Saturday, September 9, 2006

Vogue tells its models "Keep your legs together!" after Maticevski's Manhattan transfer

There were more than a few empty seats in Melbourne on Monday, when a preview of Toni Maticevski's New York debut runway collection opened Rosemount Australian Fashion Week. And it was a very similar scenario at New York's Bryant Park on Friday, with only the front couple of rows turning up to see Maticevski, the first of ten emerging international fashion names to take part in the event's sponsored "UPS Hub" initiative.

"I think there was a show up against Toni" offered head Olympus Fashion Week honcho, IMG Fashion vice president Fern Mallis, after the UPS Hub show of US designer Ashleigh Verrier later in the day, which was, by contrast, packed to the rafters.

Fortunately for Maticevski however his show of sculptured, cotton polyamide, safari-inspired separates and delicate, shredded silk tulle eveningwear, teamed with quirky kangaroo fur-trimmed platform shoes, was seen by a small, but powerful group of American buyers and media.

The latter included Saks Fifth Avenue, Henri Bendel, Womens Wear Daily, US Vogue and The Washington Post. Several among them that I spoke to afterwards seemed quite upbeat about the show (read our upcoming news stories and Thursday's Essential supplement in The Sydney Morning Herald for the complete Maticevski verdict).

At press time Maticevski had moreover already scored a couple of important pieces of editorial real estate. They include a highly coveted slot in US Vogue's 'Up Next' preview of the hottest talent at the New York shows. Of the seven up-and-comers selected by contributing editor Lauren Davis for the feature, Maticevski and Josh Goot are the only Australians.

At around 2pm today, when the US Saturday sites went live, Maticevski had also scored some impartial, and valuable, show criticism, as distinct to the frequently overhyped reviews he tends to receive from the Australian media.

The reviews were in the influential Womens Wear Daily (WWD) and - making in fact page one of today. Both companies are owned by Conde Nast, which owns Vogue. (And I am WWD's Australasian correspondent; however I had nothing to with the Maticevski review).

Here's what they said.

"In a gentle palette of white and neutrals, Toni Maticevski worked a range of pretty dresses from stylishly minimal ones to deconstructed numbers, which occasionally veered too far over the top".
"Aussie Toni Maticevski arrived at the UPS Hub without a great deal of fanfare, but left with lots of new friends. He showed an appealing, delicate collection featuring trapeze shapes and diaphanous fabrics.

"The show was uneven - a blouse with Capulet sleeves seemed incongruous, as did a lone menswear look, paraded barefoot no less - but there was promise here. The eveningwear in particular was winning, especially a silk and tulle gown that looked as light as a cloud".

Shooting Maticevski and models out the back of the venue afterwards in Bryant Park, for the upcoming Vogue new talent feature, was expat Australian photographer Nicholas Samartis, who recently moved from LA to New York.

What does Samartis make of the so-called "Australian invasion" of New York this season, with six Aussie names treading the runways?

"There's always an Australian invasion" Samartis told me in between takes of the models walking towards him past a stationary Maticevski.

"We just invade, we can't help it" he quipped. "I don't know how they're getting their visas. They're paying somebody off, don't you think?"

Samartis initially attempted to prevent me from taking some video of his shoot with my phone.

"You can't do that, it's an exclusive" he trumpetted, while standing in the middle of a throng of punters who had been having lunch in Bryant Park at the same moment the Maticevski posse turned up for its Vogue closeup.

Every second punter took out their own phones and cameras to record the moment. So much for an exclusive.

Curiously however, there was not an Australian amongst Maticevski's models, in spite of me having spotted 14 year-old rising Australian star Tallulah Morton and expats Elyse Taylor and Miranda Kerr at the Marc Bouwer and Cia.Maritima shows elsewhere in the day.

Perhaps the Australian models are doing so well now, Maticevski can't afford them?

One wonders if there had been any Australian modules on hand for the Vogue shoot, whether Davis would have had to remind them to "please keep your knees together", as I overheard her saying to one model.

Wearing one of Maticevski's feather-print, ruffled silk organza columns, the girl had been posing against the side of a bistro table like a truck driver - with her knees akimbo.

Is it an Anna Wintour directive that Vogue's models keep their legs closed?

"It's America, it's a puritannical society" offered Samartis, who should know, as he claims to now do 90 percent of his work for Vogue. "They're supposed to be 'classy'" he sighed. "It's such an overused American word, 'classy'".

Noted Davis, "Me personally, I like the girls to look pretty and beautiful and yeah, you don't want to have a beautiful picture and have the girl's knees open. If that offends someone, slipping through, what's the point? I'm somewhat conservative I guess. I think the same rules that apply to you in your real life, should apply on a shoot. I would never sit like that so I would never instruct a girl to sit like that in a shot".

One has to assume then that Davis would prefer not to work with the so-called "bad boy" of US fashion photography, Terry Richardson, who has carved a career out of louche imagery that blurs the lines between art and pornography.

Richardson's work has also been dubbed "heroin chic", although that apparently has more to do with the grittiness of his images of adolescents, and less to do with the fact that he himself is a recovered heroin addict.

"Legs akimbo" appears to be the absolute least shoot directive that Richardson issues to his subjects. Leaving his personal exhibition work out of things (in which he has photographed himself, his models and even his studio assistants in various sexual positions) arguably his most famous campaign image is the shot of model Josie Moran simulating fellatio with a cow's udder, for Italian brand Sisley.

As revealed by The Sydney Morning Herald in July, Richardson was recently paid what industry sources estimated was US$150,000 for one day's work, shooting the spring/summer 2006/2007 ad campaign for Australian jeans brand Lee.

The campaign is about to break in Australian magazines, however one image went up on a Melbourne billboard last weekend.

The same image is due to appear on a billboard in Sydney's Taylor Square on October 1st. But I gather the campaign is already ruffling feathers down there. According to Lee's marketing manager Richard Bell, the company's first choice for the billboard image was knocked back by the Advertising Standards Bureau for being too risque, so you can only imagine what the wowsers would have said about that.

"He would be pretty sick of me pretty fast" said Davis, of the prospect of working with Richardson.

"I love his photography" she added. "[But] He would just be pretty annoyed at me telling the girls, sit up straight, put your knees together, get the needle out of your arm".

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