Saturday, May 30, 2009

Rose is a rose is a rose

tito media via FAMOUS



Well the Cat, as they say, is out of the bag. Last night in Sydney Oz gossip magazine FAMOUS Tweeted two watermarked paparazzi shots of Chic Management superstar Catherine McNeil and MTV Australia VJ Ruby Rose Langenheim, kissing. On closer inspection, on Tito Media's website, the shots had been taken on May 23rd at the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles. Even if FAMOUS had purchased and taken the shots off the market, it’s unlikely they would have spoiled their own exclusive. It's more likely the magazine did a spoiler for a story that is due to run in a Sunday tabloid or a competitor on Monday (update 1/06: the shots appear in a double-page spread in this week's NW). Langenheim sure does get around. Just three weeks ago in Sydney she was photographed kissing another top Chic Management model, Myf Shepherd.

In the intervening hours these new images have made their way to a number of online outlets. Here is what looks to be the complete set on McNeil's TFS thread.

And most, not surprisingly, are marvelling at the complex inter-model relationship geometry.

Fashionologie asks:
“Are two models involved in a love triangle?”

While ONTD_Fashinfags poster dcbaabcd notes:
“is the world ready for a freja, catherine, myf, and some other australian lesbian love quadrilateral? I'M NOT”.

As frockwriter has previously reported, initially in October, there has been much speculation over a romantic liaison between McNeil and Danish supermodel Freja Beha Erichsen - who ranks immediately below McNeil as the world number nine working model on go-to industry website models.com.

And as we mentioned on Tuesday, Langenheim came runnerup to McNeil in the 2003 Girlfriend Model Search competition and was once repped by Chic.

In April last year Langenheim described McNeil to The Daily Telegraph as:

“one of the best-looking women in the world… She deserves to be a supermodel"

Langenheim declined to comment however when the reporter asked the question if the pair had previously "locked lips".

At the time of 2002 Girlfriend Model Search competition, Langenheim and McNeil were 16 and 13 respectively.

Suggesting that the pair may today be, at the very least, the best of mates, earlier today Langenheim told her 11,000+ Twitter Followers:

“Happy birthday to my amazing Kitty Cat! <3”


According to her DOB information on several websites, McNeil celebrates her 20th birthday today.

As it emerges, Langenheim was in Los Angeles attending several business meetings and revealed to her Twitter followers that she has "big news" about work, which is currently under wraps - and may be US-focussed.

But while Langenheim appears to be a very active user of social media, according to several former Facebook friends of McNeil, McNeil's Facebook profile mysteriously vanished overnight last year.

Coincidentally, this was around the same time that rumours first started percolating about McNeil's friendship with Freja Beha Erichsen.

McNeil's Facebook account appears to have been recently reinstated, with a much tighter circle of 117 friends so far.

Friday, May 29, 2009

In Vogue: Myf Shepherd


vogue australia via chic blog


Well the tabloids might be all over her private life, but Myf Shepherd just cracked her first Vogue cover: the July edition of Vogue Australia. She is wearing what looks suspiciously like an outfit, or part thereof, from the Romance Was Born SS0910 show at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week. Coincidentally, Shepherd was front row at the RWB show at the Sydney Theatre Company on April 30th, sitting with the Vogue team. It only took a year for Vogue to put to her on there (having previously only used Shepherd on the cover of a racing fashion supplement and editorial features), but better late than never. Makes a very nice change to see an Australian model, brand and indeed, cover, on an Australian fashion glossy. Bravo.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Size matters




The Australian clothing sizes debate has been raging for several years. And it's about to kick off again with the release of a new story in the June 2009 edition of CHOICE magazine, out Monday. It includes the above ‘secret shopper’ video shot by CHOICE journalist Kate Browne, which demonstrates the dramatic sizing variations between some Australian brands. In the interim, CHOICE has gone down an interesting route for word of mouth promotion. The magazine invited some fashion bloggers and writers to attend a fashion roundtable discussion of the subject, which was staged earlier today in Surry Hills. Frockwriter was both interviewed for the story and invited to the round-table but unfortunately was unable to attend due to work commitments – and an accelerating flu. But here is the thrust of CHOICE's findings, which touch on vanity sizing and the perennial dearth of larger sizes in the designer end of the market. CHOICE concludes that clothing size irregularities highlight the need for a national sizing strategy. Update 28/05: and here is the complete report, now live on CHOICE's website.

Bloggers/journalists in attendance this morning were Helen Lee, Natalie Smith (The Vine), Jenna Dunne (The Grand Social), Ragtrader editor Tracey Porter and Melissa Hoyer.

Key points from the CHOICE story (as per a press release):

• There have been no uniform sizes for women or men’s clothing since the previous standard was dropped two years ago. Despite a heavier population the most recent data collected for the women’s sizing standard was in 1975.

• The fashion industry currently bases its sizing on previous sales history and marketing hunches about the size and shape of customer they feel best reflects their brand.

• Sizing irregularity is also affecting the online shopping market with retailers saying Australia lags behind the United States, United Kingdom and Europe in this area.

• “Vanity sizing” is also a well-known practice in the $2.8 billion dollar industry, with generous sizes designed to entice the consumer into buying the garment because they feel flattered to fit into a size smaller than their usual one.

• Some fashion designers admit they are reluctant in some cases to make their labels available in larger sizes. The industry body, Council of the Textile and Fashion Industries Australia (TFIA), says this policy can send negative body image messages to younger consumers.

• Men generally have it better than women when it comes to clothes shopping because their clothing is generally measured using specific waist and neck measurements in inches. There is a standard for children’s clothing sizes currently used in Australia.

Coupla points.

First up, as I outlined on Twitter earlier today, the figure of A$2.8billion seems out of whack.

CHOICE is citing manufacturing – as opposed to retail – figures. In frockwriter's opinion, given that we’re taking about a bunch of retailers who are selling clothes to consumers – a high percentage of whom either didn’t make the clothes they are selling, or did not make them in Australia – it seems a little pointless to be quoting the manufacturing output figure.

CHOICE’s source for this figure is the Building Innovative Capability report, which was released by the TCF Review Committee in September 2008.

The report was commissioned by the federal government and the analyst was Professor Roy Green from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management.

According to the report, Australian TCF (textile, clothing, footwear) output is worth A$2.8billion, with exports of A$1.6billion. The value increases by A$7.5billion once you add in retailing and wholesaling. The two figures together provide a much more realistic picture of the Australian retail clothing market – as reflected by an independent analyst such as IBISWorld, which predicts the market will reach A$11.39billion this year.

CHOICE also mentions that the recent federal budget embraced plans to seek advice from the National Measurement Institute on the costs and benefits of forming a voluntary industry sizing standard. This was in fact one of the recommendations of the TCF Review Committee.

The clothes size debate has the potential to be quite controversial, especially when you factor in the ongoing brouhaha over the “average” Australian size, not to mention broach the subject of larger sizes and the reluctance of (most) designers to cater to this market. Why are designers reluctant to cater to larger sizes? Because the so-called “plus size” clothing market has traditionally been very separate to the high end fashion market and up until now, never the twains have met.

I looked at this subject on two specific occasions last year on my Fully Chic blog on NEWS.com.au.

The first was on March 14th, a post which included an interview with US designer Zac Posen, who had just delivered a capsule collab collection to Australian Target.

I noted the fact that Posen's Target range did not extend to a size 16, citing Target’s experience with the previous Stella McCartney range. Target found that the larger sizes just didn’t sell well. Much was made at the time of the leftover McCartney stock. Anecdotally, most of that leftover stock did indeed appear to be the larger sizes.

“So much for the continual complaints by larger women that there is no fashionable clothing in their sizes” I noted – a comment which prompted a minor backlash, with several women claiming that my tone had been “snarky”.

Yet others admitted that they are so fed up with stores not stocking fashionable clothing in larger sizes, that they just didn’t bother checking out Posen’s Target range.

One week later, I wrote a post about Australian designer Leona Edmiston doubling her dress size range to a 24 - for her online boutique only.

The post included an interview with Edmiston’s husband and business partner Jeremy Ducker, who revealed that the chief reason why they were only making the larger sizes available online was because their research indicated larger women felt uncomfortable going into fashion boutiques (a sentiment which was certainly borne out in several reader comments – because, some women claimed, they feel as if shop assistants are looking down on and belittling them).

The comments on that second post exploded and the debate became quite vitriolic.

Edmiston went to ground, declining all other interview requests. I learned at the time that she was nervous about being labelled a “plus size” designer.

There have been several small initiatives since this time including Sydney fashion label Billion Dollar Babes designing two collaboration collections for City Chic, a chain which specializes in larger sizes.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Femmes fatales


3-way kiss/terry richardson


Should leading Australian model agency Chic Management perhaps think about renaming itself Sapphic Management? Frockwriter surely can’t be the only one starting to wonder. On February 21st, speaking about the recent friendship between Chic's latest superstar Myf Shepherd and Dutch supermod Nimue Smit – and following reports about “McBeha”, the much-discussed romantic hookup between an even bigger Chic Management girl, Catherine McNeil and Denmark’s Freja Beha Erichsen - frockwriter quipped, do we have a new power couple on our hands? We were joking at the time. But as many may already be aware, much was made of Shepherd’s female dalliances earlier this month during RAFW – her fairly public dalliances.

Firstly, it was reported that Shepherd had been holding hands with one woman at the sass & bide party.

Several days later, Shepherd was papped - and apparently from the footpath, which of course is a public thoroughfare - whilst apparently kissing MTV Australia VJ Ruby Rose Langenheim at the appropriately-titled Kings Cross restaurant, Jimmy Liks.

The shot was published in one Australian gossip magazine and the series of images, owned by Tito Media, has since been widely circulated online.

Interestingly, Langenheim - who is openly gay - was once also repped by, you guessed it, Chic Management.

Langenheim came runnerup in the 2003 Girlfriend Model Search competition, beaten by... Catherine McNeil.

Sadly frockwriter hears that McBeha may either be on the rocks – or no more.

But that hasn't put a stop to the buzz about the duo from within the top echelons of the modelling industry.

Wayne Sterling is the co-founder of the high profile, New York-based online model resource models.com (which ranks McNeil and Erichsen the world's number 8 and 9 working models, respectively).

On April 13th, on his personal blog The Imagist, Sterling teased readers with the following snippet, which has prompted quite some speculation:

“TI wants to know which Modeling Super-Couple has splintered yet once again with one half of the duo successfully macking the other beauty's best mate on the set of that luxury ad campaign last week...Expect a punch-up at the wedding...”

Coincidentally, the Gucci Fall/Winter 2009/2010 campaign was shot the previous week in Europe.

And as revealed by frockwriter, the campaign features two Australians: Myf Shepherd and Abbey-Lee Kershaw. They were photographed for the campaign alongside several other high profile models, including Freja Beha Erichsen.

Both Shepherd and Kershaw are repped by Chic Management. However we have it on good authority that only one of them is best friends with McNeil.

And it’s not Shepherd.



Monday, May 25, 2009

Glamour Kills pwns Twitter


mark capicotto/huck magazine

Ashton Kutcher has a lot to answer for. If you were wondering - as was frockwriter - firstly, what the hell Glamour Kills is. And secondly, what it is doing in Twitter Trending Topics (initially listed in, but now gone from, the Top 10), the answer is simple. Mark Capicotto, the 22 year-old CEO of the four year-old New York streetwear company, simply asked his 10,000-strong Twitter tribe to Tweet the word #glamourkills and they obliged. Capicotto, as it emerges, is a graphic designer who did freelance work for bands, before launching the Glamour Kills clothing line (and store: 544 Main Street, Beacon, New York) in his first year of college in 2005. Any fashion and media veterans still scratching their heads about how social media is going to affect both industries would be well advised to take note of young Turks like Capicotto, who not only conducts promotions but even recruits his models via Twitter. In an interview with Shred magazine in March, Capicotto noted of social networking sites, "They’re free and help you reach your target demographic directly. On a side note, Tumblr and Twitter are going to be huge. Get on it :)!....You have to play the game to change the game”.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Blond ambition


the blonds/phillipe blond's myspace


Not that frockwriter existed when they first arrived on the New York fashion scene in 2007 - or Feb 2008, when they made their runway debut. But even in our former incarnation as Fully Chic, somehow the blonde-tastic, glitterrific, transgender duo Phillipe (left, above) and David Blond - aka The Blonds – escaped our attention. Moving forward, frockwriter predicts it’s going to be hard to miss them.

The high crystal-and-corset quotient of the duo's womenswear has, not surprisingly, already attracted the attention of a bevy of stage performers, including Madonna, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Britney Spears, Shakira, Alicia Keys and Beyoncé (that’s their corset she’s wearing in the Uprade U clip below).


pamela anderson opens the blonds show @ life ball/reuters

Last weekend in Vienna, The Blonds took centre stage at Europe’s biggest, and most spectactular, AIDS fundraiser - the 17th annual Life Ball - with a fashion show that was attended by Bill Clinton, opened by Pamela Anderson and closed by Phillipe Blond. The latter stage moment prompted one reveller to note, “Now THIS is how America shocks!”


the blonds @ life ball/getty images via daylife

Given that Donatella Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, Roberto Cavalli, Gianfranco Ferré, Missoni, Moschino and Agent Provocateur have previously staged the event’s opening fashion show, it’s a fairly prestigious spot.


scott ewait

According to this bio, Puerto Rican native Phillipe Blond studied at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, before working as an illustrator.

David Blond, nee Trujillo, hails from Key West, Florida and studied fashion merchandising at Miami’s Institute of Fashion Arts, before spending a decade in visual merchandising working for Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s.

Think Jean Paul Gaultier and Donatella Versace collaborating on the one design team - with a little Thierry Mugler, Bob Mackie, Gloria Estefan and Sarah-Jessica Parker thrown in for good measure.

Frockwriter has six things to say.

Firstly, wow!

Secondly, Mardi Gras here they come.




Friday, May 22, 2009

Lights, camera, Twitter


on location in nice/rob luketic's twitpic

Some time over the past two months, in between posting over two thousand 140-character reports, replies, photos and live-streaming videos to his 11,000-strong Twitter tribe, Robert Luketic has been directing a Hollywood blockbuster.

The Lionsgate thriller, working title Five Killers, stars A-lister Ashton Kutcher as a retired hitman who is pursued by assassins. Kutcher is flanked by a stellar support cast that is headlined by Katherine Heigl, Tom Selleck, Catherine O’Hara and Martin Mull.

At press time the film was still shooting in Atlanta, Georgia, after a fortnight stint in and around the glitzy locales of France’s Côte d’Azur.

This is Australian-born Luketic’s sixth feature since he first caught the attention of Hollywood in 1995 at the age of 23 with the festival circuit hit short Titsiana Booberini – before breaking through with the 2001 box office smash rom-com Legally Blonde.

However Five Killers is shaping up as a first for not only Luketic, but the film business itself.

Since the birth of cinema, the filmmaking process has been documented in various forms. Examples include Les Blank’s 1982 documentary Burden of Dreams, which charted the making of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo and Robert Rodriguez’s 1995 book Rebel Without a Crew about his 1992 feature El Mariachi. Since the world went online in 1995, new media-savvy filmmakers such as Kevin Smith, Peter Jackson and Brian Singer have used blogs and multimedia to document their various activities.

But Five Killers appears to be the very first major film production whose shooting schedule has been documented in real time using social media.

And to be quite specific, using Twitter: the public microblogging service via which people – 14 million and counting – communicate to the world in 140-character “tweets”.

Launched three years ago, Twitter’s popularity has recently skyrocketed, experiencing quadruple digit growth over the past twelve months - and revolutionizing the news delivery business along the way.

Forget DVD special features, 13 months before Five Killers is even due for theatrical release, Luketic’s Twitter fan base has been drawn into the normally exclusive world of big budget filmmaking and made privy to blow-by-blow accounts about almost every facet of the production – as the cameras rolled.

From location glimpses to peeks inside the special FX engine room, stolen moments of stars on set and quirky photo vignettes - including a shot of the guest director's chair made for Kutcher's wife, Demi Moore, whilst visiting the shoot location in France, complete with the name "Gladys Kravitz" - as well as individual introductions to seemingly every last member of the normally faceless production crew.

There has also been a series of live-streamed video dispatches, including one account – shot in the staff canteen over lunch - recounting how Kutcher had just accidentally knocked a stuntman out cold during an action take. Oops.

Kutcher is perfect for this role in more ways than one. Having raced CNN to be the first Twitterer with one million followers last month, Kutcher's Twitter feed is now the world's most popular and he is also Tweeting from the Five Killers set. Demi Moore also tweeted and shot live-streamed videos during the Côte d'Azur shoot.

In spite of the score of assistants at his disposal, Luketic insists that absolutely noone else comes between him, his iPhone, laptop and his Twitter audience. And, reveals Luketic, this was cause for some initial studio concern.

“The studio was a little apprehensive at first - they even asked I give my password to them so they could ‘manage’ it for me” says Luketic. “That was not going to happen. Ultimately, once they saw how my followers grew each day, they became very supportive and, in fact, are as addicted to the Tweets as anyone. I get emails asking for more or wondering where I am should I not Twitter for a few hours”.

With the weight of what Luketic reports is Lionsgate’s biggest film budget to date riding on his shoulders, how does he concentrate on the task to hand while simultaneously logging it?

“It’s surprisingly easy” says Luketic. “My sets are very organized and smooth running for the most part, so it’s no effort at all to shoot a pic, type 140 characters, and post it for the world to see. It’s actually a lot of fun and I will have an awesome timeline of making this movie at the end. So while some see it as junk food, I see it as a diary or memento of sorts. Realistically, it takes me 30 seconds to snap a picture, treat with an App like Camerabag, and then post it. I guess anyone could do it. Obviously, it’s a film set and there will be times when I have focus for nothing but the task at hand.

“It has not changed my approach to filmmaking. But it has made me more proactive and in control of what people see regarding ‘behind the scenes’. It’s not cookie cutter. From the mundane to the mysterious, at least it’s my side of things. My say. My Twitter”.

But apparently it wasn’t only Lionsgate that harboured concerns about Twittering Five Killers.

Prior to the shoot, Luketic had already been using Twitter and Facebook for three years – but only ever set to private and accessed by his close friends.

It was not until a dinner conversation with friend and colleague, Dana Brunetti, on the eve of the Five Killers shoot, that Brunetti managed to twist Luketic’s arm to ‘open up’.

Notes Luketic, “I lived for so many years in a cocoon – coddled and protected by my business - it was time to go out on my own. I feel stronger and happier for having done it. Thanks little bird”.

Brunetti, the president of Trigger Street Productions, founder of TriggerStreet.com and a producer on Luketic’s 2008 feature 21, says that although studios have a love/hate relationship with social networks such as Twitter, social media is a runaway train.

“Studios love the promotional aspect of Twitter, but fear the loss of control they normally have always had aside from the occasional leak of information or distant paparazzi shot of the set” says Brunetti. “Now people are ‘leaking’ information and posting photos from the set itself while it happens. Twitter is basically a live feed for information. I've experienced the studio reaction to this on a couple of my films in the past including 21, as on our site TriggerStreet.com, we've had a moblog [mobile blog] up for a couple of years now that gave us this same ability”.

He adds, “When I started uploading pics from the set of films like Fanboys and 21, and the studios realized this, they quickly grew concerned and wanted to stop it all together as they always had approved what photos from set went out anywhere. Ultimately we agreed that I would post only certain photos.

"That was two and three years ago, but now with Twitter, even that control is out the window, as everyone with a cell phone can post a message, picture, or video making it next to impossible to rein in. Then when you have the director doing it, as well as the stars, the snowball has begun and it becomes unstoppable. Rather than fighting it, the studios will have to adapt and embrace this to use to their advantage, which I believe they are apprehensively starting to do. But I don't think it will before long before they begin to see the true power it can have for a project”.

Cinema cognoscenti view Luketic’s Five Killers Twitter diary as an inevitable step in the evolution of a medium which originated with a single projector screening on a wall.

“It’s measure of the zeitgeist” says Peter Giles, director of digital media at the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

“It's not just filmmakers who are engaging in it [social media], it's across the board in every business. Robert is making a movie that’s going to last for an hour and a half, but this is the key way of connecting with people in a more durable way, in order to prepare them for the movie and in order to get them talking about it as well. So it’s linked to marketing but I think it’s more than that really. It’s a real-time exchange of information in between a director and their audience”.

Joost Den Hartog, director of the Australian International Documentary Conference, reports that the documentary field was recently shaken up by the 'participatory media experiment' RiP: A remix manifesto. Engineered by documentary filmmaker and new media director Brett Gaylor, the film examines copyright issues in the information age and Gaylor’s audience contributed to the filmmaking process via the director’s video remix community opensoureccinema.org.

But the social media documentation of traditional filmmaking, notes Den Hartog, might well be pioneering not only a standalone media experience, but a new media mashup genre.

“When filmmaking started it, you shot something and then you had to find somebody who had a projector and then we had broadcasting, which distributed it a bit more widely and then we had VHS, Betamax and then the DVD, which had a bit of an interactive menu on it” says Den Hartog.

“Cinema is going from being a one way street to a more and more interactive form of media. What would be really interesting and sort of revolutionary is if, during the filmmaking process, the comments he [Luketic] gets change the film that he eventually delivers? That’s what is new about this way of documenting. It’s a two-way technology”.





Originally published (in a much tighter format) in The Weekend Australian Magazine, May 16th 2009.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The year of the Rutt


backstage @ gary bigeni

I first noticed Rachel Rutt one year ago, after Chic Management included her in the agency's RAFW 2008 newbies list when I was compiling this NEWS.com.au blog post on the season's new faces. One month later, when local media caught onto the lack of runway diversity story, which provided the catalyst for Vogue Italia's all-black July 2008 edition, the Eurasian beauty, who is half Singaporean and half English, told The Australian that the local fashion industry was "very Caucasian-oriented". But we didn't have to wait long before seeing a lot more of Rutt. In August, she walked in the David Jones Spring/Summer 0809 show and booked a series of lookbooks, from Akira to Gail Sorronda to Minty Meets Munt. And as became increasingly obvious at this year's RAFW, 18 year-old Rutt was Chic Management's breakout star at the event, walking in more shows than any other Chic Management model according to the agency.

Some might recall that this time last year, the same applied to Myf Shepherd. Although unknown prior to RAFW, Shepherd went on to be booked by Gucci and Prada for the Resort 2009 shows last June, before blitzing the SS09 shows three months later.

Well guess who is New York-bound at the end of this month? That's right, Miss Rutt.

For those northern hemisphere modelwatchers reading this blog, please note - as was pointed out on frockwriter's parallel Twitter coverage during RAFW - Rutt was not only in high rotation on Sydney's catwalks three weeks ago, she was also booked for two videos which provided the backdrop to two separate shows over consecutive nights at the event: Kirrily Johnston and Gary Bigeni.

For those who haven't already seen the first one via a couple of other blogs which filmed straight off the runway, here is the Kirrily Johnston film made by Alex Goddard over at Oyster Productions:



And here is Nick Waterman’s 'Beside Ourselves' film, which played the following evening during Bigeni's show.

Bigeni kindly uploaded this to YouTube for frockwriter and after that version seemed a little fuzzy, reuploaded to the better-quality Vimeo hosting service. The video is however still extremely fuzzy. But you get the gist.

Beside Ourselves from Nick Waterman on Vimeo.



Looking forward to tracking Rutt's progress over the coming months.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Betty Blue




They don’t call them blue jeans for nothing it seems. Here is a first look at Bettina Liano’s brand new Autumn/Winter 2009 denim campaign video. Shot by David Gubert in Long Reef, it stars upwardly-mobile Oz mod Jess Hart in Liano’s hot new jean, a distressed version of her year-old O Leg, the O Leg Shredded – a distressed, semi-highwaisted skinny leg jean in a new wash called Nil Blue Shred. The jean drops in Liano's 10 Australian boutiques and Myer next week and at A$380.00, it’s of course a hell of a lot cheaper than Balmain’s shredded denims. Hart finds herself in very good model company here, following in the footsteps of Liano’s other campaign stars Alyssa Sutherland (2001), Gemma Ward (2003) and Nicole Trunfrio (2004). Although no doubt due to be played at full blast in Liano’s boutiques, somehow frockwriter can’t see it being screened anywhere near Myer with the sound up – the soundtrack being “Fuck your soul” by Melbourne chanteuse Paris Wells.

Friday, May 8, 2009

New York Times chairman makes a WISH


pentagram

Well it’s been a New York Times kinda fortnight. First the NYT’s style supremo blog The Moment published a photo a day throughout RAFW, snapped by frockwriter buddy Sonny Vandevelde. Then on Monday, The Moment ran a slideshow of Vandevelde's RAFW shots (together with our mini event wrap). Now comes word that no less than The New York Times Company chairman and publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr, may have his antennae tuned to downunder buzz.

In the annual meeting of stockholders on April 23, Sulzberger waxed lyrical about the company’s achievements in these so terribly trying times.

Sulzberger spent quite some time discussing the activities of the company's digital division.

Sulzberger told shareholders that in spite of the difficult economy, digital revenues continued to rise in 2008, accounting for 12percent of total revenues – up 2percent on 2007 – and that in March (2009, one assumes) The Times Company boasted “the 13th largest presence on the Web, with 52 million unique visitors in the United States”. Sulzberger did not cite any sources for the latter claim.

Sulzberger then added:

“Throughout 2008 and the first months of 2009, we have continued to create a new form of Web journalism that is both informative and compelling. Our goal is to respond to our audiences’ demand for interactivity, community and multimedia, as well as news and information on an increasingly wide range of topics....

“One good example of our learning and adapting occurred in February at the Milan Fashion Show. The New York Times’s T Magazine reported a particularly important change in designers at a fashion line. However, it did not do so in print. Indeed, it didn’t initially appear in our Style Magazine’s blog, The Moment. Instead, the news alert was posted to The Moment’s Twitter account, informing 100,000 followers in a single tweet”.

If the last paragraph sounds awfully familiar to regular readers of this blog and indeed, of The Australian’s WISH magazine, then that could be because the paragraph bears a striking resemblance to the lead of this journalist’s recent social media and fashion story in WISH.

The WISH story opened with an analysis of the recent social media activities of The Moment, specifically on Twitter (here is the slightly longer original version of the story, as published on this blog).

The information was the fruit of original research and had not previously been correlated into any other story.

The WISH story started:
“TALK of the town has Alessandra Facchinetti (ex Valentino) already working on Tom Ford's nascent women's line. So reported The New York Times' T Magazine from Milan Fashion Week on February 28, floating the juiciest rumour of the autumn-winter show season. The news was not, however, broken by the print edition, nor even by the style magazine's blog, The Moment. Instead, a BlackBerry alert posted to The Moment's Twitter account informed 100,000 followers in a single "tweet".

Frockwriter has it on good authority that the NYT PR director was apprised of the WISH story upon publication, who then included a precis in the following day’s executive summary.

Funny how sometimes it takes an outside perspective to find out just what your own staff are up to.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

RAFW in The New York Times




Here is a mini RAFW wrapup that I have today in The Moment - that's the blog attached to The New York Times' style/design-nosed T Magazine. The words accompany a photo gallery of backstage shots taken by Sonny Vandevelde, who had a daily Photo of The Moment on the same site throughout last week. It's not the NYT paper per se, but is nevertheless my first piece anywhere near 'The Grey Lady'. Hope to do more. I did not have much room, so focussed on some of the newer names, including Anaessia, my personal pick of the first Ready to Wear group show. Anaessia's Swarovski crystal-encrusted skull print sheath dress looked, I noted on Twitter during the show, like something Michelle Obama might wear - if only she had the nerve. (Here's a vid of the collection).

Monday, May 4, 2009

Blurring the lines: Twitter and the RAFW social media experiment



To say the Spring/Summer 2009/2010 edition of Rosemount Australian Fashion Week whizzed past in a blur, is an understatement. Beyond two beatups which did the rounds of several Australian media outlets – the model pay story and the GFC-led downsizing of what turned out to be an exceptionally busy event, with no downtime – arguably the biggest controversy of the week has surrounded the event’s social media coverage. Given that I find myself at the epicentre of this controversy, I thought I’d just post a few observations from the eye of the Twitter storm. And a warning here: buckle up, this time it's a little more than 140 characters.

First, some background.

I am a Sydney-based freelance journalist and I have covered Australian Fashion Week since the event launched in May 1996.

Having commenced filing to the New York-based Womens Wear Daily/Fairchild News Service in, coincidentally, the same year, I have covered the event for WWD in one form or another since that time. This has included event wrap stories in the daily newspaper and a plethora of other WWD news stories and WWD supplements throughout the year.

Over the past 14 years, in tandem with the WWD coverage, I have also covered the event in a freelance capacity for various Australian news outlets, from Channel 7’s Today Tonight to 7 news, as well as print outlets, notably The Australian, The Sun Herald and The Sydney Morning Herald.

As, moreover, the erstwhile fashion reporter for the SMH print edition, the SMH’s online arm smh.com.au and later News Limited’s Australian online news portal NEWS.com.au, I also blogged the event for the latter two online media outlets for three consecutive years from 2006 through 2008.

The first smh.com.au fashion blog in 2006, launched to cover the Spring/Summer 2006/2007 shows, was one of the first dedicated fashion blogs reporting from within Australian Fashion Week, if not the first. It was also among the very first fashion blogs attached to a mainstream newspaper anywhere in the world. The landscape changed very quickly over the following six months. After that initial blog, I then went on to blog three consecutive, four-city Ready-to-Wear runway seasons, from New York to London, Milan and Paris, for initially smh.com.au and then NEWS.com.au.

I launched my own independent blog in July 2008 and this year was the first time that I blogged Australian Fashion Week independently. I did cover September’s New Zealand Fashion Week (which slipped my mind when talking to Kiwi blogger Hannah McArdle last week).

As explained to McArdle, having blogged at Fashion Weeks for three years, I knew there was one place that I did not want to be this year – and that was stuck in the media centre composing reflective posts while I missed a lot of the action.

Unfortunately, it is either one or the other with these events. If you are working solo, it is just impossible to see absolutely everything that is on schedule and also file normal news stories and features on deadline. You have to make choices. I’ve filed to a daily newspaper from the event. And once again this year, I watched my print peers left in the media centre working on stories for their various outlets while I and others headed off to shows. Sure, you can see the photos afterwards, but it’s not quite the same as being on the spot.

AN RAFW SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER

Blogging certainly upped the ante at Australian Fashion Week in 2006. As pointed out to McArdle, at the time I was mobile blogging or “moblogging” from my BlackBerry to the SMH – however not filing directly into the blog template. The posts were quickly added, complete with pictures, by smh.com.au staff. You would call those blog posts “as live”.

But Twitter made real-time reporting a reality.

Certainly, various free blog platforms such as Blogger allow mobile blogging via email, however prior to this year, I was not blogging independently directly from the event – and nor, to my knowledge, were many other indie bloggers.

I believe NEWS.com.au may have been the first Australian media outlet to use Twitter at Australian Fashion Week – back in April/May 2007. It may well have been the first media outlet to adopt the microblogging service at any major fashion week.

Twitter was introduced under new NEWS.com.au editor David Higgins who, in April 2007, had just been poached from the same position at smh.com.au. It was Higgins who in fact got me blogging for Fairfax at the previous year’s event.

In April 2007 I was three months away from being called over to join Higgins at NEWS.com.au. That month, I covered Australian Fashion Week for smh.com.au. I was at the time unfamiliar with Twitter and recall thinking how daft the Tweets of the NEWS.com.au fashion reporter, Lisa Bjorksten, looked on their website.

I was signed up for Twitter by NEWS.com.au upon joining the outlet, in July 2007. But it was very early days and few in fashion, myself included, could get their heads around the true value of the then one year-old microblogging service via which people communicate in 140-character alerts.

This time last year I began using Twitter on a semi-regular basis.

At the beginning of this year, I started to use it daily and realised what a truly remarkable invention it is – one that facilitates a kind of global water cooler conversation into which absolutely anyone can tap, unlike the cliquey, semi-private service Facebook.

Over the past 12 months – and notably, over the past four – Twitter has exploded, experiencing quadruple digit growth.

As noted on this blog during the FW0910 collections in February and March this year, FW0910 was the first season that Twitter truly impacted on the fashion world, with most major fashion outlets establishing Twitter feeds. Several among them, for example The New York Times’ The Moment and Womens Wear Daily, attracted thousands of new followers over the course of the following weeks.

The difference in the Twitter coverage between the FW0910 season and what we have just experienced in Sydney is that those reporters Tweeting from the New York, London, Milan and Paris shows, were largely communicating via text.

As components of much larger media outlets, other parties added photographs, slideshows and notably, analysis. Of all the reporters Tweeting for The New York Times for instance, the paper’s chief fashion critic, Cathy Horyn, was not among them. Horyn penned her daily news stories and updated her blog, usually no more than once a day. Another chief NYT fashion scribe, Guy Trebay, in fact dismissed the Twitter phenomenon in one of his stories.

By the time the FW0910 Milan leg came around, two weeks after the initial Twitterburst at New York Fashion Week, some professional reporters were also uploading photographs onto TwitPic direct from the runway, Australia’s Marie Claire among them.

With Australian media outlets and industry players piling onto Twitter in the intervening months, we saw quite some TwitPic coverage of the inaugural Swim Fashion Week in February. It passed largely unnoticed by the wider media community.

On the eve of RAFW, it seemed that every Australian fashion media outlet had established a Twitter feed, with numerous fashion publicists and even some designers and retailers also joining up. In the case of Vogue Australia, this was a matter of mere days beforehand – after several parties had established fake “fan” Vogue Australia feeds.

In my opinion, the price paid by Vogue Australia for its tardiness in jumping on the Twitter train is that it had negligible brand presence on Twitter at RAFW.

Appointed as recently as mid 2008, Vogue Australia’s very first online editor, Damien Woolnough was, I understand, also responsible for the Twitter coverage. Woolnough would have been up to his ears writing show reviews and producing multimedia galleries. So were Marie Claire and Oyster, whose brands were unmissable on Twitter last week. Both outlets thought to dedicate at least one reporter to Twitter.

Last week witnessed a veritable avalanche of Twitter coverage.

Yes, FW0910 was a test run, but such was the impact of social media at RAFW, IMG reports that the company’s head office in New York has requested an immediate debrief in order to better understand social media. Julia Knolle and Jessica Weiß from German website Les Mads also report that they have been approached by IMG to collaborate on some form of social media initiative. IMG FASHION's next major event is Berlin Fashion Week.

MY RAFW GAME PLAN

Anyone signed up to Twitter, who was armed with a phone capable of taking, and emailing, photos, uploaded images from the runway last week. Some chose text-only Tweets. I used a combination of both.

I went into the event with a clear strategy: to report as I went in real-time or as close to as I could get. Yes, it was an experiment and I do apologise for not clarifying this in the event leadup.

I assumed that the new format would be self-explanatory and now appreciate that although I had already blogged at the event for three consecutive years, and moved on this season to something newer and faster, many readers are still coming to grips with the blog phenonemon.

“I checked your blog and I can’t find any reviews, just pictures and a few words” noted one international friend who has an iPhone because he thinks it’s chic - but still cannot fathom how to use the (very simple) email function. The end result is that we have to spend a fortune communicating in absurdly overpriced international SMS costs.

Quite obviously this blog adopted a different format last week: a temporary rolling news format.

I attempted to address the fact that not everyone uses, or even understands, Twitter, by integrating most of the Twitter coverage into the blog, in emailing photographs simultaneously to two locations: Blogger (ie this blog platform) and TwitPic, a web application that is integrated with Twitter.

TwitPic is a personal photo gallery, which anyone can view, irrespective of whether or not they use Twitter. I have now included a permanent link to it at the top of this page.

Some of the coverage was exclusive to Twitter.

To provide easy access to all the reportage – and commentary - for those who don’t follow Twitter, I opened up a Twitter widget on the right-hand side of this page, showing the most recent 20 “Tweets”. I agree that it looked messy. However without the resources for a more sophisticated purpose-built website, it seemed the only way to integrate the coverage. Many bloggers have their Twitter feeds permanently integrated into their blogs' home pages. I figured it wasn’t that difficult to follow.

I also downloaded a live streaming video application called Qik onto my BlackBerry. Qik is free software, one of in fact several live streaming video applications that are currently on the market. Over the past few months, Qik has been enjoying quite some publicity via Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. It surprised me that nobody else thought to use it at the event.

In spite of the fact that Qik advertises an integration with various social media platforms, including Blogger, not all seem to function properly and I only managed to integrate a Twitter alert every time I recorded a video, so that you could click that to view the video:
“New live video cross from #RAFW”

I had to manually embed the videos after they were recorded, whenever I had time back at the media centre.

All up last week I recorded 37 videos, 20 of them 3-4-minute interviews with designers and other industry players such as The Sartorialist’s Scott Schuman, Fashion Design Studio director Nicholas Huxley, Fashion Wire Daily's Godfrey Deeny and e-tailer Sarah Pavillard. So far the videos have been viewed almost 3000 times, with at least three of the videos to my knowledge embedded into other blogs. I would have done many, many more videos however realised on Day One that I would have needed two spare BlackBerry batteries to get through every day, such was the degree to which video chewed up the (very slow-to-charge) BB battery.

I posted 140 photographs, many of them with key details attached in the form of garment descriptions, trend alerts and information about models (eg “the unstoppable Rachel Rutt – just starred in her second runway vid in as many says for Gary Bigeni”).

I have not counted how many Tweets I posted, but it was many, many more than that, with 30-40 posts (ie blog/TwitPic posts or text-only Tweets) going up every day. These included show preambles, show commentary, post-show thumbs-downs and industry gossip. One year at the event, while still at The Sun Herald, I penned gossip snippets to accompany the SMH's main fashion story each day (the latter written by Jackie Lunn). These Twitter snippets are no different to what I would have provided the SMH or indeed any other newspaper.

The one thing I did not do was develop longer material for the blog on an ongoing basis throughout the week. I did it once with the news story about Chic Management threatening to pull star Australian model Myf Shepherd from the Kate Sylvester show 40 minutes from start time, after Chic discovered that Shepherd was not opening the show.

I broke the story on Twitter, then developed it on the blog – and in the process of securing right-of-reply etc from Chic and Sylvester, missed the Aurelio Costarella presentation. Unfortunately this was unavoidable - and precisely the type of scenario I had hoped to avoid. But I really did need to get a response from Chic and flesh the story out to be fair to both sides.

I make no claim whatsoever to be a professional photographer.

But that said, in effect I approached last week as a journalist, a photojournalist and a videographer. The last time I checked, television journalists were also journalists. I had a fulltime job as a researcher, producer and occasional reporter at Network Seven from 1996-1999 and have worked with other networks (including CNN). I saw the Qik videos as an extension of this work and also the multimedia work done in the interim with smh.com.au and NEWS.com.au.

To my knowledge I made one mistake – doubling up with the captions from the Diet Coke Little Black Dress show, mislabelling an Alice McCall dress as Kate Sylvester’s. It was quickly corrected. I thoroughly vetted the names of all designers and models etc before emailing the images.

All up, the blog’s traffic doubled – and on one day nearly tripled – with several hundred new Twitter followers piling onto my Twitter feed. Blog subscribers also increased.

THE BACKLASH

I must admit I have been somewhat taken aback by the reaction to the social media coverage of RAFW. It really does appear to have polarised opinion.

Some have noted how much they loved the feeling of being at the event. Others have slammed the quality of the photographs and, in my specific case, the lack of longer-form commentary and proper “journalism”.

I worked incredibly hard last week seeing in fact more shows than I would have had I had to file news stories, features, or longer blog posts. I was happy to keep the coverage moving, trying to see every show and clocking every designer – including those in the often much-maligned group shows.

Many of the latter designers walk away from AFW with no publicity at all. In the first Ready To Wear group show, I was delighted to discover Anaessia. I posted three images of the brand, with commentary that in my opinion, it was the show highlight.

On Day One I had nothing but great feedback, with people sending Twitter replies saying how much they loved the coverage and retweeting posts, images and videos.

Day Two got off to a great start with Dion Lee’s impressive debut solo show in the claustrophobic basement of a Kings Cross carpark. Somehow my Twitter pictures and show review comments managed to get through the concrete bunker but sadly, Qik video transmission died after a few seconds into the post-show interview I did with Lee.

Back at the OPT venue, just prior to the start of Zimmermann, I flicked Qik back on as the power went out and I captured live video footage of Simon Lock standing on the runway addressing the troops in mid blackout. Lock is standing in darkness, his face occasionally illuminated by camera flashes and it’s a fairly amusing video – especially when he asks attendees not to take the goodie bags.

Moments later I was backstage, recording an interview with Nicky Zimmermann, talking about the mayhem. Her professional guard dropped in the midst of the pandemonium, Zimmermann was flanked by her son, with her young daughter on her hip, and she was remarkably candid and relaxed.

Shortly thereafter, I became aware of a Twitter backlash that had been initiated by The Sydney Morning Herald’s gossip columnist Andrew Hornery – with all of it, ironically, unfolding on Twitter.

Unimpressed by the barrage of blurry photos and drawing specific reference to Twitter images tagged as “first looks” (something I was certainly trying to do at each show), Hornery announced that he was going to start 'unfollowing' people.

Sun Herald columnist, media commentator and blogger Mia Freedman chimed in that she was also fed up with the low Twitter standards.


Paul Hayes, a News Limited editor - and blogger - later countered on Twitter:

“print journos issuing instructions on How To Do Twitter Right. Hilarious! #rafw #CrankyOldMedia”

The following evening, when I went to take my seat alongside Hornery at the Jayson Brunsdon show and joked – lightheartedly - about the Twitter backlash, he snarled, “I can’t tell what’s in your pictures”, adding, words to the effect, that I should not be publishing them.

The following day a series of anonymous comments were left on this blog (an Australian designer has since owned up to the first one). The comments echoed very similar sentiments.

Given how swiftly the coverage was moving, they were quickly lost to view. But here they are again:
“patty the twitter thing sucks !! id rather wait to read some reviews and see sonnys photos than your average black berry images with no show reviews , Drop the twit please x”

Followed by:
“If anything, this week has demonstrated the failure of new media. For the past few months, debates have raged over the place of bloggers and twitter-ers in the (fashion) media landscape. I, like many, have supported the new generation of information outlets.

Sadly, this blog, like the majority, have sacrificed journalism for mini tweets and grainy images. The mainstream media outlets are uploading photos within the hour, so we can look at high resolution versions on these websites. Frockwriter is one, if not the only, source of high quality, critical fashion journalism in Australia, and this week we've barely seen more than a 'tweet' and said blurry phone photos. Perhaps its time we moved back to newspapers and magazines, for they have written content with strong visual imagery. The new media landscape has proved it can't integrate both, despite the pace of upload”.

On Saturday, the RAFW special edition of Hornery's Private Sydney column was published.

Given that I have been a financial member of the Australian Journalist’s Association (now the MEAA) for 24 years, that I earn a living selling news to mainstream media outlets and that moreover, RAFW is a trade, as opposed to a public, event, I was amused to find myself - along with the event's other bloggers - being described in the story as a “citizen critic” and “self-anointed fashion arbiter” who had to “scramble” for front row seats. The inference was that the latter were scraps vacated by the more august members of the media pack.

In fact, with few exceptions, all the front row seats I had last week were allocated to me by the various designers.

But the tone of this story should not come as any surprise, given the overall experience of many new media reps that I described in a story about social media in the April edition of The Australian’s WISH magazine.

And perhaps the seeds for Hornery's discontent had already been sown back when the WISH story was first published.

I recall its publication prompted a series of Tweets (perhaps since deleted - I was unable to locate) in which Hornery lamented the poor, "titillating", quality of new media when stacked up against the institution of print news and his concerns that if advertising revenue continues to drift towards social media, who will pay for journalism in the future?

His complaint, echoed by several other commenters over the past few days, is that I failed to write enough about RAFW last week.

At the end of each day, I was thoroughly exhausted and just did not have the energy to go home and compose a 1000-word daily verdict of the day’s events. In hindsight, I could have generated more exclusive blog content, perhaps at least three more solid posts each day and will definitely take this on board for the next event.

As for the blurry runway images, what can I say? Yes many of them are extremely blurry. And frankly, who cares? At least we were all happy to have a crack at it. It wasn’t compulsory to look at the photos and it certainly did not cost anything to view them.

The ‘new media douchebag’ contingent at RAFW joked that perhaps we should christen this new photographic genre of Twitter art as “Bluralism” – and possibly even stage an exhibition. This contingent included Matt 'Imelda' Jordan, Helen Lee, Isaac Hindin Miller, Sonny Vandevelde, Marian Simms, Melanie Hick, Alyx Gorman, Jade Warne and McArdle.

While I concur that some of my runway images last week were very ordinary, on Day Two, I started to get the hang of it and twigged that it was possible to take a vaguely-interesting shot which, although largely an Impressionistic blur, could nail a key clear detail about the garment in question. I felt like I was back in life drawing class, attempting to capture the essence of a model's pose in a few, fleeting pencil strokes. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest if noone else likes them but I’m quite fond of some of the shots which eventuated. They were, of course, captured by complete fluke.






By the same token, there is an element of beatup to the photo kvetching.

The negative buzz overshadows the fact that at least some of the shots produced by all parties at the event were in fact crystal clear. Under the right conditions, it is remarkable how much clarity even an amateur can achieve with a mobile phone camera. Here are a couple of examples from my TwitPic gallery:




I almost did not cover last week’s event – at least not on the ground.

I have a series of now quite urgent deadlines for paid work and taking the entire week off to cover the event meant those deadlines were pushed back. It was a luxury in other words, not a necessity and in the current economic climate, with freelance work becoming harder and harder to find, it was possibly not the wisest decision.

This week I will file on RAFW to both WWD and The New York Times but did I really need to be at RAFW every day from 9.00am until 9.00pm, in order to complete that coverage? The answer is no. I covered the event on the ground for this blog. And for many it seems, that just wasn’t good enough. I'm sorry about that but I gave it my best shot.

Andrew Hornery asks who is going to pay for journalism as the world navigates through unchartered media waters, with a flotilla of lighter, nimbler, high-tech sloops scrambling around the waterlines of the dead tree galleons.

But surely what he really means is, who is going to continue to pay him and his salaried colleagues to produce journalism?

Because while Hornery expects to receive a fat salary and full benefits for his journalistic contributions, he has absolutely no qualms in demanding that an independent blogger such as myself pump out considered, high quality analysis of an event that they have already exhaustively covered, in detail, from the bottom up, via a constellation of vignettes - for absolutely no payment whatsoever.

And he's not alone.



Friday, May 1, 2009

Fernando Frisoni SS0910 - opened by a child #RAFW

On the record: Fashion Wire Daily's Godfrey Deeny

New Gen - Zaicek #RAFW

New Gen - By Weave #RAFW

New Gen - Stand #RAFW

New Gen - Emma Milikins #RAFW

New Gen - Nana Judy #RAFW

New Generation (group show) Miss Unkon #RAFW

On the record: online buyer Sarah Pavillard

Michael Lo Sordo finale

Backstage with Magdalena Velevska

Magdalena Velevska finale

Karla Spetic finale

Julie Grbac finale

Gary Bigeni finale

Sara Phillips finale

Michael Lo Sordo SS0910 #RAFW

Backstage B4 Michael Lo Sordo #RAFW

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