Native Dress

Lauren Sherman checks in on the place of sponsored content in fashion blogging:

[W]hile fashion has been slow to adapt digitally in so many ways, it was one of the first group of marketers to embrace native advertising. When fashion bloggers emerged in the mid-2000s as the new influencers, brands developed “gifting” programs to seed their products. A handbag line, for instance, would send a top 10 blogger the latest style in hopes that she might write about it, or post a photo of it on her blog with a link back to the brand’s e-commerce site. It wasn’t so different than the business of celebrity placements, when brands give a star a pair of jeans or a leather jacket in hopes that she’ll wear it in a well-publicized paparazzi photo.

However, as blogs transformed from diaries to media properties, bloggers began asking for more.

If they were going to post about the product, they wanted to be compensated for the post as well– in addition to the commissions they were making via affiliate links. Today, native advertising can be quite sophisticated. One of my all-time favorite examples of native advertising is a Juicy Couture-sponsored video, where stylist/Glamourai blogger Kelly Framel interviews Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele [seen above]. This was soon after “In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye” had come out: Cerf de Dudzeele waxed on about why she loved track suits, and Framel — a genuine fan of the famous stylist — asked her the right questions. Sure, it didn’t save Juicy Couture from combustion, but it was a nice little Hail Mary moment. Nars’s video series with Garance Doré and the Man Repeller are more recent examples of likeable native advertising. Both Dore and TMR founder Leandra Medine are believable Nars customers, which makes the already fun videos — watch them here and here — all that more compelling.

But as more and more bloggers find their audiences fleeing URLs for other platforms — namely Instagram — and brands have begun to think harder about what they want from these partnerships, frustration has bubbled up on both sides. Bloggers argue that brands aren’t upfront about what they’re looking for in terms of tangible results, and brands argue that bloggers are unable to deliver anything tangible. The champagne might still be flowing, but the party is wrapping up for unhappy brands and frustrated bloggers.

Fashion journalism, of course, has always been less a conflict of interests than a mashup of them. But it’s all so subjective that any idea of objectivity is remote. Nonetheless, it’s always great to find a writer who is indifferent to all this payola, whose taste is her own, whose prose caters to no subsidy. But how on earth can they make a living these days? The internet lets a thousand flowers bloom, but, in the end, only a handful get the water and the fertilizer, let alone the care and attention of the experienced gardener/editor.

The First Gentleman Of Fashion

Tanya Basu considers the legacy of Oscar de la Renta, who died yesterday at the age of 82:

Before de la Renta’s entrance, American fashion was ruled by copycats: Runway looks from Paris and London were adjusted for American tastes, which strayed towards the practical and First Lady Laura Bush joins Oscar de la Renta during fall 20avoided the cutting-edge risks that defined the European scene. De la Renta changed that—he focused on the American woman, her needs, her cultural outlook, her sense of practicality but desire to be beautiful. De la Renta combined these sensibilities into what became his unmistakable brand of strong lines, very little skin-show, sumptuous fabrics, vibrant single hues, ornate details like lace and bows and pearls that evoked a purity that was at once sultry and innocent, and, most importantly, a tag bearing his calligraphic name, scrolled in smooth strokes both delightfully unexpected and surprisingly expected, just like his line. …

Indeed, de la Renta’s revolutionary designs were, ironically, steadfast in their dedication to classic form and structure, stridently maintaining a fairy-tale quality that gave the women he dressed an ethereal quality. He favored ruffles, billowing tiered gowns that evoked a concoction of Renaissance grandeur with graphic Warholian splashes of color. Unlike some of his peers, de la Renta avoided making political statements or overt experimentation (“Fashion is non-political and non-partisan,” de la Renta said in that same Clinton video while discussing how he dressed then-First Lady Hillary Clinton for a Vogue shoot).

Amanda Wills put together a gallery of first ladies in de la Renta gowns. One very reluctant late addition:

First lady Michelle Obama had a frosty relationship with de la Renta, snubbing his designs for years after he publicly criticized her choice of clothing for a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II in 2009 and at a state dinner with Chinese officials two years later. This month, she appeared in the designer’s clothing for the first time, wearing a de la Renta dress at a White House cocktail party.

Zooming back out, Robin Givhan has more on the appeal of his designs:

With French lace and delicate embroidery, he helped women subdue their insecurities. And with his eye for a gentle flounce and a keen understanding of line and silhouette, he helped them build a powerfully stylish wardrobe that never denied their femininity nor apologized for it. He helped them look like their most romantic vision of themselves. …

Today, there are designers in New York who are more adept at capturing the sexuality of the modern era. There are those who are able to speak to the esoteric, the experimental and the avant-garde. But de la Renta represented a kind of old-school fashion with its emphasis on propriety, elegance and good taste.

Lauren Indvik adds:

De la Renta’s couture training always showed. Whatever the fashion of the moment, his garments were always constructed, shaping the female body into something more perfect and swan-like than its natural shape allowed. “I don’t really know how to do casual clothes,” he told WWD in 2005.

(Photo from Getty)

Corporeal Appropriation

Cultural appropriation in fashion isn’t limited to the clothes themselves. Stacia L. Brown takes issue with a Vogue article on “the era of the big booty”:

The ways in which black women and their bodies are discussed in mainstream, predominantly white media matters. “Vogue” isn’t the only publication to frame conversation like this poorly. Just this month, The New York Times published a piece on “natural hair” titled, “Curls Get Their Groove Back.” It’s a multi-paragraph missive about the “new” trend of white women eschewing hair-straightening and “cultural bias” against white women with curly hair. One line is given to the discussion of black hair.

Back in April, Carimah Townes argued along similar lines:

In an article comically entitled “Rear Admirable,” Vanity Fair showcases social media sensation Jen Selter, who skyrocketed to fame after posting photos of her butt on Instagram. The pictures used in the spread include a backside shot of Selter in a black corset, and another of the model in 1940s-inspired, fishnet lingerie. The accompanying text describes Selter as a “member of a rapidly rising subset of Instagram stars: young women unfraid to share their deeply bronzed, sculpted figures.”

The takeaway message is that showing off curves in a public way is not only a new phenomenon, but looking darker, “or bronzed,” is the new way to be beautiful. It’s a breath of fresh air to see curves and darker skin tones applauded by a world-renowned publication, but disappointing that Vanity Fair used a white Jewish woman to convey a newly-accepted norm.

Off With Their Heels

by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

Rebecca Willis ponders the eternal question of why (some) women wear high heels:

We’ve heard it all before and it is, of course, a conundrum. Women say they feel empowered in heelsperhaps because they can look men in the eyewhen in reality they are physically handicapped by them. A lot of ink has been spent over the years trying to explain why we still wear them. To summarise: a high heel is sexual, changing the way we move, signalling passivity and availability. It’s misogynist, rendering women decorative and in need of a strong arm to hold. It’s a sign that we’ve escaped the prison of domesticityhave you tried doing housework in heels? And it’s a status symbol, as tallness is associated with privilege and good nutrition. Even so, many women, women with brains enough to understand that feet are a feminist issue, still want to wear heels. The long view may be that we’re going through a patch of cultural turbulence, but the close-up is that we really want that sense of lift. So for now let’s accept the existence of that desire, however ideologically unsound it may be. …

You have only to go to the chemist’s and stand in front of the shelves of gel insoles, corn pads, blister plasters and heel grips to see that footwear can be torture. And women are more tortured than men: according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, women are two to four times more likely to have hallux valgus (that’s bunions to you and me) and four to five times more likely to have hammer toes. If we could make ourselves immune to fashion and novelty, we’d be better off spending our money on a couple of custom-made pairs of shoes rather than lots of the off-the-shelf, one-shape-fits-all variety.

But what if this question is not, in fact, eternal? In a piece accompanied by a sketch by Konstantin Kakanias of fashion’s A-list in their preferred flats, Sadie Stein (NYT) announces a new, hobble-free era:

Today, all the old tropes and even the recent ones (Birkenstocks, Tevas, shower sandals) have been taken out of the box and made to look fresh and new. You can find driving moccasins, once an icon of staid WASPiness, bristling with ironic attitude, deck shoes in the farthest reaches of Brooklyn.

In the summer heat, urban women resembled Greek goddesses in strappy sandals. On runways from Marc by Marc Jacobs to Chanel, the look was bright sneakers and flat boots. Rather than teetering to their town cars, top fashion editors and stylists were suddenly able to hop on Citi Bikes or toodle through the Tuileries. From Lanvin’s laceless oxfords to the Row’s crocodile brogues, Marni’s tasseled loafers to riffs on Dr. Martens at Céline and Alexander McQueen — these are shoes you want to walk in. Nothing could feel more grown-up right now.

So, could this be it? If Fashion says heels are done, does that mean the next big thing will be higher heels than ever before? Most likely. But as a short, shoe-loving woman who was avoiding heels before it was cool, I vote for the flat-shoe trend to go on indefinitely (oxymoronic as that wish may be).

“Sartorial Slumming”

Kate Dries observes that denim-on-denim, or the “Canadian Tuxedo,” is so hot right now. Marcotte is unconvinced:

Meanwhile, Judith Thurman – in what could well be the first New Yorker piece illustrated by Kim Kardashian in open-thigh jeans – examines the history of denim and other forms of “sartorial slumming”:

You may suppose that dressing like the indigent, in rags and tatters, to make a statement about art, politics, or identity, started with the punks. But Count Tolstoy adopted the rough homespuns of Russian serfs, along with a credo of “voluntary poverty,” inspired by Christ and Buddha, that wasn’t popular with his family members. In the nineteen-twenties, Paul Poiret accused no less than Chanel of perpetrating a look that he called la misère de luxe: costly couture outfits made from jersey tricot, a proletarian fabric formerly used only for work clothes and men’s underwear. It was suddenly chic to look as though you had something better to do, and to think about, than changing an effete toilette three times a day.

Update from a reader:

If you want a real example of double-denim the first time around, you could try this video:

C’est la vie!

Minimalist Or Just Dull?

Ian Svenonius calls out the new minimalist aesthetic of places like the Apple stores as a new form of snobbery:

The anti-stuff crowd invokes Buddhism and Communism-lite in their put-down of possessions and the people who “hoard” them. It’s supposed to be a sign of superstition, a hang-up, a social disease, greedy, sick. People who have things are derided as “fetishists.” Why would one have a record collection when all information is available online to be had by the technologically savvy? … Why should there be record stores, shopping areas, kiosks, video stores, movie houses, bookstores, libraries, schools, theaters, opera houses, parks, government buildings, meeting houses, et al? Public spaces, markets, and interacting with one’s surroundings are primeval, germy and dangerous. After all, it can all be done online.

Anna North expands upon this class analysis:

The idea of a vast anti-tchotchke conspiracy may strike some people as extreme. But others have begun to raise questions about minimalism’s class biases. At her blog Simply Fully, Taryn McCall notes that while she enjoys reading about minimalism online, “many of the most popular blogs that I read are written from the perspective of people who left high-powered, well-paid and benefited corporate careers for a simpler life and now have plenty of savings to show for it.” And, she writes:

“I am very aware that many people do without and receive stigma rather than praise. To them it is not called ‘minimalism.’ They live on very little, but it is not called anything because it is mostly unacknowledged, and when it does come up they are looked down upon as ‘lazy’ or ‘irresponsible’ (a feeling conveyed in even many minimalists’ posts). So I want to say what most minimalists are not saying: the benefits of minimalism depend in large part on where you start.”

Looking at what we wear, Lauren Sherman speculates that minimalist fashion has peaked:

Even a casual observer has surely noticed this shift toward the spare. “We are so overwhelmed with trends, bloggers and over-dressed looks that it’s refreshing to go back to basics,” says Melissa Moylan, women’s creative director at New York-based trend forecasting firm Fashion Snoops, explaining why we all want to look simple so badly.  Inspired by Céline’s Phoebe Philo, as well at Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen at the Row, and Raf Simons when he was at Jil Sander, this flavor of minimalism is less severe than what we saw in the ’90s. (Yes, the clean lines are there, but it isn’t completely devoid of pattern or color either. In fact, Philo’s brushstroke-heavy spring 2014 collection inspired some to call it maximal minimalism.) This not-so-literal take on the concept gives the wearer some slack, which might be why it has become such a popular look. …

But how many perfect tees and pairs of pleated trousers can we pack into our wardrobes? While there’s always a market for basics — not to mention a contingency of diehard minimalists — not every label with a “pare it back” ethos will resonate as strongly as Mansur Gavriel or Protagonist. There’s a fine line between simple and boring.