Essays, Fashion, Opinion

The Importance of Creative Directors to Musicians

I came across an interesting article on Billboard recently about how in the digital age, a musician or an artist having a creative director in charge of their branding is more important than ever. This makes sense, especially because being in the social media spotlight can be highly beneficial to an artist and the key to gaining this kudos is by having a clearly defined and well managed brand – something cool for people to look at and aspire to. Branding is everything nowadays whether you like it or not. We all even have a personal brand, even if it is not monetized. If we all have a brand, are we all creative directors? Maybe on a micro-level. An artist needs to hire somebody to direct their brand because it is the most important thing they have, arguably. Songs can blow up and become a summer jam but are easily forgotten about a year later. A brand leads to longevity – something that is vital, and often missing, for musicians today.

So what does a creative director do exactly? To my understanding, a creative director is in charge of how things look overall. A wide, encompassing statement, I know, but I think it all comes down to imagery. Creative directors control the vibe, the style, the look of everything. Whether that be the clothing worn by the artists (acting as a wardrobe stylist, deciding not only tour outfits for on stage but everyday looks in case of candid paparazzi shots or the all-important Instagrams), the style of photography used in Instagram shots or album covers, or the color schemes, products, and locations used in music videos. Anything that you see can be, and is likely, conceptualized by the creative director and brought forward to the artist. That’s not to say that the artist is not in charge of their own style in any way. It is more so that the creative director comes up with ideas and then work with the artist to make something that feels authentic and right for the artist instead of a singleminded vision: a collaboration.

Virgil Abloh and Kanye West

I think the importance of a creative director can be best demonstrated via Kanye West and his longtime collaborator Virgil Abloh, who has become a star in his own right in the past year. Abloh has his own brand (Off-White, formerly operating another brand called Pyrex Vision), he DJs, he hosts events and parties all around the world, and he has degrees in Architecture and Engineering. He’s a smart guy. He’s also partially responsible for keeping Kanye West so relevant as he knows exactly what people want. Abloh has his finger on the pulse and has no problem telling people that he listens to the kids on Tumblr and realizes their spending power and also their knowledge of fashion. No bullshit passes by Tumblr kids, especially the fashion ones (myself included) as we have been given the resource to learn everything online. Abloh understands this and uses it to his advantage. He has taken things that he has found on Tumblr and presented it to West in the past, as mentioned in one of the interviews linked below. It’s no secret that West loves fashion and has tried various times to break into the industry, with his Yeezy line for Adidas being extremely commercially successful but other ventures failing or floundering. West has also found great success in the merch game, perhaps solely starting the trend of people wearing concert merch as fashion items, beginning back on the Yeezus tour in 2013. We hit peak merch in 2016 with the Saint Pablo tour and the trickle-down effect with merch-inspired pieces being sold in fast-fashion stores like Forever 21 (who were accused of copying West multiple times) and Zara. H&M currently sell a range of “band t-shirts” with various rock bands’ graphics printed on them. Everyone jumped onboard – retailers and other artists alike. Now everyone needs to have merch, and to have merch that sells you need a brand. That’s where your creative director comes in.

West is not the only musician with a creative director. In fact, most of the biggest stars in the music world have one right now. The Weeknd has La Mar Taylor, a friend from Toronto who created the now iconic mixtape trilogy covers and continues to manage the artistic outputs. The XO brand, the collective of individuals associated with The Weeknd, has gone from being an underground icon, big on Tumblr with a cult-like following but not yet mainstream, to being an easily recognized symbol that is even tattooed on loyal fans. The Weeknd recently done a collaboration with H&M, featuring shirts with the XO logo prominently posted. That wouldn’t’ve been possible if he didn’t have the brand. Some other stars just have stylists. There’s a difference. A creative director’s role is much bigger, and arguably much more important. I could go on for days and days about this topic because one of the things I love the most in life is seeing how fashion intersects with other industries. In this sense, fashion and music and art all collide into one, and everything, in turn, becomes one commercial product. That’s not to say that art for art’s sake doesn’t remain, it’s just that everything nowadays is monetized. Pure artistic endeavors still exist, but creative direction takes something from that level and makes it something bigger. Something that can help you pay the bills for years to come.

The Weeknd’s brand is XO

Further Reading

“The Secret to Being A Modern Pop Star? A Creative Director Pulling The Strings” – W Magazine, September 2016

“Virgil Abloh: From Pyrex to Paris” – Dazed Digital, 2016

“The Life of (Virgil) Abloh” – GQ, August 2016

“From Kanye to Kings of Leon, Why Artists Need Creative Directors in the Age of Instagram” – Billboard, April 2017

 

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Fashion, Weekly Words

Weekly Words: June 10th 2017

“The Kendall Jenner Effect: How Long Can It Last?” – Business of Fashion

officially joining the adidas fam! @adidasoriginals #adidasAmbassador #adidasOriginals

A post shared by Kendall (@kendalljenner) on

In a subscribers only article, the BOF team discussed the Kendall Jenner effect, a combination of sales and social media dominance, and how long it will actually last for. The reasoning behind this was the slew of poor publicity which Jenner has been at the forefront of in the past month or so. It was just announced last week that Jenner was the new face of Adidas, the sportswear giant where brother-in-law Kanye West has a hugely successful line. This announcement was met with significant backlash from the press and social media alike with complaints that yet another model (like Gigi & Bella Hadid, for Reebok and Nike respectively) was the face of a sportswear brand instead of using actual athletes. Of course, this was not Jenner’s fault but it seems that she was the straw which broke the camel’s back. The article goes on to compare Jenner to Pierre Cardin, in reference to perhaps diluting her brand or spreading it too thin by taking on so many partnerships – the point being Cardin ruined his brand value and Jenner risks doing the same.

“Yoox Net-a-Porter Group is going completely fur-free” – Fashionista

Looks to try in this cold af weather, Grace Jones for @fendi (1986) | #GlamourGoals #18

A post shared by Eve Gardiner (@bigbabyeve) on

In a surprising move, the Yoox Net-a-Porter group, in an effort to increase sustainability on a major scale, have decided to go completely fur-free, removing all animal fur based products from their outlet site The Outnet. Perhaps I’m finding this move more shocking than it actually is but I don’t understand the mindset behind removing all fur based products from a business standpoint, given that they are a luxury group and fur is the utmost of all luxury products. Even nowadays when people are trending vegan, fur accessories continue to remain popular, even in the form of little pom-pom bag chains. At the end of the article, the writer questions if Farfetch, their largest competitor and the site where NAP founder Natalie Massenet now works, will also go fur-free, citing it as a tempting move to follow. In my mind, this would make Farfetch do the opposite, instead stepping up their fur offering in an attempt to gain all of the sales and customers that Yoox/Net-a-Porter may have lost.

“In Hong Kong to launch second store, Virgil Abloh, Off-White founder and Kanye collaborator, opens up” – South China Morning Post

SS14 Off-White in an editorial for Uname / Unameid.com

The article I’ve linked above was a lengthy discussion with Virgil Abloh about his career and his brand. The most exciting takeaway from the piece was that Abloh’s is getting his own retrospective exhibition of his work in Chicago, at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Due to open in 2019, the exhibition will house pieces from Off-White and the other projects which he has worked on throughout his career. Instead of just looking at the clothing, the exhibition will focus on the broader societal context and millennial culture. The whole idea behind this exhibition sounds really cool and I’d like to go and visit the exhibition when it opens. Virgil’s success over the past 18 months to two years is inspirational. This is a man who has been toiling away for years and finally getting the kudos he deserves.

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Fashion, Opinion, Personal

Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garcons exhibition at the Met

I. don’t. get. Comme. des. Garcons. 

Really, I don’t. I went to the summer costume exhibition at the Met to check it out and, like almost everyone else who was visiting, I didn’t know what to think. It feels almost blasphemous to say that I didn’t like it or didn’t get it because there is this unwritten rule that if you are seriously into fashion (or claim to be) you must love Comme. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things from the brand I like. Dover Street Market is an amazing store with great merchandising techniques. The diffusion line with the little heart logo is branded perfectly. I can appreciate a really cool avant garde piece. I think they photograph brilliantly and I think they look really insane on the body (think Caroline Kennedy at this year’s Met Gala, or even Rihanna) but I don’t understand them and I know that the majority of people in my company at the museum felt the same way.

The exhibition was in a different gallery than the Manus x Machina one was last year and I didn’t like the space as much. It was lit very brightly with everything on stark white pedestals and some pieces were displayed well above eye-level, meaning it was easy to miss things if you didn’t realize you had to look up. The pieces featured spanned decades of Rei’s work. The exhibition was split up into various different segments, each representing a different aesthetic expression (e.g Clothes/Not Clothes) and there was no text explaining anything on the walls, nor credits for the clothing’s season etc – all of this information was to be found in a paper exhibition guide that was available at the entrance. Because of this, I found myself going around the exhibition faster than I normally would when I stop to read things because I didn’t actually read the guide until I sat down at the end and compared the guide with photographs I took. I still feel like I need further clarification though because I don’t understand the meanings of the pieces. I am a very imaginative person but I cannot immediately see the meaning of these clothes.

Ever since I got into fashion as a young teen, Comme des Garcons was a name I’d seen thrown about always in extremely high regard. On Tumblr, nobody dared disrespect Rei, thinking of her as the high priestess of fashion. I guess this mentality was ingrained into me without realizing it and for years I’ve always thought that I liked Comme, without actually thinking too much about it. Now I realize that I don’t like Comme, not because I think the clothes are bad but because I just don’t understand it at all and I can’t see the depth that others do. That includes most of the designers in the Japanese conceptualist movement, like Yohji Yamamoto, too. This year at the Met Gala, I was hoping for more out-there pieces because what I’ve seen from Comme des Garcons in the past and I do stand by my criticism of that red carpet. It was boring and could’ve been so much more if people were willing to push the boat out and not worry about looking hot for one evening.

I have compiled a little video, linked below, which is a get ready with me where I do my makeup, then once I have finished that I have included a lot of shots from the exhibition. I actually got a new camera recently and I’ve been playing with it, trying to work out its capabilities. The makeup video was actually just shot for fun, hence the unprofessional set-up, but once it was done I actually quite liked it so I decided to make something of it. The shots from inside the museum are taken on the same camera. I’m impressed with the quality.

Overall, if you’re in New York I think you should check out the exhibition and see what you think for yourself. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. It didn’t help me gain any further understanding of or appreciation for the designer, but I did enjoy seeing it. I’m a huge advocate for fashion exhibitions and preserving garments like art pieces, because I do think of fashion as a form of commercial art, so I will always go along and see things even if I’m not a huge fan as I will always find it somewhat interesting.

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Fashion, Weekly Words

Weekly Words: June 3rd 2017

Can a faded fashion house reclaim its 1970s glory? Inside the effort to save Anne Klein – The Washington Post

Robin Givhan’s latest piece delves into the reinvention of the Anne Klein brand and its latest revival. Speaking with the current creative director, Sharon Lombardo, Givhan delivers an interesting and information-heavy profile of the brand and it’s current challenges. Lombardo took the helm of the brand two years ago and has spent her tenure trying to redefine the brand, asking “who is the Anne Klein woman today?”. Lombardo has made many subtle and strategic changes to the brand in an effort to recapture the brand’s former position in the marketplace as the go-to for working women. She has redesigned the logo, began using fit models who are older and larger than the standard, and has changed the materials used in their products (real leather instead of PVC, for one example).

I personally didn’t know a lot about the Anne Klein brand until reading Givhan’s book The Battle of Versailles which tells the story of the lead-up to and the events revolving around the Battle of Versailles, a fundraising fashion show held in 1970s France that was a “battle” between French and American designers. Anne Klein was one of the most commercially successful designers at the time who made sophisticated, wearable sportswear. Soon after the fashion show, Klein succumbed to cancer, leaving Donna Karan, her longtime assistant, as the co-creative leader of her brand. Reading the article about what the brand is doing now to try to recapture their former glory is interesting as the brand has always survived but it has not thrived. They are now taking measures to modernize. I’ll be interested to see how things turn out.

“The Most Influential Stylist of the ’90s on Building a Cult Brand” – The Business of Fashion

Continuing with the brand building theme, Business of Fashion conducted an interview with Melanie Ward who is the stylist responsible for creating some of the most iconic images of Kate Moss back in the 1990s. Ward still works as a stylist now, taking on other responsibilities like creative direction as well. The biggest takeaway from this interview for me was about branding. Ward emphasizes the importance of having your own personal brand but toning it down when working for a client, realizing that you need to suit their brand and speak to their customer when working for them.

The word ‘brand’ is a bit of a buzzword nowadays anyway, with everyone wanting to curate their own brand via Instagram. Something that Ward mentioned was hiring designers based on their following versus their talent, reiterating the (should-be) common sense fact that talent and technical skill is more important than following. I think this theory should apply for all professions, but especially creative jobs in fashion. Overall, I found the interview super interesting, especially the part where Ward lays out her 6 key points of advice for building a brand. I encourage you to read it!

Gucci versus Dapper Dan controversy – various sources

This past week Gucci showed their Resort 2018 collection. Similar to the previous seasons collections, I spotted quite a few pieces going down the runway that I know are either going to sell out in stores, be worn by celebrities, or be the buzziest pieces all over Instagram. It’s impossible not to fall for the Gucci hype nowadays. Even if you don’t care for the clothing, the strength of the shoes and accessories is undeniable.

For the resort season, the collection got slightly more attention on mainstream social media than it normally would, crossing over from the fashion community into the masses. The reason for this being that Alessandro Michele, the creative head of the brand, paraded a jacket down the runway that was a direct copy of a piece Dapper Dan had made in the 1980s for Olympic medalist Diane Dixon. The jacket in question featured puffy, logo-covered sleeves and a fur vest. Dapper Dan’s version has the Louis Vuitton monogram whereas Michele’s has the Gucci pattern. Rightly so, people are calling out for Dapper Dan to get the credit he deserves. Gucci responded, offering slight credit to Dapper Dan but not really acknowledging the issue at hand and only after countless memes were shared and articles published on various outlets.

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Fashion, Shows

Fashion Flashback: Balmain SS09

Continuing on the same vein as last month, I’m showing the Balmain collection from the next season. I just wanted to stay on the same brand because I have noticed something interesting about Balmain recently, and please correct me if I’m wrong. Looking at last month’s Met Gala, I don’t recall a single celebrity being dressed by the brand. That was surprising to me because for the past two or three years Balmain has been a constant presence on the red carpet at events of all calibers. Previously they have dressed Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner for the Met Gala but this year Jenner wore Versace and Kardashian wore Vivienne Westwood. Furthermore, I have actually noticed less of Balmain on social media. It doesn’t seem to be as buzzy a brand nowadays, with Saint Laurent overtaking for the embellished pieces (I’d say). Is Balmainia over? What happened to Olivier Rousteing’s legion of famous friends and fans?

I think the lack of interest in Balmain at the moment is because their styles have been ripped off by fast-fashion brands too frequently for people to want to spend that much money on them now. Look at the off-the-shoulder bodycon dress that Kylie Jenner wore. It retailed for over $100 yet you can buy a near identical copy for $25 online, plus you can get it in just a shirt or in a jumpsuit. Moreover, the expensive embellished pieces seem almost wasteful now as they make so much of an impact that they’ll never be worn more than once. This is fine if it’s just celebrities wearing them on the red carpet but if it is actual customers purchasing the items it seems silly in a way. I could be wrong about all of this because this is just based off of my observations.

In terms of the SS09 collection, I think Christophe Decarnin was at the top of his game. The pieces are every rock chick’s dream. They are super glam but in the coolest way possible. The colors are great. There is a perfect mix between distressed elements and formality. 9 years later, these styles still feel fresh and would not look out of place on the catwalk nowadays. I’m obsessed with the green dress worn by Natasha Poly with the huge shoulder pads and glittering gems. Plus, I’m a sucker for Madonna so I dig the soundtrack of the show. I like how the models all have multiple looks and how the casting is so great (all of my mid-2000s faves in one place). Honestly, there is not too many things I can fault.

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Editorial, Fashion

Bella Hadid for Vogue Italia – June 2017

I love this cover. The colors, the font, the styling, the prop – everything works. Vogue Italia’s new EIC Emanuele Farneti has been at the helm of the publication for a mere matter of months but already the direction of the magazine has started to change. Since his tenure began, the covers have been fun, with attention to typography and colors. His first cover, the e-commerce themed spread which I felt was a fun take on the future of fashion, and this cover (his fourth) are my favorites so far. I’m excited to see the rest of the editorial when it is released.

  • Photography– Inez & Vinoodh
  • Styling – Alex White
  • Model – Bella Hadid
  • Art Direction – Giovanni Bianco
  • Hair – Ward
  • Makeup – Wendy Rowe
  • Set Design – Jill Nichols
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Fashion, Personal

Space Age Vibes – Inspiration Clips

I was initially inspired to pull these clips and images together because of the Paris Refashioned exhibition at the Museum at FIT. In this exhibition, I saw a mirrored Paco Rabanne dress which sparked my interest in the brand and I wrote about this in a previous post – “The Return of Paco Rabanne“. Going from there, I began to think about the space age, futuristic fashions of the 1960s and I started pulling together a series of images which I felt conveyed this well. Then instead of sticking exactly with the decade of the 60s, I ended up including clips from some 90s music videos too. I hope you enjoy the video!

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Fashion, Weekly Words

Weekly Words: May 13th 2017

“The Greatest Moments in 80s Street Style” – Lone Wolf Magazine

I stumbled across this magazine’s website randomly this week and actually really liked the articles. This one in particular features a series of images of street style photographs from the 1980s, a decade that has been hot in fashion recently both on the runways and in-stores, encroaching on the general psyche en masse. I think people often have a negative perception of the 80s in terms of fashion because they think of an over-the-top generalization of the decade. Shoulder pads and polyester aside, a lot of really cool images, music, models, designers, and trends originated during this decade. The images show a lot of regular people (and Jackie Onassis) wearing the styles of the time in the most authentic way possible that we can never really recreate now. Plus, they have a photo of Demi Moore in St Elmo’s Fire which will always be the pinnacle of cool, style-wise, for me.

“Catching up with Tommy Ton, Street Style Photography Legend” – Grailed

Continuing on the street style theme of the previous article, Grailed did a great interview with Tommy Ton, one of the most prominent street-style photographers of the past decade. I enjoyed hearing about his career and why he chose to take a step back from publishing his images on Vogue and GQ’s online platforms (his contract was up and he doesn’t enjoy it as much as before, plus he does other work with brands now). He also discusses how he became a fashion collector (goals!) and the pieces that he is looking out for. This is particularly apt considering that Grailed is a high-end resale site. I thought it was a good way for them to incorporate editorial content with their site as it was actually an interesting interview yet they managed to tie it back into their service and link products similar to what Tommy Ton mentioned in the interview which they actually had for sale.

“Missy Elliott covers Elle USA”

I have posted this cover (or the accompanying editorial shots) on every social media network I have. I’m obsessed. Not only does Missy look amazing but this is actually an eye-catching cover, styled in a super cool way, and has such good makeup. It’s a win all around. I’m excited for this to turn up in my mailbox.

Photographer – Mark Seliger, Stylists – Misa Hylton & Samira Nasr 

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Fashion

Corsetry

Untitled #772

 

Restrictive is the best way to describe a corset. With the lingerie market trending towards lacy bralets and relaxed styles, why are these old-fashioned contraptions so appealing? Seen at Dior, labelled a “boob cage” by many critics, corsets represent females dressing in a way that does not allow movement and activity. A lady of leisure. Not a worker. Therefore, does the new corset, heralded by Maria Grazia Chiuri of Dior, mean something different given that this is the same woman who is now selling t-shirts with feminist slogans for hundreds of dollars a pop? Does it represent the unrealistic body standards young women are trying to conform to now, a teeny tiny waist with big hips and breasts (often achieved through surgical augmentations)? Or is it merely a corset? Something pretty to look at? You decide.
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Fashion, Weekly Words

Weekly Words: May 6th 2017

“Monica Rose splits with the Kardashians” – various sources

Monica Rose with Gigi Hadid

The biggest story that has been unfolding over the past 10 days or so is that Monica Rose, the stylist responsible for the Kardashian-Jenner extended family getting any recognition for their clothing, has been unceremoniously fired by all of her main clients, including Gigi Hadid. I was genuinely shocked when the first article saying this broke and I continue to be shocked a week later. It’s so surprising because of how long they have worked together and how nasty the split seems to be. For one, they’ve all unfollowed Monica on Instagram, despite the fact that they have been longterm friends as well as having a professional relationship. As neither party has given a reason for the split and Rose has reportedly hired lawyers (with rumors that Khloe has intent to sue), people are speculating terrible things. I’ve read that people think Monica Rose was an insider on Kendall Jenner’s recent robbery. I really hope this is not true. If it’s all a lie, it’s so horrible that Monica Rose’s reputation is being dragged through the mud. Stylists lose clients all the time. That’s nothing new. However, losing this many all at once suggests it is a personal rift instead of just a change in direction. Furthermore, Kylie Jenner is now working with one of Monica’s former assistants. That must hurt. The truth will come out eventually, and until then I’m going to keep judgement free.

“French Government to Buy Five Designer Items Each Season” – WWD

Paris Refashioned at MFIT

According to this WWD article, the French government are beginning to build a permanent collection of fashion items in an effort to preserve the country’s “cultural heritage” and are going to be purchasing five items per season to do this. Paris has been the longstanding center of the fashion universe and the fashion industry is a source of national pride for the French. It only seems natural that they would honor this institution and create a lasting legacy. The acquired pieces will form a permanent collection at the National Center for Visual Arts and will be used in exhibitions here or loaned to other museums around the world. I personally am all for the conservation of garments. Fashion can be a work of art, and I think the clothing should be displayed in museums even from a sociological or anthropological standpoint. Fashion reflects culture and I think it’s hard to tell the tale of a time properly without visually representing it in some way. It’s crazy to think now that current season Saint Laurent or Vetements could be archived and spotted in museums in 30 years time, but that’s likely what will happen. Every moment we live in becomes history. The fun part will be choosing which five items get to live on forever.

“Kendall Jenner Faces Backlash Over Vogue India Cover” – Fashionista

The past few weeks have been rough for Kendall Jenner. It seems like every move she makes is being critiqued, but rightly so. I actually agree with the backlash for this cover because I think models should have some accountability too, especially those who are as famous as Jenner. The issue with the magazine cover is that instead of using an Indian model or celebrity on a cover celebrating the 10th anniversary of the magazine, they used another white model. It doesn’t sound like much to some people but really representation matters and if you grow up only seeing images of white women held to the highest beauty standards then you may grow up thinking that only white women are beautiful, can be successful etc. That was reducing the matter down to its simplest form and representation is definitely a deeper issue. I listened to Shiona Turini’s interview on Man Repeller’s “Oh Boy” podcast earlier this week (it’s like a year old, I’m just super into the podcast right now) and she spoke about how representation matters not just in magazines but across the board. When she was a young girl she didn’t see anyone who looked like her successful in fashions (whether that be as magazine editors, PR people, buyers etc.). Visually, it matters. I just think Kendall Jenner is catching so much heat nowadays because she shirks from her problems, ignores any criticism, and just simply deletes things and moves on, whilst cashing that paycheck at the end of the day. People joke about Pepsi because she never issued an apology and tries to act like it didn’t happen. She deleted her Fyre Festival posts instead of just issuing an apology like Bella Hadid did. There are so many little things that are adding up to create a PR disaster for Jenner and really if she just took a step back and apologized nobody would care anymore.

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