Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ryan McGinley's "suicide" video was inspired by Alice in Wonderland - Abbey Lee Kershaw

On Sunday, frockwriter posted a new video shot by Ryan McGinley that stars Abbey Lee Kershaw and advertises a South Korean fashion brand called Lewitt. In the vid, which was uploaded by a South Korean YouTube member, Kershaw climbs a building, pauses while contemplating jumping and then hurls herself into the void - with slomos of various outfit changes. It seemed like a bizarre concept for promoting fashion to young women in a country that boasts the world’s highest female suicide rate. And an even more questionable choice, given that seven models - including high profile South Korean Daul Kim – have committed suicide over the past two years. Four of them by jumping. The post divided opinion. Some slammed the video. Others slammed frockwriter, dismissing it as a non story. The latter might want to take up their beef with the plethora of other outlets that have since picked the story up. Those who linked back to FW include Perez Hilton, Pedestrian, Fashion Copious, Germany's Les Mads and Dutch news site UPDATE 09/08: In spite of the fact that Lewitt removed Kershaw's image from its website last week, with McGinley also having the video pulled from YouTube, the video is now online on the website, complete with stills. Still no response, however, from either McGinley or Lewitt.

Three days later, we have finally managed to make contact with Lewitt's Seoul-based managing director Dai Hyun Kim and await his response.

Still no word, however, from ALK’s Sydney or New York agents or McGinley himself, who won’t answer our questions but nevertheless appears to have had the video shut down on YouTube:

It’s still online however.

Even McGinley’s still of Kershaw on Lewitt’s website has been removed.

On Sunday, Lewitt's site looked like this:

Today, it looks like this:

So what is going on here? Was this not a bone fide job?

Yes it was, according to Kershaw, who was in town yesterday for the David Jones show (backstage shots below) and who appears to be adopting the Big Brother defense: the problem’s in the editing.

Here is the transcript of a very short iv I managed to grab backstage, after being invited by DJs into the VIP model room specifically to do the interview with Kershaw, which she consented to (but no video permitted).

You in fact used to do the David Jones show, didn’t you?
Abbey Lee Kershaw: I was youth ambassador back in 2005. I think it may have been the last time I did it.

What was it like doing this show again?
It was great. It was nice to be back home and to support a great Australian brand who appreciates you. When I come and work here, they look after us and they’re kind. I’m very happy to support a brand like that.

You’ve obviously been away for several years now, walking the world’s runways. What was it like coming back to the Australian runway?
I was more nervous than I expected to be. The expectations [of] coming back and having people around you watching the show who you worked with years ago when you were just a young model. So there’s a sense of expectation to perform. Hopefully I did alright.

What’s coming up next? How long are you in Australia for?
Two weeks and then I go to Hawaii for a week and then back to New York. And then the [Spring/Summer 2011] shows in September.

The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show?
Yeah if I’m free, yeah.

Anything else big coming up?
Not that I know if. We don’t really find stuff out until very short...

I just wanted to ask about this Korean video you’ve done, Lewitt. What is it exactly?
It’s an Asian label and it was based around the story of Alice in Wonderland.

So what, she’s supposed to be falling down the rabbit hole?
Ah...I don’t...I mean...however you...we were shooting all day. There were different scenes all day. So his, ah, edit of it..I haven’t even seen it to be honest. I haven’t seen it yet. I think it just came out.

Some might be concerned that it looks like you’re trying to jump off the building.
Yeah of course people are concerned about things like that. People are always going to perceive..

South Korea has the highest female suicide rate in the world and there have also been a lot of model suicides, with many of them jumping. Do you not understand why it might concern people?
I understand. I haven’t seen the video.

But wouldn’t you have had the right to see it before it was finished?
[Starts to move away] I’m done here. I’m done. Thank you. 

backstage at david jones, sydney august 3rd

As it emerges, this is not the first time that McGinley has persuaded a model to jump out of a building for a fashion shoot.

In May 2008, McGinley shot Agyness Dean jumping out of a building in New York in various outfits, and also naked, for the Fall 2008 edition of POP magazine. The images were reportedly inspired by 1950s shots of children fleeing a burning building and received quite a lot of publicity.

One month later, Kazakh model Ruslana Korshunova jumped to her death from her New York apartment building.

The proximity between Korshunova’s extremely well-publicised death and the magazine's August 2008 publication appears to have passed unnoticed by various media outlets that ran stories on the issue and its editor Katie Grand. But not by one blog commenter, who noted:

“It sure is swell that not only did McGinley continue on with this story in the wake of Ruslana Korshunova's suicide, but that Pop actually ran this. Goddamn insensitive and uncouth”.

backstage at david jones, sydney, august 3rd

Kershaw seems to have a knack for courting controversy.

She once fell on Rodarte's New York runway in some extreme footwear.

She fainted on Alexander McQueen's Paris runway in a tight corset.

And in December last year, Kershaw made headlines when it emerged that she and two other models turned down McQueen's Spring/Summer 2010 show because they had concerns about the safety of walking in his outrageously high "Armadillo" shoes.

Two months later, reportedly depressed by the recent death of his mother, sadly McQueen too took his own life.

***Any readers in need of support and information about suicide prevention should contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) or***


Anonymous said...

I'd like to think that I'm being a bit too sensitive, but it's a pic that gets to me a little, what with the dubious dark stain underneath Abbey, not to mention the fact that in some Asian cultures (like mine) wearing red when committing suicide leads to unsavoury results (the dead person comes back as an angry ghost).

But that's just me.

Just saw the vid on youku and I think it's beautifully shot though. Always been a fan of McGinley's work.

- Yen

isabella thordsen said...

lovely blog!

Pavement Frippery said...

I agree there is a story here but I haven't read anything to indicate that McGinley 'coerced' his models.

Patty Huntington said...

good point. "coerced" is one of those words that people, myself included, tend to use flippantly as a substitute for "persuaded" or twisting someone's arm. when it really means "forced". have changed it.

by the same token, it is commonly written that models in recent runway shows have been "forced" to walk in outrageous footwear. true, noone is standing over them with a cat o' nine tails, but technically it's not incorrect. wearing the shoes is part of the terms of the job. they have the choice of taking it and getting paid or else turning it down. if they do it, there's no choice. ALK turned down mcqueen last year citing OHS issues over the shoes. she was a much bigger name by that stage of course. she could have said no to mcginley.

she quite possibly now wishes she did.

The Ram said...

Interesting point made here. I think it is a bit strange for a young design company to promote their clothing in this sort of a way. Also, because of the recent spike in model suicide rates, I think that's especially why some would find it all very alarming.

Again, very interesting topic to post. I commend you for it. A lot of good points to think about and discuss.

Lou said...

I would hardly classify Abbey's refusal to wear potentially harmful shoes, or cases of injury related to the runway, as "controversial". Has someone disputed these events? Were they racist? Sexist? Religiously offending? A model fall is unfortunate, but not controversy, which implies several opinions have been voiced over the topic. I apologize if I have not heard these differing opinions, and previously believed everyone had reached the same consensus on the topic. She fell. So what? That does not give you merit to slander.

Frockwriter you are no more than a speculator.

Lou said...

I would also like to ad that your interview of Abbey backstage at the DJ's show is horrendous. From the get-go your questions were harassing, pointed, and irrelevant. You were quite simply attacking Abbey. It was very distasteful, and I don't know if you believe yourself to be a bonafide journalist, or aspiring to be one, but I most certainly assure you your tendency to insult commenter's who disagree, and harass your interviewee, will most certainly not get you there.

Anonymous said...

I agree entirely with Lou. I'd like to see you say something back to people who critisise you without providing a list of "credible" news sources that picked up your story or making some base attack at them.

Also, what was the relevance of the last line about McQueen's death? Was there any? You are only extending your disrepect for both the models and McQueen by speculating their deaths and sensationalising their stories into fabricated drama.

Patty Huntington said...

feel free to hyperventilate as much you like in this or other posts, as you have been doing over the past few hours with a barrage of comments.

but just a reminder that in so doing, you are moving further and further away from the rational argument arena and closer and closer to troll territory.

Anonymous said...

yes, I am trolling and its cause my HSC trials start next week and I'm procrastinating. I'm sorry that I had to dump my teenage angsties on you, in usual circumstances I would move on and never come back to this rubbish pile of a blog. I mean its really quite funny to watch an old woman defensively list Perez Hilton as a claim for respectability. Your credibility shrinks at an exponential rate as you reply to bored 17 year old trolls and pretend you don't care. Still, I do think the questions about McQueen remain in the "rational argument arena" and I'd still like an answer.
But of all your stupid posts, this one tops the ladder of incredulousness. Congrats Patty!

Anonymous said...

What's troll territory?

Lou said...

Regardless of the needlessness of posting consecutive times, I will again, as I would like to thank you for proving your lack of intellectualism and incapability to receive criticism, as highlighted in the above post.

As a reader of journalism it is permissible that I may criticise a journalists work, constructive or not. And, regardless if the journalist was offended, they do not have the authority to act unnecessarily rude to readers. If I disagree with Today Tonight or The Sun Herald for example, which I am entitled to, is it acceptable for them to send a rude letter or some such to me? I would think this would only degrade their reputation more.

Also, I do believe most authentic journalists- which you seem to consider yourself, correct me if I'm wrong- value proper grammar. Capital letters notably?

Now excuse me while I go hyperventilate. And as for rational argument territory? I do believe you yourself surpassed that long ago.

Abatha said...

And Lou, what would you have preferred the interview to be about? Abbey's favourite shade of lipstick? They are legitimate questions to a campaign filmed in poor taste.

Anonymous said...

Patty you're an absolute joke.

Thanks for not publishing my perfectly rational, critical comment! Looks like it IS North Korea in here.

Anonymous said...

Abatha, sure they "could" be legitimate questions to a campaign filmed in poor taste. But Patty interviewed Abbey, not Ryan McGinley, not the CEO of Lewitt, not the producer or editor of the film. Obviously Abbey would have had no say in the films production. She is a model, paid to do only as she is directed. I would have no problem if Patty had directed her "questions" at McGinley and co. But because she couldn't reach them, she instead choose to ask Abbey questions irrelevant to her. It concerns me that Patty tried to lay the blame on Abbey. If she is a real journalist she should know models, like actors, have no control over the production.

So yes, I would prefer to know about Abbey's favourite lipstick colour, rather than feel sympathetic for her and disgusted at the way so called journalist Patty Huntington cornered her and tried to lay the blame, in a blatant attempt to further her "career"/get "picked up" by more sources/whatever.

Abatha said...

"She is a model, paid to do only as she is directed".

Well it seems this was not the case when Abbey was presented with Mcqueen's Armadillo shoes last season. If she had the mind to turn that direction down due to occupational health and safety concerns, she could have done the same here, but on moral grounds.

Patty is one of the most respected fashion journalists in Australia - and one of the reasons for this, is because we'll never know if Abbey prefers plums, nudes or deep reds. Too busy asking the good stuff.

Anonymous said...


Most respected fashion journalists? Pffft. My 13 year old sister has better openions and more carefully constructed sentences than FrockWriter.

Also, wasn't it Abbey's opinion that the film wasn't a simulated suicide? Isn't that FrockWriters accusation?

And please direct me to the posts where Patty attacks Coco Rocha, Anja Rubik, Tiiu Kuik for not turning down a shoot on "moral terms" because it could be misconstrued as "sacrilegious". Or Lara Stone, because it was "racist". What about Miranda Kerr's two recent editorials in Numero? Did FrockWriter question why Miranda didn't refuse either job on "moral terms"? Not really.

If you were aware, you'd know that for fashion shows models have to go to a casting (much like a job interview), then they may get one or two (or more) call backs. The process also includes a fitting. They may be booked only the day before, and confirmed the morning of the show. Ergo, Abbey had ample opportunity to see the shoes without actually having the job. Where as, with Lewitt Abbey was confirmed for the job, and most likely didn't know of what the director and producer had planned until she was at the production site.

Or even possibly, to quote FrockWriter, McGinley "secretly planned" this theme, or it "happened organically during the shoot". That could also account for lack of prior concurrence on Abbey's part.

May I also point out this quote from model Tyler Riggs, via PonyRyder: "You most certainly do not get a choice. You are lucky if they even ask your opinion about the images."

She shouldn't accuse Abbey. If she wants to slander someone, she should go AFTER THOSE RESPOSIBLE.

Anonymous said...

I think it was very poor judgement for the company to want to produce a film in this way. And they probably did not take into account how the film might lead into consequences. Ryan McGinley's took a very poor decision into directing the video. Americans have such a strange armour for McGinley's work who feels compelled to obsessively photograph nude bodies. He should focus more on how he can become a photographer with artistic qualities and not become another voyeur. And you know what, it's nice to know being Australian you can smell bullcrap right away.

Anonymous said...


Catherine Horyn is a "respected fashion journalist". As is Tim Blanks. If Patty is all Australia has to offer, I would prefer to say Australia has none.

I would hardly say sensationalist media is "journalism" let alone "respectable". We can all watch old Pats trying to stir up some shit but the actually respectable figures in the industry just find her annoying.

I mean she obviously does not have much knowledge about the role of models in their work whatsoever. I could dare say the same for her knowledge of the fashion industry.

Honestly, I'm embarrased for her!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, 3:31

Who are you to dictate what an artist should or should not do? And who are you to even know what artistic qualities are?

You've all moved on from blaming Abbey, so are you blaming McGinley and then Lewitt now? And who are you to pin that blame on them? Did you work with them when they were in production? Are you aware of their every intent and influence?

The company OBVIOUSLY did not anticipate such bullshit to arise from the campaign, otherwise they would not have done it.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha, hyperventilate. Awesome.

Lou said...

Way to delete my post and yours. Afraid of the consequences eh? Well don't worry Kim Jong-il I won't take it to the papers.

Your pathetic. But it amuses me.

I don't appreciate bully's, so now with absolutely no respect...

Anonymous said...

Actually Patty's very happy to try and put Lara Stone down, it always reads as as a somewhat personal attack. Which is kind of ironic...

Anonymous said...

Great art usually justifies any content, and I admire McGinley's work. But in this case, I wonder for what purpose - to flog some clothes? Surely this video wasn't shot to reflect on psychological depths and human nature, but simply to get as much attention as possible.

Emm said...

I'd just like to say that I thought this post was very interesting. As were the comments left on the post. I don't really have much to express about what people have said here except that a lot of people are pushing quite a bit of hate onto you through their opinions. I don't believe this is fair.
I don't have a strong opinion on the matter but before I read the comments I didn't find the post excessive or unfair.

Melinda said...

I agree Emm. It's one thing to disagree with the post, and quite another to personally attack the writer. Let's keep it fair people.

Anonymous said...

Okay Kids
Hope all the venom has been spat out. Bottom Line is that Patty is a news person, she gives us the news (why else would you read this blog). She tells us like it is, doesnt pull punches,she reports and does it well. She is entitled to express her opinion in the way she wants. I'm not her biggest fan but I really respect her as a Jurno that gives the Australian public fashion news that would usually take days to get after it all is filtered down. Patty is Australia's fashion version of Nikki Finke and lets rejoice that we have someone who is so on the pulse and gives a hoot. Like her or not Patty Rocks!!!
Go Patty!
xoxo Keep up the great work.

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