6 September 2011

NSS Top HF Runway Model Ranks: F/W 2011

  1. Caroline Brasch Nielsen..........4265
  2. Arizona Muse.........................4050
  3. Sigrid Agren............................3210
  4. Jac Jagaciak............................3090
  5. Kasia Struss............................2905
  6. Zuzanna Bijoch........................2860
  7. Karmen Pedaru.......................2855
  8. Mirte Maas..............................2695
  9. Ruby Aldridge..........................2570
  10. Jacquelyn Jablonski..................2510
  11. Josephine Skriver.....................2490
  12. Daria Strokous.........................2485
  13. Sun Fei Fei...............................2440
  14. Daphne Groeneveld..................2260
  15. Liu Wen...................................2220
  16. Siri Tollerod..............................2160
  17. Julia Saner................................2130
  18. Joan Smalls...............................2125
  19. Frida Gustavsson......................1925
  20. Ginta Lapina.............................1660
  21. Caterina Ravaglia......................1575
  22. Magdalena Frackowiak.............1555
  23. Aline Weber..............................1550
  24. Patricia van der Vliet..................1540
  25. Colinne Michaelis.......................1525
  26. Anja Rubik.................................1475
  27. Karlie Kloss...............................1450
  28. Shu Pei Qin................................1430
  29. Alla Kostromichova....................1390
  30. Julija Steponaviciute....................1370
  31. Freja Beha Erichsen....................1130
  32. Candice Swanepoel.....................800
  33. Coco Rocha................................900
  34. Sasha Pivovarova........................505

13 August 2011

Up-and-Coming Awesomeness, and Also, Australia

Attention, attention! It is that time of the year, my not so Swedish friends. A time of suspense and "oy moi gourd"-ing, a time of ecstasy and "oym soy excoyted"-ing. It's time for Australia's Next Top Module/Westie Scrag as well, but what I'm really getting at is the return of fashion season!

After a glorious summer (for some of us, perhaps; I have actually seen rather a lot of dreary rain of late), it is time to redirect our eyes and Prada sunglasses back to the international runways. First on the scene for those of us who are Not So Swedish, and thus Danish, is Copenhagen Fashion Week. Not just because it is amazing, and sort of like following indie musicians before they sell out, but also because we know that Copenhagen averages a little over four hours of sunshine a day each year, which makes us wonder why they bother presenting summer collections at all. It seems to me that vampire over-population would be a more pressing concern in a land of permanent night, (or at least lack of sun), but rest assured: DANSK word smiths, the Madsens appear to have seen Twilight, so they will know all about how Scandinavia offers vampires the perfect opportunity to tone down the sparkle. That they only watched Twilight because of KStew is besides the point.

So yes my darlings, I will be reviewing Copenhagen shortly, and after that is done and over with, I anticipate that preparations will have to be made for New York, London, Milan, and Paris. I have a whole system set up with spread sheets and quadratic equations and stuff, so my reviews will be based on scientific results and statistical analysis that none of the Australian modules would be able to do.

Except maybe the one that was born under the tree. I have a good feeling about her. Well, I think so, any way. There were like, 100 girls, minus one that was either picked off by Charlotte Dawson for looking like a Clearasil ad or by Alex Perry for not being expensive enough. And then they got rid of 79, either because they were too fat, too skinny, or not expensive. So I'm really not sure if girl-born-under-tree made the top 20. I can tell you the was one with pink and blue hair named Izzy did though. Pezza said he loved her, and I proceeded to chirp Grey's Anatomy jokes to my enormous teddy bear, Augustus III.

Oh yes, and there was a new Cassie, who is just as much of a bogan as Cassi van den Dungenmunchhausenshoovennoob was, just she's not as skinny, looks more like Dumbo the elephant than a crack whore with broken teeth, is apparently a bit more expensive than Cassi van den Dungenhaagendaasteiger because she said she'd like to work retail for "Supre or Gucci" instead of just "Supre," and is an "indishennussstrayen," which I hope means "aboriginal," because the concept of an aboriginal bogan will win Sarah Murdoch the Nobel Peace Prize, and AusNTM the rest of Australia's viewership. Oh, and before you comment on how they both have shit runway walks, New Cassie didn't shout "FUCK" at the end of the runway, so at least she's got that going for her. To my great disappointment, her lack of cursing also signals a lack of anger issues, which means that I cannot look forward to any potential new Lola van Vorsts (re: Izzy, and that girl that everyone thinks is pretty, but General Dawson and I think is pretty bitchy) recreating my favorite moment in the history of all Top Model franchises across the globe, and inducing a wall-punching session. (For those of you who need to be informed of this in full detail, click here to observe what will forever be referred to as "major angerness".)

Somewhere in the world, assuming she cares, our favorite bogan from Logan is shaking her head in disbelief at. Or getting ready for fashion season, because in case nobody noticed, somebody is apparently back in business after finishing her Kit-Cat bar, because I'm feeling especially punny today.
Hugo Boss S/S 2011

I was planning on quoting lyrics from "E.T." by Katy Perry as a caption for these photos, but the only words that sprang to mind were "Ima disrobe you, then ima probe you," which felt a little crass for the demure fashion crowd, besides not getting my point across at all. Short of it: looked like an alien, closed the show, I clapped a little.

But since I brought up Lola van Vorst earlier, can we discuss for a moment how Cat McNeil and Hilary Rhonda's lovechild dyed her hair blonde and went from being dead sexy to being, well, still dead sexy, but edgy and blonde too? She's been churning out new work like a poor man's Freja this summer, which she occasionally posts on her Tumblr and Twitter, which I followed because I have no more convenient ways of knowing when it's 11:11 in Sydney (It just passed, like, two hours ago, in case you're wondering. Cheers, sexy.). Not expecting to see her on runways this fall, but then, who am I to underestimate the power of invisible eyebrows?

Tell me I'm wrong

She even has a tFS thread now, which I would have started if someone hadn't beaten me to it, and for all I know, you can put that on your resume. All I'm saying is that AusNTM started with 99 problems this season, but this bitch ain't one.

Your emails have been ever so kind this summer, all three of them were real soul-stirrers. Maybe sending one of those to Rrose Selavy will convince her to return to her Freja blogging ways. I apologize for my own extended absence... the beheading of Ned Stark in Game of Thrones was simply too much for me to handle. (Not because of Stark -- I knew that was going to happen because unlike everyone else in the world, I read that shit when I was twelve -- but because the Ring of Power has evidently driven Sean Bean to decide that life is no longer worth living.) I hope you have all enjoyed your summers (Or winters, depending where you are. Like Australia, or Westeros, for example.) as much as I have.

Sidebar: I also hope you noticed that Wayne Rooney got hair implants. Fingers crossed he shares his doctor with the Prince of Cambridge in the coming years.

I'll do my best to have a Copenhagen review up within the next two weeks, as well as finally finishing up the Top High Fashion Runway Model Ranks so you know who to watch this fashion season. Not that it really matters, the toppers will probably be at every farking show again this season, so you'll catch on quick enough. Laters!

Peace, love, and floating,
Gill Ford

P.S.: People who watch AusNTM would be well advised to start reading Jo Blogs and Bland Canyon. People who don't would be well advised to ditch Tyra Banks and start.

Photos courtesy of tFS user AriLovejuliawheeler.blogspot.com, lovelola.tumblr.com

18 July 2011

It's A Beautiful Game

When I was three, my father read me The Little Mermaid. When she killed herself for the man she loved, I was extremely upset.

When I was six, I watched the news for the first time. When they announced that Princess Diana had died in a car crash, I broke down in tears.

When I was seven, I saw Titanic. When Leonardo Dicaprio turned blue and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic with the ship that was supposedly unsinkable, I was devastated.

When I was eight, I heard the song "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan. When my mother asked me what I thought of it, I replied: "Sad."

When I was thirteen, I read Anna Karenina. When Anna threw herself under the train, I was stricken for both she and Vronsky.

When I was fifteen, England played Portugal in the quarterfinals of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. When Cristiano Ronaldo scored his penalty kick, I was inconsolable.

I asked my father to reread The Little Mermaid the next night. I sometimes watch documentaries about Princess Diana in my spare time. Upon finishing Titanic, I insisted that we rewind the tape and watch again. The song "Angel" is on my "25 Most Played" list on iTunes. I reread Anna Karenina three years later. I recorded England vs Portugal on a DVD, and still watch it every now and again.

On no occasion have any of these things been less sad than the first time I experienced them. But I go back to them time and again despite that fact. Sometimes, I hope that the Titanic will miss the iceberg this time, or that Ronaldo hits the post. On others, I hope that Anna does get hit by the train; that the Little Mermaid does kill herself, employing some sort of reverse psychological practice on the powers that be. The remainder of the time, I prepare for the oncoming upset of Prince Harry at his mother's funeral, and steel myself for exposure to McLachlan's emotion-laden voice. None of these tactics ever work. But I still go back, and I never stop trying.

From what I understand, I am not the only person enthralled with overwhelming sadness. In fact, it would seem that tragic tales are the most popular ones. It is interesting to think that we are taught about fighting for success, and how winning is funner than losing. This is not wrong. It is easier to smile than to frown, and sobbing uncontrollably into an American flag when you are not American expends more energy and dignity than I care to relate. And yet, we still expose ourselves over and over to situations that threaten our states of general happiness, even when we know for certain that we will be disappointed, depressed, and/or dehydrated at the last. I am fairly certain that this function of human behaviour has absolutely no adaptive significance whatsoever. So why do we do it?

At moments like the one below, I can't help but think it is simply because despite the blood, sweat, and (most often) tears, it is one hell of a beautiful game.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and under most circumstances, I would be more than happy to oblige. As it stands, I can utter no more than a five-word phrase that has been more popular than ever before over the last three weeks:

"Marry me Hope, I'm Solo."

Well, that and "Stay gold, Ponyboy." But the irony in that statement is a bit too tough to handle just yet. Maybe tomorrow.

Peace, love, and floating,
Gill Ford

4 July 2011

The Commercialization of Alexander McQueen: Part 1

So, after I was finished crying happily for my boyfriend Novak Djokovic today, I regressed back to hysterical weeping as I listened to "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?", a regrettable habit that developed curiously yesterday at approximately 3:48 PM GMT. Still teary eyed from all the cognitive dissonance that conflicting emotions tend to breed, I decided to calm myself with a tFS adventure, as I do (It is also a fantastic place whereby to discover other states of being, such as hatred and intense frustration, but we won't go into that.). As I flicked about through the forums, I stumbled upon a thread concerning the house of Alexander McQueen fashion house and the proposed increase in the label's commercialism following the Royal Wedding and it's significant involvement in those important cultural proceedings. I decided I had rather small opinion on the topic myself, and elected to reply. It would seem that my rather small opinion was actually a rather large opinion, and as such, I have deemed it appropriate to post my response to the blog; a decision not at all prompted by presiding guilt over my month and a half long absence. So, for your entertainment, my lords and ladies. I even decensored.

I wouldn't say that the Royal Wedding has made the brand commercial at all to be honest. It certainly has increased public knowledge of the McQueen name (or perhaps Burton's), and interest in the house may have grown, but I don't think that it has really had much bearing on the commercial success of the house itself.

Regardless of how much interest and acclaim has been garnered by the designing of this bound-to-be-iconic wedding dress, the fact remains that the fashions of Alexander McQueen far exceed the depths of most people's pockets. Increased public interest will not make the public more wealthy, and as such, it will remain just that: interest.

It seems to me that the people who were able to buy McQueen's wares were in the know long before the wedding occurred. Whether they chose to spend was up to them, and as such, it seems more to be a matter of whether they found what the label was trying to sell appealing.

As has been established already, the dress was not what one would call "vintage McQueen" by any stretch; general opinion seems to be that it was too safe to be placed under that categorization. And yet, this dress is all anyone seems to have been talking about in the months leading up to and after the event in question. Upon it's unveiling, women (and some men) around the world oooh-ed and ahhhh-ed and proclaimed it a masterpiece. Brides-to-be decided that it was perfect and they wanted one just like it. One documentarian quipped that dress makers in Asia would have replicas prepared for shipment before Kate even made it to the altar. The dress was a veritable commercial success. Which is where I take issue with this notion of the house becoming commercialized: how can one proclaim an avant garde fashion house to be "commercial"?

Call me ignorant, but I have generally interpreted the terms "avant garde" and "commercial" as being nigh on direct contrasts of each other. What is "avant garde" is before it's time, and correspondingly confrontational for the general public precisely because it falls out of step with what is popular at the time, what they want, which we would define as "commercial" in that it stands to make money. Products that are "commercial" not only make money, but they are produced with the intent to do so. Seeing as the fashion industry is a business with an intent to make a buck, it's rather difficult to say that anyone involved doesn't harbour commercial motives in just about everything they do within that realm. However, we seem to have decided here that the house of McQueen is one with a reputation for maintaining a strong dedication to the art of fashion, and an avant garde art at that. So the problem arises with this conflict that has occurred between the historical reputation of the house as being of the artistic camp, and the newer collections and Royal Wedding endeavour under Sarah Burton as being of a commercial one.

What surprises me is that nobody has really commented on the elephant tap dancing in the corner, being that Alexander McQueen, the named man himself, is dead. He is gone, and Sarah Burton has inherited control of the house. With the loss of the man who was literally iconic to the brand by lending his name to it, there is a corresponding loss of stability. Burton may have been McQueen's right-hand girl for forever, but she is not Alexander McQueen, as a number of you have pointed out already. What reason is there for anybody to trust her to do what he managed, fielding often extremely provoking collections and ideas each season, throwing all caution to the wind?

One would assume that McQueen chose to keep Burton by his side for so long for a reason. Am I the only one who would deem it appropriate to believe that it could possibly be because she shared a similar knack for confrontational creativity? A meeting of the minds seems a necessity in this case, else she would have been sacked early on. Under this assumption, I would argue that Burton is of a feather with the late McQueen. Barring the wedding dress, she has continued much in the same vein as McQueen finished, and has received much acclaim for doing so.

But that word "same" is suspicious. Fashion changes from season to season, and the label under McQueen was not exempt from this. From fall to spring and back again, he would often explore extremes of expression, and while he maintained certain signatures that were some times subtle and other times obvious, it was rare that you could describe two seasons with that uncomfortable word, "same". But under Burton, we have seen two collections that we might describe as being "similar," and that is a terrifying thought. Perhaps even more frightening is the word "safe," but beyond causing rampant fear and shrieks of dismay in fans of the formerly rebellious house, I think it is the most important word in this discussion.

I would remind you that Alexander McQueen is dead at this point. A volatile man behind a volatile design house, but not just any design house: the one he founded. Lee Alexander McQueen gave his name to his brand, and as such, we are to perceive that it is his vision because it is his brand. We do not see the Gucci Group, or PPR, we see Alexander McQueen. As such, who's place was it to say "Bollocks, this shit ain't Alexander McQueen, this is just mindless rubbish!" while McQueen himself was still alive? Certainly, we could curse and throw things, and say we didn't like what he was doing, but under no circumstances did anyone have the right to say that McQueen was not promoting his own vision. He was him, not just any designer, but the designer. We didn't get a say. Sarah Burton, however, is not Alexander McQueen. She is Sarah Burton. So we are more than qualified to say she is not promoting another person's vision.

This is where we return to that word "safe". In working side by side with Alexander McQueen, Sarah Burton was relatively safe. Backlash for a collection would be more harshly felt by McQueen himself, but he appeared happy to take it (to a point) and keep Burton with him in spite of it all. It seems inconceivable that McQueen would sack her himself: he trusted her for so long and through so much that her place in his house was nearly permanent. However, in inheriting the Alexander McQueen brand, Sarah Burton was no longer safe. She was not safe. Suddenly, she was the face of a company in who's shadows she had hung for a decade and a half, and she had the misfortune of not having that ever important name, which meant she could be questioned, told she was not carrying on the legacy of the man who's name the brand bore. Certainly, nobody would question La Donatella. Nobody will question Alexander Wang, or Marc Jacobs, or Giorgio Armani for not carrying on the legacy of their brands because they are their brands, mind, body, and soul. But we question Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel. We question Peter Dundas at Pucci. John Galliano was recently run out of Christian Dior because he gave us reason to question his embodiment of another man's brand.

In light of this sudden and previously unexperienced pressure, it seems to me only logical that Sarah Burton would be "safe" with her first few collections for the house as she works to stabilize her own position in the company. I might even say it would be rash to take risks as would be expected of her predecessor so early in her reign. What if her risk proved a folly instead of a fairy tale? Unlike McQueen, there is no name standing between a catastrophe collection and the sack. She has no protection, no tenure. So she plays it safe with collections that are really quite fantastic if truth be told, just not as extreme, not as provocative as we expect from McQueen. In doing so, she gradually builds the trust and belief of the people watching her every move, and as this grows, her position becomes safer.

The opportunity to design the wedding dress for future Queen of England was a get out of jail free card for Sarah Burton. Burberry may very well be the most commercial of Britain's fashion labels, but after John Galliano's fall from grace, it is Alexander McQueen that is left as the pinnacle of British [I]fashion[/I] in this period of time. Tying the most prestigious fashion house to the Royals is a match made in heaven, but for no one more than Sarah Burton. Where her name is being sung as well as "the house of McQueen" in praise for the dress, she have given her name weight, and enormous weight at that. In doing so, she has bought herself time at the house of McQueen.

As we have seen, having a good name is not a protector against all questions, but it will save you a few blushes. Karl Lagerfeld has made plenty of mistakes at the head of Chanel, but we will forgive him a certain number because he is Karl Lagerfeld. As a result of Kate Middleton's dress, and a couple season's of "safe" collections, Burton has managed to obtain for herself a similar type of insurance. She is now relatively stable in her position. One might interpret this recovered state of "safety" as being akin to a position where you have nothing you can lose. In my mind, there is no better place than that from which to be dangerous.

I'm sure you've all noticed the "Part 1" in the title. I would encourage you to interpret that to mean I am not yet done on this subject. 

Peace, love, and floating,
Gill Ford

26 May 2011

You've Got To Earn Your Leather In This Part of Town

Lady Gaga - Born This Way - 2011

Lady Gaga certainly earns her leather with her third record Born This Way. It comes in the form of a straitjacket, but then, most geniuses happen to also be total nutters, so you know, no holds barred. Born This Way is perhaps the most eclectic mix of songs since Madonna's greatest hits. The Elton John-esque rock ballad "Yoü and I" started making its rounds last year, you've heard the "Express Yourself"-inspired title track a million times already, and the schizophrenic tug-o-war that was "Judas" caused religious rallies from coast to coast. More recently, Gaga unleashed the power-pop perfection of "The Edge of Glory", which featured Clarence Clemons with a face-melting sax solo. Fashion fans might also remember Gaga's promotion through Nicola Formichetti's Thierry Mugler fashion shows this season, with the Berlin "Scheiße"-show and a remixed "Government Hooker" both featuring in Paris this season. 

Thankfully (or not, depending on how open you are to variety), the remaining tracks on Born This Way are no less consistent in their genres. "Americano" is the update of The Fame Monster's "Alejandro", but perhaps from Alejandro's perspective this time around, featuring Spanish guitars and brass instrumentation, as well as some great harmonizing and gunshots. I could see it fitting in nicely with a modernized rendition of Dirty Dancing. "Bloody Mary" is fittingly named, with the sound of the song indicating a virgin with blood on her hands, clearly going mad, with priests singing in chorus in the background. "Black Jesus + Amen Fashion" is sounding kinda 80s, "Highway Unicorn (Road To Love)" is sounding kinda 90s. Surprisingly, "Heavy Metal Lover" is not a heavy metal song (this role is filled by "Electric Chapel"), but is perhaps the sequel to The Fame Monster's "Dance in the Dark" (My favorite off that record, by the way. "Americano" stole my heart here. And then "Heavy Metal Lover" ate it). Oh, and let's not forget, on the two-disc edition, you also get the country version of "Born This Way".

There are a number of themes threaded through the record, with the strongest ones being no big surprise: religion, love for yourself and others for their individuality. But the religious message is not quite what the American Catholic League seems to be interpreting it as (is that even what they're called? I'm snatching at straws here). Judas isn't actually Judas, Mary isn't actually Mary, and Jesus isn't really Jesus. In fact, they are metaphors (surprise!). So what is the not-so-Virginal Gaga preaching to her loyal following of Little Monsters? In all it's non-sacrilegious, uncontroversial glory: Pop culture as religion.

Kind of anticlimactic, right? Well, at least given all those vehement haters claiming she's an Illuminati who's trying to take over the world with the power of Satan or whatever. I mean, yes, she is taking over the world. But she's promoting love, sax solos, and freaking unicorns. (Regardless of what religion you're following, are you seriously going to mount the claim that God hates unicorns? Ke$ha even had to put a disclaimer in her music video for "Blow" to assure everyone that "No unicorns were harmed in the making of this video". There's like, laws against this shit, they're an endangered species, you know.) Before Gaga, I'd never been religious about anything but the Spice Girls, so perhaps I'm a little biased. But in all honesty, take your holy books, discrimination, and halos. I find the image of an honest nutcase bottle-blond in a meat dress riding a unicorn with a disco stick sceptre and a lobster hat while preaching peace and love way more appealing.

Song order is quite pivotal here as well, I think. You get the sense of an actual journey, whereby Gaga traverses the roads of love and hate, peace and rebellion, failure and success, life and death. It is the final three tracks that bring you the most positive feelings though. In "Heavy Metal Lover", she heartbreakingly sings "I could be your girl girl girl girl girl girl, but would you love me if I ruled the world world world?" questioning whether she can have both true love and true greatness, or if they are mutually exclusive paths. With "The Queen", we see Gaga finally embracing the fame and love that is given to her freely by her fans (not to be confused with the fame she has manufactured for herself), and promising to be for them what they want her to be. "Yoü and I" brings hope for the lonely queen in the castle, and challenges the notion that you can never go home again. This all culminates in "The Edge of Glory", wherein Gaga has reached a point of near self-actualization as it were, achieving her fame, the adoration of her fans, and the individual love that she worried she might never receive. 

I'm not sure if one can make the judgement that Gaga isn't already glory manifest, but if she still has doubts, I don't want to abate them. Everytime I hear "The Edge of Glory" this image pops into my head of a dock built many years ago. The wood is old, but not well-worn by any means. Suddenly, you reach a point where the dock clearly ended at one point. Through the mist, you can see a sign that reads "The Edge of Glory". Carved into it are random things like "Elvis was here. Uh huhhhhhh". But the dock continues after this point. It is not well-made anymore, it is rickety, falling apart in places, the roughly cut boards hanging on by single nails. There are massive rocks leaping from the water on either side of your path. You keep following it into the fog, careful not to fall off the crooked, narrow path. Eventually you hear a strange pounding noise. It throbs in your head, faster than your resting heartbeat, and you are urged to "hurry up, Franklin". The mist starts to clear a little, and in the distance you see the source of the noise: a minuscule blonde woman relentlessly sledge hammering a mountain that stands directly in the way of her fragile but determined path. There is a standard tied to her back, flailing in the occasional breath of wind. It is bright red and declares "The Edge of Glory".

Lady Gaga is a perfectionist, which ironically carries with it the fact that she will never see herself as perfect. She may reach the edge of glory time and time again, but in her own mind, this concept of glory will forever be a carrot hanging on a string just beyond her reach. What is great and entertaining for us though, is that despite perfection being unattainable, perfectionists will continue to strive for it, so Lady Gaga will be reaching, and clawing, and stretching for it until the end of her days. Which will make for all manner of ridiculously wonderful things on which to feast our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds ( And other bodily orfices. I mean this seriously. Lady Gaga's bluffing with her muffin no longer. She wants your whiskey mouth all over her blond south.).

If you look at each song individually, it looks almost as if they don't fit together at all. I mean, who in their right mind would put a sax solo on the same record as an industrial Berlin club thumper? What kind of artist makes the cover of their record a picture of themselves melded into a motorcycle? What sane person would writhe about in what looks like a mass of colourful unicorn bogies in a music video? Well, no one. Which strengthens my overarching point here, being that Lady Gaga is a complete mental. But the day this woman goes to see an effective therapist is the day I lose all faith in pop music.

Psychosexual, pseudo-religious brilliance, for the win.

Peace, love, and floating,
Gill Ford