"I have learned that documentary makers are incredibly sneaky people,” Anna Wintour told Today’s anchor Savannah Guthrie with a slight smile. “ They just follow you around until you make a complete fool of yourself and say something you deeply regret.” Wintour is the editor-in-chief of Vogue, artistic director for Condé Nast, and the helm of the annual fundraiser Met Gala. As one of the highest powers in fashion, Wintour has been portrayed in different documentaries, mostly showing her icy public persona.
The star-studded Met Gala, which has raised more than $150 million for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, became the subject of a new documentary called The First Monday in May. Wintour said she had so much respect for the Emmy-nominated filmmaker, Andrew Rossi’s 2011 work, Page One: Inside The New York Times. “I think we all felt we were in safe hands,” she explained of working with Rossi on the film.
Director Rossi’s gliding camera gave a sneak peek of both the party and the 2015 exhibition “China: Through The Looking Glass.” The idea was to bring together pieces from the Museum’s Chinese Galleries collection and Chinese-inspired fashion, including the works of John Galliano, Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Chinese designer Guo Pei.
The documentary scratched the surface on a lot of topics: celebrating fashion as art, the mixture of art and commerce, the power of celebrities in high fashion, the politic with the Ancient Art Department, and the Chinese’s portrayal in Western culture. The movie also points out the stereotype of the Dragon Lady, a figure to describe powerful women who we project our fears onto.
“Let me say something about this Dragon Lady,” the Gala’s creative consultant and film director Baz Luhrmann shares his insight. ”I’ve seen [Anna] play the person everyone thinks she is. But it's a character; it's her work armor. But I do think that if Anna was a man, there might be less focus on that.”
Rossi captures Wintour as intimidatingly superior but also as a much-needed pragmatic decision maker. For him, it was not an easy journey to get Wintour’s trust, “The first time I shot with her one-on-one by meeting her at six o’clock in the morning, when she was getting ready to go to a meeting at the museum.” In an interview for the DVD’s special features, Rossi explains that he was waiting for Wintour to come out on the dark, cold November dawn, about eight months before the gala.
As with his other movies, Rossi tried to build up certain intimacy with his subjects. Half a year after their first meeting, Wintour finally lets Rossi and his crews film the inside of her house. The 66-year-old was boiling water while wearing a gray sweater, dark navy jeans, Tod’s blue flat shoes, as casual as Anna Wintour could be. Rossi captured the moment when Wintour was looking touched seeing her beautiful daughter Katherine "Bee" Shaffer put on a Sarah Burton’s dress. Even though Wintour still keeps her Gucci sunglasses on, that scene helps humanize the fashion titan’s public profile.
As expected, Rossi also gives the audience a The Devil Wears Prada moment, dramatizing the seating-chart planning as a power brokering. "We have to keep the numbers down and also the free seats," Wintour tells the former Costume Institute curator, Harold Koda. “There must be another way that we can accommodate people. You’ll figure it out,” the shot ended with Wintour’s smirk. Despite being labeled as the "Super Bowl" of fashion, the Met Gala is still an intimate party for A-list celebrities, designers, and politicians. Only 500 people made the guest list, and the price ranges from $30,000 per ticket to $275,000 per table, depending on the size of the brand and its relationship with Vogue. Some celebs, including Solange Knowles, ended up getting a bad table – unlike her sister, Beyoncé who has the best seat near the stage. Chloe Sevigny in her JW Anderson dress feels like she was an outcast in high school when her table is switched so the H&M one can be closer to the stage.
Of course, it would be inappropriate not to mention Andrew Bolton, the real heart of this documentary. With his less commanding presence, Bolton makes an excellent narrator guiding us through the whole behind the scene process. The viewers could picture the little kid from Lancashire totally in "awe" doing his dream as the curator of the Costume Institute. It's hard not to find him likable, after learning the incredible amount of creative thinking and hard work that goes into making the exhibition.
"Every year we get a lot of attention obviously for the party, but in the end, it's Andrew's work that we are celebrating," Wintour admits. The relationship between Bolton and Wintour is very supportive, they also seen sitting together in Comme des Garçons Spring 2016 Runway’s front row yesterday.
Bolton achieved his goal to outdo his legendary “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” exhibition. More than 800,000 people visited “China: Through the Looking Glass.” The 2015 Met Gala raised a record $12.5 million for the Museum, thanks to Wintour.
The First Monday in May perhaps didn't show deep analysis of its subject, but it is breathtaking and easy to enjoy. One can’t help but wonder will there be a movie that documents Anna Wintour’s life? Will there be a documentary that finally breaks her Dragon Lady persona?
Known as the home to families and immigrants, the Sunset District is filled with diners and bakeries, retaining the laid back feeling of a small town. At the corner of 20th Avenue, next to a Chinese herb store and an acupuncture clinic, Eye of the Tiger Tattoo gives the suburban style neighborhood a youthful vibe. There are currently six resident artists tattooing and among them is Oliver Kenton. The shop has an organic feel: fern-green walls covered with hand-painted decorations and flash tattoo designs sketched by the Tiger team. Young visitors come for a more permanent souvenir – authentic mandala tattoo.
On recent Sunday morning, Kenton was wearing a black T-shirt, navy blue Converse sneakers, and a messenger bag. The 25-year-old has a tribal nose ring and big black hoop earrings. He is nearly covered with tattoos: a redheaded lady on one hand, a dragon on his left, a zombie in a coffin on his leg, mandala tattoos along his neck and everywhere. In contrast, he is mild-mannered.
Among thousands of tattoo artists in San Francisco, Kenton stands out with his bewitching geometric tattoos. Kenton has more than 23,000 followers on Instagram and has been tattooing for seven years. He is famous for his detailed Tibetan-inspired tattoos, featuring bold geometric designs and painted elements of nature. His hourly rate is $180, slightly higher than the average, and there is a two-month waiting list. But for Kenton's customers, it’s worth the wait.
Tattooing dates back 5,000 years ago and was once so-called deviants or subversive subcultures. Now in the era of excessive individualism, the practice of body ink is so widespread, and the continuing appropriation makes this former taboo as a mainstream way to express personal taste. Gone is the stigmatization of drunken sailors and tattoos are no longer symbolizing rebellion, but showcasing a modern artistic movement. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey found that 45 million Americans at least have one tattoo.
Today, religious iconography has made its way into contemporary tattoo art, where people make a spiritual statement through body modification. “I try to incorporate sacred geometric elements, stippling, and melt them together with blackwork tattooing,” said Kenton. The results are beautiful mandala tattoos with solid line work, high contrast shading, and symmetrical precision.
A mandala, or circle in Sanskrit, has a concentric structure, creating a circular floral design. This imagery is not just visually appealing; they also represent wholeness, harmony, and balance in one’s spiritual journey. Mandala tattoos can be a meditative spiritual symbol; many believe that meditating on mandalas can give clarity.
"It is a path of life, a right of passage. From mythical animals, lotus, to the Flower of Life, each shape has a specific meaning. I look at a lot of references from older Tibetan artworks like ruins, paintings, old tapestries, as well as ancient Japanese woodblock prints," explained Kenton. "I try to research symbolism, how it changes throughout times depending on what we want them to represent."
Kenton’s ornamental work is mostly done on the arm, also known as sleeves. In addition, many tattoo-seekers are interested in solar plexus tattoos. Look closely and you will see delicate little dots forming paisley motifs, dainty henna patterns, cubism, dangling pointillism, and sacred animals. He recently did a Vajra (meaning both thunderbolt and diamond in Sanskrit) inspired mandala, a labyrinth tattoo, a Nordic compass, a heart chakra, and a Polynesian inspired piece.
Colton Long, Kenton’s assistant, shared his thoughts: “Oliver’s meticulous attention to detail brings a fresh perspective to blackwork. The accuracy in doing geometric tattoos has to be exact, and he literally can't miss a line.” Long explained why people would pay Kenton 1,500 dollars per day for his craft and a customized experience. “He is also able to connect with customers to give the tattoo that they want or maybe didn’t even know that they wanted," added Long.
Born in Durban, South Africa, Kenton always had an interest in the arts. Kenton used to do graffiti and murals before he discovered tattooing while on vacation visiting his older sister, who worked at a tattoo shop. At seventeen, he moved to Southern California two weeks after he graduated to pursue his dream as a tattoo artist.
“My brother-in-law Cameron Fuhrer has been tattooing for thirty years. I was under his wing, and he taught me how to tattoo. I helped manage three of his shops for two years,” said Kenton. “It was pretty brutal; he didn’t go easy on me by any means. First of all, learning to not to be scared to hurt people, to facilitate people's pain. Also getting used to the medium of tattooing, just learning what to do as far as cross contamination and sterilization. It takes a while to break in on those habits.”
Three years ago, he moved to San Francisco. He thinks that people in the Bay Area are more in touch with the spiritual side of life. Mandala tattoos are popular among those who follow new age practices, the modern hippy lifestyle of San Franciscans. He then started to incorporate geometric designs into traditional flash tattoos. “I was also experimenting with other things in my life, as far as DMT and hallucinations, and I brought some of that in my tattooing,” shared Kenton.
Kenton's feminine tattooing style attracts mostly young women. Jacki L. from Inner Richmond gave Kenton five stars on her Yelp review, "I could not be happier with the result. I've been looking for an artist who executes mandalas and dot work, and I have to say I feel like I carry a piece of art with me rather than just a tattoo.”
Looking forward, Kenton wants to see the evolution of sacred geometric tattoos, combining a hybrid of realistic and minimalistic linear blackwork, as well as collaborating with other artists. His goal is to continue to give his clientele a piece of art on their body through his tailor-made images.
“It’s definitely an honor to tattoo people,” he said. “They give me their trust to do something that they will carry for life.”
For more information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 753-9648
Studio: Eye of The Tiger Tattoo @EyeOfTheTigerTattoo
Location address: 1309 20th Ave San Francisco, CA 94122
Rate: 180/hours, 1500/day
@olivertattoos – www.olivertattoos.com – olivetattoos.tumblr.com
In 2011, right around the time Facebook moved to Palo Alto, GQ magazine named San Francisco as one of the worst dressed cities in the nation. A year before that, the New York Times’ Guy Trebay mentioned in an article that San Francisco is "the land that style forgot." Silicon Valley is economically powerful, and Union Square is surrounded by the best names in fashion, but it seems like most people here don’t splurge on fashion and luxury goods.
In Paris, New York, Milan, and Shanghai, branded outfits and designer bags are being paraded on the street. On the flip side, in the Bay Area, it is very common to see people wearing leggings, and running shoes when you enter a fancy restaurant or a high-end bar. One could spend $398 for a meal at the three Michelin-starred restaurant, Saison, maybe wearing hoodies, and no one would mind. Tech companies and startup wealth may be transforming the city, but San Francisco’s clothing style will likely remain forever comfortable and practical. The style of San Francisco would best be described as: the slob at the top.
Instead of suits and ties, free T-shirts with tech company logos are the official local uniforms for many. Yoga pants are a new favorite and are indicative of the fact that many are embracing the active lifestyle. The weather is unpredictable, so wearing layers is a must. The city’s super steep streets are no mystery, and that's why most women give up on wearing high heels.
San Francisco’s fashion icon, Haute Living blogger, and the owner of Podium boutique, Sonya Molodetskaya, once said to Academy of Art students, “Don’t even talk about the tech guys. I think the only computer specialist that dresses nicely is the Yahoogirl, Marissa Mayer.” It’s hard not to agree, seeing how Mark Zuckerberg, whose net worth is 35.7 billion USD, always wears the same plain gray t-shirt under a North Facejacket. People here feel that it is cool not to care, and it gains them entry into an elitist clique in the youthful tech world. "It's not like New York, where everyone aims to dress for perfection," added Molodetskaya. Wearing a yellow coat, striped blouse, boxy white pants, and Christian Dior shoes, she clearly is one of the rare individuals in the city who dresses to the nines.
Despite all of the bad reviews of its fashion taste, San Francisco’s laid-back approach to apparel is actually a reflection of the normcore fashion trend. Normcore, which was boomed in 2014, is best described as a fashion style that is characterized by unpretentious normal-looking clothing. "Normcore says, 'I have soul and intelligence. I'm unique, and I don't need to shout about it,’" said designer Richard Nicoll, quoted recently in Vogue.
Think about San Francisco’s Gap Inc. retail brands, American Giant, and Levi Strauss & Co. In fact, Levi’s was responsible for the popularization of “casual Friday,” caused by their 80s Dockers® khaki pants ad campaign. The informal work attire culture had spread far beyond San Francisco. Only in Silicon Valley, casual Friday has transformed into casual every day.
Is it just that people are too lazy to dress-up or is there a different mentality?
Perhaps Silicon Valley culture is about what you can do and not about what you can wear.
Unlike other countries where wearing branded attire from head to toe is considered as the symbol of success, people in the Bay Area appear to prefer conspicuous leisure rather than conspicuous consumption. People care more about the good quality of life: buying organic foods, going to the gym, and spending time with friends. Most San Franciscans prefer a nice weekend getaway to buying new Louboutin shoes; they want to buy experience, and not trivial possessions. There is even the pride of not spending money on clothing and the strong culture of thrift shopping.
The liberation of being sloppy and not being judged is also definitely a plus. It is not about the money; it is about the freedom to wear whatever you want to wear. “The difference is just there is no rule that you have to wear a suit and tie. In Google we have ‘dapper Thursday’ when employees can suit up just for fun,” said Kemble Fletcher, senior enterprise architect at Google. Piotr Oleszkiewicz, chief executive of RevealoCorp. tech startup, also agreed, “I believe that people here can dress in more fancy ways, but they do it only from time to time. They don't do that on a daily basis just because it was a tradition to do so.”
San Francisco is the city where you are free to be whoever you want to be. If you like to dress up then good for you, if you don’t then you can stay proud to be a successful slob at the top. Many fashionistas may roll their eyes at San Francisco’s choice of fashion, but one thing is certain: it is a city more interested in investing in memories than handbags. And that’s a good thing.
Flirting with death in the post apocalyptic world of fashion
“As soon as a trend is born, it is destined to die. Nothing is permanent in fashion, and its very ephemerality is suggestive of our own quick passage,” said Harold Koda, former curator of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And in few months that have passed since he said that to the fashion film website, Show Studio, the “see now, buy now, wear now” movement has been more prevalent in the fashion world. Some says it might be the future of fashion yet many believe that it is bringing death to fashion. The facts on how fashion has been flirting with death could be seen from three angles: media, rebellion, and uniformity.
In the era of instant gratification, never have consumers ingested trends faster. This year represents a dark time in fashion; fashion experts blame smartphones and fashion’s FOMO, the fear of missing out. “Social media is the laxative of the fashion system,” said Scott Galloway, the founder and chairman of the digital consultancy firm L2. People are overwhelmed with fashion information from social media, scrolling through Instagram pictures, reading Tweets, Snapchatting, or watching live stream videos. Outfits from a fashion week can be seen in fast fashion retailers’ window displays within two weeks. With some retailers bringing inventory twice a week and the fact that fashion continues to recycle itself, one question arises: Is there anything that is truly new in fashion?
There are not many things that are shocking in this day and age. Sex and nudity used to be taboo, yet now the public is so desensitized to sex-based imagery. Most of fashion advertisements use women as sex objects, disguised in humor, innuendo, or in the name of art. Controversial? Not anymore, the edge is gone. So, what is more shocking than nudity? Death.
Something as simple as scarlet ribbons can symbolize the blood of the dead. During the bloodiest period of the French Revolution, many fashionable people adopted a la victime style, by wearing red ribbons around necks that were symbolic of the thousands of lives that were taken by a massive guillotine execution.
In the Victorian era, mourning became a respectful – as well as a fashionable – practice. Popularized by Queen Victoria upon Prince Albert’s death in 1861, black mourning attire spread throughout all classes. Women also incorporated death into their accessories by wearing memorial jewelries made from the hair, tiny bones, or teeth of a deceased loved one. One popular item was a locket for braided hair and photographs. These objects are referred to momento mori, a reminder of death. Even Koda said, “Fashion [is] a kind of constant memento mori.”
However, with everything changing too fast, fashion is now stuck in its stillness, akin to death’s stillness. So it only makes sense that fashion is bringing back death imagery in designs, advertisings, and editorials. Advertisers are hoping that the shock factor from their branding ploys – using beautiful models posing as cadavers – will boost their marketing magic and fight the public’s short attention span. One example is Marc Jacobs’ Spring 2014 ad campaign featuring Miley Cyrus. Cyrus replaced her twerking moves and crazy nude antics with a somber persona. In the ads, she wears military uniform-inspired outfits in dark navy, a very unusual choice for spring collection. Cyrus stares distantly into space with a depressing beach background, as a corpse-like model lies lifelessly beside her.
Fashion has long been flirting with death in the underground subcultures. Subcultures have used fashion to build communities that sway from the norm. Goth subcultures emerged in the late 1960s, embracing the romanticism of death. Generally featuring black color from head to toe, the Goth’s style is often linked to velvet, lace, fishnets, and corsets. This fashion style is having resurrection in 2016 fashion weeks. Take a look at Dior’s jet-black lipstick, Rodarte’s lacy Goth princess dresses, Erdem’s Shakespeare heroine, and don’t forget Marc Jacobs’ eclectic neo-Goth collection.
Goth’s sister, punk, used to be scandalous with its rebellious nature of anarchy and deviations against society. Remember The Sex Pistols, Vivienne Westwood, and Malcolm McLaren in the mid-1970s? The punk subcultures influenced the early street wear revolution. Nowadays, the underground scene suddenly climbed up to the aboveground, with a new label: “street fashion.” Leather jackets, rebel t-shirts, ripped jeans, chokers, studs, colored hair – we see those styles worn by youngsters in San Francisco on a daily basis. People are trying to be unique and to stand out, but in their attempt to be different, they all end up looking the same. What used to be scandalous is now the new norm – a uniform.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than in fashion’s use of the skull imagery. Once seen as a sinister symbol of subcultures, today, the skull is hardly frightening. Apparel with skulls has become a mainstream fashion classic; people have incorporated skull designs into their wardrobe from small accessories to haute couture pieces. Luxury brand Alexander McQueen is well-known for its iconic skull trademark on clothes, scarves, sunglasses, shoes, perfumes, and other merchandise. The skull also carries a deeper, symbolic meaning after Lee McQueen’s death, representing his fixation on the fragility of creation mixed with the macabre symbol of death.
Another thing that is dying in fashion is gender. Gender neutralism might be “in” but certainly is not new. Once upon a time, men and women wore similar clothing. However, in 19th century western society, skirts, dresses, and high heels became the uniform of women’s clothing, while the men’s uniform included shirts, trousers, and neckties. By the late 20th century, again, intolerance of gender ambiguity progressively began to disappear. Some believe that the future of the rebellious fashion industry may have no gender. People use the genderless fashion movement as a new form of rebellion to express self-individuality as a person, not just by gender. “The problem selling ‘genderless’ clothing is that clothing is already genderless. T-shirts don’t have genitals (surprise!),” wrote a transgender man, Jack Bean, in an article for Attitude Magazine. Bean has a point; gender labeling might just be the companies’ marketing tag.
Death, rebellion, gender bending: maybe the fashion world is simply out of ideas and keeps recycling the same old sales strategy. “Marketing of course killed the whole thing [fashion],” said trend forecaster Li Edelkoor in an interview with Dezeen Magazine. “It’s governed by greed and not by vision. There is no innovation any more because of that.”
Then there are the continuous deaths that occur in the process of making sales-driven fashion. People in other parts of the world are killed as part of the true cost of our $8 clothes. It’s been three years since the 2013 Rana Plaza accident in Bangladesh, which made international headlines. The fact that 1,134 workers were killed – when the building collapsed caused by safety standard negligence – was a wake up call. Until now, by its own admission, 61 percent of H&M factories have yet to complete the fundamental workplace safety and wage requirement. The deadly factory is just one example; it is vital for consumers to know that fast fashion is built on low-cost labor, also known as sweatshops. There are big sacrifices paid for the ridiculously cheap disposable garments, aimed at consumers who want to buy clothes every week. “Consumers weren’t demanding that [fast fashion cycle] 20 years ago. Retailers need to step back from this absurd approach of changing styles every 15 minutes,” stated Scott Nova, the Worker Rights Consortium’s executive director to Bloomberg News.
Since fashion is a reflection of self-identity, are we visiting little deaths upon ourselves? Following fast fashion is a possible quick fix by substituting the search for ourselves with the search for clothes. The death of fashion may communicate the anger and frustration felt by postmodern consumer society. The fast fashion hyper-consumerism is driven by the need for us to express our individual selves – by buying more products. This status-anxiety is built because people often measure success by the stuff we own. Like lemmings following the mass horde, we are struggling to find a place and voice in the society under the immense pressure of being unique, especially when the fashion industry now is designed to make us feel out of trend just after one week.
To live is to die, none is eternal in fashion. So while the wheel of fashion is spinning faster and faster, there seems to be no slowing down for anyone. After exploiting everything in the name of fashion, we need to slow down and get away from the click-it-buy-it-now business. No need to quit cold turkey, but lessening our consumer habits will make a difference. Otherwise, we will end up chasing death and living in the fast lane, which might bring death quicker than it should. (MT)
Bean, Jack. "‘Gender-neutral Clothing Is a Step Backwards – and Here’s Why’." Attitude Magazine. 20 Apr. 2016. Web. 19 May 2016.
Fairs, Marcus. ""It's the End of Fashion as We Know It" Says Li Edelkoort." Dezeen Its the End of Fashion as We Know It Says Li Edelkoort Comments. 01 Mar. 2015. Web. 19 May 2016.
Friedman, Vanessa. "How Smartphones Are Killing Off the Fashion Show." The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 Feb. 2016. Web. 19 May 2016.
Peppers, Margot. "Miley, the High Fashion Model: Cyrus Shows off a More Serious Side in New Marc Jacobs Ads as the Full Campaign Is Released." Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 07 Mar. 2014. Web. 19 May 2016.
Zarrella, Katharine. "Behind The Seams." Dialogue Between Fashion and Death. 08 Sept. 2015. Web. 19 May 2016.