Monday, September 6, 2010

Fashion's Newfound "realness" is a farce

Celebrity covers are far from dead. "Real People" covers are a passing fad.

I have no doubt in my mind that the magazine industry’s fresh approach of unretouched images, normal folk rather than models and celebrities, plus-size rather than size-zero is exactly that- fresh and appealing, but it is all starting to seem like yet another trend that we will all obsess about before really getting to grips with the reality that fashion is an industry that feeds off on “fantasy” rather than reality. The reason we all want those Jimmy Choos is because SJP’s Carrie Bradshaw made them cool, despite the price tag, when there are many other good shoes for far less a price; Aldo, for instance.

I’ve just read an article about how Essentials Magazine in the UK came out with no models and celebrities from cover to cover this month and how Glamour US was applauded for refusing to retouch images of plus-size model Lizzie Miller last year. How noble!
For me, the whole obsession with “realness” is based on our thirst for a more utilitarian existence and perhaps it is a much needed break from all the bombardment with luxury that had us all “wanting” rather than “needing” before the economic meltdown came and reminded us that needs should, after all, take priority over what we want. Luxury is a want and unfortunately the price tag on contemporary brands, the price tag on good brands- in fact- makes the likes of Marc Jacobs, Gucci, LV, David Tlale, Black Coffee and Marianne Fassler a luxury. If we need to wear clothes and look good in them too Mr. Price has lots on offer for a fraction of the price, but who will settle for Monsieur if their bank balance allows for Country Road? Essentially, it may be interesting now to be buying “real” covers with real people on them and not photo-shopped faces of Chanel Iman and the like and maybe this is sustainable for a magazine like Essentials, but for magazines with a specific focus on fashion I can tell you now that fashionistas are not trying to buy mags that feature some “girl-next-door” on the cover let alone fashion spreads that are too close to reality and what we can actually afford. Fashion mags are all about aspiration and their allure lies in the fantasy element and their portrayal of perfection that we all know is unattainable. As Milisuthando Bongela argued in the September issue of Marie Claire; fashion may have her ethics in a shambles but those who consume it have a choice. Consumers in this regard, myself included, prefer the hottest Hollywood It Girl on the cover rather than Mrs. So and So who won a competition on fashion covers. The reality is that Mrs. So-and-So will probably not succeed in selling a pair of jeans or a top to me, the It Girl does.

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