Archive for August, 2011

Vogue US March 2011 – “Punk’d”

(this review by special request)

I don’t have much more to add to Rrose’s review. I agree with her when she points out the fun nature of this editorial and the humour and expressiveness that Freja, Raquel and Arizona bring to it. If it wasn’t for those particular aspects then this editorial would be totally forgettable.

I’m not sure what Grace Coddington was thinking when the black shaggy wigs were decided upon, but they’re certainly not ‘punk’ – more of a high fashion idea of what the ‘punk’ aesthetic is. Plus jackets designed by Nicholas Ghesquiere aren’t exactly ‘punk’ either!

Once again, high fashion has tried to keep itself relevant by copying street trends and jacking up the price. Money creates taste, after all.*

Or perhaps the joke is on us, the desirers and potential buyers of said $2000 jackets and $1000 ripped (silk) shirts – the title is ‘Punk’d’!

In the end, it’s just another editorial in another magazine that’s expected to churn out hundreds of pages of new content per month – it can’t be expected that every page will be good.

*from artist Jenny Holzer

(with thanks to frejabeha.blogspot for the scans)

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Vogue Paris August 2011 – “Escale à L.A.” (Arizona)

I had another look at this editorial in print today and now I feel more confident about writing this part of the review. As I’ve mentioned before, I think it’s important to look at these images in printed form – while digital images are wonderfully convenient, scanning issues such as colour fidelity and image quality can make or break a weak image (strong images, however, stand out regardless of these factors).

On this second viewing I chose to look at the colours and the setting before focusing on the model, Arizona.

Stylistically this part of the editorial is the complete opposite of Freja’s modern rock-chick – Arizona is cast as a glittering, technicolor suburban housewife of a bygone era.

The grain filter and saturated colours of each image indicate that these images hark back to an earlier time – it feels like we’re looking at old photos. The background setting of suburbia, with its white picket fences and clean cut lawns invoke a sense of nostalgia and longing for an earlier time when life seemed simpler. In light of the recent troubles with America, it’s no wonder that Americans would prefer to reminisce about the past… but I digress.

Within this idealised setting, Arizona is pitch-perfect – her bobbed hair and All-American good looks suit the era that I&V and stylist Suzanne Koller are aiming for and the images look exactly as if they were lifted from a Vogue magazine circa 1960. Brilliant. Arizona does an amazing job here – her megawatt-smile in her initial shot immediately sells the image of contented suburban housewife. However, it is her subsequent, more serious poses that remind the viewer that not everything is always as perfect as it looks in suburbia. These images depict dissatisfaction and yearning (Arizona staring off into the distance works wonders here) and sublimated sexual desire (look at the fourth image: why else would one lounge on the nature strip in an outfit that could almost be considered lingerie?)

The more I looked, the more I fell in love with the entire editorial (especially Lara and Natasha’s shots). I wish I could articulate the swirl of thoughts that occurred to me as I gazed at this. I think this issue will make a great addition to any respectable magazine collection.

Vogue Paris August 2011 – “Escale à L.A.” (Freja)

While I’d love to do an in-depth analysis of the entire editorial, I’m afraid it’d take me several weeks to come up with something satisfactory that would include all of my thoughts about the myth surrounding the city, what aspects of L.A.’s image and history that each model represents, and how successful VP & I&V were in achieving their vision.

Instead, I’ll look at Freja’s and Arizona’s shots and give a brief analysis of each, focusing primarily on style, tone, and how well Freja and Arizona work in their respective shoots.

Thought I’d start with Freja’s component of the editorial since it’s much easier to analyse than Arizona’s. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s a no-brainer – Freja as a scowling, fierce-eyed rebel/rockstar (complete with hot new band of the moment, The Parlor Mob) being edgy on the streets of L.A. and in the desert.

And it’s boring as shit.

While Alt’s rocker aesthetic served her well as creative director of Balmain, here it fails – we’ve seen Freja-as-rocker many times over, and each time is just as dull as the last – see: “Think Punk” (Vogue Paris October 2010 – also by Alt), “Diva” (Vogue Paris May 2011) and “Punk’d” (Vogue US March 2011)

The reason why these editorials disappoint so much is remarkably simple. Take a look at Freja’s personal style:

Leather jackets, skinny jeans and big boots, mostly in black – Freja’s personal style is already pretty rockstar-like. More importantly however, is how relaxed she looks – Freja’s not out to prove that she’s cool with her personal style, she is just herself.

And it is within this simple observation that demonstrates the elusiveness of ‘cool’ – cool can’t be made, nor necessarily bought, but rather honed over time and tailored to each individual.

It appears that this manufacturing of cool is the stylist’s fundamental flaw – by trying to create the illusion of cool, it backfires and comes off as fake and trying too hard. Perhaps Alt should have stuck with selling insanely over-priced ripped jeans and studded jackets to people with too much money. Incidentally, another great example of this paradox is stylist Kate Lanphear – fabulous personal style but dull styling work.

Lastly, back to Freja – while this rockstar-themed editorial was dull, it doesn’t mean that all similarly themed editorials are dull – in particular I’m thinking of “Freja Beha, The Rock and Roll Star” (i-D Spring/Summer 2009, styled by Edward Enninful) and the upcoming “Kapow!” (W, September 2011), which I will write about once I get my hands on a copy.

(Freja’s street style image collage from sohoiman.blogspot)

Vogue Germany June 2011 – “Freja & Arizona”

When I first heard about this editorial I must admit that I was less than enthused. Karl had shot the couple less than 3 months before for Numero (March, 2011) and I wondered what new image he could possibly cast his current favourite pairing, Freja and Arizona. This time around the setting is much more subtle: music and instruments. In various shots Freja and Arizona are at the same instrument, presumably making sweet music together. Oh Karl, you romantic fool.

In fact this particular issue of Vogue Germany is all about couples. The three cover girls (Anja Rubik, Karolina Kurkova and Alessandra Ambrosio) are photographed with their respective dashing partners and each couple has an accompanying editorial inside. So where is Freja and Arizona’s cover? Nowhere to be seen and presumably not without reason.

Let’s go back to the word subtle. The word ‘subtle’ applies to many aspects of this editorial. Firstly, this editorial happens to appear alongside other editorials of couples – yet Freja and Arizona are not mentioned as such. To the unknowing reader this editorial would slip past, but for those in the know… well, we know.

In a broader sense the word ‘subtle’ could quite easily apply to Freja and Arizona as well. While numerous twitterbugs have spotted the two in NY and around the globe, the couple have not come out officially about their relationship. At this point it’s worthwhile to remember the strange state of celebrity that models inhabit: of being in the public eye while not necessarily being well-known to the public – well-known models like the Supers, Kate and Gisele are at the top of an industry that encompasses thousands of lesser-known/unknown faces.

Freja and Arizona’s jobs as models is to sell clothes and brands, not necessarily their private lives. Nor are they obliged to do so. Perhaps Karl’s editorials, along with Terry Richardson’s pictures, are publicly the best and most subtle way of acknowledging the relationship between these two.

And the final word on subtlety – this time regarding Karl’s photography. Karl has opted for a dark background this time, while in Numero it was stark white. Coupled with his standard use of black and white photography, the effect is rather drab – shadows on faces and bodies meld into the background and leave the image rather flat. I tend to let a print viewing decide my final opinion and this was no exception. Viewing it in print only served to highlight composition problems with the editorial – while on screen it looks as though the two are sitting intimately together – look again at where the borders of the scanned pages are: on double page spreads it meant that Freja’s face and Arizona’s face often run towards the curl and spine of the magazine, thus further obscuring both models faces and clothes.

So I must say after all that ranting – genuinely disappointing.

Vogue UK September 2011 – “Master Class”

On first look I thought this was refreshing – by which I meant in terms of styling and tone. I’m all about tone and this really tickles the pleasure centres of my brain. The predominantly black and white clothes make what little other colour there is really stand out – in this case, the blush upon Freja and Arizona’s cheeks and the beautiful buildings and cobbled streets of Antwerp. It is in these expressions of colour where we are reminded of where life truly is lived: in the faces of people and on the streets, not the clothes.

And it is in Freja’s face where the true beauty of this editorial lies. In the third and eleventh pictures there is almost an absence of self-consciousness; you can tell by where her eyes are focused – it’s as if the camera wasn’t there and we’ve just caught her in a moment.

To be simultaneously aware and unaware of the presence of the photographer and crew is no mean feat for any model. Freja’s ability to do just that only reminds me of how amazing she is at her job. (Not neglecting Arizona, she is wonderful in this shoot as well – but not quite on the same level just yet!)

Lucinda Chambers and Mario Testino have done an astounding job: by tying these clothes back to classic Dutch and Flemish paintings, Chambers has put the clothes in an historical context. This is further backed up by Testino’s photography, which mimics the light in those classic paintings faithfully: soft, cool light and deep shadows – while not ground-breaking it does the job perfectly. It certainly feels more challenging than his usual commercially-oriented work. A lovely editorial.