mentality, putting another straight, uninspiringly dressed figure – Ryan Reynolds – on its cover under the tagline, “Ryan Reynolds is just like you.” Like the GQ cover, it promotes a conventional masculinity targeted at the average American man. The overall image has enough polish for a fashion magazine, but it’s not obscure or experimental enough to scare away readers or make them feel emasculated (no Duckie Brown here!).

Despite my criticisms of these images, I’ll readily admit that I’m not above staring at or even sometimes admiring them. But for me, an awareness of my reactions to media allows me to better control their impact on my self expression and self esteem. I think other men should reflect on how media influences them as well. Maybe if this happens, boundary pushing designers like Duckie Brown will get more editorial attention, attract more buyers, and have a clientele that extends beyond just big fags.

Freja’s Muse

July 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

Freja and Arizona, shot by Terry Richardson last April (via Elle)

I never intended for this space to feed into the fashion rumor mill (this is a classy blog, damn it!), but if gossip about same-sex models dating emerges, you can bet it’ll show up here sooner or later. On that note, Elle reports buzz from the Paris Couture shows about a courtship between my favorite lesbian model Freja Beha Erichsen and the face of Prada’s baroque-gone-bananas S/S 11 collection, Arizona Muse. It’s surprising because (a) I only know of 1 queer model couple in fashion history – Freja and Catherine McNeil who dated in 2008 – and (b) who knew Arizona was queer? (I had assumed she was straight after hearing she had a baby just a couple of years ago. I was equating birthing with sexuality – silly me, I know.)

So there now might be a new queer model and a new queer couple! How exciting! If Freja and Arizona are, in fact, dating, I wish them the best. If they’re not, then blame Elle for spreading false gossip!

We Need To Talk About Tilda

July 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

My biggest gripe with American fashion magazines is their penchant for putting Hollywood actresses on their covers. Why? Actresses are boring. They’re what America’s Next Top Model judges would call “girlfriend cute”  – pretty face but no edge.

Swinton's W cover (via W)

The only leading lady for whom this doesn’t apply is the off-beat Tilda Swinton, who graces the cover of W Magazine‘s August issue looking like a glamorous alien on their way to a high fashion ball. Her directional look – a black and white tux with a high, amish-influenced white hat – channels a sleek androgyny, and her 5’11” frame and flat chest offer the model-esque proportions the outfit demands. The cover as well as the accompanying spread were styled by Swinton’s close friend, Frenchman Jerry Stafford, who drew inspiration from sources as disparate as “Arnold Genthe’s portraits of Greta Garbo, Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal, and the work of French artist and provocateur Claude Cahun, famous in the Twenties for her explorations in gender role play.”


With her unconventional beauty, strong personal style, and willingness to look a little freaky, Swinton enhances the artistry of magazines like no other. Hopefully soon, other stars will follow suit.

You can see all of the W images and the accompanying interview here.

My Favorite Patriotic Looks

July 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s the Fourth, and strangely enough it’s non-U.S. designers who are showing their stars and stripes. But why are so many foreign designers using this motif in their collections? Perhaps they’re reacting to U.S. presence in their respective countries. Or maybe it’s a reflection of the U.S.’s power in the fashion market. Whatever the reason, American flag-inspired motifs are having a moment. Here, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites.

Happy 4th everybody!

Balmain

Balmain S/S 11 (via Style.com)

It’s my favorite lesbian model Freja again! Here, she’s modeling a look from the “club kid smoking French cigarettes”-themed S/S 11 collection from Balmain. The grit and painterly quality of the flag looks like a reference to Jasper Johns’ “Flag” series from the 1950s.

Jasper Johns, Flag, 1958 (via SFMOMA)

Miharayasuhiro

MIharayasuhiro S/S 11 (via Style.com)

This look from Japanese designer Miharayasuhiro’s S/S 11 collection offers a darker interpretation of American patriotism. The grey, washed out image of the American flag looks as if the flag were up in smoke or inside a war zone. I like the overall mood of the look as well as the sense of movement in the blazer.

Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana F/W 11 (via Style.com)

For Dolce & Gabbana’s F/W 11 runway presentation, they sent a series of dresses down the runway in what looked like a sartorial version of a 4th of July Parade. The dresses varied from sexy, form-fitting cocktail dresses, to flowy, formal gowns. My favorite look was this lemon-colored, diaphanous, floor-length dress. To me, it represented a celebration of femininity and brought to mind the enormity of the cosmos.

Britney Spears wore a navy version of this dress for the June issue of Harpers Bazaar in one of her best sartorial moments in recent memory. The graffiti background looks contrived, but the dress itself looks light and makes Spears look like an ethereal Mother Universe.

Mugler’s “Brothers of Arcadia” Video: Art or Porn?

June 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

After suffering through the interminable loading time required of XTube videos, I finally watched Mugler designer Nicola Formichetti’s “erotic fashion film” Brothers of Arcadia (NSFW, obviously). While I waited for the video to buffer, I read the accompanying text where Formichetti says he drew inspiration from neo-Realist filmmaker Fellini, the gleefully debaucherous Caligula, and pornography in general. The “uncensored” version would have to be on XTube because it was so “hot, hot!” Indeed, who doesn’t want to see naked men grind on each other, artistically?

Notice the double underwear (via XTube)

Thus it is with great disappointment that I report that it was just a lot of hot air. There was little in the way of art or porn. Regarding the “explicit sex scenes,” I counted approximately two pee-pees and fairly limp ones, at that. There is, however, a great deal of running and splashing in slow motion. Models wore two skivvies apiece (I guess that’s what makes it a fashion video). You see, they are surfers doubling as Greek gods.

Nomi Ruiz, Formichetti’s new muse who sings the “Mugler” song, appears in the video as a very sexy vamp surrounded by very sexy men. Even if the viewer knows Ruiz is trans, there is very little that is subversive about the orgy scenes because it is all too concerned with being sexy sexy. At one point, some men drizzle champagne on Ruiz, but the shot is so quick and half-hearted that all I could think about was how much hotter it was when Matt Dillon poured champagne on Denise Richards in Wild Things. Meanwhile, the video essentially recycles about every fashion trope there is: models as Greek gods (Karl Lagerfeld shooting the 2011 Pirelli calendar); men suggestively pulling rope (an NSFW shot of Paolo Roldan in French Vogue); the double entendre of milk as semen (at least Terry Richardson had the good sense to use an actual cow udder). Also, at this point, using men as homoerotic subjects is fairly banal subject matter.

The beauty about XTube is its ability to make you – yes, you! – the star. Or rather, porn star. Anyone with a webcam and some spunk can make a video and launch a career. (right, Paris?) We get off on the “authenticity” of amateur porn, because we are watching people who are, conceivably, just like us: imperfect, awkward, horny. It would have been much more erotic had the film actually captured the graininess and immediacy of an amateur sex tape. Instead, the men preen and flex. You know they know just how good they look. Ultimately, like the mythology of Narcissus, Formichetti is undone by his own vanity.

My Favorite Lesbian Models

June 24, 2011 § 5 Comments

While everyone knows that fashion is run by gay men, people often fail to recognize the pivotal role that our female counterparts play in the industry. To highlight the presence of lesbians in fashion, as well as to celebrate Pride and the recent legalization of gay marriage in New York, I’m going to offer you a list of my favorite lesbian models working today.

3. Tasha Tilberg

Tilberg on the cover of Marie Claire Italia, October 2009 (via Models.com)

At a time when “blank canvases” dominate the industry, Tilberg defies convention with a number of tattoos, piercings, and earlobe gauges. In the last few years she has modeled for powerhouses Lanvin and Alexander Wang.

I personally love this photo of Tilberg on the cover of Marie Claire Italia circa October 2009. Amidst all the pink and purple text emerges a tough, soft-butchy lesbian in a black leather jacket with studded collar á la Dykes on Bikes.

2. Jenny Shimizu

Jenny in Dossier (via Models.com)

I once saw butchy model Jenny Shimizu at a place forbidden to most models – a bakery. (Billy’s, actually, on 9th ave). I’m not sure if she ate anything, partly because turning my head any further would have led to  me burning holes into her with my eyes.

Shimizu was working as a mechanic when Calvin Klein scouted her for their CK1 fragrance in the 90s. Short-haired and tattooed, she defied popular images of female models at that time – stick-thin with a coke habit. In interviews, she has confessed to having been in relationships with ambiguously queer celebs like Angelina Jolie and Madonna, for whom she would conduct regular “booty calls”. Although she has been laying low in modeling for some time, she had a shining moment last year when she walked the runway at Kenzo’s Menswear S/S 11 show in Paris.

1. Freja Beha Erichsen

Freja in The Last Magazine, F/W 10 (via Models.com)

To be honest, I didn’t really get Freja’s look at first – bulbous, skeletal, a bit asymmetrical – but over time I’ve learned to appreciate her somewhat unconventional face and tomboy edge. I especially love when she’s modeling for classically feminine brands like Chanel, for whom she’s served as the muse for the past several years.

Notice the tiny shadow of ink on the left side of her neck in the picture above. It adds just the right touch of roughness (and, well, lesbianism) to the look. C’est magnifique!

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