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Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Spoonful of Fashion that will Taste Bittersweet

M y approach to journalism is through an artistic lens. Some of you might say this lens might as well be a rose colored magnifying glass and that's a perfectly valid response. When I think of the media I think of the glossy sheen on a magazine cover, inviting readers to flip through colorful pictures and informative stories. I thrive on the deceiving nature of photoshoots- still glamor captured in front of the camera while chaos engulfs every other angle on the set. It's an illusion created by visionaries. In that moment you have to pause and appreciate the artistry and abandon the hustle and bustle over profit margins.

A perfect example of this is the magazine cover above, which dates back to April 1965. The cover girl is model Jean Shrimpton, who was photographed by Richard Avedon. The overall concept was conceived by art directors Ruth Ansel and Bea Feitler. I came across this vintage cover by accident and it reminded me why I love fashion magazines so much- they merge together the informative/newsy nature of journalism with a few extra ounces of pizazz. I could literally frame this cover and hang it on my wall. Some day, I want to be apart of a creative team that evokes that same reaction in people.

Fashion magazines are a hand-held gallery of the latest and greatest designs and encourages you to dip into your closet and paint yourself with something beautiful. They are a paper-stack of the latest trends, delivered to your mail box or available with coffee at the corner newsstand. Let's not forget that couture comes from an artist scribbling charcoal onto a sketch pad before those smudges are made into a real garments. Then, those garments are puzzle-pieced together with other garments to form an outfit. Next, that outfit is paired with model (who might as well be the canvas) and photographed. Finally, with a click of the mouse and a scurry across the keyboard a designer crops and edits the photo and tucks it into its proper place on the page layout before calling it a night. Each page of a magazine takes a fusion of collective minds, all adding to one completed piece. This process is beyond inspiring!

Sadly, the industry can definitely be a cut throat monster. Girls starve themselves to be on the latest Hearst cover, fashion designers sell their souls to the devils of corporate mass production, and fresh meat journalists will fetch coffee for years before the are even assigned a story. But why? Because if you aren't willing to make those sacrifices, someone else will take your spot before you can click your Prada heels together and wish you were back in Kansas.

So alas lies the tension: avant garde vs. capital greed. My experience within the fashion industry has made me realize a pretty terrible pattern- innovative designs are given a golfer's clap for how artsy they are and a roaring round of applause for how much money they can make. The same goes for a great model, a great cover design, etc. This is a shame, but what can we do? After all, the fashion industry is an industry- a business where people make their living.

For me, what needs to happen is a shift in perspective. We need to change the way we think about the clothing on our backs and the pictures laid before us. We need to be responsible consumers and support designers first and foremost as artists. Do I think there will be a huge shift within my lifetime? Probably not. But I'd like to think I'm doing my part by appreciating the artistic nature of fashion instead of the sides that scream "seven deadly sins." I'd like to maintain a cognitive dissonance as I'm shopping and try and be not only more ethical in my purchases (sweatshop free) but also more environmental (recycled clothing). And someday, when I'm working for for Harper's Bazaar or Elle (hehe) I will treat all of my colleagues and young protégés like people, not like errand-running robots.

Until then, be conscious of your choices as budding fashionistas and remember, viva la moda- long live style!


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