Friday, October 28, 2011

O! How The Mighty Hath Fallen!


Yeah, I'm just kidding. The news was released yesterday via Tweety Bird and fashion journalist Jim Shi that Freja "Face of Chanel" Beha will NOT be the face of Chanel for 2012. Well, he didn't say so explicitly, but he didn't really have to. Whatever, here's the tweet:

I'm guessing you are all well pissed off right now right? Like on a Richter scale, you're the equivalent of that earthquake in Turkey? And to think, you're all just walking about, ready to explode at any unsuspecting stranger...

Well. I understand the anger, truly, I do. Freja has been the Chanel girl for what, the last five seasons? It has become a constant, expected thing. Some of you might not have been there at the beginning of fashion season, but I was, and this is what happened:
Naive Person: "Will Freja open Chanel? Will she close? Will she be in the campaign?"
The Voice of Reason: "Uhm derrrrrr; is the Pope a Catholic?"
Naive Person: "I think he is, actually, yeah."
Of course, the rest went down in history like The Flintstones and now everyone's wondering what the shit just happened. This is the part where I confess that I have NO idea. But somehow, I'm not worried.

Freja has been the Chanel girl for ages, but I think it is really important that we don't become reliant on that single image of her. Despite what advertisers would have us believe, Freja and Chanel are not synonymous. They can exist in unison, or independent of one another harmoniously. It's not as if Freja's career is now over; in fact, I would almost argue that it is quite the opposite: now that Freja is not entirely tied to Chanel, it opens up the opportunity to work for a wider variety of haute couture clients.

Allow me to elaborate on this brilliant little seed germinating in my mind.

For the last two and a half years, the fashion world has been fixated on this notion of Freja being Karl's muse. She is involved with just about everything he does, whether it be magazine editorials, shows, campaigns... even one of those calendars where you strip down and don a strategically-placed yamaclaus as Ms. December in the name of charity. Except that this one had a more artistic spin and was sold to make money for a wealthy tire company in Italy, instead of the children in third world countries.

Golden cod pieces aside, my point is that Freja and Karl have been nigh inseparable for this whole period of time. The problem this poses is that the implicit associations between Freja and Karl, or Freja and Chanel mean that no matter what brand name is on the ad, we will see Freja's face and immediately think "Karl" or "Chanel". I dub this the Lara Stone Conundrum.

For those of you who don't know, Lara Stone is BIG. Big boobs, big lips, big tooth gap. Big eyes that will stare into your guilty little soul. (She used to have a big forehead too, but then her eyebrows rematerialized.) Big attitude: a girl was loitering in front of her once during a show, so she shoved her out of the way. Of the incident, she replied "It was only a few stairs." Lara Stone, to be completely blunt, is sex appeal. And until extremely recently, she had a monopoly on almost EVERY campaign Calvin Klein produced. You used to think "Brooke Shields" or "Kate Moss" when you thought of Calvin Klein, but now it is "Lara Stone".

Fortunately for CK's bank account, this genius marketing ploy goes both ways. If you see Lara somewhere, you don't think "Prada" or "Versus". You think "Calvin Klein". This will take time (and perhaps the new found eyebrows?) to change. So Tom Ford, until further notice, is doing free advertising for Calvin Klein. Just so that you know.

Fortunately for Freja, she has not been as pigeon-holed as Lara Stone. Where the terms of Lara's contract essentially meant she was promoting ONLY Calvin Klein each season, Freja has been busy with campaigns for other labels, not just Chanel. A strong relationship with Valentino has been developing for the last few seasons, as well as a string of H&M and Harry Winston campaigns. Freja is even setting up shop with Denmark's oldest luxury jewelry label Georg Jensen, not just as the company's face, but also as a designer. Earlier this month, she even became a philanthropist, which was totally rad (do we want a post on this?).

Suddenly, Freja and Chanel are looking more like biffles than conjoined twins, am I right?

So in response to the frantic emails pouring into my inbox even as I type this, no, I am not worried. Freja's career will live on for many years, whether she continues to appear in Chanel ads or not. (In fact, chances are that she'll pop up in the eyewear campaign, or maybe even a perfume ad?) Who knows, I wouldn't be surprised if she gets a single-girl campaign for F/W 2012. If Freja and Chanel are done forever, I will happily eat a bolt of tweed, but I hardly think that that is the null hypothesis in this situation.

I, for one, am happy for the girls who did get the campaign. Saskia has been getting a lot of hype the last two seasons, and I am looking forward to seeing how this all turns out for her. And Joan Smalls? When was the last time Chanel had a black girl in their campaign? Racism has been a huge topic in fashion for such a long time, and I think it's great that we are beginning to see some of these barriers broken down.

This is my take on it all, but I know there's a wide range of opinions on this particular subject, so I'll leave the rest to you. If you agree, or disagree, or differ in opinion, I would love to hear what you have to say, and I'm sure everyone else would appreciate another perspective. So please take full advantage of the comment section below!

If you're not comfortable with discussing this at the present time (for whatever reason: shyness, anger-induced silence, carpel tunnel, lack of fingers, whatever), I'll leave you with this: If you can't be happy for Saskia and Joan, be happy for the bright future Freja has ahead of her. She's facing the sun now, but she's definitely not casting any shadows.

Peace, love, and floating,
Gill Ford

P.S.: I'm pleased to see that you are taking full advantage of my email address, and encourage you all to continue to do so as you feel the need. I'll do my best to answer any questions you have, whether they be Freja-related or otherwise. If I'm stumped, I'll try to refer you to someone who's smarter than me (I keep tabs on all three of them) so you can get your business sorted. Today I dealt with some fun issues that included anorexia, lesbians, and what I did on Vladimir Putin's birthday. So you know, anything goes.

P.P.S.: I'm also aware that the night is dark and full of terrors, and you were all left in it for the last five months. So if there is anything that you know happened, or suspect might have happened while you were flailing about like headless chickens, give me a shout and I'll wiggle my fingers about with some scented candles and tea leaves and we'll see what happens.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Tale of a Fairy: A Study in Frejanomics and the Catherine McNeil Effect

So, the reviews are already pouring into my inbox and the comment section, and I'm happy to report that you all love me. My ego and I agree that we like you, Freja fans. To be precise, we think each and every individual one of you are a cornucopia of awesomeness (that one's for you, Canadians).

Because I'm just raring to go, I'll chuck this article at you. Written back around the time this blog stopped being updated, it is my own reaction to Karl Lagerfeld's The Tale of a Fairy. On my blog, it generated a fair bit of discussion, and that was just a small group of Freja followers, so no doubt putting it here will give you all something to mull over.

I mentioned a little while ago that this blog would not be about Freja's personal life. I suppose this post makes me a liar, but I think it is necessary to confront this topic specifically at this point in Freja's career, which is quite clearly reaching a tipping point. While initially a sort of cult model, Freja is moving fast towards supermodel status, and with that comes a host of new factors with the potential to influence the future of her life in the fashion world.

So chew on this for a little while. Spit it out if you don't like it. But when you're done, come back and post the bits that got stuck in your teeth. I want to know what the after taste was.

There is little else in the world of fashion that is more exciting than the Chanel Cruise collections, which are shown in wealth-laden/fantastic/breath-taking locations each year. But this event is not anticipated for the clothes so much as for the inevitable euphoria that comes in the form of Kaiser Karl's endeavours into the world of cinema. Last year, he took us to St Tropez with the gripping feature Remember Now. But for 2012, he has really given it his all, travelling down the coast to the Antibes for The Tale of a Fairy (Part 1Part 2), starring a frighteningly high-strung Kristen McMenamy, a gorgeous-as-ever Anna Mouglalis, and a curiously talkative Freja Beha Erichsen. There's some pretty boys as well.

Karl's filmmaking skills have certainly improved since last season; in terms of the cinematography, it was very well done, and the acting wasn't quite as horrendously embarrassing and discomforting as it was last time around. Of course, nobody really payed any attention to any of that sort of thing. I mean, I would totes magotes have found those facets interesting. I might even have paid attention to the clothes if Anna's numerous admirers were ever wearing any. As it was, I was distracted by the same thing as everyone else, being the Sapphic shenanigans that completely dominated the final 25% of the film, during which 90% of Freja Beha's fans sighed with cathartic satisfaction.

I mean, as scandalous as it is, who really gives a shit that Kristen McMenamy is apparently carrying on with Baptiste Giabiconi, who is apparently her godson? Who cares about how 'pretty' the film looked, or how 'creative' the collection was, or how 'improved' Karl's cinematic skills are? Keeping in mind that we have not been enticed to look forward to this annual event in the expectation of anything Oscar worthy, one would think that the latter might have been noted more by all the highly educated, realistic, and critical viewers who turned up for the affair. As this was not the case, The Tale of a Fairy will be from hereafter referred to as The Time Where Freja and Anna were Pashing in the Lou. Or, for a multitude of others, The Time Where Freja Was Pashing Someone I Didn't Know, But Imagined was Me, in the Lou

I don't know what Chanel herself would have to say about all of this, but I have a feeling that it's not really a good sign when the clothes you have made are not just overshadowed, but entirely ignored because you've filmed FBE enjoying the taste of another girl's cherry chapstick. I read an article a few days ago that I found rather interesting, and actually quite relevant to this case here. Under the title "Skinny Again, Crystal Renn," David P Dykes (the irony is killing you all right now, I know) of muses over the famous anorexic-turned-plus-sized model's recent shoot for TUSH with Ellen von Unwerth, and the concept of the "celebrity model," pioneered by (who else) Kate Moss and attempted by various others, none of whom have managed similar success. He notes that "the Catherine McNeil effect" (a.k.a., when the celebrity of a model takes precedence over their work) is one that a number of models have unfortunately fallen victim to as models become ever more interesting to the public. Renn, who is perhaps the most well known plus sized model in fashion right now (seriously, Tyra, shut the fuck up), is remarkably un-plus sized in the shoot. I would particularly like to draw attention to the final part of the article:

[...] when you're a model your career is dependent on helping fashion houses sell clothing and accessories but their target market sees your photos and take in solely the shape of your body, there's a danger for your career.
In the same vein, I am wondering whether Freja's personal life may threaten the longevity of her career. There are many brands making money off of her at the moment (Georg Jensen and Harry Winston, to name a few), and I am curious to know what about her appeal appears to be driving the sales (assuming that there are no confounding variables in the correlations between her being the face of a brand and that brand's sales spikes). Does Freja sell because of her 'look', or does she sell because of the asterix note that reads "lesbian"?

I find it hard to believe that enough people are aware of the numerous rumours surrounding her personal life for there to be any reason but the former. She is (in)famous across the fashion industry and it's followers, but I think it would be ridiculous at this point to suppose that the majority of the general public even know what her name is, let alone what team she purportedly bats for, and that seems to be the best thing for a model. But with Freja's ever-rising popularity and notoriety, I fear that she may find herself falling victim to a similar fate as her rumoured ex (Side note: if this ends up happening, how incredibly tragic is the tale of McBeha? Someone tell Karl. Sure, a tragic film might get you a SAG award, but a tragic film about lesbians? Charlize Theron and Natalie Portman will be the first to attest that those ones win freaking Oscars.). What happens when people do know her name, and even more dauntingly, care enough to investigate what's going on behind the scenes? How will designers (other than Karl, obviously) react to a model who the public views increasingly as "the lesbian model"?

If the most recent pigeon-holing of Freja as "the androgynous model" is anything to go by, labels are hard to shake in an industry where models are meant to be blank canvasses. The boyish cut Freja sported for a couple of years resulted in a drop in her workload that rattled her loyal fanbase. But hair grows back, and once hers did, the pigeon-holing began to happen less frequently, to the point where she is now garnering more attention from designers with more feminine aesthetics. It is my hope that the growing publicity surrounding Freja and her sexuality does not become a limiting factor in what is an already stellar career, but as Dykes so eloquently indicated, fashion is not supposed to be about the model, but the clothes and the message of the brand that model is promoting. Freja is a good model to be sure, but is she good enough for designers to risk including the (sometimes dangerous) term "lesbian" in their list of attributes? I certainly don't care, but then, I am not a market scientist.

Cometh the Catherine, cometh the Freja.

Peace, love, and floating,
Gill Ford

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

By Way of Introduction

Hello, darling Freja fans...

This is one of the less awkward things I have done in my life, but do not take that to mean it is not an uncomfortable feeling to suddenly take over another girl's blog. My predecessor Rrose Selavy (Chanel bless her soul) has seen fit to leave the Freja Beha blog to me.

As I'm sure you have all been wanting to know for a very long time whether the Freja Beha blog will be continuing, allow me to clear that bit up first and foremost: the answer is YES. Having said that, pertinent readers will note in the byline that this post is not being written by your ever-beloved blogger, but some other person that you've never heard of before, unless you actually read the three or four books she submitted as comments on a few posts here. As opposed to seeing the block of text and making a mental note that reads "tldr". Or you know, maybe you just don't read comments in general.

Well, for those of you in the former group, I am afraid to tell you that chances are optimistic that you should be overwhelmingly pessimistic about what I am going to do to this blog. I am overly fond of words, and do not intend to develop short-windedness any time soon.

Everyone of the latter club, you can stick around. I am very fond of narrow-minded blog readers. Why? Because as long as you're reading what I'm writing, my ego stays bigger than Napoleon's, I keep writing, and the little Frejanites continue to squee. Are you picking up what I'm putting down?

I'm leaving my favorite blog readers for last. These are those readers who I positively adore. It will surprise those of you who have discerned my narcissism to know that these are the readers who are not here for my opinion. These are the readers that are here to discuss. It could be a comment here and there, it could be simply thinking critically about the presented material. Who knows, some of you nutters might even write a thesis on Frejanomics or something.

I say all this because if there is one thing I appreciated about Rrose's blog, it was not just the blogger's opinions, which I always found wonderfully insightful and informative. It was that Madame Selavy encouraged the growth of a community of fans around Freja Beha Erichsen. This meant that visiting her blog was not just an exposure to her musings over Freja's work, but also provided an opportunity to explore the interpretations of other fans who were likewise thoughtful.

This is something that I would like to continue during my residency here. I cannot stress enough how much value I place in the interpretation of art. That is, after all, what we do here. The dedication of this blog to the activities of one model in particular has never meant that this is an avenue for gossip about Freja's personal life. This is not a tabloid. I would prefer the descriptor not-for-profit academic journal. Given that we are discussing the artistic world, I am sure the pretentiousness of that can be excused collaterally.

I am looking forward to blogging for you all with every fibre of my being, though it would seem that Freja has been eating a few Kit-Kat bars of late. I will be keeping an eye out for news of new work from our Danish Dame, but until such a time as any arises, feel free to check out my personal blog at (I post there. Sometimes.). If you are wanting a better idea of what my work with regards to Freja will be looking like, have a peak at

Oh, it just so happens that I have Twitter too @notsoswedish. Do not follow me. I'm dreadfully unhilarious.

If it happens that you hate what you're reading, give me a shout, and I'll see if I can't find a better blog for you to read. Which is a backhanded way of telling you to SHUT YOUR WHORE MOUTH, which is something I would obviously never say unless we were speaking in person. All jokes aside though, I do intend to take your criticisms to heart, and if you have any concerns about my writing, please let me know. I can be reached most directly at

Well, I guess that's all I have to say to you all for now. Except that you should probably go wax your legs, seeing as you've been reading this for two weeks or so.

Peace, love, and floating,*
Gill Ford

*It all makes total sense to you guys now, doesn't it?