By Laura Medina
Accept it, Valentine's Day is the only time to discuss the connection between desire and commercialism, sex and really comfortable, functional clothing or the lack thereof.
In a rare appearance and lecture, venerable femme fatale fashion designer, Diane von Furstenberg dotingly explains why her iconic Wrap Dress was and still is important, that dress sells sex, represent independence, and empowers women. That "Dress" built the foundation of her design empire and her legacy, enough for LACMA to install her complete collection as four-months exhibit, "Journey of a Dress."
Snot-nosed people asked why LACMA? "Easy," she said, "D.C. wasn't sexy. In New York, I'm considered parsley."
The lecturer moderator and host, "W" Magazine Editor-in-Chief, Stefano Tonchi pressed her what is so special about her Wrap Dress, commenting, "It’s a Dress that also covers but also reveals a lot, reveals the curves, reveals the body. Covers but uncovers. It ‘s a dress that you can put on and take off with a simple, one hand.
Plus, the Wrap Dress represent of what was the hottest in fabric technology. It signifies the crossover from the "Mad Men" era of stiff-woven dresses where a woman needs a man to zip her down and out then up and closed.
With women hitting and climbing the career ladder, Diane said it was easy to roll and pack, easy to wash, easy to wear from office to drinks.
As Diane stated, her Wrap Dress, "Made no noise. No zipper. It doesn’t matter how long you take off. It matters in the middle of the night when you change (then undress. ) It’s been a long time since I’ve done that.”
Joe Zee, Creative Director of ELLE Magazine, further expand on the links between sex, desire, fashion, and commercialism on Sex & Fashion Discussion Panel at PHOTOLA.
This past Christmas, 40 years-old Kate Moss posed for Playboy; and it was no big thing.
This is where Joe Zee, Parson School instructor, Rob Younkers connected the dots between desirability and branding a model into a business and career...
Twenty-years ago, Cindy Crawford posed for Herb Ritts for Playboy; and that was a big thing. Cindy transgressed, crossed many lines, and prospered. She took risks. Building the blueprint of what it means to be a supermodel for many, many, many very young, and very impressible girl models to copy and follow. That moment was a interesting crossroad of when fashion, commercialism, and sex intersected successfully.
Joe Zee, “When Cindy did the Playboy cover twenty years ago, there was a stigma against it, but Cindy saw and sees herself as a brand and wants to expand her career beyond a limited market category and discover a market of consumers. Plus, she picked someone from fashion, not porn, to do her Playboy shoot. I know Cindy for a long-time. She was the one to take a risk. She was the first one to understand she’s a brand then challenge to take it to a different way. She understood that people read Playboy really extend her brand beyond fashion and makeup commercialism. As a supermodel, back then, she did take heat for what she did but she wanted to increase reach and awareness of her brand then move onto a new market. When she hosted MTV’s “House of Style,” fashion industry people talk shit about that multi-media move too, saying supermodels don’t do TV then. People said she was done. But, Cindy said, I took a risk but people really took to it. Those were the barriers she helped break.”
In pre-internet/blogging/YouTube days, Cindy Crawford was a pioneering multi-media star who expanded and stretch her career and treated it as a business and brand.
According to Joe Zee, Laurie Trott (Fashion Director of WhoWhatWear), and Juliet Jernigan (LA-based production designer), what differentiates the distinction between fashion and porn is the composition or/and juxaposition and the photographer's professional background.
Joe added bits of wise trivia because he knew Cindy for a good twenty-years in the fashion magazine industry.
For Cindy to do Playboy, she wasn’t going to do it with a Playboy photographer. Cindy, “If I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it with one of my best friends, Herb Ritts.” She got a fashion photographer to crossover and do Playboy.
For a former Elle Magazine photo editor who knows both fashion photographers and Playboy photographers, Juliet Jernigan, a Los Angeles-based production designer, “For these photographers, doing a shoot for Playboy is no different from doing a shoot for (more commercial) Allure, Glamour. In Playboy, it’s tougher to push and be artistic. Some fashion/art photographers feel like if they do one Playboy shoot, their image will be
Joe Zee, the twenty-years magazine veteran, kindly provide nuggets of wisdom,...
"There is a morality clause at each magazine stating what can be shown and what can’t be shown. Magazines depend on the shelf and rack position. Most want to avoid be wrapped in plastic sleeve and shoved in the corner."
"Also, the more mass-market magazines are restricted because they want to appeal to everyone."
"The smaller magazines, such as the old W Magazine could get away with more nudity and more risks because it has a smaller circulation, put on a less noticeable shelf position, and has more cultured, educated readers who are better-traveled."
"Plus, it’s the juxtaposition and the composition and what type of reader a publication or ad is going after."
Even Joe Zee asked, "What’s and where’s the borderline because we’re in an industry where it’s legal to ask a fifteen years-old to take her clothes off, that’s borderline illegal. In an arts context, yes…we applaud it and celebrate it as beauty and art but at what point?”
“At what point will it does censure and wouldn’t? It wouldn’t matter anymore because we see it all…Just a little bit starts to open the door. At some point, it will be wide-open and we seen it all.”
Joe's co-panelist, Rob Younkers of Parson's School of Design jumped in on when to push it. He said he was the first American designer to be hired at Dolce & Gabbana. On his first day of work, Stefano Gabbana said, overlooking Rob’s first creation, “It’s not vulgar enough, make it vulgar.” This is when and where Rob learned how to push it and make it “sexy.” It was at Dolce & Gabbana that he learned to incorporate sex into fashion.
Both Joe and Rob agree that, “It’s all about composition. There is Sensual, Sexy, and Sex. Sensual is mystery. Sexy is aggressive. Sex is blantant.
For Laurie Trott of Fashion Director of WhoWhatWear, “It’s all about who’s the photographer and the context of the shoot. When dealing a fifteen years-old model, she’s very self-conscious about her body, making the whole situation uncomfortable. These Eastern European teen models are desperate but very nervous and very self-conscious yet very needy and photographers do take advantage of that. “Then again, they’re in a culture where it’s okay to be topless on the beach. They don’t flinch at taking their top off. As long it is not lewd, they do feel comfortable.”
Laurie also discusses desperation breeds competition, “Remember, these girls were selling fruit on the roadside in Russia. When given the chance, they will take that chance, that break to become that next Kate Moss.”
Juliet, “The one thing that people do forget is that…this is a relationship where both parties have to feel comfortable. For Terry Richardson to get those photographs is incredible. Whenever I look at a photography, I think ‘Fuck, how do they get that girl to do that?! This is difficult to pull off a shoot and I guess that’s what gets Terry to wake up every morning to do that.”
It's also about access, position, and influence. Juliet Jernigan, former Elle Magazine Photo Editor overseeing the shoots and now a Los Angeles production designer, “The nerdy guys become photographers to get hot girls to pose for them.”
Now, a photographer who actively uses sex as art and commercialism, Peter Keresztury simply said,..
“Promoting depends on the products being sold. Sex sells. Women buy into it because they want to be desired; and men buy on what they desire.”