Auntie Fashion

I’m the fashion world’s most-enduring muse.

Archive for November 2010

Happy Birthday, Caroline Kennedy

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Caroline Kennedy

Happy birthday, Caroline Kennedy.  I got this photo from your cousin’s husband.  I wasn’t really sure if it was you, but he insisted that it was.

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November 27, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Fashionably Old

Happy Birthday, Natasha Bedingfield

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Natasha Bedingfield

Happy birthday, Natasha Bedingfield.  I started to compose a poem for your birthday that goes like this:  “There once was a girl from Surrey . . .”.  That’s as far as I got.  The rest is still unwritten.

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November 26, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Posted in Fashionably Old

Happy Birthday, Katie Cassidy

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Katie Cassidy

Happy birthday, Katie Cassidy.  You’re so beautiful that your old Auntie could watch you all day.  Now if you would only appear in something that’s watchable . . .

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November 25, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Fashionably Old

A Message To the Brainwashed

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Vogue Italia

I’ve had a lot of traffic directed to my blog over the past few days from a site called Reality TV Games.  If you’ve never visited the forums at RTV Games, you’re not missing anything.  It’s a messy, poorly-designed site without adequate moderation.  As a result, the forum users abuse their posting privileges, cluttering up each page with dozens of GIFs and other images that are copied and pasted numerous times over so that a single poster can offer an illuminating comment like “LOL“.  For those of us who can read, it’s an exhausting read.

Anyway, it seems as if the kids at RTV Games didn’t like my comment that “America’s Next Top Model” is doing “Vogue Italia” a favor during this so-called “high-fashion” cycle.  I guess that they’ve drank the same Kool-Aid that turned tacky Louis Vuitton into a cult label.  I only have one thing to say to those individuals who have attempted to leave numerous comments on my blog (comments I deleted en masse yesterday): Don’t believe the hype!

Why do you believe that “Vogue Italia” is the premiere fashion magazine in the world?  To be the most important name in fashion, you need to do a lot more than tell the world that you’re the most important name in fashion.  You need to sell copies.  In the luxury goods market, you need to sell luxury goods.  Even though I despise the Louis Vuitton lable on principle (go read “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster” by Dana Thomas if you want to learn more), I can admit that the company knows how to capitalize upon the gullibility of its market.  So does VI now that it’s turned into a stunt publication.

Not a lot of people outside of Italy buy VI.  In fact, as I mentioned in my previous posts, the magazine prints fewer than 150,000 copies in an average month.  In a small market like Italy, those numbers are enough to keep a magazine afloat.  In the US market, VI would be struggling, selling fewer copies a month than “Nylon.”  Now I worked for “Nylon” under contract, and when the economy was good they could barely afford to pay me.  2009 was the worst year for the magazine-publishing business in about twenty-five years.  I wonder if anyone who works for “Nylon” is getting paid today?

But I digress.  VI doesn’t generate a lot of revenue from circulation.  Sure, they could bring in tons of money from advertisers, but why would anyone advertise in a magazine that isn’t selling copies?  Perhaps if the rates were low enough, it would make sense.  The magazine does have a prestige factor by virtue of its title.  The word “vogue” is synonymous with class in our society.  Maybe the demographics of the VI’s readership are appealing to its advertisers, keeping them on board even though their audience is insignificant.  Nevertheless, circulation numbers aren’t the only thing that’s declining; ad revenue is down, too.

In 2009, Condé Nast lost about $1 billion in ad revenue.  VI’s parent company is suffering.  I was on contract at Condé Nast when times were good, and I can tell you one thing about the company: The only thing that matters are the numbers.  I’ve defended Anna Wintour’s frosty behavior on this blog numerous times because I realized while working for her that she’s all-business all the time.  It’s her job to make “Vogue” make money.

It’s also Franca Sozzani’s job to make “Vogue Italia” make money.  In a tough market, however, that job has become increasingly difficult over the past couple of years.  The biggest threat to the magazine publishing industry — and the reason that circulation numbers have declined — is that everyone is getting the same content online for free.  Adapting to the changing market has been a challenge.  To cope with that challenge, Sozzani has attempted to attract as much attention to VI as possible.  Described on Wikipedia as the “least commercial of all editions of Vogue magazine,” VI has become a commercial clown: The publicity-whoring child of its American counterpart.

Stunts like the all-black issue, the oil and water issue, the 3-D cover and the magazine’s partnership with “America’s Next Top Model” have generated a ton of worldwide publicity for VI.  The magazine is no longer the obscure foreign cousin of American “Vogue”; it’s the name on the tip of everyone’s tongue.  People who didn’t even know that VI existed are suddenly editing its page on Wikipedia and visiting its website to read its content for free.  “Vogue Italia” has arrived in North America!

But does any of that matter?  Only if VI is making money.  Condé Nast shuttered “Gourmet” last year, even though it was in the top 100 best-selling magazines in the US.  Sozzani is gambling by attempting to attract a larger readership by courting the sort of people who don’t actually buy fashion magazines.  Perhaps her strategy is to make www.vogue.it a success in its own right.  The RTV Games crowd who like to leave nasty comments on my blog could possibly be visiting the site in the sort of numbers that will eventually make it a success.  It could be a brilliant business plan or it could be a total bust.  Only time will tell.

Nevertheless, will courting people who don’t buy magazines court the same people who buy luxury goods?  That’s the important question here.  When I claim that “Vogue Italia” isn’t “high fashion” it’s because I equate the luxury goods market with high fashion.  When VI and its website can only attract readers who won’t spend money on a magazine, are they really attracting the demographics that appeal to their advertisers?  Will the luxury goods conglomerates continue to spend money on ad pages when Sozzani has turned the publication into a well-intentioned publicity stunt?

I don’t know.  I do know, however, that Tyra Banks is making buckets of money.  Tyra was the top-earning woman on prime time TV in 2009.  Between ANTM and the international editions of the show that she’s created, she’s raking in the dough despite the economy.  In the business world, an endorsement from Tyra is worth far more than a nod of approval from Sozzani.  One woman might be respected as arbiter of style, but the other is respected as a business mogul.

Now you could argue all day that high fashion isn’t synonymous with business income, but Condé Nast would tell you that you were wrong.  So would LVMH, the parent company of Louis Vuitton.  So would Anna Wintour.  Tyra Banks would probably tell you the same thing, too.

So get off my back!  I’ve been around this business for a long time.  I know that VI is a feather in the cap of any model’s career, but it’s not a guaranteed foot-in-the-door of high fashion for anyone who appears in its pages.  A model can take many roads to the top of her game without ever appearing in VI.  It’s an influential magazine because of the high standards of the creative team who put the magazine together (especially Steven Meisel), yet it’s not the only voice in fashion.  And with the way it continues to cheapen itself under the reign of Franca Sozzani, it’s not going to be influencing high fashion for very much longer.

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November 24, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Posted in A Soupçon of Je Ne Sais Quois

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Happy Birthday, Colin Hanks

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Colin Hanks

Happy birthday, Colin Hanks.  If “The Good Guys” doesn’t work out, there’s always “Dancing with the Stars.”  People with famous parents always go far!

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November 24, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Fashionably Old

Happy Birthday, Bruce Vilanch

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Bruce Vilanch

Happy birthday, Bruce Vilanch.  I couldn’t find any good photos of you so I used this picture of Sally Struthers instead.  Sorry!

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November 23, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Fashionably Old

September 1999

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Cover: September 1999

Context: Torrential rains pound New York Fashion Week as hurricane Floyd makes its way up the US east coast on September 16.  On September 18, “Unpretty” by TLC begins a three-week run in the number-one position atop the Billboard Hot 100.  “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” premieres on NBC on September 20.  After a five-year hiatus, Trent Reznor releases the fourth Nine Inch Nails album on September 21.

Points of Interest: A closer close-up would not appear on the “FASHION” cover again.

What Tyra Would Say:Mary, not only were you this week’s challenge winner, but you booked five-out-of-five go-sees and rescued a baby from a burning building.  Still, the judges are afraid that you’re not showing enough personality.  Who is Mary?”

What Auntie Fashion Says: Wasn’t minimalism on its last gasp of breath by 1999?  What’s with these boring covers?

Grade: C-.

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November 22, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Posted in 30 Years of FASHION

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