Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Girl, The Debate and The Sartorialist

It's all happening on The Sartorialist. 1415 comments and counting on Scott Schuman's use of the word 'curvy' to describe this young woman in his recent 'On the street: Angelika, Milan' post, which went up on Monday March 28.

In a post on her own blog, Angelika writes of her delight at being photographed by someone she so admires and addresses the gathering maelstrom by writing:

about the controversy on his blog because of words like "curvy"or"big" udes by him to definy my body,i just can say that i never felt hurt.i think i have a normal body neither fat nor thin,curvy is ok,of course my body was pretty different fro the other girls where around there,wheter they are models,editors,bloggers of whatever,I was taller and more...curvy! but I did not mind at all... i don't think that curvy and big are sinonimous of overweight or fat,i believe indeed that being called curvy has a positive meaning[...] curvy= femininity and not= fat, overweight. (sic)

Today I noticed an update on Schuman's original post in which he responds to the outcry surrounding his use of the word 'curvy' to describe a woman, and the difficulty of using the word 'normal' as an adjective. As he (correctly) argues, 'normal is relative.' He argues that curvy is a body shape not a weight* though perhaps this qualification is undercut by his original description of Angelika as a "bigger, curvier girl" which conflates her size ("bigger") into her shape. 

This debate indicates to me the power of words to incite and infuriate. Although Schuman derides this power in contrast to the message of his post (he reduces the debate over meaning to 'wordplay' which reads as highly dismissive) the impact of those words overtook the photographs themselves. Even the ambiguity of his commenters' suggested replacements ('normal'; 'real') underlines the subjective, interpretive quality of language. The difficulty of those adjectives, of course, is that they are as exclusionary as 'curvy' or 'big.' Such language puts anyone whose body implicitly doesn't fit on the periphery, if anywhere at all.

Schuman wanted his readers to see what he saw- the way the shape of her legs complemented the strength of her shoes- yet most got distracted by the (perceived) inconsistency of Angelika's legs and their alleged curviness. He presented a visual yet what burst forth was a debate about what constitutes 'curvy' and the subtext, intended or otherwise, operating beneath the use of such a loaded adjective.

It may all swell down to just a footnote in the history of Schuman's storied blog but I doubt that he will ever publicly use the word 'curvy' in relation to a woman's body again. What language will replace it is yet to be seen- has anyone come up with a viable way of acknowledging the uncomfortable fact that everyone's body is different but not all shapes are regarded as equally desirable?- but it's one hell of an interesting conversation to watch.

*this ties in to SNP's Twittered critique that "(The) Sartorialist is (not) the prob. It's that we've fucked over "curvy," making it snide euphemism for "fat""

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

a bit of the snob

"Real style is a bit of the snob, let's face it. It's choosing this but not that. It is deciding for one's own purposes what is fine. What represents not just the head but also the soul... Style is how you see the world and how the world sees you. It isn't today and it isn't tomorrow; it isn't a dress or a car or a shoe or a comment- it's the cut of your sail as you cross this crazy unchartered sea."

-A very poetic snippet of an essay on style by Carol Edgarian in the April issue of W.

Link Lover: Garance Talks Fashion

Garance is taking on Wiki with a 'pedia all of her own. Here on Fashademic I demystify fashionspeak and Garance has now produced the companion volume: fashion talk. 'Fashionspeak' is the euphemistic language spouted in fashion magazines to name editorials and label trends ('Ready, Jet Set, Go!') whereas 'Fashion Talk' is the spoken language of those in the fashion industry for whom 'it's important to stay visible, whatever the cost.' OK so now we've got the terminology down, let's shoot over to-

Part II: things they like in Melbourne.


incorporating old buildings into new buildings.

cool lights.

street art.

disco shoes.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Your new favourite costume jewellers

My visit to Alice Euphemia had to be a post all of it's own because of the delights discovered therein.

The gorgeous window displays of this wildly imaginative boutique featuring Australian clothing labels like Lover, RWB, Arnsdorf, Ellery and jewellery lines by A.D. (who made this necklace), Anna Davern, Exhibit K, Natalia Milosz-Piekarska and Seb Brown. 
If the names of these jewellery designers are new to you it might be because they are all Melbourne-based and independent but costume lovers rejoice! because I'll introduce them to you one by one.

For her collections called 'Rocks', Anna Davern has printed Cartier style diamonds onto steel then cut them out so it looks like you're wearing enormous 20 carat pear drops on your lobes. They make Elizabeth Taylor's jewels look positively pavĂ© set. The phrase 'lustworthy' does not begin to describe how lush these are.

that necklace! oi gevalt.

Almost the polar opposite in aesthetic is Karla Way's Exhibit K, which makes gorgeous resin drop pendants which look like carved fossilised wood, all soft brittle planes and edges. They were behind glass but my fingertips itched to touch them just to see what they were like. And the colours-! So muted and lovely.
And the good news is that she's showing her range with fellow jeweller Natalia Milosz-Piekarska at metalab in Surry Hills in Sydney- check it out! But only until March 31. Vite, vite!

Out of all her designs, it was Natalia Milosz-Piekarska's rings that I fell for- little metal beauties with the points of the stones pointing up to the wearer instead of down (in the traditional setting, which allows the facets of the stone to refract the light.) They look delicate and savage at the same time- a bit like this little'un:

And then there's Seb Brown. I basically wanted to perform a snatch and grab of all of his stuff. (But I didn't, Alice Euphemia, and that's key. Please let me back next time I'm in town...?) If I was a pundit of fashionspeak here I would bang on about how layering fine chains and delicate pendants is so on trend and is what Alexa and co. are doing to the nines all over town but I will not, I will refrain, and in the process will save us all a little sanity.
Suffice it to say that his chains are fine, his pendants are delicate but more than that, his designs are beautifully intricate, marrying texture with daintiness. I hankered for his rings and his necklaces but I ended up pressing up against the glass and breathing deeply through my nose which was weird and drew weird looks from the very lovely girls who work at Alice E. But look at these and tell me you wouldn't do the same!

And so. 

All jewellery images from the supplied addresses except for the RWB display window photos which are all my own.

Part I: clouds, paint and pastel tights.

I met them on the plane going down. I'd heard them ribbing in the lounge as we all waited for the voice to bounce over our heads, too bright for such an early start, telling us we could board. 'What happens in Melbourne stays in Melbourne, boys!' and the deep gruff laughter of men whose voices have years of belly and shaved throat to contend with. 
So I struggled to my seat ('struggled' because my bag was inevitably overstuffed with clothes and it bumped and kicked petulantly at my legs as I tried to walk) and as I looked up he was there, a man, big all over and with a friendly face. We got chatting and he said they were going down for the Formula One. "Hot rods on Saturday, don't know if we'll go to that, and F1 on Sunday." I asked what they were going to do until Sunday and he laughed. "Drink." 
Something so lovely and, to me, quintessentially Australian about a stranger striking up a conversation on a plane out of sheer curiosity and friendliness. Just a really nice bloke. And he didn't even stare when I pulled out my camera and started taking photographs of the clouds.

A yoghurt, lemon and waffle muffin. It had pieces of waffle in the muffin! The one in the background is Mum's berry one but it didn't have waffle in the muffin so... you know...
And an artistic shot of my half-eaten butter: look at the play of light on the gold foil! Mesmerising.

And then to the business of the day.

Top to Bottom: The Block Arcade (ten points for those who looked at it and thought, 'Benjamin!'); Junya Watanabe for CdG which I tried on in Marais- 1st floor Royal Arcade, 314 Little Collins St. (All of the shapes on the pictured dress and the skirt I am midst trying on are handsewn together so they have the most beautiful shape on the body. Just a strange, forming, curving life of their own. Oher than CdG, Marais carry Alexander McQueen, Givenchy (Givenchy!), Balmain, Viktor & Rolf, Balenciaga, Lanvin... also known as labels that are rarely, if ever, stocked in Sydney. And the space sits high over the city, with light streaming over the textural blacks and sharp shoulders of the clothes- simply beautiful); the pink fluorescent light in the stairwell outside Marais; the pink-washed EXIT sign; the GPO banner; what I tried on in Acne; the window display of sass+bide.


Stickers that gleam white and out-of-place on the grubby walls. Even in broad daylight they retain the furtive air that was pasted up with them in the half-dark alley with a swift slight of hand. These little tokens of subversion or black humour or the momentary clarity of a fragment of someone's soul expressed in ink and paper. Or walls of soaring pink green silver blue, swelling in a silent but furious cacophony as they come into sight. Step to the left and you are no longer surrounded by close shops that elbow out over your head but you are motionless before the brilliance of the unexpected. 

We took some dorky shots here: T by Alexander Wang jumper, second-hand David Lawrence linen shirt, Romance Was Born silk tights, vintage Coach bag, Diva necklace, scarf from Gigi from Buenos Aires, vintage green boots from the last time I was in Melbourne. I think the rubbish skips add a lovely atmosphere, don't you? They certainly match my shoes, which is of paramount importance.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

first things first.

Not only is Vanessa Bruno the designer behind the 'David Banda' dress but she also produces kick-ass films. Not Kick-Ass films featuring Chloe Moretz, the other kind, the kind where you sigh at the screen and then go back to the start to watch for a second time.
My proof is in the viewing:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spetic < Mulleavy

I'm with Pavement Frippery on this one.

Karla Spetic SS11


Rodarte FW11

But they're both fantastic.
 You could do beautiful things with the thought of geographic place being imprinted onto the space around our embodied selves, flowing inwards into our perception of self and radiating out a foreignness (land on body) as well as a familiarity (this is my place.) Lovely.


The widening of the streets it was said, was necessitated by the crinoline.

If only they tweaked the streets of Sydney to allow for the vagaries of our clothing. No more being splashed by buses driving through the rainwater pooling in dips in the gutter, no more wind tunnels that whip up skirts and definitely no more of those zigzagging pavers with those cracks in between that snatch at stiletto heels, making you jerk midair like a marionette.
But I am no architect but if I was I would very much enjoy reading this week's allocated Benjamin convolute, E [Haussmanization, Barricade Fighting]. I'm not an expert on nineteenth-century city planning either but during the brief months I have been a Benjaminian I have learnt fast and now I can parade my knowledge in front of you as any good proto-academic should. Yes, and if I hadn't just admitted my newbness you would still be under the illusion that I am drawing this from my vast reservoir of knowledge rather than hastily Wikipediaing him (believe it) and asking lots of questions of my reading group fellows. 
So if you're like me-two-months-ago and the name Haussmann only rings a dim bell because there's a Boulevard Haussmann in Paris which baffled you at the time of being there because it's such an obviously German name, well, never fear. I shall be your tutor. 

SCENE: We are sitting in a rather small room, cream walls, industrially efficient lighting that's just two steps ahead of fluorescent bars. I am pulling the white board down over the top of the ancient blackboard because I don't want to get chalk dust on my black ensemb. I wore black because I want to convey a sense of authority to you; otherwise I'll be fighting my babyface every step of the way.
 You guys are at desks but they're joined in a circle cause I'm all about collaborative conversations in my classroom. One of you raises your arm- you (I like your hat! is that rabbit fur?)- and I point at you and it jumbles out in a blush-faced rush, 'who is Haussmann?'

First slide.
man knew how to rock the facial hair trend.

Ladies and gents, I present to you Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann, the grand architect of modern-day Paris. He was commissioned by Napoleon III to reorder the city because up until that point, today's City of Light was yesterday's City of Narrow, Cramped Streets and Filthy Air. Doesn't have quite the same ring.
 He destroyed much of the city's existing buildings, running boulevards through houses and opening it up to vistas of the grand Parisian monuments. His hand is behind the wide avenues, the proliferation of cathedrals and the abundance of light pouring into the city.
Sometimes, though, the execution was more miss than hit: 
'The idea was excellent, but what awkwardness in the execution! The Boulevard de Strasbourg frames the enormous flights of steps at the Tribunal of Commerce, and the Avenue de l'Opera provides a vista of the porter's lodge at the Louvre.' (132) 

He faced considerable opposition and criticism by people who decried his changes as ugly, grandiose but lacking in grace, soulless and corrupt. It's kind of strange to read these criticisms now because Paris is generally thought to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. 
'There were cries that he would bring on the plague; he tolerated such outcries and gave us instead- through his well-considered architectural breakthroughs- air, health, and life.' (127)

Blended in with E [Haussmanization, Barricade Fighting] is a consideration of the barricade fighting (surprise!) that was prolific in the city before the it's reno-makeover. Stories abound of furniture and street paving stones being thrown on the heads of troops by insurgents hanging out of windows, of the bodies of the dead being thrown on the barricades to make them higher, of carts being upturned to barricade streets and of the city coming to a halt amidst the rioting. 
Parallel to this is the dream of Paris, the epicentre of the universe, radiating out with ever-extending borders within which she incorporates Italy, Russia, Novaya Zemlya, Papua New Guinea... 'Paris will be the world, and the universe will be Paris... But all this is still nothing: Paris will mount to the skies and scale the firmament of firmaments; it will annex, as suburbs, the planets and the stars.' (137)


 O! Hai! Paris!


I'll stop. 


I am going to Melbourne, though, at the end of the week. Please do send through any recommendations you have because I always end up going back over to my favourite places again and again (what up, Alice Euphemia, American Rag, Jungle Juice Bar, Cumulus, NGV, Marais, Kinki Gerlinki?)
I'm going to take a hundred thousand photos to do a photo essay that actually has a purpose for existing, unlike my stars montage. 


Next time we're doing convolute F [Iron Construction] 
If there's one thing you can say about Benjamin, the man sure knew how to come up with catchy titles.