1. This week Pinterest has raised a $225m Series E round, valuing the company at a whopping $3.8 billion. For comparison, that’s a third of the size of Twitter, which is targeting a $10.9 billion IPO.
This has suddenly got a bunch of techbros to go "Oh! Perhaps women-oriented sites might actually be worth something." Especially ones with, you know, a clickthrough direct to retailers, that works across food, fashion, fitness, furniture and other fffabulous verticals. Pinterest is the biggest single driver of ecommerce sales out of all social media platforms.
I for one have just bought a flat, and I’m organising what’ll be a four figure furniture spend through Pinterest clipping and curation. (That and ELLE Decoration, oh my.) Will I actually end up making purchases by clicking through off Pinterest? Not necessarily - it’s first about inspiration, then identifying suppliers for items you like, then finally keeping ‘em all organised so you can compare and make a decision.
If I were marketing director at Made.com, or Dwell, or Nest, I would be selling my firstborn to get my products all over Pinterest - and my moodboards, and my catalogue photoshoots, and my behind-the-scenes.
In which case, it’s worth bearing Polyvore in mind. Polyvore is like a more creative Pinterest, where instead of “curating” boards through one-click reblogs, you actually spend a couple of hours designing a specific “set”. Top sets (such as this and this and this) look like magazine layouts, and aquire thousands of
To construct these layouts out of Polyvore’s fashion and image database, they’ve built first a “clipper” tool and secondly a very simple, easy to use but powerful image editor. This is a really nice set of tools that could doubtless have applications elsewhere.
Ultimately it’s probably always a smaller market that’ll want to put this level of effort in - as opposed to Pinterest’s ultra-low-friction model - and there are still some social dynamics Polyvore needs to refine. While top Polyvoristas gain millions of followers, it can be hard for newbies to get any attention - or indeed learn the visual and graphic sensibilities required to build popular sets. But with the same direct-to-retailer click-through as Pinterest, the same level of inspiration and fashion passion… I think it’s worth keeping an eye on Polyvore to see what happens.
2. While I have been away and not Tumbling, I have been thinking about clothes.
Following let us say a certain obsession with digital print, classic botanical and zoological illustration now provides a fresher feel. For a modern take, Louise Amstrup’s mesh-hemmed dress. Or Paul Smith’s romantic black-backed winter florals.
As you are doubtless aware, the 1990s are back. At an arty party last weekend (@JesseDarling’s #fuckfrieze), there were more bomber jackets than I could count. These aren’t the Rickson MA1 faithful reproductions that Gibson details so fetishistically in Pattern Recognition. Instead, a little brasher - the blue metallic puffa from Alpha Industries is just the right side of offensive.
ASOS’s 1991 dress, meanwhile, is simply fuck you. Being born in 1985, I don’t think I can get away with it - but with a new fierce haircut (planned for next month), we shall see.
Meanwhile, coloured brogues are the most useful shoes anyone can own, turning any old pair of jeans into an outfit. These neon ones from Grenson are stunning. (Also fatally made of suede, so they’ll last about 5 minutes. Ho hum.)
The Puma Disc Lite trainers are also brilliant, with layer over layer of translucent neon plastic that’s so OTT FUTURE!!!!1 that I am transported back to Cyberdog in 1998.
Finally, ASOS have made a pair of tights that come with a trompe l’oeil plasters-on-the-knees effect. Grungey, childish, slightly pervy and wrong - fucking brilliant.
Cyborgs survey the Diane von Furstenberg catwalk.
img src: Telegraph
c.f. my earlier post, One step down the catwalk for Google Glass; a giant leap for branding?
One step down the catwalk for Google Glass; a giant leap for branding?
A couple of months ago, I claimed that Google Glass was irrelevant to fashion:
Ten years down the line when there are 500 different styles of face-mounted display screen and its varied forms aren’t trying to claim any relationship to function – *then* Google Glass may have a chance to be something about fashion. Or when the technology’s reverse-mounted into vintage sunglass frames. Or maybe fashion is parasitic on other sets of referents: maybe Google Glass will only be able to be fashion when to wear a pair is to be making a visual reference to sci-fi movies of the 1980s, or Taiwanese street style blogs, or a glimmer of a 2014 revival in the pre-fall collections of 2023 — that is, when wearing a pair of Google Glasses ceases to be mostly about “Oh my god I’m wearing a pair of Google Glasses”.
But fashion is a fickle (and fast-moving) mistress, and yesterday Diane von Furstenberg sent models down the catwalk at New York Fashion Week wearing… Google Glasses.
Naturally my first thought is to argue that Diane von Furstenberg’s flattering resort-wear and wrap dresses aren’t exactly capital-F Fashion - a little too New York commercial.
But, giving it a little more consideration, the press release is interesting:
Today we’re thrilled to collaborate with the visionary and celebrated designer Diane von Furstenberg. For the past week, we’ve been using Glass to capture the DVF creative process from entirely new perspectives.
Soon you’ll get a glimpse into what it’s like to design, prepare and experience the DVF show at New York Fashion Week through Diane’s eyes and a few other views.
Essentially this backs up Robin Sloan’s argument from May 2012, Pictures and vision, where he argued that:
Google is getting good, really good, at building things that see the world around them and actually understand what they’re seeing. […] Maybe in twenty years we’ll think of Google primarily as a vision company—augmenting our vision, helping us share it—and, oh wow, did you realize they once, long ago, sold ads?
From a fashion critic’s perspective, however, the New York Times On The Runway blog isn’t impressed:
Well, the line between artistic statement and marketing opportunity became blurry a long time ago at Fashion Week, especially at Lincoln Center, where the event is named after a car (Mercedes-Benz, if you need ask). So Ms. von Furstenberg did not seem to have a problem with putting Google products on her runway, specifically the Glass by Google. That would be those weird pseudo-glasses thingies that Google is developing to take us into the future and turn us all into walking surveillance systems. They look like something from “Star Trek,” with a tiny camera built into the frames and a little bitty monitor in the corner for all those people who are not satisfied looking at the world solely through their hand-held devices. Supposedly, they can give you directions to the nearest Starbucks.
Mr. Brin was wearing a pair with a turquoise stem that made him look as if he had stabbed himself in the eye with the straw of some tropical frozen cocktail. But that was not all. Some of the models wore them, in pink or white variations, and even Ms. von Furstenberg, who had nothing to do with the design of the glasses or the color choices, wore a pair when she took her bow
What stands out ultimately here - for Google and for fashion - is the question of the kind of brand who’s prepared to let this spectacle dominate their catwalk show.
Diane von Furstenberg may have piloted this because, as I said above, hers is not the most “fashion” of fashion brands. Unlike Louis Vuitton, or Chanel, the spectacle of the catwalk show does not especially contribute to the DvF brand image, and the lack of press coverage for the actual clothes won’t stop her regular customers buying another flattering wrap dress or three next spring.
But can you imagine Kaiser Karl allowing this at Chanel? Well… yes. Perhaps not for Google itself, that’s true - but this is the man who owns 4 iPhones, “20 or 30” iPads, and “hundreds” of iPods. He’ll send an iGlass down the catwalk when he’s good and ready - as a provocation, and as a way to sell ten thousand quilted, monogrammed iGlass cases for cold, hard cash. And as such a provocation, it *will* be a fashion moment.
Marc Jacobs would make the same move at Vuitton, for the same reasons. Younger designers, like Alexander Wang, might - perhaps with a little more engagement with a techno-aesthetic.
As a European, I cleave to a haute concept of fashion - genius, impracticality, excess, purity of execution. This is of course a fantasy I have been sold by the great commercial machines of Chanel et al. You think they weren’t measuring ROI on that iceberg? LV’s $8m train came with a global PR strategy. I’ll take the NYTimes’ comment one step further: At some point, the marketing strategy became the the artistic statement.
With promo like this, who needs critics?
The possibility is mooted that former Paris Vogue editrix Carine Roitfeld / her new mag does not exactly *get* digital…
I hope that GIF is ironically bad, though even then I still can’t fathom *why*.
(via NYMag.com - The Cut)
Where I commented on presentation of sexuality, however, Transartorialism notes that only one gender is allowed to be scruffy:
i feel like the women in my program […] are pressured to dress a degree less casually than the men; to present themselves as at least a little more polished than the scruffy guys in my department. i remember this dynamic being much more intense at my undergrad, where the men frequently wore beat up cardigans or irritatingly racist print kaftans from their anthropological research and the women were almost always dressed to the nines. it was an unspoken, weird dynamic. this is especially evident in that some men in my department never dress up to teach, while almost all of the women do.
Also looks like I was on to something with that COS / Marni line of thinking - and good to learn that “hard femme” is a thing!
i’ve been thinking about this a lot this year, especially coming into a cohort of eleven with nine women, all who are very very different people and have very very different fashion tastes. only one of us is really invested in “fashion” in a sense, and by that i mean the kinds of incredibly expensive, marni-esque hard femme fashion you see a lot in art history/visual culture/performance studies kinds of ph.d. programs. and she actually doesn’t wear that kind of stuff frequently because she can’t afford it anymore
Fascinating too to see that how these dress-code norms play out quite similarly across different university types. I was at LSE and UCL in the heart of London, but Transartorialism comments:
even at less fashionable rural-ish institutions, there’s still a fairly obvious gendered and classed double standard when it comes to dressing like an academic.
I also recently re-found an essay from @IlllllllllllllI that makes for an interesting contrast here. He writes on academic dress of another sort: that of a 26-year-old male school teacher in Korea. Compare and contrast:
The Respect Of My Peers (10 April 2012)
I am not very good at clothing. It is mostly gathered, both hand-me-downs and spun into nests around my apartment. It is the part of adulthood, devenir-père, which is off-putting enough, but it costs a lot of money and I am not good at it. That is, I cannot buy the clothes to properly convey my In-Most-Self. No, that’s a lie, over-dramatic. I can’t really convey anything with clothes, because I don’t understand them.
I’m nearly 27, or nearly into the late part of my twenties. Most of my clothes are getting disreputable, either because they are old, and shitty, or don’t fit me like they did when I was 14, or because they are speckled with party dots, from when my cat upended a smoldering ashtray and no-one moved quick enough. I trim the hairs on my fraying belt, my collection of short cut-offs grows as my pant collection dwindles. In this way I have maintained my clothes without really buying anything for a long fucking time.
But a crisis is coming. Where I live, where I work, clothing is important. More important than wherever you are, and work. It’s not just korea, it’s also the ages I teach, particularly sixth graders, who transform from hard-working, bright-eyed fifth graders to sullen catty assholes with the turn of the new year. Not that I don’t love them as much. They are just a lot harder to work with, and a co-teacher that doesn’t mind boring the fuck out of them for the first twenty minutes basically ensures that nothing will get done but screaming, or laconic lazing at disinterested angles. So appearing like someone who isn’t a total idiot, or a hoodie-wearing jib, is helpful for maintaining some meager respect.
Respect isn’t just a way to better organize my lesson. A good pedagogy is one that carefully arranges experiences for a student, rather than tells them the case. Respect, for me, exists in order to be effaced, to slip-the-mask and find equality from my domineering position (teaching-authority gets no more overbearing than when you are trade on your allochthony). It exists to undermine the other authorities in the room, the textbook that insults middle and lower class sixth graders for being parochial, the fucked-up complexes of regional class-war that provoke my even being-here. And again, wearing not shitty clothes is part of that, a part that I don’t do very well.
An interesting discussion over at The Thesis Whisperer about acceptable academic dress. One comment stood out:
I’m in a Fine Art department in the UK and we operate a fascinating double game. The unspoken rule is: the artier the clothes, the worse the work. Therefore, nothing ‘arty’ or ‘theatrical’, nothing ‘formal’ (no suits/jackets), nothing ‘fashiony’, nothing ‘perfect’. You have to signal that you work in the studio, possibly getting very very messy (of course, your practice may not involve this but the same rule applies), but that you are utterly in control of all aesthetic communications. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. […]
As an undergraduate I was trained to critique every tiny aspect of our visiting lecturers presentations- including their clothes. It was incredible training for understanding the visual nature of a presentation, but I can imagine my long-dispersed crit group analysing every outfit I consider!
[comment by Isabellisima, 16 April 2012]
One of the smaller reasons I didn’t pursue a PhD was that I did not see any women in my field who looked like me.
This was in fact reasonable - I was pushing it at the time (variously white-bleached hair, not wearing anything other than monochrome). But actually, I did not see any women in academia who could dress full stop. They all followed the style that Isabellisma (in her longer comment) identifies as “American Academic” - aka the frumpy end of preppy and fashion trend-illiterate. The outfits on AcademiChic are not, to be frank, any definition of chic that I recognise.
"Academic dress" (as defined by these bloggers) done right should be straight down the line COS, aka mid-budget Marni with fewer prints. Suitably librarian-ish and sexless, but also chic as fuck.
But that is not the point - the point and the problem is that women in academia are apparently supposed to evidence no sexuality and bodily awareness in how they dress. By this I don’t mean anything so obvious as cleavage - I mean shape, cut, a just-so attitude. Apparently women in academia are supposed to be dis-embodied, such that (as the original blog post demonstrates) they spend hours worrying how to present themselves suitably so. Women in academia appear to believe - perhaps rightly - that men in academia want them to be neutered men.
Driven by a combination of serendipity and desperation, I interned in commercial real estate consultancy in the summer of my third year. It’s an intensely old-school male-dominated environment: a fully 90:10 gender imbalance is typical and women had to be able to hold their own against a certain amount of masculine banter and bullshit.
But I remember being struck by how some of the senior, partner-level women dressed: the shoes, the silk shift dresses, the sharply-cut slightly cropped jackets. It was chic and it was feminine, expressing a strength through a distinct identity rather than conforming to an imitation of men’s suiting. It felt like a game I could play, and maybe do well at.
So I went commercial. No-one had ever said in academia that I wasn’t going to fit. But I read the semiotic codes and the writing was on the shirt label.
I am not going to talk about the NA any more! But still, this is pretty cool from a big fash brand - I presume if they’re making animated GIFs it’s Tumblr-specific marketing.
Not exactly the imagery I’d expect from Givenchy, who have lately been exploring a gothic couture direction. This is a glitchy techno gothic - with the boots, a fraction Balenciaga. Can’t quite map it against their autumn 2012 collection. But let’s see.
Extended edit of my piece for BusinessOfFashion.com now up on JayOh.net - more pictures, more words, more of an attempt to ask if a New Aesthetic fashion exists in the conscious work of designers themselves, or alternatively if it’s implicit in the wider industry and processes around them.
image credit: Reed/Rader
Different audiences, different essays.
- For the fashion crowd I wrote Is Fashion Ready For A New Aesthetic? with BusinessOfFashion.com.
- But you, Tumblr, Twitter, followers (and creators of) #newaesthetic and far-too-smart artists/theorists, you get Fashion + the New Aesthetic (2.1)
The idea that I gesture at - but never quite formalise is that a New Aesthetic fashion does not in fact exist.
In We Are The Drones We’re Looking For, somewhere between JJ Charlesworth’s argument, the long Bruce Sterling quotation and my comment is the suggestion that the New Aesthetic isn’t “about” machine vision as such. How could it be? We cannot really touch such cognitive Otherness.
Instead the New Aesthetic is about us - our reactions, our sense of displacement, our hopes and fears. Our awareness of technology as what JJ calls an “ontological equal”, and our awareness of how we’re situated in complex actor-networks of machine-computer interactions.
This is not something fashion designers are really thinking about. Which is fair enough: they’re designers not social theorists. What it does mean though is that their work is not (to me) explicitly New Aesthetic because it isn’t addressing these themes.
In fashion, the role of digital imaging and digital technologies is instead somehow latent: less in the design studio than hidden in plain sight in the business plan.
The apparent futurism of the New Aesthetic is in fact a guide to a future that has already arrived before we were prepared.
The generation starting to arrive in fashion schools have learnt to think about visual culture through the ceaseless stream of appropriated and juxtaposed images curated on Tumblr. Retail brands are weighing up social media-enabled dressing room mirrors, real-time location-based mobile offers, and virtual avatars assessing a garment’s fit for the customer’s physical body. These all make digital ways of seeing a ubiquitous part of the fashion landscape – the wider cultural impact of the technology is unavoidable.
Kathleen Flood’s Neon Playground: The State Of Fashion In The Dawn Of The New Aesthetic (11 April) - a tour of the niche designers working in this visual terrain.New Aesthetic Fashion is Playstation by Joel Johnson (3 April), which is particularly interesting on polygons and Playstation aesthetics:
I kept looking at some of the examples of New Aesthetic fashion, with all its accompanying description of what it isn’t–not retro or backwards-looking, specifically–is actually quite obviously influenced by video games. And not the flat, 2D, 8-bit or 16-bit “pixelated” look of the ’70s and ’80s, the era of Nintendo’s Mario and old Amiga games. New Aesthetic is clearly inspired by the first 3D video games.
New Aesthetic is Playstation. Or at least the fashion is.
New Aesthetic clothing is low-poly, just like the early 3D games, powered by graphics hardware that could only render a few polygons (often triangles) at a time, were made up of so few polys you could see each distinct shape. Sometimes to the point of a glitch (a glitch). Or it’s low-poly plus gradients, just like early 3D rendering. Or it’s raster texture mapping on real low-poly cuts, referencing the first times when programmers were able to paste digital photos or paintings on top of the simple shapes to give the illusion of greater detail.
Following Barthes, fashion theory often positions fashion as a system of signs. However, cultural studies theorists have criticized sign-based approaches to the body as “disembodying,” or leaving out the lived, embodied experience of fashion as an “event.” Can a fashioned body itself embody this critique in its representation? In other words, can a body, through fashion, take subversion one step past subverting normative codes of race, class, and gender, and subvert the enactment of code-reading vision itself? If so, how would it do so?
Beginning with a critique of “vision-as-reading” (optical) used in the semiotic and social constructionist approaches to fashion, this piece invites fashion theorists to consider fashion as not only an abstract code of meanings and signs but as an embodied event, or “vision-as-feeling.” Adapting concepts of vision from film studies, this article outlines a new visual methodology for studying fashion by using Deleuze’s contrasting concepts of “optical visuality” and “haptic visuality” in order to account for a lived experience of the sensuous and affective dimensions of fashion.
Optical vision, as Laura Marks elaborates it, is the dominant vision of reading the fashioned body, viewing bodies as whole objects and subjects with clear boundaries. It takes a distance from its objects so as to navigate space visually, while haptic vision, a vision in which the “eyes themselves function as organs of touch” is a more fluid, tactile vision that “depends on limited visibility and the and the viewer’s lack of mastery over the image” and “renders intersubjective borders blurry.” Thus, to look at fashion through haptic vision can not only link vision and tactility, thereby undoing the abstract disembodiment of a semiotic approach, but also blurring not merely social categories, but also the subjective borders of self and other that the optical relies on. […]
To explore the haptic image’s potential and enactment, the author undertook a five-year long autoethnographic study, which involved wearing the same hat every day in an academic community and watching this article of clothing gather affective intensity
From ‘Fashion: Exploring Critical Issues’, a conference in Oxford in September 2009.
Kim Cunningham’s draft conference paper here.
No comment on the hat experiment…
ohhh but I am good. question is when the 90s fashion revival really picked up steam - doc martens in 2009 yes, cropped t-shirts 2010 I think, and buffalo trainers are just starting to creep in over the last six months…
Killing TIme series by Lucia GIacani for Vogue.it
This is the Lanvin Fall 2011 campaign video:
1. Models can’t dance
2. This makes it better
3. Considerably aided by the System of a Down (?) soundtrack
4. Found via Style Bubble