Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Disney Effect: The extents people will go to to find 'true love'

I've been at university today and have had my third Broadcast lecture. Each of our production groups (ours is called Visage - I was thinking it sounded very french and chic, but it may have been my love for cheesy 80s music subconciously pillaging into my brain) were assigned a different publication and told to find a feature inside it which would inspire a 10 minute-gap in a daytime television show.

We were given Time Out London magazine, which is mainly filled with reviews of up-and-coming events, although one area did catch out eye...

In the magazine, there were singles ads for 30 Londoners 'looking for someone special', complete with a picture of their most winning smile. This inspired a slot dedicated to the extents people will go to in order to find their soulmate - speed and internet dating, personal ads, even seminars on how to become a 'pick-up artist' (no, seriously, look here).

But what is it that makes us feel so desperate for love and romance that we will go to such extents just to find it? Personally, I blame the culture in which we're raised as a child:

As a kid, I loved Disney films. I'm not going to lie, I still love Disney films - just thinking about Mufasa's death in The Lion King makes my bottom lip wobble. However, look at the basic plotline of pretty much all Disney films and there is an element of romance. Not only that, a romance that always works out. Of course, I'm not saying that it'd be appropriate to conclude a film aimed at small children with anything other than a happy-ever-after. What I am suggesting is in fact that Disney plays a large role in what we expect our relationships to be like when we're older and that this indirectly affects how we go about looking for love.

In an age where around 1 in 4 marriages end in divorce, its not particularly realistic to imagine that love can last forever. However, the images in Disney portray that there is a Prince (or Princess) Charming for everyone and this idea gets instilled into our head at a very young age. During childhood is when it is argued that most of our beliefs are formed and these then carry on into later life.

So is the idea of finding your one true soulmate (and then embarking on weird and wonderful methods to track them down) partly to blame on Disney? Well, to my knowledge there aren't any scientists, sociologists or other academics claiming so. But to me it makes sense - watch a load of media when you are younger about how a relationship should be and these ideals will stay with you for the rest of your life. How many girls have you heard say that they are looking for their Prince Charming? Exactly.

The Disney Effect: Causing people to make fools of themselves in the name of love since Snow White's release in 1937.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gareth Pugh S/S '11 Collection on

The idea of using video as a medium for both artistic expression and a marketing tool in the fashion industry makes for an interesting idea. Culture nowadays is becoming preoccupied with the image and more often than not consumers and audiences are not just content with viewing a still photograph. By utilising video technology to broadcast fashion to its audiences, the viewer is able to recieve even more information than perhaps previously available through only printed text and images.

The use of video also acts as a brilliant tool for expression. Not only can the viewer see how the clothes look from a variety of different angles and how they behave when moved and manipulated, the use of video can combine an array of different techniques (content, music, lighting, camera angles, editting etc.) to convey an even stronger brand image than that contained in a basic print ad. It is this marketing potential that has got the fashion industry hot under the collar.

From watching the film, a number of key themes jumped out at me. These included: Sex, restriction, sado-masochism, rauchiness, alien, robotics, liquid, movement, juxtapositioning of fluid and static movement and a clinical/surgical edge. The virtue of using moving image to document this collection is that all of these themes, and many more I haven't spotted or listed, can be conveyed far easier through the use of multimedia context and movement than would be possible using still photographic shots. The film itself reminded me of The Matrix Trilogy, all cybergothic and sexed-up, with particular emphasis on the Ghost Twins in The Matrix: Reloaded.

However, from viewing this footage of Gareth Pugh's Spring/Summer 2011 collection (directed by Ruth Hogben), I cannot personally say I am entirely convinced by the medium. It is true, I am a lover of print-based media (even the mentionning of being able to purchase a new fashion magazine makes my mouth salivate a little), so perhaps I am one of the more difficult viewers to convince. However, although the whole video was shot beautifully and had large amounts of artistic value, to the average person Pugh's mini-film may come over as somewhat pretentious. Whilst abound with imagery containing different codes and connotations, the film itself lacked a distinct plot line that may alienate certain members of the audience who may be less convinced by art and more swayed by hard advertising and the "facts" of the product. It should be noted thought that it is probably right to assume that those sort of people are not Gareth Pugh's target audience anyways.

Personally, I believe that the use of film in the fashion industry will become more and more popular in coming seasons. Whether its Pugh's use of the medium as an extension of his creative insight or as a designer or stockist's means to market brands in a new and innovative way to consumers (as can be seen in's video section), film in fashion has a promising future that even die-hard print lovers like me will have to succumb to.

Kraftwerk - The Model

A little bit in me does think this may be accurate about the modelling world.

She's a model and she's looking good
I'd like to take her home that's understood
She plays hard to get, she smiles from time to time
It only takes a camera to change her mind

She's going out tonight, loves drinking just champagne
And she has been checking nearly all the men
She's playing her game and you can hear them say
She is looking good, for beauty we will pay

She's posing for consumer products now and then
For every camera she gives the best she can
I saw her on the cover of a magazine
Now she's a big success, I want to meet her again

It is interesting that The Model was released in the 1980s, the same time period that the idea of the "supermodel" was becoming a real hit within the fashion industry. Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and co. were the stars of the show, with all eyes on them at all times. Beauty sold, and the models themselves quickly became a product and commodity that could be bought for the most amount of money.

The Model conjures an image of the woman being aware that she is a commodity to be bought and sold (remember Linda Evangelista's quote - "I don't get out of bed for less than $10000 a day"? That is a woman aware that her face and body commands a monetary value!) and therefore is constantly on the prowl for new customers. Outside the world of The Model, she is flat and boring, only occassionally smiling and having fun. However, whilst at events she plays the game to the full, knowing that there will be people present who are using the function as a shop window, choosing who to include in their next big ad campaign. The only time The Model gives in any effort is when she is working, and the fact that she is now famous is the only reason that the narrator (and any members of the public) wants to see her again.

I have to say this is the picture in my head that I've always had of Kate Moss. The only interesting aspect of her is her modelling career, and if it wasn't for the sensationalism built around that, none of us would be interested in knowing her. Paparazzi images of her elsewhere, even at fashion events, show her to be aloof and disinterested, with very few images of her actually smiling. The only hint of personality ever shown by Moss is restricted to her modelling portfolio, which similarly lacks smiling and energy and is comprised mainly of her famous brooding, heroin-chic look. If it wasn't for the media's adoration of supermodel culture, with Kate fitting the given criteria of being skinny, odd-looking and slightly awkward, interest in the Cult of Moss would dwindle significantly. No one would be half as interested in the gawky girl from Croydon if The Model hadn't been constructed in such a way that made beauty in itself a product to be bought, sold and covetted.

A trip to the National Portrait Gallery

In order to see Tim Noble and Sue Webster's sculpture of Isabella Blow's head provoked many different reactions from the group.

A piece constructed almost entirely from taxidermy is always going to polarise opinions. I, personally, was struck with intrigue towards the image when I first saw it and immediately wanted to learn more. According to the National Portrait Gallery, Noble and Webster used the imagery of a head on a stake and constructed the piece from mainly dead rats and ravens in order to reflect on Blow's own mortality and suicide (on May 6th, 2007, Blow tragically ingested the weedkiller Paraquat and passed away the next day). The inclusion of a Manalo Blahnik heel and red lipstick container adds something of Issy's own personality to the piece, whose key style was underpinned by these two features. In fact, Isabella has a close relationship with taxidermy herself, often wearing extravagent headpieces and hats made for her by Philip Treacy using a number of different deacesed creatures.

However, through looking at the image more, there are others themes that do not just focus on the ideas of death and mortality. Blow was a very famous woman, well-known in high society and often snapped by the paps at fashion events and shows. The idea of the head on a stake, a medieval tactic often used to make an example of somebody, could therefore hint towards Isabella's fame and the spectacle of her very public death (images of her funeral can be viewed online at the BBC website here.)

Not only does the image hint towards the world of fame, it could also be said to hint towards concepts of beauty or, more aptly, what we consider to be ugly. Blow had been quoted that, although it pained her to say it, she considered herself ugly or an "alien". In fact, the reason she wore such extravagant hats was because it was "a cheaper and less painful form of plastic surgery". Through these quotes of Isabella's we can see a woman torn apart by the hegemonic images of beauty perpetuated in the media, leading her to believe that her unique visage could never be considered beautiful. However, there were many who would have regarded Blow's face to be something of a wonder, and it was not rare for her to be featured in magazine photo shoots. The use of taxidermy can therefore be a metaphor for the paradox of Isabella's beauty - although many would consider stuffed, dead animals to be disturbing, ugly and unpleasant to look at, many other people would take great delight in their ability to capture the original beauty and life of the animal.

The exhibition, therefore, evokes many different but equally strong reactions and thoughts from the viewer. Whilst mainly focusing on the issues of mortality and death, perhaps (ironically) the themes now most famously associated with Isabella's life, the sculpture also challenges aspects of wider society, in particular the worlds of fame and fashion that Isabella so fully lived in.

The other day I met the coolest woman on the tube.

I spotted her a while before we spoke. She must of been in her late 40s, mixed race and clearly an old follower of the two-tone ska skinhead-cum-mod movement of the late 1970s that promoted racial harmony.

Her head was mainly shaved but underneath her trilby poked little tiny dreadlocks. She wore a tweed trench coat and black skinny trousers with white pinstripes which were turned up to reveal a white sock, black brogue combination.

I go to a fashion university but that woman was the most unique and stylish person I saw all day. As she got off the tube, she told me I had a great look going on. I told her the same.