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Where have the fun fashion magazine websites gone?

Filed by Jack Yan/February 6, 2021/21.45


Above: The very first site (alphabetically) linked from our Newsstand pages, Annabelle of Switzerland, complete with large lead image and smaller subsidiary ones.

I took a look at Lucire’s Newsstand reviews tonight. This section is a relic of the early dot-com days that Lucire came from (in the 1990s), when people exchanged links with each other to help with their search engine positioning, and, to make the sections look legitimate, you put your favourite websites in there as well. When it came to Lucire, naturally, we included our competitors as a resource for readers. I have to say that we were pretty choosy.
   Each time I re-examine the list, which is probably every couple of years, I’m removing sites. Many have fallen by the wayside over the last 23 years, and some that we link have content frozen in the mid-2010s. They are still good resources, so they’re staying. They might even be a good read for those countries who are still dealing with COVID-19 cases in a very real, confronting way.
   What I did remove throughout the three pages of reviews, however, were the ratings. We used to rate quite a few of the sites on content and design, because when we first started, there was a huge variety. It was a relatively new medium, so people were still experimenting. They were a guide, nothing too serious—though I still remember one New Yorker getting so upset that, if I recall correctly, he felt he had to retaliate by linking Lucire with a negative review. (The low score came in part from home page art that was only tested on certain monitors, and on higher-res ones, its elements didn’t line up, with ghastly results. Cutting up images and have them reassemble on screen was something we all did back then, to cope with slow download speeds.) I suspect all that did was send his readers intrigued about our supposed terribleness our way, who then would have found his review somewhat childish and unreliable, since we were winning awards for the online edition of Lucire. Other than that humorous blip of small-mindedness—which I suppose underlines how elements of New Yorkish Trumpism was there long before the real estate magnate ran for president—the ratings were an accepted feature of the pages for many years.
   The reason for their removal is, sadly, the lack of creativity in web design these days. I’m not saying we’re breaking new ground ourselves, though what you see here was still designed by someone on our team and not part of a template that comes with a web-page service. And don’t get me wrong on that, either: some of those templates are really, really good.
   But we’ve settled into a certain look being acceptable on the web, including mobile devices (which have limited creativity in publishing). As browsers and computers have become more powerful, publishing packages have made use of more of their capabilities. Also a good thing, because this enables more people to make websites. However, this means there is less need for someone to tinker and create something from scratch, because there are great programs that have more than half the legwork done. Then there are those developing templates for these software packages, bound somewhat by the features that form their foundation. That has led to standardization, because, like it or not, there are certain things you must do to make a site work for the range of devices that will be pointed at it nowadays.
   The ratings, then, become meaningless, if so many of the sites reviewed have a similar design concept: big lead image, smaller ones on the home page pointing to the significant articles, similarly sized text (and, in many cases, pretty big text), etc. With fonts now transmitting with web pages, it’s no longer special for a website to have bespoke typography. And with so many fonts available, many have opted to get creative on their typographic choices—which could give us some basis for separating the great from good, but outside of the design world, this seems to be an unfair criterion on which to judge.
   We could still rate for content, but to get in to the directory, the content had to be reasonably decent to begin with.
   While there’s big type on the web, the trend in print appears to be very small body type, so small that it’s uncomfortable to read. I don’t know what’s driven this, since the physiology of the human eye and what point sizes we find legible and readable hasn’t changed, but needless to say it’s not one that Lucire in print has, or will, follow. Trend-wise, I hope that we might get to a more sensible balance again.


Above: A spread from Rolling Stone, November 2020, showing the small type now seen in print.

   Right now the mobile space is getting all the love, hence this standardization, even though I’ve tired of those devices for some years now. We anticipated that the tide would turn with Facebook and removed all the gadgets sourced from that site before The Observer broke the Cambridge Analytica story. I’ve tired of the privacy intrusions by some of the Big Tech websites, even though I have a Google-free Android phone; and I’ve tired of the tiny keyboards and the utterly inefficient ways of entering words on phones, and that includes voice recognition. Technology is here to serve us, not the other way round.
   Therefore, I’m not sure that pandering to the limitations of the smaller screen is the right thing to do, which I know, given the time people spend on their devices in 2021 could be an unwise decision. But maybe some of us have to take those first steps and say: there are better things to do with your day, and better ways of reading that won’t strain your eyes. Look up from your devices. Enjoy life. Find the medium where your posture’s not compromised. Even if the trend is to fixate you to your phones and strain your eyes there, and then to make life difficult for you in print with tiny type that strains your eyes even more. We want to be humane, take part in making your lives better, and not hooking you for every moment possible.
   Another reason this site doesn’t get as much mobile support as others—a reason to knock our own design score down—is that each time we create a version for handheld devices (at the turn of the century, you could download Lucire news on to PDAs like Newtons), the technology is quickly rendered obsolete: either programs are invented that distil the large images and web page layouts into something that the devices can tackle, or resolutions improve, or browsers come with a text-only mode. Worryingly, the means of having smaller devices being able to deal with traditional web pages haven’t appeared as quickly this time, which may point to a dearth of innovation in the occidental online space in the 21st century.
   That is what you get when the technology space is dominated by giants, as it leads to the suppression of innovation, something that isn’t serving humankind one bit. Standardization hasn’t just happened because we all settle: the clever inventions aren’t getting out there because the barriers to entry are high. Big Tech isn’t just about suppressing speech and getting political: it’s affecting our everyday enjoyment and appreciation of online media. YouTube and others have “exit pages” that hinder us from leaving their sites, in an attempt to keep us from departing and score themselves an extra page view that they can record (if we the people do this, the search engines penalize us). They want to keep us where they can watch us, not the other way round.
   I’d love to see that “old-fashioned” innovation return, with great websites that knock our socks off, getting 10 for content and 10 for design again. I’m sure there are clever people out there bucking the trend, and we’d love to hear from them. With all the sites out there, discovering them is as hard as ever, with search engines like Google potentially getting less reliable as their algorithms feed us content that might hook us more than help us, such as giving us political news that appeals to our own biases rather than help make us better rounded people.
   It’s really down to us to get the word out about great sites, businesses and organizations. I realize that most of us can only do this through the services Big Tech provides. You’re probably on this page because you followed a search engine result or a social media referral. But if we want to break free of them, if we want to see great sites and innovation return, then we each need to do our bit, by freeing ourselves from the dominant players that are holding things back. Get those searches from Duck Duck Go, where they’re less biased. Ask yourself whether it’s that vital to share that Tweet, Facebook post, Instagram photo, or social media comment. And, I say this without irony, let us know in the comments of some of those great online destinations that you think deserve to be linked.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


Jaguar turns continuation efforts to its 1953 Le Mans-winning C-type

Filed by Lucire staff/January 28, 2021/11.49




‘Continuation’ editions are a great money-spinner for car companies with a history: offer a classic based on the original plans, and wait for the well heeled collectors to snap them up. Aston Martin has done it with both the DB4 GT and the James Bond Goldfinger DB5, and Jaguar with the E-type Lightweight.
   Now it’s the turn of the C-type, with eight planned, each to be hand-built. Unlike replicas, these fetch a higher price because of their provenance, being built by the company itself. Jaguar claims the C-types are ‘fully authentic’, with the cars to come from Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works in Coventry.
   The cars will be equipped to the 1953 Le Mans winner specifications, with disc brakes, and the 3·4-litre inline six with triple Weber carburettors. The cars will not be road-legal, but can be used in historic racing and on the track.
   Jaguar used a period C-type for the basis of its new manufacturing data, and, of course, it had exclusive access to the original engineering drawings and records created by aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer, competitions’ manager Lofty England, and engineers William Heynes, Bob Knight and Norman Dewis.
   Customers can specify their continuation C-types virtually, too, with an online configurator. These can be shared with the hashtag #70yearsofCtype, with Jaguar planning to feature them on its social media.



Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust

Top: Jaguar’s works C-type racing team before the start of the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours, including Stirling Moss with no. 17. Moss would finish second overall, with Peter Walker. The no. 18 Jaguar C-type of Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton wins the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours.

 


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!

 


Pierre Cardin, visionary designer, dies aged 98

Filed by Lucire staff/December 29, 2020/13.43


Claude Iverné/Creative Commons 3·0

Top: Pierre Cardin’s official portrait in 1992. Above: The cover of the book accompanying Pierre Cardin’s 60th anniversary retrospectives in 2010.

Legendary fashion designer Pierre Cardin died December 29 aged 98, according to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, of which he had been a member since 1992.
   Born Pietro Costante Cardin in Treviso, Italy to a working-class family, he would find himself in France in his youth. His parents, along with their 11 children, headed to St Etienne, France, and he became a tailor’s apprentice as a teenager.
   Although fascinated by architecture, he stuck with the clothing trade, joining Paquin, the couturier, in Paris in 1944. At Paquin, he helped cut and sew the costumes and designed masks for Jean Cocteau’s film La Belle et la Bête along with Christian Berard. He also apprenticed with Elsa Schiaparelli.
   Cocteau introduced him to Christian Dior, where he was appointed the head cutter for coats and suits for the designer’s New Look collection, which appeared in February 1947. Branching out on his own, with the new company located at 10 rue Richepanse, Cardin began designing masks and costumes for the theatre, and attracted a clientèle that included Rita Hayworth and Eva Perón. The commissions allowed him to take over the rest of the premises.
   In 1951, André Oliver joined the firm and became Cardin’s friend and right hand, and who created the haute couture with him.
   By 1953, Cardin, now at premises on the rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, showed his first proper collection, and in 1954, he eschewed the feminine form and tradition by showing the “bubble” dress.
   He became a member of the Chambre Syndicale but left soon after, finding its rules cumbersome, and in 1959 he showed his first prêt-à-porter show at Printemps. This expanded his brand’s reach, but at the time it was unprecedented: couturiers did not take themselves downmarket. The same year, Cardin travelled to Japan and recognized the potential of Asia.
   The following year, he showed his first men’s collection, Cylindre, and established a men’s prêt-à-porter and accessories’ department. Eventually, supporters included Gregory Peck and the Beatles, who wore Cardin’s collarless suits.
   Cardin understood the relationship between haute couture and prêt-à-porter all too well, arguably before many others: the former would grab the headlines and could act as a loss leader, while the latter was where money could be made thanks to economies of scale. By 1963 he had launched a women’s prêt-à-porter department. The same year he met actress Jeanne Moreau when he was commissioned to design the costumes for her film La baie des anges. The two had a relationship for some five years, which additionally helped Cardin’s profile. However, Cardin identified as gay and Oliver was, with the exception of this period, his partner in life as well as in his work, until Oliver’s death in 1993.
   In the ’60s, Cardin, along with André Courrèges and Paco Rabanne, created what were regarded as futuristic, space-age designs, inspired by the decade’s forays into the space by the Soviet Union and the US. He even developed a synthetic fabric, Cardine, which Lauren Bacall wore. Another celebrity connection was the menswear for Patrick Macnee’s John Steed in the British TV series The Avengers.
   In 1970, Cardin took over the Théâtre des Ambassadeurs, turning it into the Espace Pierre Cardin, which celebrated the arts. Cardin was impressed by Jean Paul Gaultier’s sketches and gave the 17-year-old his break into the industry. During this decade, his business expanded massively to some 100,000 outlets.
   From a business perspective, he was known for licensing his brand name to a wide variety of products, many outside fashion (inter alia, cigarettes, frying pans and soaps), and claimed to have been involved in their creation. With a mistrust of bankers and lawyers, Cardin did the licensing deals himself. In 1972, Cardin launched his first men’s fragrance, Pour Monsieur.
   While still firm in the grips of communism, Cardin showed in mainland China in the late 1970s, believing the country would eventually open up and become a major economic force. In 1981 he opened a boutique in Russia, then still part of the Soviet Union. Cardin was one of the designers who showed power suits in the 1980s.
   Cardin spent his wealth on properties as well as purchasing Maxim’s restaurant in 1981, which he also grew, with additional branches, and here, too, he licensed the name beyond its original scope. Also in 1981, he launched a women’s fragrance, Choc. In 1983, he was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour and decorated as Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.
   In 1991, Cardin held a fashion show in Moskva’s Red Square to an live audience of 200,000, the first time such an event took place in Russia. He was promoted to Officer of the Legion of Honour and became an honorary UNESCO ambassador; in 1997 he was promoted again to Commander of the Legion of Honour. By 2001, no longer doing regular collections, he bought the Marquis de Sade’s castle, Lacoste, in Provence.
   He remained active well into his 90s, with even Lady Gaga donning Pierre Cardin at one stage. He continued to mentor younger designers and visit his Paris office.

 


Personal thoughts on the passing of Sir Sean Connery, 1930–2020

Filed by Jack Yan/October 31, 2020/20.52


Danjaq SA/United Artists

The iconic image of Sean Connery and the Aston Martin DB5 in a publicity still from Goldfinger.

Many movie fans were greeted with sad news with the passing of Sir Sean Connery at 90 in the Bahamas.
   Sir Sean had been unwell for some time, according to his son Jason, and died in his sleep.
   Most moviegoers will remember him for his role as the first big-screen James Bond, but it was decades later in The Untouchables where he received his first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
   Talking to other movie fans today, his work in The Hunt for Red October, Highlander and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was highlighted.
   One fan, in particular, relayed to me that Connery’s work played a part in her growing up, and despite his distasteful public comments about spousal abuse and violence toward women—both in the 1960s and 1980s—it was still with a tinge of sadness to note his passing.
   His first wife, Diane Cilento, confirmed Connery’s behaviour.
   It is perhaps only fair to mention it; some find it unforgiveable to do so in the wake of a person’s passing, while others who feel that violence needs to be called out ask: if not now, then when?
   His professional life was less open to criticism, an actor who became a superstar while still able to do solid character work.
   I often joked that Connery’s career could be summed up in four lines: ‘My name is Bond, James Bond’; ‘There can be only one’; ‘We sail into history’; and ‘You’re the man now, dog!’, the last from Finding Forrester.
   As someone who missed out on the 1960s, my introduction to Connery was still through Bond—in 1983 he returned to star in a remake of Thunderball, the unofficial Never Say Never Again. I opted to pay to see Octopussy though during the “battle of the Bonds” that year, and it would be a few years later, on a rented video cassette, that I caught up. The rest I caught out of order, also on cassette: Diamonds Are Forever was next, followed by Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice.
   It was my parents’ insistence initially that Connery was the best actor to play the role of James Bond that made me want to see the rest of them. They courted by going to the Bonds, including double-bills that combined two earlier films.
   Eventually, I saw the rest of the Bonds starring Connery, then saw them again in order to observe his career progress.
   It was natural for James Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli to release a statement today—after all, they might not be in the Bond movie business if this rough diamond of an actor hadn’t originated the role as Ian Fleming’s super-spy, and paved the way for all the actors who followed.
   ‘We are devastated by the news of the passing of Sir Sean Connery. He was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond whose indelible entrance into cinema history began when he announced those unforgettable words—“The name’s Bond … James Bond”—he revolutionized the world with his gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent. He is undoubtedly largely responsible for the success of the film series and we shall be forever grateful to him,’ they said.
   Never mind Connery never actually said, ‘The name’s Bond, James Bond’ (look back—Roger Moore was the first to say these exact words in A View to a Kill; Connery said the simpler ‘Bond, James Bond’ in Dr No, and ‘My name is Bond, James Bond’ in Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever), their quote is otherwise on the money. It would be hard to imagine Cary Grant, James Mason or Richard Burton in the role.
   And it was because of this role that I wanted to see Connery in others, from pre-Bond outings in The Longest Day and Darby O’Gill and the Little People, to post-Bond work in Meteor, Outland, Highlander and The Presidio.
   What I saw was an actor who matured in his confidence and capability, and I don’t think at any time he “phoned in” a performance.
   It didn’t matter that the Spaniard in Highlander or the Irishman in The Untouchables had a Scots accent: Connery’s presence made you forget such details.
   He was a delight in the big-screen adaptation of The Avengers, as Sir August de Wynter, and I would say that his presence made the film. (I’m also in the minority when I say I rather enjoyed it, with Connery being a big reason.)
   In Jon Amiel’s Entrapment, made just before the millennium—and using Y2K as a plot device—Connery showed that he could still lead an actioner.
   It was a shame that his last big on-screen role was in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a filming experience he was not thrilled about. His last role that I caught was another disappointment for me: a voice role in the animated Sir Billi.
   But that is the life of an actor: you can’t choose great films all the time. And when someone is part of your cinemagoing for three decades, you think of the joy he brought.
   He was a proud Scot, and donated his entire US$1·2 million fee (a record in the early 1970s) from Diamonds Are Forever to kick off the Scottish International Educational Trust, which he founded, to help young Scots of exceptional ability.
   He knew what it was like to come from humble beginnings and saw the value of education, hence his interest in the Trust. He also believed in a Scottish parliament, and pushed for it, addressing the first session after its reconvening in 1999. He was knighted in 2000.
   It was a few years after that, at a conference where he was used as an example, that a colleague brought up his record about his private life, something that was disappointing.
   We did find ourselves in the same city once—Sir Sean had holdings in radio in New Zealand—and I learned I visited one station hours after he did. My mischievous side was tempted to make a crank call in his voice—I was asked to do an impersonation for the local Scottish Association, for their automated phone service, so I imagine it wasn’t too awful—but thought better of it. Despite all the celebrity interviews over the years, Sir Sean was retired by the time I could have interviewed him, and we never crossed paths. Like most of you, I was an admirer who saw the man on the silver screen, and what a career he had there.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


Marion Cotillard stars in Chanel’s No. 5 campaign for 2020, to the tune of Lorde’s ‘Team’

Filed by Lucire staff/October 29, 2020/22.59

JY&A Consulting: branding backed by real research



Chanel has launched a new communications’ campaign for its iconic No. 5 fragrance, with actress Marion Cotillard as its new face.
   ‘Marion was the obvious choice. Returning to a French actress meant returning to a subconscious image of French femininity dear to the spirit of the House,’ said Thomas du Pré de Saint Maur, Chanel’s head of global creative resources for fragrance and beauty.
   ‘What I like about Marion Cotillard is that when she acts, she has this sort of reserve that is simultaneously ultra-powerful. She seems to know what is right and lively, she is fully committed. Like the Chanel woman, who doesn’t escape herself, but faces herself.’
   Said Cotillard, ‘I felt an instant connection with No. 5 which, more than a fragrance, is a work of art. Something I always dreamed of.’
   Cotillard follows in the footsteps of numerous women who have promoted No. 5, from Marilyn Monroe, albeit in an unofficial capacity, to Catherine Deneuve, Carole Bouquet, Nicole Kidman and Audrey Tautou, even Brad Pitt as an unlikely male choice in 2012.
   Swedish director Johan Renck (Chernobyl, as well as recent campaigns for Coco Mademoiselle and No. 5 l’Eau) helms the new film promoting No. 5.
   The moon plays heavily in the promotion as a romantic symbol and one that represents renewal. The romantic dance between Cotillard and Étoile dancer Jérémie Bélingard was conceived and choreographed by Ryan Heffington. Cotillard spent five days training for the dance.
   For the wardrobe choice, Virginie Viard, Chanel’s artistic director, said she began with a dress worn by Gabrielle Chanel, photographed by Cecil Beaton in 1937. Cotillard’s embroidered lace dress was based on this, but adjusted to fit the actress. Sixteen Lesage embroiders worked on the dress, with 900 hours spent between Chanel and Lesage workshops.
   The soundtrack is the song ‘Team’ by Lorde, covered by Cotillard and recorded by Flavien Berger.


 


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