Much is being made of the quotes that Catherine Bennett — senior vice-president and managing director of IMG, which runs New York Fashion Week — gave the Wall Street Journal (sub required) in an interview that ran yesterday. One in particular is ruffling feathers, that Fashion Week “was becoming a zoo. What used to be a platform for established designers to debut their collections to select media and buyers has developed into a cluttered, often cost-prohibitive and exhausting period for our industry to effectively do business.”
The article went on to outline some of the ways IMG will “control and reduce audience capacities,” as another spokesperson said, to make invitations "once again an exclusive pass for true fashion insiders.” These include redesigning the venues at Lincoln Center, presumably reducing their size, and making other changes aimed at better enabling VIPs to feel more important. Additionally, two smaller new offsite venues will open, geared toward younger labels.
Will it work? In a word: no. The truth is, it isn't up to IMG who's invited. Designers make that call. If designers want the peacocks there, attracting the now-de rigueur frenzy of street-style snappers, they'll be invited. Or, if the designers want the cheerleaders there, breathlessly tweeting every amaaazing look, they'll be invited. Not just invited, but courted. Most designers will tell you that fashion design is not an art, it's a business. And anything they can do to increase business, the better. Besides, fashion's old image of exclusivity has long since been shattered by Chinese manufacturing, fast fashion, Fashion's Night Out, reality television, what Suzy Menkes calls the "whirligig" of the fashion schedule, and so on.
Some designers, those who don't necessarily depend on mass appeal, have already taken matters into their own hands. Earlier this year, Oscar de la Renta said that the New York collections had become "megashows" attended by “20 million people with zero connection to the clothes.” He thus slashed his guest list of interlopers. Voila.
For IMG to spend years democratizing fashion in this digital age, only to lament the influx of those with no “tenuous connection to the fashion industry,” as they put it, seems pretty disingenuous. As the first website ever invited to a fashion show, we at Hint haven't always loved each subsequent tech wave, i.e. blogs, podcasts, Twitter, etc. But while we agree that Lincoln Center “has been swarmed with fashion bloggers, street-style photographers and fashion fans…in addition to the hundreds of journalists and scores of celebrities,” it's a little late now to try to rein it in. The ship has sailed, the bell has rung, the tweet is tweeted.
Lana Del Rey continues to position herself a tragic personage in American pop culture. A golden-lit Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and John Wayne (and Jesus!) figure prominently in her latest endeavor, Tropico, a 24-minute short film (not counting credits) encompassing several new songs (Body Electric, Gods and Monsters, Bel-Air). Directed by music-video veteran Anthony Mandler (Rihanna, Drake, Mary J. Blige), the epic video depicts the singer in guises ranging from Eve (as in Garden of Eden) to a latter-day stripper.
The film was screened last night in Los angeles, introduced by Lana Del Rey, who said: "I really just wanted us all to be together so I could try and visually close out my chapter before I release the new record, Ultraviolence." This and other allusions to quitting the business, like tweeting about a "farewell project," has spelled high anticipation for Tropico. It isn't at all certain if expectations will be met (it's pretty insane), but thank goodness someone is going out on a limb.
A couple of nights ago, Turner Prize-winning UK artist and cross-dresser Grayson Perry appeared as his alter ego, Claire, in a documentary about the iconic London store Liberty of London — and he sported a very unusual bag. Take a moment or two and study this image. See if you can...oh, yes, it's coming to you now?
Called Scrotal Sack, it is exactly that, a leather handbag designed by himself and modeled after a human scrotum, wrinkles and goosebumps and all. And there's more. That flappy frontal nob? Yes, that would be a penis pierced in the foreskin with a little bell. Now take a look at the back. Uh-huh, yup, buttocks with a starfish in the center. Please, please, please someone produce these.
In the week that straddles this year and next, as you cause and recover from yet another monumental hangover, Hollywood will be deep in the throes of voting for its Oscar nominations. You may take for granted that the nominees have already been decided by the time you settle in to make fun of another Academy Awards broadcast in March, but the studios, producers, and distributors don't. Each one is hard at work campaigning Academy members, currying their favor for as many noms as they can get.
That's where this video comes in. It's a one-minute, superlative-heavy clip created by the distributor of Spring Breakers — Harmony Korine's filmic ode to gun-wielding, ski mask-wearing, sociopathic blondes — aimed at scoring a Best Supporting nod for James Franco as Alien, the gold-toothed, corn-rowed ringleader. But before you go guffawing and dredging up that Riff Raff controversy, remember that Franco has won an Oscar before, for 127 Hours. Besides, it would make his grandma very happy.
Mert Alas — he of Mert & Marcus, the duo who shot Great Kate for Playboy's 60th anniversary issue — did a whoopsie and Instagrammed her holding the cover. Playboy then released the rest of the pics, many of them full mandy, and kindly reminded everyone that the January/February double issue won't be on stands until December 5. Clearly sex still sells, particularly magazines. Maybe, instead of going biweekly, New York can shoot a supermodel in bunny ears...
In a first for him, Thom Browne is dressing the cast of a theater production, off-off-Broadway though it may be. The performance, Queen of the Night, is said to be fanciful, circus-like, supper-club fare. Opening on New Year's Eve, it'll inaugurate the Aby Rosen-restored Diamond Horseshoe space, the fabled 1940s cabaret in the Paramount Hotel that hasn't seen much action in recent decades aside from a Warhol gathering after his death in the 80s.
According to WWD, Queen of the Night will incorporate music, dance, and magic — the sorts of things one associates with Thom Browne's stage-worthy collections. "They add dimension to the label," he says. "I love my shows and they will always be around. I wouldn’t be in fashion if I couldn’t do them."
The idea for Queen of the Night comes from Sleep No More's Randy Weiner and collaborators Simon Hammerstein and Murtaza Akbar. They've also hired Giovanna Battaglia as stylist and Bergdorf Goodman window dresser Douglas Little as set designer.
Slogans are nice; Susan Sontag quotes are better. L.A. designer William Anzevino has emblazoned tees and sweats with the outspoken art theorist and cultural critic's more memorable musings: "Passion paralyzes good taste," "Sanity is a cozy lie," "Desire has no history." For the bolder bibliophile, the designer has even made dresses and button-down shirts printed with all-over type.
Sontag's most famous essay, Notes on Camp (1964), appears to have been left out, but given that Anzevino's previous obsession was the proto-porn homoerotica photographer Bob Mizer, we think he gets it.
Fashion Galore! at Somerset House is a celebration of Isabella Blow's life in clothes, a seduction as hardcore as her lipstick in Tamara de Lempicka red. She's no longer with us, of course. When she got fed up with the world and everybody in it, she drank weed killer. Sometimes when I'm fed up, I wear Fracas, her favorite perfume.
"In the end I was just lips and a hat," she said. But Izzy was always more than the MAC lipstick she designed (they wouldn't let her call it Blow Job) and the Philip Treacy hats she wore to stop people from swooping in for air kisses. "Fashion is a vampiric thing. That's why I wear the hats, to keep everyone away from me."
While Isabella had her armor, I have a Please Don't Kiss the Baby sign stuck on my Kelly bag, because hats mess up my hair. Besides, who wants to be loved by the undiscriminating?
I never met Isabella, but I caught glimpses of her enough times to notice what we had in common. And what we didn't. She hated Egypt, and I know that I never want to go back to Cairo, even if it is the only place on the planet to get burnt orange toe paint.
The first time I saw her was in the Tatler office, where I'd gone for a summer job as a sub, but failed the test. "You're not boring enough," the editor told me, as he interviewed me in a closet. "We'll find you something else." I wondered if that meant samples to take home with me. Through a crack in the door, I saw a girl with her sweater open, revealing a black lace Rigby & Peller bra. The queen's lingerie maker never had better publicity than this corrupt angel. "That's Isabella Blow," he said, anticipating my unspoken question.
In those days her name was always followed by the story of her grandfather, Jock Delves Broughton, whose decadent life was made famous by the movie White Mischief, about sex-mad cokeheads in Kenya.
Death always hung over Isabella. This can be seen in Fashion Galore! in scrapbooks and press cuttings about her aristocratic ancestors. When she was a child, her baby brother drowned in a puddle on the grounds of their ancestral home. After his death, her mother moved to London and her father moved on to a new family, disinheriting her.
They never lived in Doddington Hall, but in a smaller house on the grounds. Isabella was homeless in her heart, empathizing with the tramps sleeping rough in Hanover Square park opposite Vogue House. She made art her home, dressing up as a magical installation. "Always accentuate the head and the feet," she said. Her feet belonged to Manolo Blahnik and her head to Philip Treacy, though she planned to have it sent to her father when she died.
Not exactly beautiful, at least in the classical sense, Isabella could have been the Duchess of Windsor on acid with a dash of dachshund on top. Except she didn't need the acid. She had a love-hate relationship with her bipolar self. She must have known she was glamorous, but Crohn's disease and her English teeth filled her with self-loathing.
The next time I saw her, she arrived hat-first to an art opening and effortlessly upstaged the artist Tracey Emin. "Who's that?" Mr. Lash asked. I told him the story about Isabella Blow's wedding dress, which was, like mine, designed by Nadia la Valle, a designer not heard from before or since. Isabella never managed to escape her marriage. Like Dorothy Parker, she could have left the husband and kept the name.
My last glimpse of her was through the window of her apartment in Eton Square. Her black head bowed over a pile of olives she was arranging on a plate, she looked like a sad majestic bird from an Edgar Allen Poe story, or the sculpture of her by artist-couple Webster and Noble that opens Fashion Galore!
A few weeks later she jumped off the Hammersmith flyover. She didn't die that day, but she couldn't wear Manolos anymore, a fate worse than death to a trivial but profound soul like Isabella Blow. It was only a matter of time before she finished the job and became a beautiful corpse dressed by Alexander McQueen, who joined her a few seasons later.
Before that, McQueen paid tribute to his mentor and muse in his show La Dame Bleu, creating a Bird of Light through which the models entered the runway dressed as Izzy lookalikes. This is recreated at the end of the Somerset House show. It reminds me of the moment in The Great Gatsby when Meyer Wolfsheim declines to go to Gatsby's funeral, saying, "Show your friendship to the man while he is alive." Or, reward the woman's contribution to your career by offering her a job when you get the top job at Givenchy.
Next time I wear my white fur coat, I'll spray it with Fracas and think of Isabella Blow.
Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!, November 20, 2013 - March 2, 2014, Somerset House
Read more about Vivien Lash in her evil twin Carole Morin’s novel, Spying on Strange Men
Clearly using his Yeezus tour and its accompanying radio interviews as a bully pulpit, Kanye West is now lashing out against Louis Vuitton, following recent tirades against Hedi Slimane and Fendi. Speaking yesterday to 92.3 NOW radio station in New York, with his fiancée in tow, the human grudge whined bitterly that LV's vice-president, Yves Carcelle, rejected his request to meet during the Paris collections in October. Never mind that the house was preparing for an especially important show, Marc Jacobs' last, and were in the midst of high-level discussions with Nicolas Ghesquière.
"I was made for this moment," said the rapper. "What happened was, while I was out in Paris, I wanted to meet with the head of Louis Vuitton. He said I don't understand why we need to meet with you. I said, 'Let me explain to you why you need to meet with me. Everybody in New York City right now, don't buy any Louis Vuitton until after January. Now do you want to meet with me? Now do you want to meet with me?' Influence. They think that I don't realize my power."
That's right, he's threatening to call on New Yorkers to boycott Louis Vuitton during the holidays because of a perceived snub. His extreme narcissism would be annoying if it didn't produce hilarious videos like this...