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


Anonymous said...

sorry, just to let it out, she didn't get Chanel this time!!! I am so sad.. now discuss this gill!!

Anonymous said...

Intriguing perspective Gill, I really enjoyed this. It was great to see you confront the impact of personal life on professional. It's not a perspective that Rrose ever really explored, so it was sort of refreshing to see your take on it.

As well, I liked that you toed the line between humor and seriousness. If this is a reflection of the sort of writing you will be giving us at the Freja blog, I am very excited at the prospect of reading more of your work. Well done!

Anonymous said...

you r back! (crying....)

Anonymous said...

It's good to see this blog active again. You should change the old banner btw - it's time for a fresh start ;-)

Adriana said...

Did Freja just cut her hair again?! This picture was just posted in Jak & Jill

Anonymous said...

^ how odd - that photo is super old.

Mona Lisa Overdrive said...

Glad that someone has taken up the mantle for this blog, however; I'm kind of upset that Rose left us without saying goodbye. After following her journal entries for the last three years I thought that if it ever came time for her to hang it up that she would have at least gave us some kind of closure. It seems like a selfish thing for someone to do: not saying goodbye to her dear readers that stuck with her all this time. In any case, I'm glad she passed you the baton Mr. Ford. I've read some of your comments in previous blog postings and I have to say that if anyone could do this blog justice, it's you. So congratulations on the new gig.

Mona Lisa Overdrive said...

I find the thought of Freja being referred to by industry insiders and fashionologist's as "the lesbian model" a bit insulting and one dimensional. I don't see any upside in marketing her to the public as a lesbian model because it only serves to marginalize her appeal and distracts from the prime directive: that is to sell as many clothes to as many people as possible. Although I savor the little morsels of information that detail what models of her caliber are doing in their off time, and what their proclivities are, I also recognize the need to respect their privacy. If Freja's sexual orientation can remain a non topic to the general public I think will help her career in the long run.. Longevity is the name of the game folks.

Anonymous said...

Stop! I realized that Freja Beha is not a face Chanel? Or she will not appear on the show Chanel?