I’ll be honest: I own one Patti Smith record. It’s not been listened too very often and I bought it because I was too embarrassed that I didn’t already have one. However, while I’m not the biggest fan of her music (what? I have the musical tastes of a spoiled teenage girl, and I’ve made peace with that), I can without hesitation say that I think she is one of the smartest, most admirable and most inspirational artists that New York City has ever molded. Have you read her book, Just Kids? I have. Twice. (And you should too. In fact, if you haven’t read it, open a new browswer window and order it online this second. You will be feel things and miss a time you never knew and weep for people long gone.) I stumbled upon this Youtube video of Smith at the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art last summer, and it stopped me in my tracks. She is a living legend, and like a good legend, she extoils the virtues of her life to a spellbound audience. She is funny, like when she explains that all artists should want their art to be widely experienced. “It’s importance to be embraced by the people. People think, ‘You’re a punk rocker, you don’t want to have a hit record?’ Fuck you.” She recounts good advice, like when William Burroughs told her when she had no money that a reputation is more important than a bank account. “Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises. Protect your work and if you build a good name, eventually that name will be its own currency.” She observes how times are different now for artist then when she was sharing a room in the Chelsea Hotel with Robert Mapplethorpe. “It’s a time of the people. Technology has democratized self expression.” But, most of all, she’s a punk rock bad ass who – and this is what I find so wonderful – genuinely cares about the happiness of other people and the inspiration of creation. “Life is really difficult,” she says. “It’s a rollercoaster ride. It’s never going to be perfect. But it’s all worth it. Believe me.” The video is six minutes, which I know feels like an eternity in online video terms. But they’re worth it.
What I’m about to say may upset my gay brethren: For the past few years, I’ve sort of been over Madonna. When she started dating that teenage dancer and when she started flashing her 50-year-old nipples at concerts and driving around Italy dressed like a trampy nun sitting on the trunk of a convertible, I started to lost interest. A few months ago, when she was moaned and screamed at a crowd of fans who had come out in the rain to watch her during a sound check and then dared smoke in an outdoor arena, I thought I had had enough. This was in South America. I’ve been to South America. You can smoke in a baby nursery in some places down there. I was even asked by a few friends to go see her concert when she was playing at Yankee Stadium and I thought, meh, Yanke Stadium is so far away, I’ll stay home. Don’t get me wrong: I had always respected her for the gay icon she has been for decades – she gave us Vogue, after all – but my heart just wasn’t in it anymore.
But that changed on Saturday night. I had a come-to-Jesus (or should I say come-to-Madonna?) moment. Milla Jovovich asked me and two more of her favorite boys, Chris Brenner and Chris Bollen, to all be her dates to the the 24th annual Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Awards in New York. She was presenting an award and drumming up some financial support on the podium. (She practiced what she preached when she texted a donation for $20,000 and then walked away with two of the auction items.) Madonna had agreed to introduce Anderson Cooper, the recipient of this year’s GLAAD Vito Russo Award, and when she walked on the stage I was hypnotized. I was a fan once more.
First, there was what she wore. She showed up dressed as a Boy Scout, which I thought was ridiculous and amazing. I was reminded of a time (perhaps she is the last in a long line of women dressed with gusto?) when celebrities would dress up to be noticed, to court conversation. Nowadays, when so many actresses are intimidated by anonymous comments on the Internet and the possibility of being on worst dressed lists, most red carpet looks come out so bland. But Madonna has always used her wardrobe as a weapon of controversy, and this night she put on a cub scout shirt, Dickie’s cargo shorts, combat boots, fingerless gloves and a mountaineers helmet over perfectly coifed locks as a commentary on the Boy Scouts of America’s refusal to accept homosexuals into the organization. She may have looked ‘better’ in a cocktail dress, but Madonna has never been boring. And it gave her the opportunity to use the one liner: “I know how to scout for boys.”
She came on stage and the queens went wild, hooting and hollering and everyone’s mobile phones were snapping away. Then she launched into a 10-minute speech, which you can see above, that was absolutely moving. Milla put it best: “She can fill a room with electricity.” No one in that room was whispering or checking their phone or going to the bar when Madonna was on stage. And that’s saying something: This was a room primarily filled with narcissistic, overly groomed gay men – and she had their undivided attention.
What did she talk about? Gay rights, of course. And it was a long winded, well researched, powerful message. She said that while we feel closer to one another with the growing power of social media, we’re actually further apart from having a real dialogue. That discriminating people based on who they fall in love with is as un-American and inhuman as discriminating people based on their skin color. She also said that Putin would want to “fuck” Pussy Riot if they were in a room alone together, but she also explained that if people used compassion more the world would be a happier place. “I would wager that if we just took the time to get to know one another, did our own investigations, looked beneath the surface of things, we would find that we are not so different after all,” she said. Then, later, Madonna, a woman once condemned by the Vatican, quoted the Bilble: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” (If you don’t have the full 12 minutes to devote to Her Madgesty’s ramblings, you can skip to about 2:30 mark. The first part is general riffing and grandstanding, though Madonna has always been good at both.)
When I got home — which was a few hours later, which was a few drinks later) — I was still thinking about Madonna. She had inspired me and impressed me. At times, when she flirted with Cooper from the stage – pointing at him, saying he had the most blue eyes, winking – I even thought she was adorable and playful. Was she perfect? No, of coruse not. Her face was a little too plumped and of course she was a little to self involved. (Maybe she didn’t need to reference herself so often, even if 85 men were arrested in St Petersburgh for being openly gay and coming to her concert.) But at the end I didn’t care. It didn’t matter. She left me and the rest of the room energized, excited and motivated. She called for a revolution and she may actually get it.
Madonna is no fool. She understands that playing up to this audience will ensure her place in the halls of immortal gay icons, but I really do believe that she does want, desire, believe and strive for acceptance. I don’t think she was at the GLAAD Awards just to be provocative. I honestly think that beneath her costumes and her provocative acts is a woman with a strong point of view who has a heart that’s in the right place. In addition to being provocative, driven and self serving, she is also loving.
Toward the end of the video she says she wrote her own speech. “No one can write my copy,” she gloats. And I believe that. She’s a diva, she’s a genius, and at the end of the day she’s a compassionate woman. That’s what makes me respect her. Again. For now.
Captions, from top: Madonna’s speech; Madonna on stage; Milla with the Vito Russo Award recipient Anderson Cooper and his partner Benjamin; me and Milla at Anderson’s afterparty at the Boom Boom Room.
Lauren Santo Domingo is one of the chicest woman I know. If not the chicest. Which is why, when we were sat next to each other at the Proenza Schouler show this season, I was shocked when she plopped down next to me in a white one-pocket T-shirt. After all, this was fashion week. This was our dear friend’s fashion show, which turned out to be one of the best fashion shows of the New York collections. Why so blasé? The reason, she explained, was the spectacle of fashion week dressing and fashion week street style photography had become such a monster she had lost interest in pumping a look. With so many girls, some of whom had no business being at a fashion show other than to be photographed at a fashion show, wearing everything and the kitchen sink, her instinct was to slip into something simple.
I was reminded of our chat when I was working on my Mr. Blasberg’s Best Dressed list for the week, which you can see here. My favorite looks from fashion week were all simple, monochromatic and minimalistic. Only Kate Moss and Nicole Richie embellished themselves a little: a straight-off-the-runway Saint Laurent sparkle and a Givenchy ruffle, respectively. Jessica Chastain was in a black dress I would have called conservative; Milla Jovovich wore simple black slacks and a white blouse to the Chanel show. This is a major departure from the Paris fashion week’s of yester-years, when my favorite looks were the sorts of things that would pop up on street style blogs around the world: Veils and headbands and bows and tongue-in-cheek handbags and girls wearing flourescents and bright colors and mismatched plaids and textures and more furs than a zoo. That’s what we all thought passed for fashionable in seasons past.
My friend Dasha Zhukova was recently thinking about the spectacle that has become fashion week when her magazine, Garage, produced the below documentary, ‘Take My Picture,’ which debates the issue of street style photography as both an annoyance to the people there to do their job and a celebration of the democratization of this industry. In the film, Tim Blanks wonders what it’s all for, and wonders if one day someone is going to get hit by a car posing for the perfectly unposed fashion shot. The video also speaks to the divine Tommy Ton, and the likes of Susie Bubble and Phil Oh. I like the documentary because it helps identify the mayhem, and shows that there is a difference between the bloggers (who everyone likes) and a pack of women who borrow bright, clashing clothes in hopes of being photographed (who some people like and some people don’t).
I am torn who to support because, yes, I’ve been shoved by photographers outside of fashion shows, and it’s annoying and insulting to those of us doing their job during fashion week. But on the other hand, I adore what many of these street style photographers have created, an entire industry onto themselves that has created its own celebrities and drawn more attention to an industry that I love. The ‘bloggers walk,’ which is how many call the stroll from the gates of the Tuilleries to the tents where a fashion show is held, can be the most irritating, invasive, aggravating walk there is. But it would be elitist and arrogant for anyone, including me, to think they have a right to be there more than someone else. To be fair, many of the people in this video are friends of mine, and this is not a judgment to be passed on their style or their social skills. But it does beget the question: When will too much be too much?
Trends happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s a social commentary, sometimes it’s a reaction to other things happening in other places of the world. Remember when Christophe Decarnin introduced Balmain’s new shape a few years ago? Those short, sparkly skirts and those giant, football player-sized shoulders? In 2009, I wrote an article for Bazaar that said it was a direct result of the recession. When times are tough, sex sells. (This article is on Bazaar’s website, and you can read it here.) When Helmut Lang and Calvin Klein reinterpreted minimalism at the end of the 1990s, it wasn’t because people were showing up at their fashion shows dressed in turbans and fluorescent gypsy skirts. It was a reaction to larger social gratuitousness. But is it possible that minimalism is creeping back into the zeitgeist because so many of this industry’s creative minds are getting overloaded with the pictures we see on every blog of overstyled show crashers? Will someone please ask Phoebe Philo why she is making such clean, well cut fashions all my girlfriends are obsessed with?
While I am curious to see how this pans out in another six months, when the industry will be again trudging up to Lincoln Center for another round of fashion shows, it’s interesting for me to hear from so many of my friends how “over it” they all are. It used to be a thrill (even to those who won’t admit it) to be recognized, stopped and photographed walking into a fashion show, but not any more. I know many girls who would rather sneak in unmolested.
In the January issue of V magazine, which stars Kristen Stewart on the cover shot by Inez & Vinoodh with an article written by my buddy Sarah Cristobal, I debuted a new column on the last page: ‘Bon V Vants.’ (I also interviewed an icon of mine, Penelope Tree, but more on that another time.) Since the theme of the entire issue was inspired by women of influence, for this debut column I dug through my personal photos to find the sorts of people I thought had inspired me. So, who did I come up with? First was my Mom, of course, and I had a shot of her with another influential female, Chloe Sevigny, which was taken at a fundraiser at the St Louis Contemporary Art Museum when Chloe came home to Missouri with me in 2010. Then there was the fash pack that included models Natalia Vodianova and Kate Moss (taken at the Love Ball in London with Mario Testino), and muses Amanda Harlech and Daphne Guinness with Courtney Love (at the reopening of the Chanel Soho store). Lady Gaga (at a MOCA gala), Mary J Blige (at Michael Kors 30th anniversary party at the Residence of the US Ambassador to France in Paris) and Grace Jones (at the launch of a Viktor & Rolf perfume) have left an indelible impression on both music and fashion, and I think Lisa Eisner (with Tom Ford at a gala in LA in 2009) is the ultimate stylish artist. And when it comes to female designers, is there anyone more influential than Miuccia Prada, who I snapped with Francesco Vezzoli and Marc Jacobs at Dasha Zhukova’s 29th birthday party in Venice? Last but not least, I had to include Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen, seen here with Karl Lagerfeld in his studio at Chanel headquarters on the rue Cambon. Whenever I hear the word Influence I think of those smart little ladies because I helped them with their book of that very name way back in 2009. Jeez, time flies when you’re dealing with women of influence.
Last Thursday, the New York Times ran an article entitled ‘Illness Walks the Runway.’ It was an amusing piece on the frenzied — and immune system challenging — pace of the international collections, which start at the end of this week in New York and then move to London, Milan and Paris, written by Tim Murphy. I was quoted in the piece: “Fashion Week season is a nonstop assault on the immune system,” was one line, as was, “You don’t want to sit next to anyone coughing, because if you get sick, you’re screwed.” My mom will be so proud I managed to say “you’re screwed” in the New York Times, surely.
I have been asked if I think fashion week is too crowded. Many people are quick to say yes, but I’ve always been a little hesitant to show disdain for the (yes, it’s ridiculous) schedule. Am I often pooped? Totally. Do I think some of the shows and presentations and parties are frivolous? Definitely. In fact, when someone asks me if they should do something during fashion week, I always tell them it’s a terrible idea. Most of the events get lost in the shuffle, forgotten in a long stream of handsome waiters holding sponsored cocktails and fatigued publicists working overtime with swollen ankles from standing at doors for too long. Much better to do an opening or a party or a press appointment at a different time in the year, when people aren’t so zonked out.
Another reason I would hate to say that fashion week is too crowded is because it would seem like we aren’t supportive of this industry. I love that everyone wants to participate in the dialogue of getting dressed, of expressing ourselves through clothes. I like that people are crashing shows and dressing up and have a vested interest in this industry. We’re in a recession, and if people stop caring about fashion, I’m out of a job.
At any rate, I had a splendid time thinking about this article, and I thought I should share some of the other things I told Mr. Murphy. First, I told him most of my friends have a joke about fashion week: That by the end, you’re fashion weak. Fashion fatigued. (That’s pronounced “fat-ta-gayed.”) And I told him that there are two kinds of people you don’t want to sit next to at a fashion show: Someone who smells like a bar, which is another epidemic during the shows because socializing is such a big part of the business; or someone coughing, because if you get sick during the shows you’re screwed. It was at this point where I managed to slip in the “screwing” to the Times.
But while many are quick to complain — and I’m sure my day will come when I’m over it, when I’m a bitter fashion queen who can’t crack a smile even when a girl trips on the runway — but as for now I’m still enthralled by the industry. I still get giddy when the lights go down at a fashion show. I still want to know the new models names and go check out whatever young designer everyone is talking about. It’s insane, yes: Early shows, late dinners, everyone crammed into tents and airplanes with other people. Talk about fashion fat-ta-gayed. But I’d be happy to mop the floors at a fashion show if that’s as close as I could get.
And it isn’t completely dire. It’s not exactly nuclear warfare. One can prepare for this extravaganza, after all. A lot of my friends like to de-tox before they re-tox, so to speak. Lots of green juices, vitamins and sobriety happening in the weeks leading up to the shows. Organization is crucial too: That’s why so many editors plan their outfits in advance, and print and laminate their schedules. They want to be able to let their body rest until the last possible moment, and then get up, get dressed and get going as quickly as possible.
The reason I think some people get sick is good ole fashioned hedonism. So, my suggestion is: Pick your nights out and, just as importantly, pick your nights in. And always go home before you’re entirely inebriated. The one thing to remember when it comes to fashion week is that it it happens twice a year.
Illustration from the original New York Times article, published on January 30, 2013, by Rowan Barnes-Murphy
Clockwise from top left: Bemelman’s Bar in the Carlyle Hotel; the Sunset Tower in LA; St. Louis’ sunset; Chuck Close in front of his Barack Obama series; Chanel’s Sublimage creme; Acne jeans; Band of Outsiders; My St. Louis sister, Karlie Kloss, a backpack.
As any red carpet watcher can tell you, it’s awards season. Not that Hollywood is the only one giving out accolades this time of year. The fine folks at Mr. Porter tossed me a bone too, nominating me to their distinguised Style Council, where I am joining the likes of Hugh Jackman, Tim Jeffries and Jefferson Hack in a group of well groomed gentlemen. So, suck it, Anne Hathaway! It’s been a good year for me too. Below are a list the things I find super stylish. (Go to my profile at Mr Porter to read more of my stylish suggestions, and go here to the Members Gallery to see those who came before me.)
FAVOURITE RESTAURANT AND DISH
“Tiny’s is this adorable restaurant near my house in TriBeCa, and they make the best kale salad in the whole city.”
“I love Bemelmans Bar in The Carlyle. It’s stuffy in the most glamorous way. And you never know who will turn up there. Remind me to tell you the time Mariah Carey showed up and we convinced her to sing for us.”
“Whenever I get some time off I find myself heading home to Missouri, where I grew up. I’m still a Midwestern boy at heart, and unwinding with my family is a beloved pastime. Hiking in the winter and water-skiing in the summer, and some fabulous untouched vintage shopping.”
“Sunset Tower Hotel in LA because it’s a mix of old Hollywood glamour and modern sophistication, and they do a mean Cobb salad.”
TYPE OF BAG
“I have acquired more bags than there are days of the week, and I keep them in pretty steady rotation. I have an Alexander Wang book bag for when I’m on my bike, an old Hermès cloth tote for when I’m on the go and on foot, and I have a monogrammed Louis Vuitton Speedy for when I’m lugging around a bunch of stuff.”
“Ralph Lauren, because I believe in the American Dream he is so good at selling.”
ESSENTIAL WARDROBE ITEM
“A light blue Band of Outsiders button-down Oxford shirt, because I can wear it with a suit or with shorts.”
MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN
“Tough question. Is it weird if I say Karlie Kloss, even though she’s like a little sister to me? She’s beautiful on the outside and the inside.”
“For boys it’s Chuck Close, because he has fun with what he wears despite being bound to a fancy wheelchair; and Tom Wolfe, because a man who can pull off a white suit will always be chic in my book. For girls, my friend Lauren Santo Domingo is the most chic girl I know.”
“When in doubt, wear something with a collar.”
“Mrs. Cecco, a little old Italian lady who lives near my Mum in Missouri, has been altering my clothes for two decades. She’s quick, she’s good and she’s cheap. She’s also the sweetest little thing.”
BEST SHIRT BRAND
“My favorite dress shirts right now are from Gucci . Fabulously tailored.”
“Burberry suits are a good mix of tradition and modernity.”
CUT OF TROUSERS
“I like a slight tailor and fit, with a spiffy dropped crotch to avoid obscene bunching. I find that Acne does the best khakis in the world at the moment.”
“I get all my jeans made at this shop called 3×1 on Mercer street in New York. They’re constructed entirely on-site and are fit straight to the leg. Jeans are an investment, so why skimp on something you wear so often?”
PREFERRED JACKET STYLE
“Cropped, fit and with a little pizzazz: So I get a lot of my jackets from Dolce & Gabbana .”
“I’ve been stocking up on colorful Cole Haan brogues and dark Nike ‘s at an alarming rate recently.”
FAVOURITE GROOMING PRODUCT
“I once borrowed a girlfriend’s Chanel Sublimage cream, and wow does it feel fantastic on the skin. I feel like I’m glowing. But when I’m traveling I use a Kiehl’s face cream and whatever the hotel puts in the bathroom.”
“Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted a Jeep with a zip off roof. But now that I’m a little older and more practical I want the four door version.”
“David Yurman. His son, Evan, was my first friend when I moved to New York and was a freshman at university. He designs all their men’s watches and jewelry, and I love his stuff.”
“Anything by Oscar Wilde, and particularly his play, The Importance of Being Earnest. Such wit and such candor, I’ve read it a thousand times and it still makes me smile.”
“Andrew Lloyd Weber’s soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar and Harry Chapin’s greatest hits. My dad used to blast these in the family van when I was a kid and it reminds me of adventure and being mischievous, both of which I don’t get to be very often anymore.”
Clockwise from top left: My favorite work from Oscar Wilde; A Gucci briefcase; Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Jesus Christ Superstar, my father’s favorite rock musical; the 3×1 shop on Mercer Street; Tom Wolfe; Ralph Lauren; a Burberry plaid; a Cole Haan brogue; my dream Jeep
This week, my colleagues at Harper’s Bazaar charged me with a special request when it came to my Mr. Blasberg’s Best Dressed: Pick the 20 most important moments in Pop culture, and the influence they had on the fashion industry. So, no big deal or anything. After combing through a year’s worth of best dressed lists, blog posts and even a quick trip through my own iPhoto, I did it. For the full list and the explanations for each, you’ll have to check out the Bazaar website. (READ THE ENTIRE LIST WITH EXTENDED CAPTIONS HERE) But here are my top 20 moments, which are, for the record, in no particular order:
1. Madonna at the Super Bowl: The first high fashion moment of the year, when Givenchy and Phillip Treacy collided in a gilded couture explosion. (Read my Super Bowl diary here.)
2. Brad Pitt in the Chanel No. 5 ads: Surprising, a little silly, but ultimately they worked.
3. Carine Roifteld’s smoky eye le Bal in Paris: A party that got so hot someone grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed the crowd. (And then got their ass beat.)
4. Adele: Momma cleaned up this year.
5. Designer shuffle: OK, stay with me: Raf Simons took John Galliano’s old job at Dior; Hedi Slimane took Stefani Pilati’s gig at Yves Saint Laurent, which is now known as just Saint Laurent; Nicolas Ghesquiere left Balanciaga, and Alexander Wang is filling in for him; Christopher Kane quit versus and Jonathan Anderson is taking that gig. (For the record, Galliano is still unemployed, Pilati went to Zegna, and we’re waiting to see what Ghesquiere and Kane do with their eponymous brands.) Phew.
6. Men’s fashion weekend in London: The British capital got its own mens fashion week, and I was there, of course.
7. Azealia Banks: This foul mouthed little angel made the rounds this year, but I was there way back in January when she first performed at Karl Lagerfeld’s house. (Watch the video!)
8. Speaking of Karl Lagerfeld: Chanel brought me all over the world this year, from Las Vegas to Versailles to the castle where Mary Queen of Scots was born.
9. John Waters at the CFDA: The world’s driest, funniest, most wonderful independent director made an undeniable impression at this year’s CFDA Awards. I blogged about his greatest quips here.
10. Mario Testino’s opening in Boston: The famed fashion photographer showed Massachusetts what glamour looked like, and he brought some supermodel friends with him. And me too. And I brought my camera.
11. Michael Kors and God’s Love We Deliver: In a very touching moment, the fashion designer gave $5million to the New York based charity .
12. Cara Delevingne: I watched this little girl, who I’ve known for years, turn from goofy to glamorous in 2012, clocking in a Chanel campaign and winning the British Fashion Award for Model of the Year along the way.
13. Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama: The polkadot, my favorite print, reigned supreme in Kusama’s collaboration with the French fashion house.
14. Hurricane Sandy: It was a humbling, heartwarming and hilarious week.
15. Choupette: It was an important year for cat lovers, not only because Karl Lagerfeld got one of his own (who has two maids), but also because I spent a whole day high as a kite on antihistamines to film this video about holiday etiquette with the fury little felines. And watch THE BLOOPERS reel here.
16. HBO’s Girls: I was late on the game on this one, but the genius of Lena Dunham finally captivated me.
17. Rooney Mara: I love a goth girl, and, with the help of Riccardo Tisci, this one had a stand out 2012.
18. Obama back in office: The fashion industry’s favorite Democrat, Barack, is back in office. (Did you read my Christmas card to the president, written on Derek Blasberg for Opening Ceremony stationery? Check it out here, along with a few other fabulous handwritten notes.)
19. Karlie Kloss: My St. Louis sister had a spectacular year, racking up campaigns, bringing back House of Style with my other runway favorite Joan Smalls, starring in that memorable Neiman Marcus x Target campaign, and introducing something as sweet as she is — Karlie’s Kookies!
20. The supermodels at the Olympics: I love anything that puts fashion on center stage, and it was hard to forget the image of the faces of British fashion (Naomi, Kate, Lily, Karen, Jourdan and more) pounding down a stadium runway at the Olympics closing ceremonies in London. I still have it on my Tivo.
It’s been a long holiday weekend for me. There was the glutinous consumption of turkey and the annual Blasberg Blowout party. (Related: Did you know that Sam’s Club sells shotgun, cannon and machete-shaped tequila bottles? No really.) So while I was nursing my hangovers from the intoxication of quality family time and the aforementioned novelty shaped alcohol, I spent a lot of time doing what I don’t have a lot of time to do in New York: Watching TV. And I realized that now, perhaps more than ever, fashion companies are entering this mass medium with gusto. Louis Vuitton just launched its first ever television commercial (starring Arizona Muse, shot by Inez & Vinoodh), and I still get chills every time I see Lara Stone cavorting on a private plane in the Calvin Klein advertisement that broke during the Superbowl earlier this year. Cartier did quite possibly the most ridiculous commercial I’ve ever seen, and it was their first once and that launched this year too. (I’m happy to include all there of these commercials at the bottom of this post. Soak in the decadence, guys.)
To be fair, fashion brands advertising on TV isn’t a new or novel occurrence. It was Calvin Klein that got into some hot water for his provocative campaigns on TV back in the day. But what we see now is that exclusive French companies, like Vuiton and Cartier, who had no interest in elbowing with Calvin for TV spots have entered the fray. These brands are realizing not only the power of television, but also the power of the moving image of a fashion campaign. These TV spots are great, but let’s not be foolish: They didn’t make these videos exclusively for the airwaves. Videos have become an integral part of a brand’s entire media plan. (In fact, I’ve worked with a few brands on their behind-the-scenes videos, but more on that in a later post.) Whereas in the golden days of pre-recession advertising, the holy grail was a placement in a magazine, today the plan has to be more layered. Yes, the magazine is and always will be the mainstay, but now a brand is looking for their moving content to be on the magazine’s website and, as I saw over Thanksgiving, on television, and that’s in addition to blogs like this one and on big screens in their stores.
I like this. I’ve always been a fan of anything that spreads the fashion to the masses. I would have killed to have seen these videos on the little 13 inch television in my bedroom when I was a teenager (which I still have, by the way), back when I didn’t know how to say Versace. Yes, I was like Elizabeth Perkins in Showgirls and called is Ver-Says. Shut up. That’s why seeing these commercials on network television tickled me so much. It puts a big smile on my face, in fact! Now there will be little boys and little girls who know that when they see a red box they should think of panthers in diamonds, and they’ll think of all the divine decadence of the house of Louis Vuitton the next time they see a hot air balloon.
One last thing: Lest we think it’s new that a fashion brand do such decadent commercials, I must point out that — like most things in fashion — Karl Lagerfeld has already done it. Back in 2004, the house of Chanel paid Nicole Kidman millions of dollar to swirl some pink tulle around Rodrigo Santoro for what is more of a short film than a TV spot directed by Baz Luhrman. Do you remember that? Wasn’t it ridiculous and divine? It came out around Moulin Rouge and watching the commercial again still makes me swoon.
The fashion industry’s first commercial dream: Chanel No. 5
Louis Vuitton’s recently released first ever TV spot
The Calvin Klein commercial that made me fall in love with Lara Stone. Again.
The Cartier commercial with defies the laws of nature and diamonds
It’s very easy to get caught up in the fashion bubble. In the past three weeks, I’ve shuttled between New York, London and Milan for fashion shows and accessories appointments (and I’m flying to Paris in a matter of hours, but who’s counting?). While I have no problem admitting that I find it to be a gratifying experience, I can’t help but also have some American guilt that I’m missing out on the political free-for-all that will be the next election. Good thing, then, that for a couple of days when I was back in New York, my Tivo was full of The Daily Show episodes, which is my number one source of political news. (What? I think Jon Stewart is funny and handsome, and that’s how I like my news delivered.)
On a recent episode he went on off, and I mean went off, on Mitt Romney. Culturally, socially and even mathematically, he skewered the guy. It was all part of a segment called ‘Chaos on Bullshit Mountain,’ which I’ve posted above. I stumbled upon this at about the same time that I found an article in an old issue of the New York Post where Cindy Adams (Did you see it? It’s quite amusing) reported that Kato Kailin, the C-list actor who lived with OJ Simpson and helped acquit him from the charge of double murder in the most sensational trial of the 1990s, admitted Simpson’s guilt. I couldn’t help but think back to that time. I was so young, so impressionable, and so disillusioned with the American judicial system. What Jon Stewart is always preaching on his show, and indeed in this video, is that we should have more faith in our government, which is a lesson I learned from my father, who has had no faith in the government. He found the whole OJ Simpson trial a social injustice, and as his son, I felt the same way. I’ve had a shaky believe in the morals of all government officials ever since.
I believe Jon Stewart. I believe what he says here. And I actually do believe that Barack Obama has tried his best to instill the faith of the American people into his office. At the end of the day, what I want from a president is transparency and a genuine commitment to making the lives of we Americans better. Something without, as Stewart points out, a bunch of bullshit. (I also thought it was pretty epic how Obama got bin Laden. Have you read the New Yorker’s recounting of the raid? It’s even more amazing than Kato. And I will actually read that book that recounts it from the bigmouth Marine’s point of view too.) I understand the Republican point of view. I’m from Missouri, I have Republicans in my family. And while I want to pay less taxes, keep more of my hard earned money, and shoot guns in the air to proclaim my American nationalism, that Romney guy has become his own worst enemy. His own punching bag. I lost all hope when he went on television with that bad bronzing job.
All this isn’t to say that I’m so anti-Republican that I don’t mind a little Barack bashing too. Quite the contrary: I have my qualms with our current president too, and I enjoy a good leveling on both side of the isles. I’m not opposed to handsome, funny men criticizing Barack Obama. On Saturday night, Seth Meyers slated Obama on SNL’s Weekend Update with accurate, poignant observations about some of his political shortcoming. (I’d embed that, but it wasn’t on Youtube and I’m not tech savvy enough to figure out NBC’s website. But it’s there if you look for it.) That reminds me: Weekend Update is upping its coverage for the election. I’ll have to remember to set my Tivo so I can catch up when I’m back from Paris. But, until then, Happy Fashion Weeking.
The view from the CFDA’s box at the Mets game, left; some delicious Chelsea sugar cookies at the football (sorry, I mean soccer) match at Yankee stadium, right
Maybe it has something to do with the uniforms, because who doesn’t love a man in uniform? Or maybe it has something to do with my renewed interest in physical activity, and how I joined the V magazine soccer team this summer. (Don’t laugh. I played in high school. I’m actually pretty good with a ball.) Whatever, for some reason, I’ve been feeling particularly sporty lately, even in my social life. Already this week I participating in two huge displays of organized athletic competition: the Chelsea football match (yes, I said football and not soccer, shut up) at the new Yankee Stadium, which was the first time that a soccer game had been played there; and then a few nights later, I was at CitiField in Queens to see the Mets baseball game with the Council of Fashion Designers of America. See, it’s not just me: Lots of fashion folk are feeling athletic, apparently.
Perhaps we’re all just being subconsciously swept into the Olympic spirit, which officially starts tomorrow with the Opening Ceremony in London. I’ve always had fond memories of the Olympics. Fond vague memories that is. My third grade teacher, Ms. Hagan, was obsessed. She had VHS tapes of her favorite events taped from various Olympics (Moscow in 1980, Barcelona in 1992, etc), and as a ‘treat’ would let us watch them in class. But it’s weird: Apart from Michael Phelps, I don’t really remember many of the athletes. And the only reason I remember him is because I still think whoever posted a picture of him taking a drag from a bong in the off season is a total wanker. Who else? Nancy Kerigan, because she got beat with a pipe? Keri Strug, because she screwed up her ankle at just the right moment? Ryan Lochte, because he has blue eyes and was on the cover of Vogue?
I just love the pomp and circumstance of the Olympics. (Though, for the record, I want to be no where near them: No thank you when it comes to international swarms of tourists descending on water polo matches with expensive cameras and $20 water bottles.) I love the sense of pride and excitement we have for athletes we’ll probably not see next time. And I really like Bob Costas. But, I’m not doing the best job surmising what it means to be a modern Olympic viewer. For that I turn to the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik, one of my absolute favorite writers. In a recent Talk of the Town piece entitled ‘Team Spirit,’ which ran in The New Yorker last month, he did a fabulous job of explaining the amusing qualities of modern society’s obsession with the Olympics. It’s fantastic. (You can find the entire piece HERE.)
We are about to enter that period, which occurs every four years, when Americans become passionate about athletes we have never heard of participating in games we do not follow trying to please judges we cannot see according to rules we do not know. The fullness of our ignorance never diminishes the pitch of our Olympic enthusiasm. Those cute girls with the ribbons—rhythmic gymnasts, that’swhat they’re called—and the synchronized swimmers, mimicking one another’s every move, like Harpo and Groucho in the mirror scene in “Duck Soup,” will briefly become as beloved as any Yankee shortstop or Celtics forward. “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” we chant, until the two weeks of games are over, and even the most prominent Olympians may find themselves making their way home from the top step of the podium to the bottom rung of the D-list. (Ask Bruce Jenner, once the world’s greatest all-round athlete—with the medals to show for it—now playing for Team Kardashian.)