click click – 26-07-12

Welcome to click click, the sporadic review of what I find worth clicking on the internet.

I have been half-watching Edie Sedgewick’s factory films Poor Little Rich Girl and Beauty #2 in the background as I work this week. These films are full of it. More factory ephemera here.

  • Paris is Burning – Anita introduced me to this incredible documentary about the emergence and evolution of Voguing.
  • Experts on North Korea Can See a Lot in a Hemline – one of the only contemporary examples of how cultural protectionism functions practically is North Korea, so it’s fascinating to see how small shifts in fashion can be so significant in a very controlled, isolated environment.
  • Who let the blondes out? – Kelly Korducki says, “Blondeness is power. It’s post-aspirational.” I agree. Also on Blood.Guts.Hands: body hair and mixed signifiers.
  • Condé Nast Salaries:  How Much Do Those Editors Really Make? – these numbers were higher than I expected. Then I read about how everyone else thinks they’re quite low. It seems I have a poor sense of what a lot of money is, perhaps because of how much a fashion illustrator really makes.
  • What does it mean to be cool? – like beauty and sexual attractiveness, there is a cool ‘ideal’ that is formed when many subjective, individual conceptions of ‘cool’ overlap. This article explores how that overlap has shifted since ‘cool’ became a thing. Found in this excellent link post on Nextness.
  • Fabric Bike – creative Canadian girl crush.

Karma, merci.

and finally, an overdue post-script…

  • guessing this is about final fashion – wherein I respond to an indirect reader reaction, to explain where a bad post came from. Confusing, controversial, and cryptic digital emissions are cover-ups for something we think we can’t post about.


the biological imperative

Sex is one of the few things that we usually do without any clothes on, part of the remaining fragments of our lives that we still keep private, if we choose. If we’re lucky, sex becomes more about feeling than seeing, and transcends being about superficial displays of beauty and status.

Yes, of course, like everything else, beauty and fashion is connected to sex, but perhaps not in the way it would seem. This post describes two ways I break – or make – the connection.

One. Fashion is not sexy.

Recently, I was watching an interview (OK, he’s very talkative so it was more like a monologue) with the fashion designer J.W. Anderson on SHOWstudio, whose knitwear is featured in the Teen Vogue photo above. He was talking about the universality of blue jeans and t-shirts for men. To paraphrase, Anderson said that most men wear the anti-fashion uniform because almost all of us want to sleep with people in jeans and t-shirts. That’s why selling innovative fashion is an uphill battle. Jeans are just what’s sexiest, for almost everybody. It is the biological imperative that keeps us dressing alike.

Dressing differently is more about status than sex.

Most people don’t want to sleep with men in suits – men who wear suits in their dating profile photos aren’t as successful at getting responses. And then there’s the anecdotal cliche of the terminally single fashion female. If you’re trying to attract a partner, to appear formal or trendy is a liability – that’s the crux of the whole Man Repeller joke. High fashion models are barely legal, asexual aliens. There’s something about fashionability that says: look at me, don’t touch me.

Two. Overcoming being the body.

We all have a primal urge to continue our species, and women have a critical role as bodily vessels. This is why beauty and and body snark alike are the feminine counterpart to politics and tabloids. Imagine fashion as the feminine counterpart to sports.

Whenever women are criticized and measured by their appearance, instead of their ideas, their merit, their work or their actions, this is not a rational, civilized impulse. This is base animal instinct. I’ve observed almost every kind of person doing this, regardless of gender or orientation, myself included. The biological imperative can only be overcome by sheer intellectual effort.

To extricate a woman’s physical body from her body of work, she needs to still be working after she hits menopause. Once a woman loses her childbearing potential, the human race’s collective interest in her – fuckability – subsides and she is allowed to just get on with doing her work – and well, because she has decades of experience. We stop looking and we start listening. Watching this process happen to Hillary Clinton made me notice how profound this shift must be.

Being the body is part of the female experience. Once you graduate from the animal reproductive agenda, whether by age or by fashion, you stand to gain freedom from the tyranny of appearances you wouldn’t have had any other way.

click click – 16-07-12

Welcome to click click, the sporadic review of what I find worth clicking on the internet.

If you’re not already a beard aficionado, Jonathan Pryce‘s charming new photo project 100 Beards, 100 Days will convert you to the scruffy side.

  • Colors – if you find the magical and mystifying properties of color as fascinating as I do, you’ll enjoy this radio documentary.
  • Manolo the First Fashion Blogger? – a great refresher on the real innovators of fashion blogging, making me a bit nostalgic for the way it used to be. Now that fashion bloggers are aggressively professionalizing, there’s too much polish and not enough sparkle.
  • Born to Die: Lana Del Rey and Women using their Sexuality – I love this line of thinking… to me the idea that feminist depictions of women have to be limited to the positive or political or powerful – chains down creativity. We need female Citizen Kanes, female Tony Montanas, female Michael Jacksons… fatally flawed, complicated, difficult stories matter too. We don’t demand idealist perfection from male cultural icons. Tragedy is a valid and valuable form of expression for all human beings. We need bad role models just as much as good ones, or how can we tell the difference?
  • Threaded – the new fashion-but-not-just-fashion history blog from the Smithsonian is a virtual treasure box.
  • Teen Vogue Will Never Pledge to Promote ‘Beauty in All Forms’ Because It Doesn’t Want To – and personally I admire the unequivocal honesty. Vogue is a fashion magazine, not a women’s magazine. The brand is about hierarchies and hegemony, equality has no place on those pages. Somehow I wouldn’t be surprised to see Seventeen slip into second place for all its good (?) intentions. The real lesson for kids and editors alike, I suspect, is that like life, fashion isn’t fair.
  • Q: Why Do We Wear Pants? A: Horses – there’s a bifurcation/equestrian correlation.

Karma –

  • Life.Style.Fun“Wannabe artist, in love-hate relationship with fashion, overthinker, information addict, honest and hypocrite.”
  • Anabel Maldonado“I am a London-based writer and editor.”
  • A Creative Reality“a compilation of inspiration with a focus on creative individuals, events, entrepreneurship and fashion.”
  • Ether Fields – “You’re always haunted by the idea you’re wasting your life.”

collectivism vs. individualism

Hierarchies are what fashion is all about. The driving force behind all change and innovation in fashion is the desire to appear better, somehow. Or, different – fashion serves us endless variations to satisfy our never-ending desire for novelty. Concepts of equality don’t jive well with fashion, which is why fashion and social justice are such uneasy associates.

There are two essential choices when we dress ourselves. Sometimes we dress to emphasize our distinctions from our fellow human beings. Higher heels. Better bag. Custom made. Avant garde. Flair.

However, most human beings dress to emphasize equalities, most of the time. We follow trends, we don uniforms, we all wear blue jeans and Chucks. Suits. Dress codes. Most human beings in the western world dress to appear more alike, not different.

Often, we do both or either. What we lean towards though, does seem to reflect our essential view of the world. One example of this division can be seen in the simultaneous emergence of the punk music scene in New York and London in the 1970s.

Emblematic of the nascent New York punk scene, The Ramones dressed in tight blue jeans, t-shirts and black leather jackets – the ironically ubiquitous post-war uniform of rebellion. Punk in America was steadfastly anti-fashion – it wasn’t cool to dress differently from one another. This sameness is reflected in almost all aspects of American style and stems from revolutionary roots, showing how all men are created equal, and of course, to distinguish the New World from the old one. Although the American dream that anyone can achieve whatever they want can be interpreted as an extreme form of individualism, the actual philosophy is one of equality and the result is that American style is essentially homogenous.

Concurrently in London, The Sex Pistols exhibited a very different visual display of punk – it was a scene where the importance of fashion superseded even the music. The uniform of rebellion was subverted, everything was customized, and the idea was to appear as different as possible – one common comment from contemporary observers was that they had never seen anything like it before.

It makes sense that the European version of punk would be much more about emphasizing aesthetic diversity. In England, different classes of society have always dressed to express inequality. This historical hangover is why fashion thrives with such intensity in Europe, and why innovation in Western fashion trends develops more frequently in London than anywhere else.

Of course there is natural bleed-through and contradiction between these opposing forces which make sorting out an individualist sartorial expression from a collective one more complicated than you’d think. Hierarchies will assert themselves in hypocritical ways even when the superficial appearance appears to be collective – whether it is subtle tweaks in a Savile Row tailored suit, an expensive pen in a Mao suit pocket, or an artfully distressed pair of expensive Dolce & Gabbana jeans. Fashion dies hard.

Although I would like to think of myself as intellectually individualist, I’ve noticed that my own personal style is far more collectivist. I tend to dress to blend in rather than stand out, and I have a casual classicist preference that is quintessentially indicative of my North American roots. This also, not coincidentally, extends to my illustration style, which seems to appeal to American clients much more than European ones. I recently realized, or admitted to myself, that my work, like my closet, skews much more towards mainstream than avant-garde.

I’m curious… do you dress more individualist or more collectivist? Does it reflect your personal philosophies at all, or what part of the world you live in?


couture redux

One of the things I wanted to do while I live in Europe is attend and sketch at a Haute Couture week in Paris. Last week, I ticked that box… sort of. One of the things I’ve discovered about traveling is that your intended destination is ever-elusive. You can never reach where you’re going because no place is ever what you expect it to be. Even though every journey teaches you lessons, they are almost never in the subjects you thought you signed up for.

Anyway, I wasn’t that optimistic about my ability to attend any shows on my own modest merits. I put in my requests to every single show on the calendar, and when I picked up my mail in Paris I was surprised to open four invitations, three of which I was able to attend. None of the invitations were for designers I recognized.

There are so few haute couturiers, it seems a bit strange that some of them are wholly unknown outside of Paris. But what I was about to discover is that there is no correlation between official accreditation by the Syndicale and great fashion design. That “Haute Couture” can be every bit as provincial and uninspiring as any other fashion week – maybe even more so because the expectations are expanded by half a century of hype. I sketched at three shows, and none of my sketches turned out any good at all. What I saw either failed to ignite my imagination or offended my sense of taste. I didn’t even feel like sketching what I saw.

I sat outside of the Chanel Haute Couture show to watch the crowd, and it was a street-style circus as expected. The only difference from any other big fashion show was that sometimes a car would pull up, and photographers would cluster around it until an old woman – a couture customer – emerged from the car and everyone would just turn away.

This time, Paris turned out to be more about seeing friends, attending exhibits, and just thinking, than it did about fashion and drawing.

Once I got back to the office in London, I checked out the major shows on the internet, and sketched the above looks from from the Christian Dior and Chanel videos on my knee, just like I would if I was actually there. After a few tries I managed to get some decent sketches, even though I found both shows to be extremely conservative.

It makes me think that perhaps my reasons for attending fashion weeks are no longer valid. I have now been to fashion weeks in every major fashion city, including menswear and couture. I’ve learned a lot that I didn’t know before, seen how the glamour sausage gets filled, and even got to see a few outstanding shows, but after over five years of this I’ve found attendance is delivering diminishing returns… the more I see, the less any single experience stands out.

While I try to justify my purpose for existing at a fashion week by producing the best work I can, it really doesn’t seem to matter. Fashion shows are about fame and attention – they are for celebrities and pretty young things. Fashion shows are only incidentally about art, creativity, or even fashion. So it follows that very few people are interested in sketches executed at fashion shows.

click click – 01-07-12

Welcome to click click, the sporadic review of what I find worth clicking on the internet.

These striking photos record how student demonstrators in Montreal are wearing the red square as a symbol of the right to gather in protest, and access to to higher education. See more and learn more at Worn Journal.

Karma for karma’s sake…

  • The Make Escape – a cute monthly craft social in Hackney that I’ve participated in a couple of times. Great way to meet new people and get your hands working on something other than a keyboard.
  • vivart dream – “I’m an aspiring designer, author, actress, singer, and artist. In other words…Super Girl!”
  • Awkward Stage“amazing people are working on wonderful empires right in our own back yard”