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After the events of January 6, Emily Ratajkowski and others point to the real dangers

Filed by Jack Yan/January 8, 2021/12.53


Inez & Vinoodh/Kérastase

Above: Emily Ratajkowski (centre) in a new promotion for Kérastase, as promoted on her Instagram. But it’s what she wrote on Twitter that’s far more on point with the events of January 6 in the US.

When you have US friends on all sides of the political spectrum—greens, Democrats, Republicans, libertarians—you tend to get a reasonable idea of who they are, rather be trapped in the bubbles that Big Tech keep you in, to give you a false sense of your own righteousness. It’s never been healthy to be so entrenched in your own viewpoints that you can’t entertain another’s, yet our reliance on technology has done just that, as Big Tech platforms seek to occupy our attention, and to do that, they feed us what will increase it. That means telling us we’re right and the other side is wrong, and feeding extreme versions (including lies) of how the other side is wrong, so we’re more outraged, and spend still more time with them on Facebook, YouTube, and wherever else we might wander.
   So while it’s easy to be up in arms about some of the facts from the Washington, DC insurgency by supporters of President Donald Trump—the flying of a Confederate flag on Capitol Hill, which no one achieved during their civil war; the first time anyone managed to storm the place since the British in 1814; or the tragedy of five deaths—the big story is in Big Tech and how it decides to shut someone down when it feels like it. These companies, who pay little tax in their own countries, who are generally unanswerable to laws and happily pay fines that amount to mere hours of earnings, yield a power that any “side” in a political debate should be wary of.
   In the cases of Facebook and Twitter, both are culpable and moved only to save their own arses: had they applied their own terms and conditions evenly to all users, then President Trump’s use of the platforms would have been moderated through the years; or he may well have found himself on the wrong side of the rules and saw his account terminated long ago. Facebook, in particular, has had a record of not moving till public outcry reaches fever pitch, and its moves to ban Trump from using the platform must be seen in that context. The statements from these platforms struck me as insincere and reactionary, especially as both have taken down accounts for doing absolutely nothing at all, while others have been removed from bucking orthodoxy—for instance, I can think of a grandmother in Finland who was consistently anti-war, who fell foul of Twitter’s whims.
   The web’s original great promise was the even playing field: that we could all benefit equally on there, and that we finally had a truly meritorious medium. Yet that has been steadily eroded over the years by the dominant players seeking to cement their positions. They know they are monopolies, or at best oligopolies. As far as we can tell, Google’s news results favour corporate media over independents. They have each created an uneven culture, where indulging those in power, political or commercial, has become the norm.
   The EU has successfully sued Google over biases in its results. This, teamed with the bubbles, have taken us further away from the promise of the web, as barriers to entry rise, and as it becomes harder to create challengers to the monopolies.
   I have long maintained that people in the US have common enemies, rather than each other. Listen to them and you’ll find the themes are common: stagnant wages, unaffordable health care, the vanishing middle class, corrupt politicians who do the bidding of donors rather than the people, and unbridled corporate power. I touched upon these in my podcast on September 11, 2020; and my blog has a related post dating back to 2014. Even here in Lucire I published an op-ed in 2017.
   Of course one should condemn violence and I admit I felt relieved when Trump was silenced, albeit temporarily, on Twitter, since friends have been banned, suspended or shadow-banned for far less. I thought: finally, they’re enforcing their own rules evenly. What he wrote must be a breach of their terms and conditions. But after some reflection, this isn’t the whole story. Those T&Cs have meant little because they were never applied evenly. These platforms go with the flavour of the month, and while many might cheer on these developments, they may think twice when the sword is pointed their way.
   In 2018, The Anti-Media had their Facebook and Twitter accounts deleted in coordinated fashion. Some of their contributors found their presences gone, without explanation. The Anti-Media Radio account was deleted because of ‘multiple or repeat violations of the Twitter rules’, yet had never Tweeted.
   I seldom criticize Chinese platforms such as Weibo even though they are monitored and censored by the régime in Beijing. But Weibo’s terms say as much when they tell you what legislation will come into play, which is far more honest an approach. Free speech, after all, doesn’t mean platforms must host what we say, or publishers must publish what we write, and as long as I know where the boundaries lie, I’ll aim not to cross them. If I wish to cross them, I will do so in my own spaces.
   Big Tech in the US, however, is different, because the terms don’t marry up with the reality. And when rules are applied unevenly, just as when laws are applied unevenly (US police actions toward whites versus blacks, for instance), we cannot trust what the powers-that-be might do.
   Emily Ratajkowski, who has regularly proved more insightful than many wish to give her credit for, Tweeted along these lines in the wake of the Washington, DC riots yesterday.
   ‘Anyone else feel like proper amount of capital police being absent/letting Trump people in/providing insane visuals of MAGA dudes on the floor of the house was wildly convenient to justifying big tech’s rollout of censorship?’ she wrote. She followed this with: ‘I’m saying it’s very convenient to justify taking away more rights & privacy’ and ‘This gives Facebook/tech/Zuck THE MOST POWER. If he can shut the president up/off he can shut any of us up/off’.
   Her other words: ‘My concern is that this gives big tech the opportunity to shut down “leftist extremists” who are important political organizers.’ And, in one response, ‘And before tech leftists were being blacklisted by other means. People responding to my tweet somehow do not understand what license this gives big tech to continue to do so this time with people cheering. Patriot act 2.0?’
   At no point is she cheering on violence, or agreeing with the MAGA movement, but she paints a chilling picture. Leftists (and a good many on the right) might be delighted at the actions taken by US Big Tech, but would one be as cheerful if a Democratic president or a leftist movement were silenced? All I am advocating for is fairness, and I believe that Ratajkowski is, too. It’s something we’ve not seen.
   Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who unlike so much of the US media plays no favourites, Tweeted a few hours after Ratajkowski: ‘A handful of Silicon Valley oligarchs decide who can and cannot be heard, including the President of the United States. They exert this power unilaterally, with no standards, accountability or appeal.
   ‘Politics now is begging them to silence adversaries or permit allies to speak …
   ‘This is particularly menacing because they’re not just like any other companies with competitors. A Democratic-controlled House sub-committee three months ago definitively concluded that 4 of them – FB, Amazon, Google and Apple – are classic monopolies.
   ‘Demands that Silicon Valley censor more were already rapidly escalating. After yesterday, that tech oligarchs should police our discourse is a virtual consensus. Look for way more.
   ‘As I wrote today, it’s very redolent of post-9/11 calls for censorship.’
   Edward Snowden, meanwhile, Tweeted, ‘For better or worse, this will be remembered as a turning point in the battle for control over digital speech.’
   I have to concur. By all means, have terms and conditions—but have them apply to all. And if you’re going to indulge one to a certain level, you must indulge us all to the same. What happened on January 6 were unilateral exercises by platforms that have allowed one party to violate their own terms and conditions for years, only for them to have a change of heart brought upon by public pressure.
   What’s worse is that the uneven playing field that they have created was motivated by greed. Twitter was at least frank enough to admit that Trump was given a free pass for years, with his newsworthiness their excuse. But they all knew, just as the US media did when all of them—from MSNBC through to the Murdoch Press—that his content was good for their business because it meant attention.
   Fuelling it was in their best interests. An internal Facebook report revealed that 64 per cent of the time someone joins an extremist Facebook group, they have done so because it was recommended to them by the algorithm. This is no accident. Roger McNamee goes one further when he points out in Wired: ‘Facebook has also acknowledged that pages and groups associated with QAnon extremism had at least 3 million members, meaning Facebook helped radicalize 2 million people.’ Remember that the same argument must apply to leftist extremists, too.
   He continues, ‘Congress and law enforcement must decide what to do about the unprecedented insurrection in Washington. President Trump and elements of the right-wing media must pay. So, too, must internet platforms. They have prioritized their own profits and prerogatives over democracy and the public health and safety of the people who use their products.’
   The solutions are numerous, but among them must be the enforcement of antitrust laws as they were originally intended to be used, not what they became over the last three decades. The US Justice Department is pursuing this.
   Secondly, the intentional design of these platforms to bubble, radicalize and incite needs to stop, and individual nations’ legislatures could go some way to enacting laws to force it. Let them serve people and society, which is what technology should do—people should not be bending to the technology. Allow us to find alternative viewpoints with “the other side” if we are truly to understand and engage with one another.
   Thirdly, when these platforms lie, they should be punished, but with penalties that fit the crime. Fining Google four hours’ earnings after hacking a setting on Iphones is hardly a punishment, for instance. Lying has become a regular practice in some US businesses because we all know that Big Tech has done so with impunity.
   These alterations won’t suddenly make Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon and the others poor, either. Their owners will still be worth myriads of millions of dollars, but at least people’s lives won’t be threatened to the same extent. While some are blaming Trump for the five deaths on the Capitol Hill insurrection, Big Tech platforms were the ones that helped bring the mob there, just as YouTube recommended conspiracy videos, or Facebook incited genocide against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The US might still be more a democracy rather than an anocracy if not for Big Tech’s greed over the last 20 or so years.
   There’s no left or right to this. And when those divisions are removed, when the bubbles are popped, we might just see where the real obstacles in society lie—corruption, tax-dodging, monopoly power, environmental harm—rather than each other.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


Wishing all a happy 2021!

Filed by Jack Yan/December 31, 2020/23.05

Happy 2021 to our readers and supporters!
   Twenty twenty was tough, and along with the rest of you, we felt it. But believe it or not, commercially it wasn’t our toughest year—you can look back at 2005–6 for that, and long-time readers will recall that by January 2006 there were preciously few articles being posted on the site while resources were used to prop up the print magazines as we removed certain negative elements from our business. A few good people, with whom I remain in touch, were caught in the crossfire, but we lived on.
   Fifteen years on we struck a far better balance, and it’s thanks to our team and all those who are Lucire’s creators—editors, writers, photographers, make-up artists, stylists, hairstylists, and many more—that that has been possible.
   And it wouldn’t have been worth doing without those who have blessed us with increasing readership, as we know our work is being appreciated around the globe. It’s always heartening to see Lucire being enjoyed, and recently we were given permission by Fatimah Ahmed, a wedding photographer in Al Jubail, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to show this image from her Instagram. The caption: ‘Surround yourself with the things you love.’


Fatimah Ahmed

   We thank our partners, advertisers, all those who work to print and distribute Lucire, and our supporters for coming together during a tough year and keeping everything ticking along.
   We began 2020 trying to stay positive in the wake of two deaths in the Lucire family in December 2019, and we thought our ‘2020’ graphic that adorned the January 2020 cover of Lucire KSA was a signal that things were going to be positive. It was our “keeping our chin up”. Twenty twenty, I thought, had a nice ring to it. But the superstitious would have pointed to the darkened skies from the Australian bushfires and the cancellation of lunar New Year celebrations in China as ominous, and we certainly had an unexpected year.
   Nevertheless, we count our blessings, as there still were many during 2020, and we wish everyone a happier and more prosperous 2021.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher


The cover from Lucire KSA January 2020, featuring Camille Hyde wearing House of Fluff, where we tried to keep our chin up—and the ‘2020’ motif was meant to signal a positive year!

 


Zalando’s campaign, with Brooklyn Beckham, Diane von Fürstenberg, Jeremy Scott, reminds us of the hug

Filed by Lucire staff/December 11, 2020/10.02



Zalando, the online fashion and beauty retailer, released its holiday campaign, entitled We Will Hug Again, last month. New images featuring Brooklyn Beckham, Diane von Fürstenberg, Jeremy Scott, Munroe Bergdorf, Stella Maxwell, Muslim Sisterhood (Lamisa Khan, Zeinab Salah and Sara Gulamali), and Rain Dove among others have been released to accompany the campaign.
   With COVID-19 still gripping Europe, images of celebrities doing the simple act of hugging—something denied to many as they cannot be in contact with their friends—seem hopeful and aspirational, helping them look to the future.
   In November, Zalando released a video to go with its campaign, called 100 Years of Hugs, along with a series of images, Hug Portraits.
   The retailer is also supporting the Red Cross to help those who may be isolated during the holidays. Consumers are asked to pick a favourite picture of a hug memory, share it on social media, and tag @Zalando and #WeWillHugAgain. For each one, Zalando will donate €5 to the Red Cross.
   Beckham said of the campaign, ‘Human connection and physical embraces are so important in life. At a time when many of us are apart from loved ones, it felt right to partner with Zalando to spread a message of optimism that we will hug again. These images are deeply personal to me and show moments I don’t often share, but now is the time to be thankful for the great moments we’ve had and look forward to creating many more sometime soon.’
   Bergdorf, who shared an image of her and her friend Billy, said, ‘My camera roll is full of so many gorgeous cuddles and hugs with family and friends that I was spoilt for choice. It’s lovely to look back on past moments and know that, even while things can be challenging right now, we will create many more memories like these in the future. Our loved ones are our support systems, they allow us to feel seen, heard and understood. I’m going to miss seeing so many of them over the festive season but I know we have so many amazing times to come. I’m glad to be part of spreading a bit of positivity and part of a campaign that is helping support those that need human connection the most.’
   Zalando’s Natalie Wills, its global director of social media and consumer PR, added, ‘We’re delighted that so many of the industry’s most well-known faces have lent their voices to share this positive message. The images they’ve shared celebrate the beauty of human connection, and we want to inspire the feeling of hope and optimism in these challenging times. It was also important to us to use this campaign as another opportunity to give back to the community and the support Red Cross on their mission to bring connection and support to those that need it most during this period.’






 


Vivaia to give away pairs of eco-friendly shoes to 200 product testers

Filed by Lucire staff/November 24, 2020/22.14

Vivaia, an eco-friendly footwear brand, is seeking new product testers for its shoes, in a campaign running from November 24 to December 1.
   Thread for the shoes’ uppers have been recycled from plastic bottles from the ocean.
   The company is looking for 200 testers. Each tester will be given one pair from the company’s new product series comprising 20 styles, then write a review on their own social media account.
   There are three collections that users can choose from: Aria, Tamia and Bella. Applicants need to pick their favourite style, fill in some basic information, and be one of the 200 who will receive a pair of Vivaia shoes for free. The company says there are “extra bonus” gifts, too.
   Aria is what Vivaia calls its ‘evergreen’ series, Tamia has an animal pattern and a flattering silhouette, while Bella, the newest, features added lace-ups.
   The application form can be found at crane.vivaia.co/free-trial.

 


Campari aligns itself with cutting-edge creators in latest digital campaign

Filed by Lucire staff/October 6, 2020/11.12



Campari has launched a digital campaign, with video content, aligning itself with pioneering artists, rather than models or celebrities. The concept is ‘Red Passion’, Campari’s latest brand concept, described as ‘the urge inside us that is impossible to ignore.’
   As a brand that sees itself as visionary—it has played its part in the creation of the Negroni and the Americano—Campari has teamed up with ground-breaking artists in a series directed by Matt Lambert. The campaign was devised by Wunderman Thompson, with the films produced by Movie Magic, and digital strategy led by We Are Social.
   Participants include bartender Monica Berg, named the most influential person in her industry in 2020, who describes ‘Red Passion’ as ‘It’s a feeling, it’s a vibe, it’s not necessarily something you can force, but when you see it, you know it and you simply can’t ignore it!’
   Jamaican-born choreographer MJ Harper also features, and says of the campaign, ‘What’s interesting about it is, that depending on how it’s pushed or not pushed, you will find people who are actually active in their creativity and people who are very much passive.’
   Saxophonist Bendik Giske performs on his instrument for the campaign, while avant-garde director Margot Bowman features in the clips and worked behind-the-scenes.
   Francesco Cruciani, managing director, Italian Icons, Campari Group said, ‘With a rich legacy and history in fuelling passion and creativity, Campari constantly inspires and challenges people, encouraging them to keep their Red Passions alive in the path to creation. This was true in the time of Gaspare and Davide Campari and still is to this day, where we constantly aim to go beyond the expected. Working with director Matt Lambert to deliver his unique style and artists such as Monica, Bendik, MJ and Margot was truly eye opening as we saw Red Passion in action, front row. We want to invite everyone to follow their lead!’
   The videos hit YouTube, Campari’s website and Instagram on the 5th. More information can be found at campari.com/red-passion.

 


Putting the brakes on fast fashion

Filed by Jack Yan/August 15, 2020/9.10

Lucire is UN Environment’s first fashion industry partner.

Abigail Beall’s statistics in a recent BBC report about clothing recycling make sobering reading. She writes, ‘Around 85% of all textiles thrown away in the US—roughly 13 million tonnes in 2017—are either dumped into landfill or burned. The average American has been estimated to throw away around 37kg of clothes every year. And globally, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year and the equivalent to a rubbish truck full of clothes ends up on landfill sites every second.’ Her other statistics show that only 12 per cent of the material for clothing gets recycled, and that the fashion industry is responsible for 10 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions and 20 per cent of global waste water.
   Meanwhile, on the consumer end, our need for gratification (at least in the UK) has seen us buy 60 per cent more clothing than we did 15 years ago, and no one wants to wait six months after seeing something on the catwalk.
   Beall says that recycling is difficult because while there may be one dominant material, such as cotton, threads and labels are made from other materials. Jeans are usually made of cotton yarn blended with elastane. This makes them all difficult to recycle, and sorting textiles into different fibres is still usually done manually. Techniques to chemically separate blends without losing either natural or synthetic fibres are not yet scalable.
   And what’s donated to charity shops is now of poor quality, with most reaching Oxfam’s Wastesaver plant unsellable, and six tonnes a week are torn up to be used as cloths or stuffing.
   Many fashion labels are recognizing these difficulties, especially as consumers realize the harm the industry is causing the environment. Some have been choosing recycled materials, including ocean plastics that have been turned into new materials in clothes and shoes—over the years Lucire has devoted plenty of space to these. Others are inventing new, sustainable materials.
   There is some hope that the lockdowns that various countries have had to endure during the COVID-19 crisis might wake populations up to the preciousness of the environment. Many enjoyed watching nature return, something covered in an earlier issue of Lucire KSA. And, with many now opting to work from home—and companies adjusting to the new reality of allowing staff to work remotely—the need to dress up for the office has diminished. Casual clothes are very much the norm in many societies now. In such cases, people might not be quite as willing to push for the latest in attire if it isn’t going to be seen in public, and only in the virtual world. Might we embrace quality over novelty once more?
   Beall shows that the rise in consumption is a relatively recent phenomenon, something within living memory for most consumers. It can only be a good thing for the planet if we reduced our clothing consumption to the levels they were at 15 years ago, and even then labels were making money in the clothing business.
   We weren’t so obsessed with fast fashion, and while retailers like H&M and Zara were making headway around the world with cheaply made garments, there were still enough consumers happy to pay more for quality. Until 2004 there was a difference, too: high-end designer style hadn’t been democratized, not until Karl Lagerfeld began the first of many designer collaborations with H&M, giving rise to what this magazine called ‘accessible luxury’.
   We also weren’t as obsessed with the new. When Lucire was first established, some fashion labels were deeply wary of allowing online media to cover their catwalk shows. They were scared of counterfeiters: the sooner they could see something, the sooner the knock-offs would appear. The designers were used to having the advantage, and old media were willing to comply. Lucire, for its part, never ran the catwalk stories live: internet connections weren’t that great then, and neither was digital photography. By the time the film and prints got to New Zealand, and everything was manually laid out, there was a delay. But as coverage democratized, and as designers themselves delighted in showing every­thing live, often to “influencers” who beamed the shows instantaneously via social media, consumer demands also shifted. In an Instagramming generation, being seen with the latest is more vital than before—yet, again, one hopes that the perspective we’ve gained with the pandemic will put the brakes on that.
   We’re not exactly in Luddite position or pining for a return to the past. We’re excited about the innovations, such as Bionic, a polyester made from recycled shoreline waste that H&M, recognizing the shift, has promoted [Natalia Vodianova modelled one such dress three years ago, shown at top]; and the new sustainable materials that our clothes could be made from. But we would like to see the end of the race to the bottom which fast fashion and the insistence on novelty have driven, where garment workers are paid less and less to satisfy the profits of some brands and the appetites of some consumers.
   If we value good design, ethical sourcing and quality over novelty and low prices, then we may be able to reverse some of these frightening statistics. It might even be unfashionable, as the pandemic affects certain countries worse than others, to flaunt the fact you’ve been able to head out shopping (real or virtual) to get the newest. Influencers will need to find something else to promote.
   Even filmmakers are sensing it. The Michael Winterbottom-directed Steve Coogan–Isla Fisher comedy, Greed [covered earlier in Lucire], is a satirical tale about a thinly disguised version of Sir Philip Green, the head of Arcadia Group, who stood accused by British government committees of plundering British Home Stores while under his company’s control. Sir Philip also did not escape criticism in this magazine.
   Coogan plays Sir Richard ‘Greedy’ McCreadie, who spends his adult life pushing suppliers in Sri Lanka (with India standing in for the country in the film) into a race to the bottom. The last act wraps up the film neatly: namely that for all the lessons that we might have learned, the fictional McGready family ticks on, little changed. No, the outcome isn’t funny, but it is a call to action—it’s Winterbottom exercising pathos. Showing statistics about fast fashion, the income gap, and the single-digit earnings of Asian garment workers takes that one step further. Are we choosing to fund these lifestyles and the fast-fashion machine, or should we opt for the sort of designers often championed by this magazine, who work with Fair Trade, eschew seasons, and emphasize quality?
   With such a film part of our 2019–20 Zeitgeist, then it appears that we should call time on the excesses the industry has created, opening the door to those independent designers, many of whom have appeared in this magazine, who invest heart, creativity, and time to make quality fare.—Jack Yan, Publisher

 


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