Pop Culture
Feb 16, 2024, 06:27AM

Satisfying the Elite and Status Quo, For Beauty You Will Pay

Self-absorbed journalists love to gush about how “fun” people are.

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Art: Michael Gentile

I believe the first loincloth started it all; others say it began with fig leaves. Similar to art, the world of fashion is demanding, ephemeral in nature and fickle in the details. One’s taste and preferences determine their own style. For those inclined to feel stylish these days, two new streaming series flaunt the aesthetic in Feud: Capote vs the Swans and The New Look.

Most people don’t give a second thought about what to wear; it doesn’t play a significant role in their lives. Some even view it as agonizing, unless there’s direct involvement. Fashion publications provide an overview of current trends for those who care and for those who don’t. Publishing is a collaboration with others to produce visual goods tailored to basic design principles in order to sustain readership.

Everyone knows that publishing is dying. However, not all publishing deaths are the same; some titles survive. Interestingly, I just finished reading the second-to-last paragraph on a “From the Editor” page: “As you may have heard, this is our final print edition… our team has deeply enjoyed the opportunity to engage in the conversations.” Although witnessing sinking ships sounds fascinating, schadenfreude doesn’t seem justified entering uncharted waters.

A hair salon appointment reveals a table laden with fancy periodicals, ready for perusal. The stacks aren’t as tall as they used to be. The Vogue September issue was so important, R.J. Cutler detailed the institution in a 2009 documentary. Another title was founded back in 1867 when the United States acquired Alaska.

Glamour mags share common traits. You’ll find mountain climbing editorial reaching for the top with predictable hobbyhorse cries, while simultaneously allowing you to escape to various exotic locations. And there’s high-end craftsmanship that concentrates on image and branding with an emphasis on flashy photography up the wazoo. They make sure you get it.

Covers feature well-known models and celebrities. These glossy journals can easily slip through your hands. The paper is varnished. You may wonder, how clever is that. Very wipeable, which is a huge benefit given all the harsh chemicals used in hair treatments. And with sophisticated clients like Hermes, Cartier and Gucci, publishers wouldn’t dare print on anything less than the best paper stocks.

The editorial sections, however, give off the vibe of being lively free spirits as you glance over the sections. Self-absorbed journalists love to gush about how “fun” people are. After the uplift, they prance around with servile hints of hubris and egocentrism. That’s the way it is with fashion—the dance comes with the job.

But something felt astray, locked in time with Queen Victoria. There are those who believe world ended yesterday with Diana Vreeland’s visions. She invented the word “pizzazz,” which was definitely missing and nowhere to be found.

Models continue to gaze out into space, wondering what’s happening beyond Uranus, page after page. Is it any surprise that the zoned-out look with tired poses have lost their appeal? And it’s disheartening if reimaging black and white photography fails to achieve its artistic goals with reinvents that never come to life. Or perhaps a disastrous editorial arises because someone’s interpretation seems withdrawn. What gives, fashion chameleons know how to ride out trends.

At the end of the 20th century, there was a rapid movement in innovation not seen since the Industrial Revolution. Significant changes resulted from the publishing and photographic industries switching to digital technology. Designers and photographers stopped cutting, pasting, and working in the darkroom; instead, they became glued to their screens. Just a few mouse clicks, and presto! Suddenly, stunning pages materialized that were previously unavailable, right before our own eyes.

There were both favorable and unfavorable outcomes. Despite a lack of cohesive vision for digital commerce and political legislation, the development undoubtedly proved to be successful commercially, many were blessed with enduring profits. Another unforeseen circumstance was a full-scale invasion of illegible typography. Ray Gun Magazine’s search and destroy mission eradicated fonts. Film and photo processing was doomed. From the mesmerizing beat of Kraftwerk’s The Model to Right Said Fred becoming too sexy for the catwalk, fashion continued developing throughout. The secret to survival was experimentation.

New York Fashion Week holds yearly events in the spring and fall, showcasing the ethos. Last fall, fake heiress Anna Delvey still wore an ankle bracelet. While under house arrest, she took things one step further, by conducting fashion presentations from a taxpayer paid cellblock: her New York City apartment rooftop. Funny how that works as performance art.

On a sunny NYFW winter afternoon, the glam squad invades Prince St. Notable streetwear makes sure keen observers won’t have any second thoughts about catching a wannabe influencer in the moment. Nice weather guarantees tastelessness in vogue with orange, bright pink and yellow clad individuals. Polished terra-cotta foundations match skin tones with sweet candy red lip glaze.

Hints of sparkling eyeshadow are visible underneath the latest brow trends. You can hear the happiness of a post-Barbie planet of cannabis-culture kids having a great time. They’re busy shaking their tush with hopes to become TikTok stars.

Fashion Week posters are plastered everywhere, especially on construction site walls. In front of the Prada store, a person with striped bleached hair, cool sunglasses and long fingers checks their cell. Upon passing, a closer inspection reveals a lit cigarette dangling off their lip, positioned right next to a sun-ripened herpes blister.

I was surprised to see several streets blocked-off with a major police presence. Protesters rush by, side by side. The crowd moves in unison, their gestures mimic a Broadway musical. Not a surprise, at the home of the most famous subway grate the world, the show must go on. Fashion continues to be a culturally significant, highly lucrative and competitive industry at the top of its game. Have doubts about it? Just ask Bernard Arnault, the richest man in the world.


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