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September 30, 2007

This looks familiar

Jack Yan/12.28

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Long-time readers of my personal blog will know why I haven’t paid much attention to Vogue (Red) China but I should have, when blogging about Vogue India earlier. Here was the première issue’s cover there, as posted at Smarter Fashion Blog:

   That’s Gemma Ward again in the centre. At least it’s part of the same corporate group, I suppose.

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Welcome to Vogue India: it’s about time

Jack Yan/4.39

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Vogue India cover 
As someone who has long championed the Asian subcontinent—and Lucire has been linking Indian and Pakistani sites as they came to light over the years—I was happy to see that Vogue India has made it on to newsstands. The new magazine is a milestone in the rise of the subcontinental fashion industry, which arguably has had a longer tradition than anything in the occident. It also signals a rise in global luxury brands entering India—something which I hope will soon be more of a two-day street.
   The cover, too, addresses concerns that I expressed in a blog post last week, on the ubiquity of the white model on catwalks. There has been some chatter about why Gemma Ward, a blonde, blue-eyed model, occupies a third of the cover, but the answer is fairly simple, I thought: Vogue India is evidently a magazine that appeals to the global nature of the Indian consumer. Her presence suggests that in a shot. But the international girl is usually quite desirable from a publisher’s or licensee’s eyes, too.
   As a man, I have to say that my eyes went to the other models first: Bipasha Basu, Priyanka Chopra, Monikangana Dutta, Preity Zinta and Laxmi Menon grace the cover and gatefold, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier. Perhaps it is the ubiquity that I wrote about, but the south Asian models are stunning.
   The domestic cover girl is very important, as we learned with Lucire Romania. The original cover girl—Karen Carreño—made less of an impact than the first Romanian to appear, Monica Gabor. 
   South Asia is a region that I am keen on getting in to with Lucire. My best wishes go to Priya Tanna and her team at Vogue India.

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Curves are back at Prada

Jack Yan/1.49

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From the Murdoch Press today, reporting from Milano.

THE catwalk waif may be losing her sway. Miuccia Prada, the most-watched trendsetter in the fashion world, has signalled a move to curvier models by choosing a busty mannequin to parade a new sweater on the Milan runway where before she had stuck almost exclusively to stick-thin girls, writes Maurice Chittenden.
   Experts are predicting that Prada’s lead will be followed in Paris this week by designers responding to health concerns sparked by the deaths of three South American “size zero” models and their in?uence on young girls.

   Lara Stone, a size 8 Dutch model with a 34in bust, was cast last week by Prada, head of the label founded by her grandfather, to model a ?ne-knit but virtually see-through top to show off her breasts.

The usual story: we told you so. Who needs to watch the designers when we have been consistently ahead on most trends since 1997?

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September 29, 2007

What of the old news page?

Jack Yan/14.37

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Before this blog started, we were collecting feeds from myself, US editor-at-large Summer Rayne Oakes, travel editor Stanley Moss and US correspondent Arabella Marie (pictured at left, in a very Americanized head shot) and putting the headlines and the first few words that followed them on to the Lucire news page.
   That page has almost always been there, since this site started in 1997. Once upon a time, in a pre-Google News era, we put up news that we received through our wires there. It kind of followed a blog format, newest story up top. Eventually, as news became more widely available, we didn’t need to keep our own one up, especially since Lucire has more of a monthly mentality than a daily one.
   But the link was still current and until a few weeks ago, there was no such thing as a Lucire blog. Earlier this year, during the site’s redevelopment, we decided to use it for the blog feeds. Now, it seems superfluous.
   It’s a relatively simple matter to move the old headline feed on to these blog pages, but that still leaves us with a link.
   I don’t want to get rid of it, really, though it is also easy to allow it to forward here. But I also like the Magportal feed that gets relevant fashion headlines from around the web. Magportal’s feeds are human-edited and are more personal than the electronic ones we see based around Google News.
   So, are there any reader suggestions over what to do with that old news page? Maybe find a fashion blogger more up with reviewing MSM headlines and have her or him fill the page up? Be a boring syndicator of a Google News fashion feed? Keep the status quo but rename it? Whatever we do, we should make it interesting and novel. Over to you …

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The L word (and other letters)

Jack Yan/1.55

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[Cross-posted] I’ve commonly connected the brand-name research and work of Strategic Name Development with Bill Lozito, forgetting that this is not a one-man company. Diane Prange has been blogging at the company’s space, NameWire, and summarized some of their recent research, which I found quite fun.
   She begins:

Strategic Name Development conducted proprietary consonant research that found certain consonants have meaningful association in consumers’ minds.
   For example, B and C were seen as less complex (think Bounty and Cheerios), while X was considered innovative and L and V were rated more feminine.

   She goes on to note that front vowel sounds like that of the i (in mill) are associated with lighter and faster traits than back vowel sounds like a (in mall), which all suggests to me that Lucire is a very appropriate brand for a women’s fashion magazine.
   I wish it were all that simple: SND surveyed a sample of 414 US consumers and analysed 1,000 brands, and it’s research that you’ll have to engage the company to really get more of.

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Filed under: branding, Lucire
September 28, 2007

Ugly Betty gives the wrong idea

Jack Yan/1.57

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Ugly Betty 728×90 adI know there were a lot of Ugly Betty advertisements on the Lucire site today, as the show premières for its new season on ABC in the US. Call it good targeting: those into fashion might be in to Ugly Betty, as many of our interns are. And I have heard of some admit that they expected to be in a Bettydom when they came here.
   Still, seeing Ms America Ferrera in her Ugly Betty garb on the ads is more appropriate than the Dancing with the Stars ones that have been running here.
   Like the movie adaptation The Devil Wears Prada (which I know is based on fact), I always found these screen representations a little far-fetched. I realize Ugly Betty is a pisstake on the fashion publishing industry, and our world merely provides a backdrop, but it just never captured my imagination as someone actually in there for real.
   It’s less glamorous and if anyone did act like an arrogant prick, they would be outta here. Even if they looked like Vanessa Williams. The fashion industry is way too small and news of misbehaviour gets around more quickly than Casanova in a brothel.
   So what is the reality? Mostly people looking into computers, but buoyed at the SweetChilli end with Laura’s son, Ryder, doing the cute things that three-month-olds do. It’s actually far, far nicer.

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September 27, 2007

The race to the catwalk

Jack Yan/2.57

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Many years ago, I received an email from a group titled something along the lines of the African–American Fashion Designers, inviting us to the group’s shows in New York. I said to an editor of ours, ‘But we don’t support a White Fashion Designers of America.’
   He replied, ‘Yes we do. It’s called New York Fashion Week.’
   But he has a point. I know there are black designers present, but perhaps not as many as one would expect in the United States. Ditto non-white journalists.
   New York Fashion Week is a business, which does mean that if designers, regardless of race, cannot pony up with the money for their showings, then its organizers have no obligation to accept them.
   It might mean, however, that black designers have found it harder to get the ?nancing they require for these shows.
   Black designers aside (as that would be a huge post on its own), how about models of colour?
   When the New Zealand print edition of Lucire went on retail sale with Denise Vasi on the cover, I remember getting a bit of applause. Not that I thought putting a black model on the cover was revolutionary. But enough people Stateside did, more so when we had a second one on the second issue.
   Two in a row, according to America, was unheard of.
   Since then, I have noticed that even we have had white models, alleviated only by Stacie Jones Upchurch. I think this puts us back to the ratio that Vogue might have: I read somewhere it was one in twelve. And that is not good enough in a world which is far more of a melting pot.
   Few Lucire covers are shot in New Zealand. Here, I’d expect to ?nd models with Polynesian blood, but the majority of our covers are shot Stateside. With white models.
   In defence of our photographers, the majority of models on the books are white. They have no agenda going in. But why are models of colour so hard to ?nd there?
   I read in Metro (the New York edition) that Guy Trébay of The New York Times has expressed similar concerns. ‘The runway doesn’t re?ect the world. It makes fashion feel very backward,’ he says. In New Zealand, I think the situation is more realistic, but in our quest to have a “mainstream” fashion week, even we might be guilty of following the US playbook. We need to watch ourselves to make sure we don’t. 
   Here, I was encouraged to note that Elle Gibson, the Cadbury Dream Model Search winner for 2007, has a darker complexion. If you look at the new models’ feature in Lucire 24, the real up-and-comers, including Elle, have very exotic mixtures. Bruna Tenorio, selected by our Laura Ming-Wong as a face to watch, has Chinese and Japanese mixed in with her Brazilian blood. She’s taking on catwalks and campaigns globally.
   So I have to wonder if this whole homogeneous, white mood in the US is in line with what the rest of us are thinking.
   The Metro article goes on to show how black models have gotten together every now and then in the US, but the impact is short-lived. Fashion goes back into its white way.

“There was a turning point where you had many girls working at once, and it looked like things were going to change; we all had high hopes,” says [Naomi] Campbell, the ?rst black woman to appear on the covers of French and British Vogue, of the boom minority models experienced in the ’90s. “But then things regressed. Now it seems like all that hard work we did has not changed anything. It’s really hard to wake up in 2007 and accept that we shouldn’t push the door open again. We can’t shut our mouths any longer,” Campbell says.

   It all begins with catwalk, according to the article. ‘The runway is very crucial. It’s where careers are made because all aspects of fashion converge in one room for a show,’ says IMG’s Kyle Hagler.
   But the mood is one of homogeneity, according to some in the article. Bollocks, I say—not to Metro, but to those who think that the fashion industry seeks same-again dullness.
   ‘Isaac Mizrahi is name-checked by several in the industry as having a history of employing models of all ethnicities and body types,’ reads the article. That is a good thing. Mizrahi has a clear conscience and his collection should stand out. It would do in our books. Diane Von Furstenberg and Baby Phat were more balanced this time round, according to Diversity Inc. Again, they stand out and their brands potentially become stronger—because the mood of the moment is being real.
   But even Mizrahi has concerns about doing the right thing—or should I say, doing the normal thing.
   ‘I discovered a lovely biracial girl in a café who was rather zaftig, and I featured her in one of my shows. You could feel editors shutting down whenever she hit the runway,’ he tells Metro.
   Then there is something wrong with my colleagues in the industry. I do not believe that there is anything in the Zeitgeist that should prompt that shutting-down.
   In fact, the Zeitgeist is quite the opposite: multiculturalism is cool. Very cool. Because it is very real.
   Here’s what I loved best about the piece though: the legal precedent setting.

It’s also possibly illegal. “There’s a ?ne line between artistic vision and discrimination. If a designer chooses to define a certain vision as all white or all black, you run the risk of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act ­of 1964,” explains Anna Park, regional attorney in the Los Angeles district attorney’s of?ce of the Equal Employment ­Opportunity Commission. The Act prohibits employment discrimination “based on race, color, ­religion, sex or national origin.” Park worked on the case against Abercrombie & Fitch, which the retailer lost. “Abercrombie & Fitch got into trouble when they tried to de?ne ‘all-American’ as white male. If I said I wanted to hire an aggressive attorney and that ‘aggressive means white, an Asian attorney wouldn’t be aggressive enough,’ that’s discrimination,” she adds.

   This is as pressing an issue as the whole skinny models’ debate. Funny how we need to take a stand on a subject that, to the rest of the population (read: the consumers of fashion and beauty products), should be normal behaviour.

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No longer a myth

Jack Yan/0.29

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It’s important for any blog to respect at least some journalistic standards, and I was today alerted to the background behind an earlier story that was criticized on this blog earlier this month.
   Miranda Likeman at FashioNZ clears up her side of the story:

Yesterday when I mentioned that I thought one show in particular was the best of the day, I was saying so as a fashion commentator and consumer. The fact that that designer also happens to be a client and a friend of mine had nothing to do with it—and I am far from alone in my appreciation of this designer[’]s show. I also have nothing to do with the show reviews going up on the site this year as I felt it would be a con?ict of interest.

   I believe the trackbacks on this blog work, so folks reading Sylvia Giles’s earlier post which initially raised the above should be able to see this link.
   Miranda’s comments are in line with my own on the post: this country is so darned small that it’s inevitable that we will write about people we know well and such questions will be raised. No one in New Zealand, or at least very few, can say that they have not written about a client or someone they know well. Generally, we try to assign such stories to others without that relationship, but oftentimes it is impossible.
   In Sylvie’s defence, I understand from all our three correspondents that media access this year at Air New Zealand Fashion Week was less than desirable compared to previous years’ (I remember the L’Oréal-sponsored days fondly), and she would have had no opportunity to ?nd Miranda’s response. We did not lend out any wi?-enabled laptops for the New Zealand team as they were all used up in production due to one machine dying. To my knowledge, she isn’t subscribed to FashioNZ’s RSS feeds and would have taken the same amount of time to learn of the above as it did for Sylvie’s post to be found and commented upon in my private email today.
   We need to accept the motives behind any blog posting, whether at this publication or at another, because blogs by their nature are not subbed and proofread to anywhere near the standards of a formal publication. One only has to surf the blogosphere to see the rushed postings and the brain dumps. Understanding and following up the motives are things I have always believed in when it comes to this medium, and such postscripts become far more important as a result. Hence this post.
   There you have it: the goings-on behind the scenes, which was what I said this blog was all about. And it makes a good case for print magazines that take a while to put together, accommodating any and all possible angles.

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