Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Richardson scandal raises fashion industry issues

I guess the fashion world thought it wasn’t fair for ESPN to hog all the sex-scandal media. Good news, Tiger Woods — you have someone here to steal your spotlight.

Famed fashion photographer Terry Richardson was recently accused of sexual misconduct. After he published a photo of Danish model Rie Rasmussen in his book “TerryWorld” without her permission, she told Page Six that Richardson “takes girls who are young, manipulates them to take their clothes off and takes pictures of them they will be ashamed of. They are too afraid to say no because their agency booked them on the job and are too young to stand up for themselves.” Richardson has since denied the allegations.

Since then, an article in the Huffington Post reported that a number of other models have come forward to complain about Richardson’s alleged creepy behavior.

Though Richardson’s reps haven’t commented on any of the models’ allegations, Richardson took to his blog to defend himself on Tuesday, saying the allegations are “hurtful” and “false.”

The important issue here isn’t whether the allegations are true or not — it’s what the scandal has brought into the public eye as far as the modeling industry goes.

Now, Richardson is well known for his sexually provocative work. This is a guy who doesn’t shy away from nudity or explicit images. If you’re not familiar with his work, know that his photo style is probably the inspiration for American Apparel’s ads. That should give you a visual.

Here’s the thing — Richardson is a big deal. He’s shot ad campaigns for everyone from Gucci to Miu Miu and features for every fashion publication that matters. Celebrities and models just starting out in the business jump at the chance to have him take their picture. They know if Richardson shoots them, they’ve hit gold.

So is it his industry power that makes his sexually suggestive photo shoots acceptable?

Two weeks ago, every major fashion news outlet was running a near-daily update about Richardson. This week, the coverage is already winding down. Maybe “Terrygate 2010” is indicative of the fashion industry itself. Scandals, like trends, rotate quickly. What’s big news one day is long forgotten and abandoned to the discount dump the next.

But isn’t the media hoopla surrounding these young models worth a little more attention than a short-lived trend? Many people are concerned about the well-being of the minors Richardson has shot. Some suggest that a parent or agent should be present during shoots. But what about the over-18 models? Just because you’re in your early 20s doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier to get yourself out of a bad situation.

The scandal seems to have split the fashion world. Model and actress Noot Seear, who has worked with Richardson, told New York Magazine that “Terry’s a really cool guy. It’s not like he pressures you into doing anything you’re not comfortable with.”

Marc Jacobs has also come out to defend him. Jacobs told The Wall Street Journal, “I’ve worked with Terry, and Terry has asked me to do some crazy things. I know that those pictures will exist if I do them. But I’m a big boy, and I can say no.”

But sometimes saying no is easier in theory than in practice.

I’m hesitant to take a position on the issue. On one hand, allegations of sexual misconduct should always be taken seriously. Making anyone uncomfortable, regardless of age, is never OK. These models shouldn’t be put (or put themselves) in explicit situations in the first place if they might present situations that could be perceived as inappropriate. If this scandal results in nothing more, it will at least make more models aware of what they’re getting into with Richardson as far as the nature of his work.

On the other hand, I can acknowledge and understand why many fashion insiders don’t bother worrying about the provocative atmosphere of Richardson’s shoots. Fashion is an art. It’s a place were the weird and avant-garde is celebrated. From an outsider’s perspective, Richardson’s tactics seem stranger than the polygamist family demographics on “Big Love” would to a devout Catholic. To those on the inside, however, it’s popular culture — and as such, it’s a known concept that sex sells.

Richardson is a brilliant photographer, hands down. He’s worked his way to the top and has become one of the most trusted photographers in the industry. So I have to wonder, does this guy even realize he’s a creep? Or has the fashion world’s continuous tolerance of the sensual and erotic incorrectly reinforced his attitude and allowed him to toe the line of what’s appropriate and inappropriate?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Words of Wisdom

" I’ve always been opportunistic. I say that with a straight face because New York is the only place in the world where the word “opportunistic” doesn’t have such a negative connotation. When you’re young and trying to get noticed, you have to hustle. Put your best foot forward and always be ready for whatever opportunities may come. If you don’t, you’re wasting your time overpaying your landlord, and you might as well move to southern California and get a nice tan."
-Photographer Dan Martensen to Fashionista for their spectacularly helpful post on how to make it in the fashion industry.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I reallyreallyreallyreally need these.

My desperate desire for fake glasses has reached an all time high. This pair is positively perfect. I need to get to UO right now.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thrifting a soothing experience for stressed sartorial souls

Like legions of other graduating seniors, I consistently vacillate between a job search-induced state of panic and an eerily uncharacteristic come-what-may attitude. Worrying about how I’ll support myself after graduation has become a gruesome daily task.

Incidentally, my lack of income creates a Catch-22: There’s nothing that could calm my trajectory-related freakouts quite like a substantial update to my wardrobe. Yet nothing launches me into a bigger frenzy than realizing I haven’t a dime to spend on said wardrobe updates.

As a result, I am left scrounging for the cheapest way to add new clothes to my closet. Enter thrift shopping. Contrary to popular belief, thrifting is good for more than Halloween costumes and embodying the homeless. However, if either of those are your objectives, thrift stores are quite the treasure trove.

To a certain breed of germaphobic, polyester blend-fearing types, thrift shopping might be the equivalent of water torture.

A hobby best reserved for those those with the patience of a boyfriend willing to sit through the midnight screening of “Sex and the City 2,” thrifting is not for the faint of heart. You have to deal with bad lighting and a diverse mix of fellow shoppers. Once, my friend and I witnessed someone vomiting in the dressing room of our local charity shop. No one said getting cheap clothes was easy.

The feeling of finding something perfect for under $8, however, triggers a special kind of joy that only thrifting can fulfull. If you’re willing to take on the challenge, I have some advice to make your consignment-combing a little more tolerable.

Ever since Urban Outfitters popularized sloppy chic, thrift stores have become a veritable jackpot of steals. I recommend going to Urban first to get ideas, then heading over to Goodwill to scoop everything up for an eighth of the price.

Speaking of steals, ignore the price tags. They’ll encourage you to buy things you don’t need. Looking at the racks with a creative eye is crucial to finding one-of-a-kind pieces — but don’t get carried away. Rhinestones, overzealous use of pleats and printed corduroy should all be avoided. However, I probably would’ve said the same thing about acid wash a few years ago, and now I’m in love with the look. I admire all of you who have a sixth sense for future trends — you’re biologically wired to shop in thrift stores.

Going in a good mood is paramount. For example, I made the mistake of going to Goodwill the other day cranky and uncaffeinated. I passed up a $7 navy Oscar de la Renta blazer because the thought of going to the tailor to have it taken in overwhelmed me.

Learn from my blunder — don’t pass something up just because it doesn’t fit perfectly. However, if the necessary tailoring or dry cleaning is going to end up costing more than buying the item new, don’t bother.

Girls, don’t feel limited to the women’s side of the store. Some of my favorite thrifting finds came from the men’s racks. Button down shirts and sweaters can double as tunics or dresses (depending on how tall you are) and their sequin-free belt selection is far less tacky.

If you’re looking to make money rather than spend it, I also have some recommendations for selling your tuckered-out clothes at consignment stores.

First things first: Accept the fact that you are going to be ripped off. A friend of mine once sold a pair of barely-worn Ugg boots to Plato’s Closet and only got $20. This isn’t a get-rich quick scheme, people. If you want a bucket of money fast, I suggest you track down someone who advised Martha Stewart during her insider trading debacle without getting caught.

Secondly, don’t expect Avalon Exchange to take your hole-filled gym T-shirts and flared jeans you haven’t worn since the seventh grade. Cleaning out your closet is great, but be realistic about what should be taken to the trash and what should simply be donated.

Once you put together a pile that is worth selling, make sure everything is in decent condition. If a button is hanging by a thread or there’s a small hole in the sleeve, fix it. Repair pilling fabric by skimming over rough spots with an old razor. It’s worth taking the extra five minutes to spruce up your merchandise — it vastly raises the likelihood of scoring some cash.

Like most things in life, buying and selling used clothes requires patience, determination and a high tolerance for the smell of mothballs. Happy thrifting, my friends. Search hard enough, and I promise your hard work will pay off.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

PR mogul's self-help debut an honest wake up call

It’s not often that I’ll admit to liking anyone who’s had anything to do with “The Hills.” Nor is it a frequent occurrence that I reference a former meth addict as a role model. But I’ll make an exception for all of the above for fashion PR maven Kelly Cutrone.

After all, this is someone who once said of Lauren Conrad, “She didn’t really have the sense of how to do things. She wanted stuff to fall on top of her and into her lap. I don’t know how she’ll do [in the fashion industry.]”

Well, thank God someone who counts said it out loud.

Kelly Cutrone is the founder of People’s Revolution, a PR firm responsible for landing clients like Vivienne Westwood and Longchamp on the pages of Vogue. To fashion insiders, Cutrone has been a legend for a long time. She came to mass fame, however, when she appeared on “The Hills” as Whitney Port and Lauren Conrad’s cutthroat boss. These days, she has a reality show of her very own — a Bravo series titled “Kell on Earth” — and a new book. I figured this was something I needed to read.

So I took a trip to Borders when I was home for spring break. I scanned the “New Hardbacks” section but couldn’t seem to find what I was looking for. I went to the customer service desk. “Excuse me,” I said, “Could you help me find Kelly Cutrone’s new book?” I spelled out her name and tried to recall the exact wording of the title.

“Ah yes,” the Borders employee said, “‘If You Have to Cry Go Outside.’ Well, that’s an interesting title. Yes, yes we have it. It’s in self-help.”

“Are you serious? I thought it was a memoir,” I muttered half under my breath and half loud enough for the guy to hear so he didn’t think I’m the kind of girl who reads self-help books. Mortified, my eyes nervously darted around the store making sure no one I knew in high school was watching me get assistance locating a self-help book. I stifled the urge to pull a Charlotte York in that episode of “Sex and the City” on which she tried to find a copy of “Starting Over Yet Again.”

She chickened out when she saw the collection of weeping basket cases in the self-help aisle and instead said aloud, “Travel? Is this the travel section?” and ran home to order the book on Amazon.

No, I am not a middle-aged, teary-eyed recent divorcee, but I am a 22-year-old, soon-to-be-graduated senior in need of some life guidance. I read Cutrone’s “If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You,” (named after her token advice for employees) cover-to-cover in nearly one sitting. And you know what? It turns out I am the kind of girl who likes self-help books. Cutrone details her life of partying, divorce, spiritual rebirth, addiction and pregnancy out of wedlock. This woman has done and seen it all.

In an age when fashion has been glorified as an industry full of free samples and celebrity shoulder rubs, Kelly Cutrone has swooped in to show that fashion is not a cakewalk. Not even a carb-free cakewalk. It’s gritty, mean and takes a whole lot of hard work.

“Fashion,” the way most people see it, is different from the way industry insiders see it. Listing “Fashion” as an interest on Facebook — particularly when listed before or after “working out,” “hanging with my besties” or “Living. Laughing. Loving.” — does not mean you’re going to be Vogue’s next contributing editor. Being able to turn heads with a denim mini skirt and tube socks (think Holly Madison) does not mean you’re going to be Nylon magazine’s next “It Girl.”

While the fashion industry is a less penetrable social circle than “The Plastics,” their standards are a little different than Regina and the gals’. Gretchen Wieners might demand pink on Wednesdays, but the fashion world demands originality and ruthless determination. The industry is competitive, and not many people are willing to offer tips about how to break in. So it’s refreshing to watch and read Cutrone’s words of wisdom.

At first glance, girls who are looking for a step-by-step guide for how to make it to their magazine dream job may be disappointed that there aren’t explicit instructions in Cutrone’s book. What she does offer is a suggestion for some soul searching and tough love. “I believe that the universe constantly rearranges itself to support your idea of reality. If you’re always thinking, ‘Life sucks, and I suck,’ you’re definitely going to see a lot of dismal sh*t out there,” she says in the book.

As for the people who just want to know how to get a job at People’s Revolution, Cutrone says this: “Your pitch letter should be something more than, ‘I love fashion, please help me manifest my dream.’ Do not use rhyming words on your resumé, as in, ‘My passion is for fashion.’ This works only if you’re applying to work for the estate of Dr. Seuss, Nickelodeon or the Scholastic Company.” And that is why Kelly Cutrone is my favorite b*tch in fashion.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Because your credit card is itching for action

It's finally warm out, folks, which means its time to start pumping cash into your spring wardrobe. If you're looking to hop on board with the season's khaki trend, look no further than basics-mecca The Gap, where you can score 30% off this weekend if you print out this coupon.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is teaming up again with The Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic (and all the outlets! bonus!) to raise money for one of the best charities around. Shop at any of the stores from Thursday to Sunday and you'll save 30% off everything and 5% of your purchase will benefit the LLS. It's a no-lose situation, my friends. Get shopping.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I don't think I've ever read a poorer written article than this crock of chaos that Popjustice posted, but ignore the words and watch the video. Yeasayer's O.N.E. vid is half creepy and half precisely what I'd want my graduation party [that I'm not actually having] to be like. If, you know, I was into weird underground raves and stuff.
I'm whole heartedly in love with two things here:
1. Guitarist and singer Anand Wilder (though I hope he doesn't grow his hair long again...)
2. All the crazy Day-Glo stuff going on. I think I'm finally ready to cut the umbilical cord on my head-to-toe black habit. All I want to buy this season is color color color and some pale neutrals.


I LOVE this picture of Shaun White. Totally makes me kind of have a crush on him. The styling is great, the composition is great, the lighting is great. Great, great, great.

In case the Olympics didn't satiate your hunger for media coverage of the snowboarding legend, New York Magazine did a nice little article about him in which he admits to being mistaken for a woman in a bathroom. God bless him.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I just really like them. Together, apart, etc. etc.
That is all I have to say about that.

Academy Awards, Best Dressed vote

Sandra Bullock made me teary, Sean Penn made me confused and Miley Cyrus made me thankful that I'm no longer a teenager. As for my favorite dress of Oscars night? Without a doubt was Vera Farmiga's Marchesa gown. Dramatic, but still flattering. On trend, but not overkill. Absolutely loved every last pleat.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oscar Fashion

Ah, award season — that wonderful time of year when anyone possessing a loud mouth, Twitter or the ability to update her Facebook status can fancy herself a fashion critic. “So-and-so looks like a bloated sausage dressed in duck feathers,” the remote-wielding Tweeters will likely type.

“Anyone can get all dressed up and glamorous, but it is how people dress in their off days that are the most intriguing,” designer Alexander Wang’s website reads. From the looks of the red carpet, I’d argue that it’s a little more complicated than that. Judging from the legions of fashion disasters that parade their way down the paparazzi trail, even “somebodies” can barely get dressed up and look glamorous.

Celebs with mega-budgets for gowns and stylists seem to have mega-troubles pulling themselves together. Christina Hendricks, I’m looking at you. The “Mad Men” star’s curvaceous figure is the kind of challenge a “Project Runway” contestant would throw a hissy fit over. For the Golden Globes, Christian Siriano stuffed her into a nude, ruffled, asymmetrical number that landed her at the top of the worst-dressed list. Hendricks, why not try something in a darker color without all the extra volume this time around?

At the Golden Globes and Grammys, warm-toned ruffles were all the rage. You couldn’t swing a trophy without hitting a cascade of frills. In moderation, the look is great. But when applied with a heavy hand, the ruffles look like a cake ready to trigger a sugar overload.

Max Azria’s Hervé Léger bandage dresses are still turning up on the carpet, and while I appreciate the slimming effects as much as anyone, I think it’s time for something original.

I understand it’s a challenge for stylists to find something that’s equally flattering and fashion-forward without being so avant-garde that the celeb looks crazy. Evening gowns generally limit opportunities for styling creativity. This year, however, I think celebrities should stick to simple dresses and focus on interesting accessories. After all, due to the economy, that’s what every woman in America is doing these days.

Like Alexander Wang, I’m far more interested in seeing how celebrities dress on their way to the airport than on their way to their seat at the Academy Awards. But I can’t help but wonder who will seal their identity as a fashion industry darling and who will end up in a photomontage of the most bizarre gown choices of all time come Oscar night? Only Sunday and the E! fashion police will tell.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

oh HELLS, no...

OK. I could accept Interview's photo shoot of Pauly D and the boys because it could be, you know, ironic. But this is just too much.
Bazaar is featuring the Jersey Shore girls in an upcoming issue. Bazaar is not an ironic magazine. This is not ok. Bazaar, WHAT are you doing? First that weird feature with Jonah Hill over the summer, then the Miley Cyrus shiz, now this? I could let the Tavi thing slide because, I mean, it's relevant. But seriously? The JERSEY SHORE GIRLS?
I pray to God that you find a way to make this credible, because Bazaar -- you are slipping way too far. I miss the old you.

When bargain meets luxury

When people say they’re “really into fashion,” they mean one of three things: 1. They’re into the industry — people who go into magazine editing, styling and PR. 2. They’re into clothes, meaning they care about dressing well. 3. They’re into labels, meaning their taste level is probably questionable, but they think that if they carry something expensive, it will compensate.

Here’s the thing. Being label-obsessed does not equate a respectable interest in the fashion industry. There is devotion to quality, and there is devotion to the label lifestyle. They are entirely separate entities.

Here’s another thing. Designers, the poor things, don’t make a whole lot of money. Like any creative field, reaching success takes a heaping tablespoon of talent and a whole lot of luck.

So fast-fashion retailers like H&M, Target and Topshop believe they found a way to please everyone: luxury designer collaborations. Each store has a constant rotation of guest stars who design one-time capsule collections. Relentless shoppers go crazy for the opportunity to buy up the designer duds. Case in point: H&M’s autumn team-up with Jimmy Choo sold out within hours.

On the surface, this luxury/discount relationship seems like the ideal scenario. The industry insiders finally get a chance to afford the designers they spend their time researching and promoting. The people who like to dress well get an opportunity to buy something that’s potentially more interesting than the average lot on the racks. The people who like labels get to stock up on things they can wear and proudly say, “It’s Anna Sui.” The designers get to make some extra cash.

In actuality, I think everyone loses. I have never once — really, not once — been blown away by a fast fashion/luxury designer collaboration. Sure, the stuff looks great when it’s in the marketing campaigns. However, when you actually get to Target, you’re touching inexpensive fabrics. It just doesn’t seem worth buying simply for an extra name on the tag, no matter how previously devoted to the designer you were.

Really, you can’t blame the designers. They can’t help that they’re used to creating beautiful things on a large-scale budget. They are forced to sacrifice their creative integrity in order to fit the expectations of whomever they’re designing for. Which is why I enthusiastically applauded Hedi Slimane when I heard he wasn’t interested in doing a collaboration line anytime soon.

The one-time Dior Homme designer had a heavy hand in the boys-in-skinny-pants phenomenon, but then he gave up designing to turn to photography. He told that he didn’t “like the ‘capsule’ collection trick. ... There is something terribly cheap about it. This validation is somehow dodgy, since fast fashion, with few exceptions, is quietly ripping off all it can, including brands that are too small to defend themselves.” Rock on, Mr. Slimane. I couldn’t agree more.

Luxury, in the truest sense of the word, is meant to represent quality. Top-of-the-line fabrics, perfect fit, comfort, long-lasting pieces. When a luxury designer makes something for a budget retailer, however, all of that is lost. It would be like if Mercedes created a $2 toy car. Sure, the label is there — but its not going to get you to where you want to go.

Yes, collaborations are an opportunity to get a designer’s name out to a new demographic. I’m sure the average Target shopper doesn’t know a whole lot about Rodarte. But are these shoppers really going to start buying the designer’s full-priced line once the collaboration collection sells out? I highly doubt it. What exactly are these discount lines achieving? A bunch of girls running around in poorly made clothes that are a disgrace to the designer’s name?

I say cut it out with these collaborations. I’m sure there are plenty of fashion school graduates who could create something budget-friendly and well-made for Target. Give those people a job.

When someone asks who designed my outfit, I’m completely OK with saying, “I have absolutely no idea.”

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Going to the chapel

So, we've all heard that model extraordinaire Coco Rocha (my favorite, other than Stam) is engaged. While I'd personally argue that 21-years-old is a little young for marriage, I couldn't be happier for her. Her fiance is James Conran, an interior designer who's eight years her senior.

What I really want to know is, how awesome do you have to be to bag Coco?
And also, where does a couple this great register?

Just imagine how well dressed the bridesmaids and how perfectly decorated the reception will be...