28.5.10

"We see guys trending to tradition, so [...] guys are looking for simple and traditional surroundings." - J.P. Mastey


It's safe to say that there is an emerging segment of the men's market that is into all things influenced by the 50s and 60s. Don Draper has become an international sex symbol, tracks by bands like The Drums are getting some serious air time and the old school americana clothing trend doesn't seem to be fading out just yet. You may be wondering where all of these like minded men meet to discuss important matters and have a laugh? Well, certain entrepreneurs are hoping that it will be (like in the 50s) at the barbershop.

The metrosexual movement of the early 2000s taught men that it was ok for them to take care of themselves. In order to do so, men started buying a variety of beauty products and even went as far as to get pedicures and fake tans. Although some men continue following such procedures, others want to look after themselves in a more masculine way. Hence, the return of the barbershop.

Baxter of California, a company known for its premium mens grooming products, has recently opened a traditional barbershop in downtown Los Angeles. BAXTER FINLEY, Barber & Shop offers its customers basic haircuts and shaves and that's it. Nothing fancy. J.P Mastey, the president of Baxter, explains that their barbershop "...will not be a lounge, or a place to get spa services. We want to keep it simple and build a reputation for excellence in barbering and services." (Baxter Finley blog) They don't want to be the men's hair salon du moment. Baxter Finley wants to create a lasting impression. They're doing this by rethinking the old business model and paying attention to detail. The store layout and decor was carefully designed to create a rustic, authentic, and most importantly, masculine environment. A place run by men for men. Nothing was overlooked. Even the barbers' uniforms were reworked. Baxter Finley collaborated with Steven Alan to produce gingham shirts that are to be worn exclusively by its barbers.

Toronto has also experienced a boom in men's barbershops over the past few years. Blood & Bandages was one of the first on the scene. Roger Janes' small space, consisting of only two chairs, provides 70s Playboy magazines for customers to flip through and plays music by classic bands such as the Rolling Stones while patrons wait for a trim. Crow’s Nest Barbershop takes it a step further by offering its mostly male clientele a beer with every cut. Their 1950s style space has a jukebox blasting rock n' roll tunes, a retro cash register and old school skate decks hanging on the walls. Jon Roth, the owner of Crow's Nest, just wanted "...a place where you can come in and see other men, talk shit, have a drink, get a cut and feel like you have a place of your own." These servicescapes are the perfect places to (as they say in french) "se retrouver entre hommes".

Barbershops make customers feel comfortable. As I mentioned in my first post about the realness movement, in uncertain times people turn to what they know. In this case, they're turning to a tried and tested man's sanctuary. In a barbershop, men are cared for in a safe environment by someone they trust (a skilled barber). This sacred relationship is currently being rediscovered. Barbershops carry countless meanings and memories and therefore hold a special place in most mens' hearts. Even if you have never been to a barbershop, the barber’s pole is an internationally recognized symbol that is a part of most people's neighbourhoods. All they needed was an update. Barbershops are usually not aesthetically pleasing but this perception can and will change with reputable companies such as Baxter of California opening well designed ones. It's only a matter of time before the new age barbershop becomes the go-to hair cutting place for men.

5.5.10

"There's no such thing as bad publicity."

A lot of words come to mind when trying to describe Lindsay Lohan. Not a lot of them are positive. Just a few weeks ago it seemed as though she had hit rock bottom. I can't even remember the name of the last film she was in. But the future looks a bit better for this troubled celebrity. It has been announced that she will be cast to play the role of 70s pornography star, Linda Lovelace, in an upcoming biopic. This may be the last chance for Lindsay Lohan to get her act together and there are a few things she needs to consider in order to succeed.

Let's start things off by reinforcing a basic concept; CONTROVERSY is never a bad thing in the entertainment industry. People love troubled celebrities and what they love even more is a comeback story. Mariah Carey's and Britney Spears' careers have both proved that. No matter how much attention Lindsay Lohan has gotten for her stints in rehab, DUIs or lesbian phase her career will not be affected by it. These episodes will actually help her immensely because they will play a crucial part in the creation of her own fairy tale. She's experienced the rise and the fall. Now, she can either slowly fade away or work her way back to the top. The odds will be heavily against her but that's what will keep people interested. Celebrities' pasts are very quickly forgotten. Lindsay Lohan just has to help people forget by proving that she has talent.

While Lindsay Lohan has the general public's attention she has to make a few professional changes. The djing and singing careers have to end. She's not a musician and never will be. It's difficult to seem authentic when you're involved in too many artistic outlets. Gaining credibility in one field is already tough enough so why make it even harder on yourself? Lindsay Lohan also needs to be more selective when accepting magazine photoshoot deals. Her recent photoshoot for Muse magazine generated an overwhelmingly positive response but she ruined it by quickly appearing in a less than average Purple Fashion magazine cover story, followed by the previously mentioned Hollywood.tv photoshoot. By selecting her photoshoots more carefully it will help her turn her current desperate image into a provocative yet empowered one.

Now, this may sound surprising to some of you but Lindsay Lohan is a decent actor. She just has to focus on obtaining roles in edgier indie flicks. The Linda Lovelace biopic can be the perfect launch pad for this. It will be a challenging role due to the film's controversial subject matter and emotional complexity but this is her chance to prove her worth. A solid performance in this film could lead to other respectable roles. Lindsay Lohan should learn a few things from Joseph Gordon-Levitt's career path. He was also a child actor that most people remember for his role in 3rd Rock from the Sun. As an adult, he solidified his reputation as a talented actor by appearing in many independant films. He played troubled characters in movies such as Mysterious Skin and Brick and gained critical acclaim for these roles. Now he's appearing in more mainstream cinema ((500) days of summer) but is still widely respected. Lindsay Lohan has to move on from her child/teen film stage. It's time for her to wholeheartedly enter the independant film industry. Playing a troubled Linda Lovelace is a dream start.

Second chances don't come around very often so Lindsay Lohan needs to seize this opportunity. She was at the top of the entertainment world but has since spiraled out of control. She hasn't starred in a profitable film since 2004 (CBS). It's about time she worked her way back up. There will be moments when it will seem as though the entire world is against her but if she plays her cards right she could become a cool, sexy and respected actress. All the ingredients are there. It's just up to her not to mess it up.

26.3.10

"Be loud when everyone is quiet and be quiet when everyone is loud." - Joerg Koch




The magazine industry was one of the hardest hit during the economic crisis. Several publications went out of business, others switched to online formats while some reduced the amount of issues published and/or the size of their publications. The digital revolution has completely changed the industry's landscape, forcing companies to search for a new business model. Indeed, magazine consumption is not what it used to be therefore several publications are scrambling to keep their respective readers' attention, nevermind trying to find new ones. Fortunately, amongst all of the trial and error, a select few entities seem to have figured out a way to build new magazine empires (well, they're at least on the right track). 032c, Monocle, Fantastic Man and Purple Fashion would be the first to tell you that print is far from dead.

First things first, let's talk about the actual physical product. In this constantly evolving online world, selling a magazine comes down to two main things: design and quality. It's these tangible elements that can't be duplicated online that will help a publication sell. As Luke Hayman of Pentagram explains: "...the publications that end up enduring will be the ones that exploit what print only can do. The best ones will be things that you want to save, not toss in the recycling bin. They'll project a sense of craftsmanship and permanence. And each one should be an object that feels terrific in your hand." 032c, Monocle, Fantastic Man and Purple Fashion are all magazines that consumers collect, in a similar way to novels. This is largely due to their look and feel. They differentiate themselves visually by focusing on graphic design. Fantastic Man has won a D&AD award for best magazine and newspaper design and 032c has been exhibited at the London Design Museum. In order to stimulate the reader's sense of touch, all of these magazines are thick. Not just the magazine itself, but also the pages. They're heavy publications that could be considered modern day coffee table books. Monocle and Purple also include special edition supplements in each issue. For example, Monocle's November 09 issue came with a small business guide and Purple magazine # 08 came with the Dash Snow purple book entitled You can't drink it if it's frozen. Monocle even incorporated an elastic strap bookmark into its magazine. It's by paying attention to these physical details that these companies add value to their magazines and entice consumers to purchase them.

Distribution and publication can also help a magazine's chances of success. Fantastic Man and 032c have played on the exclusivity factor. Both publications are distributed in a small number of locations. This strategy reinforces the feeling of rarity and exclusivity. Buying the magazine becomes an adventure. It's a sort of pilgrimage, if you will, meaning that once the consumers actually obtain the magazine, they value it and cherish it even more. Although Purple Fashion can be purchased in more locations, like 032c and Fantastic Man, it is a biannual magazine. Since there are only two issues published every year there is a lot more effort put into production. The final product has more content for the consumer to enjoy. Content is another crucial factor to consider. It's not about who will talk about what first anymore. It's about who is offering the most unique perspective on the subject. Purple fashion carved its place in the market by creating a fashion magazine that was real, raw and at times, provocative. It went against the glamourous 80s fashion imagery. Some even went as far as to call it anti-fashion. All of these factors reinforce the image of craftsmanship associated with these magazines which in turn convinces consumers to buy them and, more importantly, hold on to them.

Another reason for these magazines' success is their ability to leverage their brand through various media. They interact with consumers on several platforms, the two main ones being print and online. It is important that these platforms leverage each other. Too many magazines are simply copying and pasting their hard copy image and content onto their websites. This is the wrong approach. By doing this, the consumer will only visit one of the two formats for his or her information needs. It's as if the company is voluntarily making one of its two key consumer touchpoints, obsolete. Magazines need to get consumers to buy their print issues, and while they're impatiently waiting for the next one they can calm their craving by getting their fix online or via another innovative platform. By engaging the consumer in these different worlds, the consumer is more frequently interacting with the brand and hopefully interacting for longer periods of time.

For example, in addition to Monocle's print magazine, fans can read the daily Monocolumn, listen to the weekly podcast, shop online, as well as look at various video interviews and reports, all via the website. Visitors can't read any of the magazine's articles unless they get a paid subscription. Monocle has also opened up its own boutiques in London and Los Angeles. They have even collaborated with various brands. These collaborations include a series of dress shirts with Oliver Spencer and a lamp with Andreas Martin-Löf. Fans of Fantastic Man can visit the website for the daily recommendation. 032c has yet to truly establish its online presence but its editor and creative director, Joerg Koch is creating Select "...a test vehicle for 032c's biggest project: developing its quiet online presence into a constantly-updated content site that not only complements its flagship print product, but stands alone in quality and scale." (The Business of Fashion) Purple Fashion has created a strong online presence through its founder's purple DIARY website. Oliver Zahm keeps readers interested in his magazine by constantly giving them an intimate look into his personal and professional life. Purple has also recently launched an online boutique where the magazine sells limited edition products. Unlike other players in the magazine business 032c, Monocle, Fantastic Man and Purple Fashion embraced the internet and found ways to use this tool to leverage and/or complement their print format.

Although 032c, Monocle, Fantastic Man and Purple Fashion are currently running successful publications, they need to continue innovating in order to remain leaders in the disruptive magazine industry that we know today. These companies seem to have established prosperous mixed business models incorporating both the print and online formats however no one has found a way to generate significant revenue online. This is something that needs to be explored in the future. For now, the digital realm remains an extension of the print realm but it may well completely replace it one day. The online format offers the immediacy that younger consumers seek. At the moment, there is still a market segment that values the craftsmanship involved in making print magazines but this market segment will most likely continue to diminish. This isn't a nice thought for any hopeful magazine editors out there but it's a reality that needs to be addressed. Well, that is if you want to be the next Tyler Brulé or Olivier Zahm, and if you don't, you probably picked the wrong industry to work in.

19.3.10

"A lot of people say that it's a family thing..." - Busy P

EMI's recent troubles clearly demonstrate that the music recording industry is not about to recover from the digital revolution caused by Napster. Of course, the recent economic crisis hasn't helped but the four major labels can only blame themselves for the current turmoil in the recording industry. They failed to notice the business opportunity available online. They got lazy and stopped innovating. Sony-BMG, Warner, Universal and EMI thought that they had it all figured out so they just sat back and waited for the money to come in. Unfortunately for them, recorded music sales continue to drop significantly which isn't good since 70% of their revenue depends on these sales (City A.M.). However, this doesn't mean that the recording industry is dead. People still and always will consume music. They are just consuming it in a different way. No one has found the perfect new business model but certain music entrepreneurs have discovered alternative ways to sustainably run record labels. One interesting case is Ed Banger Records, a successful boutique record label.

Pedro Winter (better known as Busy P) started Ed Banger Records in 2002. He used to manage Daft Punk and decided to reinvest the money he made from that career into a new venture. He leveraged the connections and insight he gained during his time with Daft Punk to create a new kind of record label. His first signing was Mr. Flash but Ed Banger Records now represents fourteen different acts. Although all of the artists on its roster are unique they can almost all be categorized under the electronica music genre. Indeed, Ed Banger Records played an important part in reviving the French electronic music scene with bands such as Justice reaching international stardom. However, Ed Banger only became an "it" label in 2006/2007. It took this boutique label a good 4 years to obtain the recognition that it deserved. Pedro Winter accomplished this by focusing on two key factors.

Unity: The Ed Banger family is known as the Ed Banger Crew. Busy P's the father figure and all of the artists on his record label are his kids. There's a feeling of belonging and camaraderie that you won't find at any major label and even at a lot of independent labels. By running the record label in a communal manner, Pedro Winter has created a tight-knit group of artists. An indestructible unit. During its beginnings, music fans often discovered the label before they discovered its roster. He's accomplished this by promoting the record label itself, rather than the individual artists on the record label. He launched the Ed Banger tours where the label's artists dj all together. Every act is on stage at the same time. Xavier from Justice will play a few tracks, then DJ Mehdi will take a turn, followed by Busy P. Unlike your typical dj party, they don't stick to specific fixed time slots for each dj set. If someone can think of a good track to spin next they simply take their turn at the decks. Ed Banger Records recently celebrated its 7th birthday. To mark the occasion they threw two parties, one in New York City and one in London. Justice, Busy P, DJ Mehdi and Breakbot djed in NYC, while Busy P, SebastiAn, So Me and Breakbot took care of the party in London. During these dj sets they'll often play each other's tracks. They are proud of each other's work and will often produce remixes for each other. This mutual respect amongst the artists on the label only increases the sense of unity. Busy P has been releasing Ed Rec compilations to further promote his label's group mentality. There have been three volumes so far. These Ed Rec tours and releases help promote the artists on Ed Banger Records as a whole. No act feels more important than the other. This family feeling has allowed Ed Banger Records' artists as well as its fan base to interact in a unique and special way.

Consistency: One of the big differences between Ed Banger Records and other record labels, is that Ed Banger Records has one artistic director. So Me is in charge of creating all of the label's artwork. He makes the label's record covers, flyers, posters and promotional merchandise. In other words, Ed Banger Records has its own one-man art department. This has allowed the label to create a consistent visual image. Indeed, although So Me makes different artwork for each recording artist on the label, each piece still has that signature So Me aesthetic. His work has a cartoon-y, pop art feel to it that electronic music fans instantly recognize. His artistic talent has transformed the records, along with Ed Banger's other products, into collectibles. You're not just buying music on a CD, you're buying an art piece too that you can display proudly. One just has to look at the Ed Rec discography collage on the label's myspace page to understand what I'm talking about. So Me's artwork for Ed Banger has become so popular that it has also led to some interesting brand extension opportunities for the label. The Ed Banger Crew and a few friends launched the Cool Cats website so that fans could buy any Ed Banger Records merchandise as well as other limited edition products. So Me's t-shirts have been selling extremely well. They are worn proudly by the Ed Rec nation (I can't imagine anyone wearing a Universal Music or Domino Records t-shirt, can you?). The t-shirts made for Justice's D.A.N.C.E video were also up for sale and instantly sold out. These t-shirts are released in limited quantities making them sought after clothing items. In addition, Ed Banger Records has collaborated with WESC to make headphones (or edphones), there is now an Ed Banger vs. Eastpak range of bags, and Justice and So Me made a limited edition Coca-Cola bottle. These business ventures have all helped further promote the Ed Banger brand.

Busy P is the key figure behind Ed Banger Records' success. He is the one who decided to start a record label that would operate differently than the ones in the past. His distinct approach has allowed his record label to differentiate itself from the rest. Even though his label was rapidly becoming popular he expanded in a reserved manner. By 2006, Ed Banger Records was the label of the moment. However, he didn't start signing any artist he could. He wanted to keep the "family" quite small and decided to grow at a slower pace so that he could continue managing the label properly. Just like in any business, growth is important but you want to grow in a sustainable manner. As Pedro Winter explained to Scion Radio: "...at Ed Banger the idea is to keep the family quite small because, you know, we are still a small team and I don't want to be crazy, because everybody is looking at us and because we are the label of the moment I don't want to become crazy and sign everything and everybody." It's by adopting this attitude that Ed Banger Records is still around today.

Of course, Ed Banger Records has made mistakes. At times, Busy P's label wasn't releasing new material fast enough to sustain its rapid ascension. Today's music consumers have short attention spans. In order to keep their attention, record labels must strategically and consistently release new music. Uffie's Pop the Glock was a huge hit in 2006 but the video was not released until 2009 and she has yet to release her debut album. She is no longer relevant, therefore her CD will most likely sell poorly. After the release of Justice's Cross, Ed Banger Records failed to release another album to continue generating hype around the label. And let's not even talk about the signing of DSL. This electro infused rap group just doesn't fit in. However, with the fairly recent signing of Breakbot things seem to be getting back on track. Breakbot released some well received mixes as well as an EP. In addition, a couple of Ed Banger Records' older artists are expected to release new material soon. A few of SebastiAn's new tracks have already found their way online. DJ Mehdi has teamed up with Riton to form Carte Blanche. Justice is also rumoured to be releasing a new album this year. If Busy P plays things right (as he has already done in the past), Ed Banger Records could once again become the label of the moment. Only time will tell.

2.3.10

"The adult industry is changing, and people are going to have to be progressive—and if they're not they're going to fail." - Sasha Grey (RM part 5)

The adult entertainment industry is the subject of the fifth and final installment of the realness movement analysis. The realness movement in this industry has not manifested itself as much as in the fashion, music, photography and modeling industries that were analyzed in the previous four entries, however, with the rise in popularity of porn stars such as Sasha Grey and Faye Reagan as well as erotic magazines such as Jacques and S magazine there still has been a shift towards depicting a realer side of adult entertainment. Yes, porn stars that resemble Jenna Jameson and magazines such as Maxim are still the norm but a niche market has developed that favours more natural looking porn stars and more stylized skin magazines. Although adult entertainment is considered by some to be a controversial topic this industry is prevalent in our society whether it's out in the open or not and the development of the realness movement would not have been complete without bringing the adult entertainment industry into the picture.

Sasha Grey has received quite a bit of media coverage in recent times. She has appeared on the Tyra Banks show, in American Apparel advertisements, in Steven Soderbergh's film The Girlfriend Experience, in magazines such as VMAN and she has had several speaking engagements at colleges including UCLA. If you read or watch an interview with her she is poised and articulate, mentioning Godard, Nietzsche and Baudrillard along the way. Although Faye Reagan may not be considered an intellectual porn star like Sasha Grey she has also appeared in American Apparel advertisements and graced the pages of Paradis magazine, garnering her some attention in more mainstream press. Career accomplishments aside, Sasha Grey and Faye Reagan have both become popular because of their naturally beautiful physiques. They're both attractive women that don't seem to wear a lot of make-up. The average porn star looks like a real-life barbie doll with piles of make-up on her face and surgically enhanced breasts. In other words, they look fake. Sasha Grey and Faye Reagan have decided to go for a more natural look. For example, Sasha Grey has small breasts and Faye Reagan (pictured above) doesn't try to conceal her freckles. These aren't physical traits that you would normally associate with porn stars. However, viewers find this refreshing. It's by embracing their real looks that they are differentiating themselves and creating a new image. It's about time the pornography world experienced a change of direction.

There's also a niche market that is championing a return to classic erotic magazines. Jacques magazine seems to be garnering the most attention at the moment. The self-proclaimed only new luxury erotic magazine in America prides itself in "...illustrating the real beauty of real women." (Jacques magazine website) The publication abides by a strict no airbrush policy differentiating itself from the big players like Nuts in the UK. Their photoshoots depict women of all shapes and sizes. Even the Editor-In-Chief strips down for her photograph, showing that she wholeheartedly believes in the product. S magazine has also been getting a lot of attention by creating a bi-annual erotic/fashion magazine. The magazine consists of tastefully photographed real nude women. Another magazine worth mentioning is Paradis magazine. This men's magazine is much more progressive and contemporary than the average men's magazine, mixing interviews with artists such as Damien Hirst with editorials by Juergen Teller with nude pictures of model Daisy Lowe and the previously mentioned Faye Reagan. To a certain extent, even Playboy has been targeting this niche market. The recently launched Playboy France is much more classy, sophisticated and stylish, reminiscent of the Playboy magazines from back in the 60s or 70s. The October 2008 photoshoot with Lily Cole is a direct reference to this iconic magazine's past. These magazines are getting good press because they're branding themselves in a different way and therefore distancing themselves from the sleezy men's magazines we're used to. They've gained credibility and a certain acceptance by portraying real and naturally beautiful women in an artistic yet erotic manner. As Cayte Grieve stated in Blackbook, these publications are blurring the lines between art, eroticism and pornography.

As the popular saying goes: "sex sells" but it doesn't mean that we have to sell sex in a sleezy and dirty way. This may sound cliché but sex is a beautiful thing. So why not portray it in an organic, natural and real way? This is obviously a question that the previously mentioned porn stars and erotic magazines have asked themselves and they've decided to do something about it. The realness movement is helping the adult entertainment industry become more tasteful, stylish and sophisticated and therefore more respected in mainstream culture. They've done all of this by going back to the basics: getting rid of the unnecessary touch ups, embracing models' natural beauty and depicting realistic settings. Who knows, maybe with the proliferation of porn stars and erotic mags such as these, adult entertainment will one day become more openly accepted in society.

26.2.10

"No one wants a beautiful woman or a beautiful man anymore." - Kelly Cutrone (RM part 4)

The average person probably thinks that male models are muscular, tall and attractive. Two of the three descriptions are accurate however today's ideal male model is definitely not muscular. The fashion and modeling industries experienced a drastic shift in demand at some point in the early 2000s. The male models du moment are skinny, lean and even tattooed. Gone are the days of the male models with movie star looks and porn star physiques. The skinny types are giving the beefcake types a run for their money. Models such as Cole Mohr, Josh Beech, Tyler Riggs and more recently Jethro Cave and Ash Stymest are leading quite successful modeling careers thanks to their lean figures. This new silhouette represents the realness movement in the male modeling industry.

Models with god-like physiques were the norm in the modeling industry up until the late 1990s. The faces of brands such as Dolce & Gabanna and Calvin Klein all had chiseled bodies. If you didn't have a 6-pack and great pecks you could forget about modeling all together. However, the consumers and eventually, the fashion world, got disenchanted with this overly masculine image. In the early 2000s, it was time to reinterpret and redefine societies' notions of masculinity. Male models started getting skinnier and skinnier. Some critics even thought that companies were going too far and promoting a stick figure or scarecrow physique. Whatever your opinion may be, the fact of the matter is that the men's fashion world shifted towards a more raw and realistic look. These boys were naturally good-looking and thin, demonstrating that you didn't need to go to the gym to be attractive. Consumers could relate to these models and this partially explains the reason why this trend caught on.

Hedi Slimane the ex-designer of Dior Homme was one of the first to promote the skinny look in men's fashion. He was making slim fitted, tapered clothing and therefore wanted thinner models to suit his aesthetic. He couldn't always find the type of model he was looking for at modeling agencies so he started conducting street castings. Many of the models in his shows and campaigns are boys that he discovered himself during his travels. Its thanks to these street castings that he was able to find real skinny punks to create a new look in the menswear industry. This brought authenticity to the fashion world. Modeling agencies quickly started scouting and signing skinny boys as well as promoting them to their clients. As Guy Trebay explains in The Vanishing Point article he wrote for the New York Times: "Within a couple of seasons, the sleekness of Dior Homme suits made everyone else's designs look boxy and passé, and so designers everywhere started reducing their silhouettes." Hedi Slimane's influence on the male modeling industry continues to this day, even though he has not designed a collection since 2007.

The "it" male models all have a punk and somewhat androgynous look. They embody the energy and rebellion of youth. They all have tattoos on their bodies and Ash Stymest as well as Josh Beech have gauges in their ears. They have an "I don't give a fuck" rock n' roll attitude. This punk rock model look has also spilled over to the womenswear market. Alice Dellal and Tasha Tilberg are both examples of female models that have become well-known for their edgier looks. Alice Dellal sports a partly shaved hairdo and they both have nose piercings and tattoos. This group of models has taken the fashion world by storm and the fashion world can't seem to get enough as they have appeared on countless magazine covers, in campaigns and in editorials.

The raw, skinny and edgy punk rock aesthetic in the modeling industry is yet another manifestation of the realness movement in the creative community. Dirty, slim and rough is in. Clean, muscular and handsome is out. At the moment, consumers don't want to look at advertisements portraying fantasy male models with physiques that are unattainable to most. They want something that is more realistic and that's what these models represent: reality. Although there is a lot of effort put into creating and maintaing this look, the punk/skinny aesthetic gives the consumer the impression that these models are effortlessly living their lives, one day at a time, without a care in the world. It's an alternative to the clean-cut, muscular male model image that was dominant in the past. In an industry that's known for pushing boundaries this change was necessary.

17.2.10

“I would just have this one little camera and show up at a shoot and people would be like: “where’s the equipment?”” - Terry Richardson (RM part 3)

The snapshot aesthetic is the best representation of the realness movement in the photography industry. It became a dominant form of photography in the 90s and continues to be popular today, especially amongst youth culture. Magazines such as Vice, The Face, i-D as well as clothing companies such as Marc Jacobs, Sisley and even American Apparel have all used this style of photography to promote their brands. Prior to the snapshot aesthetic's rise in popularity, photography was too impersonal and detached from everyday life. Photographers were depicting surreal models in unrealistic settings and situations. The point and shoot style of photography went against this trend by portraying subjects in a more intimate and personal manner. Terry Richardson, Juergen Teller, Wolfgang Tillmans, Diana Scheunemann and Ryan McGinley are all examples of photographers who have contributed to making this aesthetic more accepted in mainstream photography. They are the ones representing the realness movement in the photography industry.

For a long time the imagery found in advertisements, editorials and other visual media often depicted fantasy worlds. The models were portrayed as god-like creatures living in perfect environments. This advertising strategy was employed to create an aspirational image. In other words, by wearing a certain brand the consumer will be, in this case, seductive. This strategy is still used today however certain brands have decided to shift their image from a glamourous one to a more realistic one. Certain consumers got sick of constantly aspiring to own specific products that they could never actually own. They realized that they were never going to be like the models in the images they were being exposed to. These images ended up being perceived as unrealistic and unattainable by the average consumer. The point and shoot style of photography allows the consumer to relate to the images being shown. It is more immediate, more energetic and more personal. It brings accessibility into the equation since there's more interaction between the photograph and the viewer. The photographs don't seem like they have been retouched, the models' imperfections are noticeable and the settings are realistic. It's sexy, fun and raw. It's this intimacy that attracted and still attracts people to this sort of "natural" or "organic" photography.

When talking about the manifestations of the realness movement in photography there is no way of getting around Terry Richardson. He almost single handedly brought the snapshot aesthetic to the attention of the mainstream market during the 90s. However, it was difficult for him to launch his career. Showing up to a professional fashion photoshoot with a point and shoot Yashica T4 camera isn't exactly what you would expect from a photographer who was hired to oversee a campaign or editorial spread. He obviously got criticized for using amateur equipment but the visual results quickly shut his critics up. The snapshot aesthetic eventually caught on and Terry Richardson accurately describes the reasons for this in an interview during the Belvedere vodka campaign shoot:

"[With regards to] my aesthetic...it's much more immediate, and it has an energy to it...I think that that's what people, now more so, they look at a picture and if there's energy, there's some sexiness or something they like about it, it appeals to them...it's an energy people respond to, they want to be part of it or they like the way someone looks, and that's on a more human level, I think that advertising was really detached for a long time, it had nothing to do with how people see things, they sought to make it this fantasy, special, almost unobtainable object. To me, with the whole snapshot thing, it's just human, it's personal and I think people respond to it."

By following these beliefs his photographs have appeared on countless magazine covers, in editorials, in campaigns, on pop stars' album covers and in addition to shooting the previously mentioned Belvedere vodka campaign he has also recently shot the infamous Pirelli calendar, solidifying the point and shoot aesthetic's place as one of the dominant forms of photography.

Even American Apparel adopted Terry Richardson's style of photography. Their advertisements are directly influenced by the snapshot aesthetic. It's in large part due to their campaigns that the brand has become so successful. Consumers relate to the models in the shots because the pictures look like they could have been taken by the viewer. The models aren't even models, they're usually employees or so-called "real-life" models. Again, the pictures are personal, raw and usually sexy. They don't hide the subjects' flaws. They don't seem to have gone through hours of retouching in photoshop. American Apparel was one of the first mass market clothing brands to use this style of photography in its advertisements therefore it was new to consumers and helped them differentiate themselves from the competition.

The Marc Jacobs brand has also profited thanks to the snapshot aesthetic. Marc Jacobs' longtime collaboration with Juergen Teller has created unique advertisements that consumers can immediately recognize without even seeing the company's name. The photographs are fun, energetic and raw. Past campaigns have included Harmony Korine eating at a restaurant, Ryan McGinley taking a bath and Victoria Beckham’s legs popping out of a Marc Jacobs bag. They have chosen not to always use professional models. Yes, these subjects are famous in their respective industries but these images show them in a different light. In a way, the photographs bring them down to our level. The consumer can relate to them more since the campaigns make them look like everyday people by depicting them in banal/normal settings.

Prior to the likes of Terry Richardson and Juergen Teller entering the photography industry the snapshot aesthetic had never been valued highly. It was perceived as unprofessional and crude. However, it revolutionized the photography industry by incorporating elements of intimacy and reality and this, in a way, democratized it. The point and shoot aesthetic demonstrated that there wasn't one best kind of photography. These "realness movement" photographers made the photography world more accepting of their "natural" photography and showed that they also deserved artistic merit. The fact that this type of photography has remained quite popular during the last 15+ years attests to the fact that it has become an important part of the photography industry. Longevity is an important indicator of any true artistic movement and I don't see the snapshot aesthetic disappearing anytime soon.

11.2.10

"When you drape your music in effects, it actually undercuts the music itself." - Bob Lefsetz (RM part 2)

The late 90s and 2000s gave us mainstream acts such as Britney Spears, Blink-182 and 50 cent. Although these acts belong to different musical genres they all reflect the state of the mainstream music industry during the past decade or so. For the past ten years music has been too polished and overproduced making a lot of acts seem repetitive and bland. As a result of this, certain music fans started searching for something else. The musicians they discovered were individuals who created music with very little means. These artists were demonstrating that you didn't need the newest instruments, proper equipment or state of the art recording facilities to make records. Their reason for being was to create records that were different from what was being played in the mainstream and the difference was their lo-fi sound. Lo-fi music has existed for awhile now but this genre is currently experiencing a resurgence. Bands such as Wavves, A Grave With No Name and The Bitters (to name a few) have been getting their first tastes of success. These lo-fi bands are at the forefront of the realness movement in the music industry.

As during most periods, there are a lot of overlapping elements between the fashion (which I mentioned in my previous entry) and music scenes of the late 90s and 2000s. In this case, both of these scenes were overly glamourous and polished. Musically, the pop artists from this era all created music that was layered in unnecessary effects. When it comes to their image, pop acts such as Britney Spears are made up of plastic dolls that do everything they are told, pop punk acts such as Blink-182 are promoting the "punk" way of life while touring in luxury buses and living in mansions and hip pop acts such as 50 cent are trying to play-up the "gangster" (sorry, "gangsta") image while spending too much time smoking weed, insulting rivals in safe interview settings and carrying guns for show. Unfortunately, the mainstream music industry hasn't stopped promoting slightly updated versions of the previously mentioned pop acts but at least this has motivated a new generation of musicians to create more authentic music.

Lo-fi music is defined as "the production or reproduction of audio characterised by an unpolished or rough sound quality." (merriam-webster) Bands searching to create a lo-fi sound pride themselves in making music with very limited tools at their disposal. Wavves started making music in his bedroom using Garageband. The members of A Grave with No Name record in friends' bedrooms if they can't record in theirs. They are making music out of love and are willing to sacrifice a lot to get their music out there. They'll tour endlessly in shitty vans, play in dive bars/clubs and sleep on couches. To a certain extent, it's become cool to do this. As Ben Cook from the Bitters explained to dazeddigital: "I guess even more so now people aren't paying attention to ANYTHING that sounds like it could be played on a radio station. The more shitty and obscure, the more elite and rad you feel, right?" But this doesn't mean that everybody and anybody can produce good lo-fi music. Ben continues by stating that "...the availability of low budget recordings only sets apart the true songwriters from the bored kids with a laptop." You still have to have talent to make lo-fi music.

The lo-fi sound is fuzzy, distorted and rough but underneath it all you will find good melodies and songwriting. That's why it's appealing. It still is good pop music but lo-fi musicians decide to record it in a minimal way. Take Wavves, for instance. So Bored and No Hope Kids are feel good tunes that are extremely catchy. They're simply dirtier and more abrasive pop songs. Lo-fi musicians, like Wavves, are stripping their music down. Keeping it simple. Taking away the extra layers of production. These bands make the best of the few tools they have. In a way, they are showing the world what the music making process used to be like. Lo-fi music is bringing it back to a time when music was raw, natural and organic. A time when the magic happened when you were physically playing your instrument. Not in post-production. In this sense, they are helping make "real" music again. It's for this reason that lo-fi music has reached a popularity level unseen since the days of Sebadoh and Pavement.

The musicians creating lo-fi music today are offering an alternative to young music goers who are fed up with the music promoted by the mainstream media. The fans and bands alike are indirectly rebelling against the mainstream music industry. They want to create and support music that isn't perfect. By stripping down the layers and keeping it raw and simple there's a certain energy to it that you don't often find in mainstream music today. It seems more personal, more honest and more believable. I know that I've used the word "real" a lot and you're probably getting sick of it by now but that's the simple word that fans need to associate with your band in order for you to be successful. And although it's a simple word, it's not a simple concept to grasp. There's no formula for it. It just happens. The best chance you have to be perceived as "real", is to be true to yourself. More specifically, let your music speak for itself because at the end of the day that's all it comes down to.

25.1.10

“I think fashion is a reflection of the times...” - Mr. Miljanic (RM part 1)


In the late 90s and early 2000s, the fashion industry was decadent, glamourous and sexual. It was during this period that modern day celebrity culture exploded. Metrosexuality became a significant trend. The whole rock fashion scene was diluted because of lame pop punk styles. Girls were imitating the dress of the "sexy" female pop stars. And the hip hop (or hip pop) culture emphasized a "baggy" clothing style. These looks were inauthentic. They were over-the-top, exaggerated and fake. In short, the fashion world completely lost touch with reality. Luckily, certain designers are helping to bring this disconnect from the real world to an end. The last few seasons have been dominated by looks that are both counter reactions to the previously described trends as well as reflections of the social, political and economic events that have taken place during the last ten years. The mixture of these factors allowed for the creation of raw, rugged and authentic fashion. Fashion that I deem part of the realness movement.

The first decade of the new millennium was a time of disruption and chaos. On a social level, the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United-States, the 2004 Madrid train bombings and the July 2005 London bombings, created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty throughout the world. They also brought attention to the social injustice and disparities that exist in the international sphere. On a political level, the world had to endure George W. Bush's eight year term as the leader of the most powerful country on the globe. The Iraq war, carried out mainly in response to the terrorist attacks in New York City, became highly controversial and demonstrated that the US army wasn't as morally superior as its citizens first thought. Incidents such as the one that took place in Abu Ghraib, severely tarnished the USA's reputation and lead to many citizens questioning the American identity. Lastly, on an economic level, the financial crisis that started in 2007, but hit hard in 2009, further enhanced the sentiment of uncertainty due to companies going out of business, an increase in unemployment rates and an overall decline in wealth.

Considering the state of the world during this period, people gravitated towards two styles to express their thoughts and feelings. They either sought comfort and decided to go for an "americana" look or they sought rebellion and decided to go for a "dark punk" look. During uncertain times, we naturally want to go back to what we know, to what we feel comfortable with and to what has stood the test of time. Americans were not happy with the American identity portrayed to the world during the first decade of the 2000s. The United-States' foreign policy brought Americans a lot of criticism and, in certain instances, hate. In response to this general sentiment, certain designers decided to rediscover America's roots. They wanted to look back at the glorious past American identity, one that had strong values and morals. These designers wanted to reintroduce the good, honourable and hard-working American image. As the designer of Gilded Age accurately told the New York Observer: People "...seek things that are known and recognizable, that are part of their past. [Currently] There's something in the air that tells us to look at our values and consider what is truly American." Consumers need a boost in confidence during difficult times. They feel the need to take control, as America's founding fathers (who built the country and created the American dream) did a century before them. Men wanted to feel masculine again. They wanted to grow up. To escape their protected and domesticated lives and rediscover the USA's past work ethic. Labels such as Our Legacy, Engineered Garments and Albam are all examples of brands that are allowing the modern man to express these views by re-interpreting americana/workwear inspired classics.

Recently, heritage and heritage inspired brands have experienced a strong resurgence in popularity. They have lead the shift in the men's fashion market towards a rugged yet sophisticated look. Gone are the days of clean metrosexual outfits, fake pop punk styles and oversized hip hop gear. Men now want clothes that are more rugged, authentic and fitted. Most men own at least one plaid or checkered shirt, reminiscent of lumberjacks. Chambray and denim shirts are also making a comeback and reflect the blue-collar or working-class lifestyle. In addition, fashion connoisseurs are wearing Red Wing boots that were "...born of the necessity brought forth during the industrial revolution." (Inventory magazine) They are even going as far back as the pre-industrial period and wearing mocassins by brands such as Quoddy. This type of footwear was worn by the first settlers, therefore it reconnects the wearer with the USA's past. The United-States needs to experience a rebuilding process because the country's image has been damaged by eight years of the Bush administration. Designers and fashion conscious consumers are communicating this feeling along with their ideals through their choice in clothing.

The other design trend created by certain fashion designers didn't look as far back in time for inspiration and was much less constructive. These designers were directly influenced by the punk and hardcore punk movements of the 70s and 80s as well as the goth subculture from the 80s. This trend is harsher, more aggressive and more rebellious. Fashion connoisseurs who adopt this darker look see it as a way to say "Fuck You!" to George Bush and the evil multi-national corporations that caused the current economic crisis. It's a way for them to rebel against the system. The punk movement of the mid-70s and the hardcore punk movement that followed in the 80s, were all about that. They fought for individual freedom and had anti-establishment views. True punks (we're not talking about the pop punk fans here) were largely anti-capitalists and non-conformists. They expressed this by wearing ripped clothing attached together with safety pins or by wearing t-shirts with slogans written in marker or paint. Punks were preoccupied with political conflicts, social injustice and economic disparity. Issues that are once again at the forefront in today's global environment. Goths may not be as rebellious on a political level, but they do attach a lot of importance to mood in their aesthetic. The dark colour palettes that are used by certain designers, can be seen as a reflection of the dark times we are living in. The last ten years have been a sombre époque and certain fashion brands are reflecting the overall mood of this period through their choices of colour. Whether or not brands such as Gareth Pugh, Julius or Odyn Vovk openly admit to these movements having influenced their work, they have created an edgier, darker and more authentic look in the fashion world. Studded leather jackets, gothic jewelry, doc martens and ripped black basics have all become more popular. This look makes a statement about the first decade of the 2000s. It's a visual sign of rebellion and critique.

Fashion has always been a tool for self-expression. Some people decide not to utilize it but others see it as an opportunity for social commentary. Before these two trends were pushed forward by creative directors searching for more realistic design in fashion, there were no labels truly reflecting the present times. Mainstream culture was promoting an overtly sexual look. Designers of the realness movement responded to this by going for a more rugged and/or edgy look. Whether consumers chose to adopt the "americana" look or the "dark punk" look, they were choosing not to have a sexy image. Although both of these fashion trends expressed different feelings they shared the same message, one of discontent with the past fashion trends as well as with the social, political and economic conditions of the first decade of the new millennium. Some say that these two trends are coming to an end, which has to happen for fashion to evolve, but let's just hope that no matter what the next trend is, that it remains authentic and real.

17.1.10

"The reality of his situation slowly dawned on him" (RM introduction)

In the last few years there has been a movement developing that champions a return towards portraying things in a real, raw and natural way. A return towards reality, if you will. This movement has finally reached the mainstream market but before it dies out I would like to take the time to showcase how this movement has manifested itself in different industries. I have decided to call this movement "the realness movement". In the past, consumers were over-saturated with images that were pure fantasy and unrealistic. Portraying dream worlds in the media doesn't appeal to the general public anymore since we can't relate to it. Consumers don't aspire to live unattainable lifestyles because they are, well, unattainable. I believe that a significant group of people in our society reacted to these false depictions of everyday life by deciding to portray things in a more realistic manner. None of this glamourous, fake, tacky nonsense. Fantasy is dead, now back to reality.

The realness movement was a direct result of the unrealism that permeated the arts and media in our society. Fashion was too glamourous, music was overproduced, photography was too impersonal, models were too god-like and porn stars were too fake. Certain creatives in these industries decided to challenge the norms. They took it upon themselves to initiate a shift in the market by producing work in such a way as to reflect more realistic lifestyles. The strategy they adopted was simple: back to basics. They decided to strip things down and rediscover the beauty of simplicity. This trend can be found in the fashion, music, photography, modeling and adult entertainment industries. In each subsequent entry, I will attempt to analyze the manifestations of "the realness movement" in these five industries.