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The Fashion Paparazzi

22 Mar

Fashion editors are the new celebrity, being stalked by street style photographers at every turn. Nowadays, photos of famous fashionistas can sell for up to $1000 dollars, according to the Business of Fashion. This is making street style photography a highly professional, and popular gig. During the fall 2011 season shows, there were hordes of fashion photographers lining the street outside of the venues, trying to get the perfect photo of Anna Wintour or Anna Dell0 Russo (Editor at Large for Vogue Japan, pictured right).

Photographing street style of famous fashionistas is nothing new. I trace the world’s fascination with streetstyle back to Bill Cunningham. The New York Times photographer has been peddling his bicycle down Fifth Avenue taking photos of well dressed people for decades. His first set of photos for the newspaper featured Greta Garbo and was published in 1978. This was the first time the Times printed photos of famous people without their consent. Cunningham paved the way for modern streetstyle photographers, like Scott Schuman of the widely read blog the Sartorialist.

What is new is the viciousness of the photographers. They pushed each other and got in the way of editors, who were just trying to get to the next fashion show on time. The sheer number of photogs makes a real nuisance for the sometimes unwilling photo subjects. And I feel the same way about these intrusive photographers as I feel about celebrity paparazzi who attack A-listers–they should give them some space.

While I am a sucker for streetstyle photos, there is almost too much of it these days. There’s Tommy Ton, Street Peeper, and Facehunter, not to mention the street style sections on major fashion magazines’ websites, like Vogue, Elle, and Nylon. There’s also sites for everyday people to join, like Lookbook, that let you upload your own photos and be judged on your ensemble making prowess. Everyone seems to have jumped on the bandwagon, and it’s getting a bit tiresome. So to those people who feel the need to snap a photo of that girl in the awesome outfit–make sure it’s something really unique, and not just adding to the clutter.

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Fashion Journalists Are Journalists, Too

21 Mar

Over the course of my career, I’ve met many talented journalists who suffer from the same inferiority complex. Some are uncomfortable even admitting that they write about fashion; they feel the need to make excuses and intellectual justifications. Why is it that sports writers and food writers, for instance, have no problem seeing their work as relevant and serious? Fashion is an art form in its own right, one that has the power to change us, move us, excite us, and make us feel and look good.
–Stefano Tonchi, Editor in Chief of W

This quote from Tonchi’s letter from the editor really hit close to home, because I have been one of those journalists. As a journalism student, I had been taught to report about “real people” and  “things that matter.” It’s tough to feel like you’re a legitimate reporter when you’re bombarded by these messages class after class. I actually used to have guilty feelings about wanting to go into fashion journalism, feeling like I was a bad person to not want to write human interest stories that will change the world. But then I remembered that to a lot of people, fashion does change their lives. Opening up a magazine can take them away from their problems and putting on clothing that truly reflects who you are can be an uplifting experience. Fashion matters.

And I remembered that fashion reporting requires its own skillset. Just as sports reporters have to know players and coaches, fashion writers have to know designers and models. And like food writers have to have a refined pallette, we have to have a sartorial eye.

I think a lot of the stigma of fashion journalism comes from people who don’t understand fashion. They don’t get that it’s more than just clothing, when in fact it’s a designer’s vision put out on display, much like an art show. And the people who write about this art form deserve to feel like they’re doing meaningful work, because it truly is. I know deep down now that it is relevant and important. And even if the stigma doesn’t change, I’ll still be proud to be writing about what I love.

Seventeen Getting Away from Its Customer Base

17 Mar

A recent article in AdWeek brought up Seventeen Magazine’s slow shift to more expensive, luxury fashion items. Now, I haven’t read the magazine in years, but this seem against what Seventeen has always stood for. The teen periodical is about accessibility, and realistic, affordable clothing. Most girls turn to Seventeen for the articles on topics like relationships and school, not as much for the style how-tos. Seventeen readers want outfits they can buy at the mall presented to them, not designer handbags and shoes to lust after without buying.

Meanwhile, Teen Vogue has always dominated in the high fashion for teens department. It burst on the scene in 2003, the younger version of the popular woman’s magazine. Like its big sister, it features lots of fashion news and profiles of designers. It finds its niche with girls who care about fashion. And there’s a big difference between people who like fashion (Teen Vogue readers) and people who like clothes (Seventeen readers).

In marketing, you’re taught that you need to know your audience and not try to be all things to all people. Trying to do this makes you lose your loyal customers (in this case readers) because it dilutes your message. And Seventeen doesn’t need to try to be another Teen Vogue to compete in the market. It’s been around longer, and is a far more popular magazine, with twice the readership. Stick with what you’re good at, Seventeen, and leave the high fashion to your entirely fashion-oriented competitor.

Shopping Bullemia: Healthy Purging for Shopaholics

10 Mar

The New York Post recently ran an article about shopping bullemia, or chronic returning. They made it out to be a bad thing, that women with shopping addictions aren’t fighting their impulses due to more lax return policies at stores.
On the contrary, this form of “bullemia” is actually shopaholics doing a good thing for their pursestrings. It’s a way for them to get their fix of shopping without the economic consequences.

That impulse buy that you can’t find anything to wear with? Solution: send it back, and get all your money back. It’s the ultimate remedy for buyers remorse, since it eliminates it completely. If only Rebecca Bloomwood–the shopaholic of the Brit lit series aptly named Shopaholic–could have figured out this pattern of buy and return before her credit card bills piled up.

I recently bought a pair of riding boots from DSW. I wasn’t crazy about them, but it was toward the end of winter, and I actually needed boots. I thought I would buy them, bird-in-hand, and then try to find better ones. If I couldn’t find a replacement, I would settle for my original purchase. Then the box sat in my room, unopened except for the few times I tried them on again to try to decide if I liked them enough to justify keeping them. For the next month (the 30 day time slot I had to return them) I made a few shopping trips to other stores, trying in vain to find the perfect pair of boots that met all of my specifications. At my 29th day, I gave up both the search and my attempt to like the first pair. I decided that if I couldn’t bring myself to take the tissue paper off my boots and wear them, the final seal of ownership, I really shouldn’t keep them. When I walked out of DSW the second time, one large shoe box lighter, I felt relieved; My buyer’s remorse was alleviated.
Moral of the story: The trend is really people being smarter about how they spend their money. Money is tight, even for the wealthy. Those impulse buys that used to take up space in your closet, tags on, are now quickly removed with the realization of how they weren’t worth what you paid for them. The result? A wardrobe without regret, with pieces that you really love.

Vogue Releases iPad App

25 Feb

Vogue released its first iPad app this past week, and while sales data is unavailable yet, it is slated to do well. (article from Guardian) Most magazines have had trouble selling their apps for the popular tablet device. Vogue’s version is hoping to woo readers with exclusive content from its March cover shoot and interview with Lady Gaga.

At $.99, it’s a bargain compared to some of its competitors’ issue apps, which can run about $3.99, closer to the newsstand price.

However, it’s probably less expensive because it has less to offer the reader. Yes, it includes the cover editorial and profile, but it has none of the other content from the issue. If readers want to see the full magazine, they have to purchase the print edition on top of this app. Most of the time, readers of fashion magazines care a lot less about the cover interview than the fashion features, so the die-hard Vogue fanatics probably won’t care as much about this app. Because of this, the current format for the app will only work well if the cover girl is a huge, Gaga-level star, which will make the masses flock to buy Vogue.

Vogue has had some weak cover choices in the past, like Halle Berry (September 2010) and Angelina Jolie. If they want to keep their app popular, they’re going to have to pick more relevant stars in the future to keep drawing people in.

Celebs and Food: Genuine or PR?

18 Feb

The New York Times recently ran an article about actresses stuffing their faces with greasy food during interviews, and how journalists write about this in descriptive detail. A number of possible reasons for the food talk were brought up.

Interviews are typically being conducted over meals, as starlets give less time to reporters. Whereas a reporter used to spend a few days shadowing a subject, getting real insights into what makes them tick, now they’re limited to an hour, where most of what happens is chowing down.

Another possible cause of the food focus is that actresses simply like to talk about their culinary obsessions. I hate to be cynical, but I can’t help but think that actresses go on and on about their comfort food indulgences to shield any eating disorder speculation. So that the reader will say, “Oh, I guess she really does eat.” It shows an unrealistic view of the star’s diet, even if they may be eating something caloric in the interview setting.

“We would all appreciate it if you had an interview with an actress who says: ‘You know what? It’s my job to be a certain size, and it takes a lot of work for me to do so. I tend to eat very healthy, small portions, but once in a while I splurge,’ I would like to hear that. That it’s not easy.”

-Anna Holmes, founding editor of Jezebel (via New York Times)

I believe that the media is largely at fault. Yes, celebs might push talk about food, but did the reporter start it by asking the question? In the end, writers are completely in control of what they print. The general format of magazine profiles nowadays is a lede talking about meeting the celebrity for food and what they ordered, followed by questions. As if there was rarely anything more interesting about the subject than where the writer met them and what they ingested. I’m sure the writer could come up with something more thrilling than that to begin with.

Why are we so obsessed with celebrities eating? We like to think that food is the great equalizer. That if Katherine Heigl eats a Big Mac, maybe we’re not so different from her after all. Maybe we can look like her, too. In one way, this is good for the girls who idolize these women, since it might help them to not fear food and avoid eating disorders. But it’s up to reporters to cut through the PR and get the truth out of the actresses, that for them fatty food is just a treat.

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