Thursday, March 18, 2004

Turn to the left! Turn to the right! Last night, I spoke at a public fashion forum about "new style icons for the 21st century". It was affiliated with the Melbourne Fashion Festival, which runs until this Saturday. Penny gets to go to all the schmick parades because her boyfriend designed all the promotional material, but I was relegated to this public forum with all these middle-aged women wearing woven wraps and shitloads of jewellery.

Anyway, I was given the unenviable task of speaking about "celebrities and fashion." I mean, what could I say that no schmo with a keyboard had never said before? I ended up talking about:

1. "Slashies" (as in the movie Zoolander: the model/actor/singer). I said that Cate Blanchett for Donna Karan was a good Slashie, but Missy Elliott and Madonna for The Gap were highly alarming Slashies. Actually, I said Missy was a better fit for The Gap than Madonna, because I think there's something deeply suburban about Missy at heart. I mean, just listen to "Fix My Weave"!

2. Integrated brands. I used the example of Givenchy's association with Liv Tyler, which taps into their existing Hollywood mythology surrounding Audrey Hepburn. Some would call Liv the New Millennium Audrey. Not me. But anyway.

3. Celebrities with their own brands. I looked at J.Lo, who attempts to conquer the entire panoply of commodified popular culture - music, acting, fashion, perfumes, restaurants - and doesn't really succeed with any of it. She should pick one thing and try to get good at it. Then I looked at Kylie Minogue, who is an empty signifier, a toy that gay and straight, male and female, adult and child can all play with in their own ways to fulfil their own desires. Ultimately, though, Kylie is insubstantial.

4. Celebrity fashion police. I looked at the phenomenon of Best and Worst Dressed lists, as a way of ranking celebrities and bringing them back down to our level - particularly Worst Dressed. I also looked at celebrities who are only famous for dissing other people's fashion. Funny that nobody ever looked to Carson Kressley for fashion tips before he was on TV.

5. Paparazzi chic. For me, the coolest celeb fashion statements are the ones they make when their stylist has gone home for the day. Those are the ones I like to emulate - the way Kate Moss tucks her jeans into her boots, or Beyoncé wears a gold necklace with her bikini.

6. Those celebrities who totally muddy the waters, because they go to so many fashion events that you think they must be somebody, but then they don't actually do anything. Paris Hilton used to be one of those in the old days. In Australia we have Tara Moss: model/author. And like J.Lo, she's good at neither. Her main function is to wear silly hats and low-cut dresses at the races and hold horses' bridles.

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