Monday, October 26, 2009

Unusually Conventional, Conventionally Unusual

So I picked up the latest issue of Bon magazine, mostly so I could have this stunning Sara Blomqvist editorial. As I was flipping through the rest of the issue, an interview with Rick Owens caught my eye. I love designers interviews because I like getting informational nuggets about their inspiration, design process, and casting process especially. Much to my delight there was a whole bit about Rick's casting for shows and his views on the beauty of models working today.
What kind of models do you like for a show?
I have a casting director. And...casting directors sometimes have priorities that aren't mine. The fashion people will notice if you are using what are considered the best models in the business. And if you try doing anything too tricky with the models, it starts putting you into a territory of being like a young designer.
But I'm very happy usually. Because, I mean, among those people there are very wonderful, fantastic girls. And if you notice, I don't use girls that are that unusual. I use the same girls that Prada uses, that all of these people use. I just take all their make up off. Because I like to see just the skull. Cause they are like alien creatures already. When you see them without the make up and without the clothes and everything, or when I put them in my clothes, they are like these wonderful insects. They are just incredible. So I don't really have any complaints about them. I just take the make up off and turn them into Rick Owens girls.

You use a lot of models from the agency Supreme. Paul Rowland, the founder of the agency, describes their edgy, unconventional beauty as "intelligent". He means that you have to be smart to appreciate it. Do you agree?
Well, I think...The fashion world that we are working in is an extreme fashion world. We can't use conventional beauty because it has been done, and done, and done. It's impossible to be interested in conventional beauty when you reach the very sophisticated level of aesthetics that high fashion is. So you have to look for something else. And that's what's happened. We've created a beauty that's a little...It has to be inaccessible in order for it to be interesting. This is about creating a dream; it's about moving forward and experimenting and exploring. So yeah, in that context these girls have to be unusual, they have to be esoteric, they have to be exotic, they have to be special. And that moves beyond conventional beauty. So, you know, there's a place for conventional beauty, but high fashion is not it.
This part excerpted above was accompanied by the following picture of Freja...

...which got me to thinking. Where does Freja fit into this scheme of esoteric vs. conventional beauty? I've posited before that she's one of the few models who can so effortlessly navigate the extremes: high fashion/mass market, masculinity/femininity, and classic/contemporary. My initial thought was that she can do the same in this case; she can be either conventionally beautiful or unusually exquisite depending on the occasion and needs of her employer. However, after some careful thought I think that instead of embodying both qualities, Freja defines the aesthetic paradigm shift Rick talks about in the above quotes.

We have moved on from the conventional to the unusual; so much so that the unusual can seem like the conventional ironically enough. What I mean is that the parameters of beauty within the fashion industry have shifted so that the old notions of classic and conventional beauty are nearly obsolete. Like Rick said, they still have their place within our world but just not in high fashion.

Freja is hugely popular and widely considered to be one of the more naturally gorgeous models out there. Yet she is an unusual beauty. She has a very pronounced cupid's bow, strong and hard jawline, sharp nose and lots of visible tattoos. Set her in the 1950s and she would not be anyone's standard of beauty by any means. But in our modern times, she is conventional enough that brands like Gap and H&M have used her in campaigns that must appeal to the largest swath of people possible. She is a living, breathing, moving example of the fashion industry moving forward, pushing boundaries, experimenting and redefining the ways we measure beauty.

And so, when the unusual becomes the conventional, we start to see an emerging beauty that's more extreme that what we knew before. The recent proliferation of models like like Meghan Collision, Jaime Bochert, Ranya Mordanova, and the existence and mission statement of Supreme demonstrate this. Perhaps it's only a matter of time before we move even further to the left in terms of beauty (like we have started to do with Lindsey Wixson). Or perhaps, like fashion is oft to do, we will move cyclically back to old standards and norms. Regardless of what happens, I think Freja will always have a place because for once she's treading firmly in the middle of two extremes.


Anonymous said...

Supreme's idea of beauty is so contrived, as if they hire these girls simply for their lack of conventional 'beauty'.depending on how Freja is made up she can morph into anything.the Supreme girls simply can't, it's very limiting.I think Karolin Wolter and Mariacarla are the few that can pull off diversity.


i love her !
she is the most beautiful model of the world !
and my favourite ♥

G.Lilie said...

Just stumbled across your blog and THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR DOING IT! I will kind of spend the night browsing though the posts- Freja is so stunning! :)

Oh, and...maybe you could do like..a list (?) of Frejas favourite things etc. since you seem to know much about her :)

Rrose Sélavy said...

^You're welcome. :) And I only know as much about her as everyone else does so I don't think I could make a list of her favs.

Ange said...

sometimes i think someone should pay you for all your effort.
thank you for doing this.

Rrose Sélavy said...

^lol, that would be nice. ;) But I love doing this so much that the satisfaction, personal enjoyment, and creative release I feel is payment enough. :)

Anonymous said...

I love freja...I love your blog..