The talk this week? Rachel Zoe's bold claim about possibly being more influential than Anna Wintour. The cabal is in a frenzy at this sacrilege. Its the best fashion sound byte since “We don't get out of bed for less than 10,000 a day” But given the high altitude Rachel now lives at (and the corresponding lack of oxygen) Rachel Zoe is entitled to be as megalomaniac as she wants to be. I mean maybe she means more influential in malls...or more influential with the 18 and unders. There is even a rumor in circulation that Zoe has first pull at Calvin. A rumor probably...possibly started by the Zoe camp. But it gets you thinking. Whose eyes, tastes, preferences inform the idea of what is fashion now? And how does the tastes and preferences (and talent) of these forces affect how fashionable women dress? . I spent my entire Saturday ringing up some kids in the trade to form an informal style council. Not only was Wintour with her fashion funds, speed dial to billionaire CEO's and Met Costume Balls PR machines in another universe of influence, the conclusion was there were easily 5 forces in the world of styling who could eat Zoe for lunch...and use her ribcage as toothpicks.
The intelligence TI gathered from the Conde Nasties reveals that the visual blueprint for each issue of US Vogue is indeed handed down by Madame Wintour and this blueprint is never an ambiguous thing. We all know US Vogue is not a democracy but apparently not one belt or earring or dress enters the Vogue picture without being pre-approved. The edtrix/stylist in the trenches making sure those exacting standards are met is Creative Director Grace Coddington and hers is one of the most unerring eyes in the entire trade. After 30 years in fashion, this icon has styled it all. A sitting with Coddington is a living encounter with fashion history. She has worked with all the greats, from her days as a model for the likes of Newton to her visually invigorating collaborations with the likes of Guy Bourdin and Steven Meisel. On those shoots with Meisel, while the little people cower in fear on the other side of the studio Madame Coddington is known to be fearless and disarming and completely frank about what she sees and thinks. Yes Vogue is still awash with ball gowns and country houses and still revels in Grand Siecle and Belle Epoque and (sigh) Edwardian “Romance”. But as Madame Coddington explained in 2003 to Time magazine “"I like fairy tales, and I like dreaming. I try to weave the reality into the dream. When readers pick up Vogue, I want them to smile. Everything should be a little tongue in cheek, a little dare-to-go-there." . Level of influence? Vogue with its hefty 2mil readership, massive advertising take and corresponding big budget shoots out powers everything in its wake. Hollywood's ultimate seal of fashion approval? Stamped by Vogue. You Creative Direct that blockbuster you sure as hell are the envy of every other stylist (and the terror of every publicist) in the trade. Vogue is seriously All Access All The Time. We doubt anyone can pull anything from any house ahead of Coddington.
Opinions on Roitfeld split in two camps. One: she is actually a kind and warm woman. Two: when bored she's evil in the most entertaining way possible.(See the recent Paris Vogue Bowery Hotel edit with the model made to lay face down in almost every shot) One thing is obvious though, Roitfeld has a very specific and a very personal vision about how a woman should be and that vision is a straight through line over everything she touches. From casting to graphic design to styling to photography, in its own way Vogue Paris is a very personal magazine, perhaps even more so than US Vogue. Ironically enough, “personal” doesn't mean Carine herself is ever going to pin you in place. There's an army of assistants for that and Madame Roitfeld is known to go through a sitting without ever touching the talent. Classic in that haute bourgeoisie way, but also frankly sensual and a little bit punk, the aesthetic freedom Roitfeld has here is a text book case of doing what you love until everybody loves it too. There's always something predatory and self-indulgent about that French Voguer. Which other editor or stylist could have pulled off an all leopard ensemble on Natasha Poly for the September 07 cover? You have to love a woman who lives the myth. TI glimpsed Roitfeld once at Mauro's, the cafe on LA's Melrose and let's say there was not a single concession to California casual in her ensemble. Heels, skirt, blouse, jewelry... it was all viciously chic. The natives couldn't even eat! Actresses might not know it, but every time they subscribe to that Tom Ford era Gucci glam ideal, they're playing in Carine's sandbox. Punk femme fatales, park here!
Fashion at its highest taste point is like a merry-go-round with 5 horses and 5 riders. Inevitably the same five talents keep riding the painted horses of the same five clients. Well this Fall the stylist straddling the most prized horses is Karl Templer. Well ensconced in the House Of Calvin, Templer's influence there is so powerful you might want to name him chief architect of that house's visual ID. My sources hiss that house designer Francisco Costa is a man who loves clothes clothes clothes and sort of lives in a fantasy forest of hems and seams and fabric finishes. Whereas Calvin at Calvin made the choices for his brand in a very personal and emotional way , Costa works with Fabien Baron and Karl Templer in collaborative fashion to sort out what the many many campaigns for Calvin Klein should look like. And what's that worth in the real world? With tens of thousands of billboards around the world plus one of the biggest ad buys in all of fashion, the Calvin Klein idea of fashion is everywhere, from the Soho art galleries to the...Mid West shopping malls flocked with the under 18's. But its not all mass in the Templar camp. Karl's currently riding the Italian Vogue cover edits with Meisel including the now classic “Rehab” epic in July and this months sexy “War” story. Then there is his sharp work at V and at W giving him a front line position in crafting what American men and women see as their daily dosage of fashion. Interestingly enough, in a cut-throat arena of divas Templar is probably the last person you'll catch on reality TV making a drama of his job. He's competitive yes, but you get the feeling ultimately his competition is with himself. If only every stylist was this structured, this disciplined and this organized!
You can add up the pieces to complete the puzzle. Katie Grand as editor of Pop, cohort to Mert n Marcus, guiding stylist at the grand house of Vuitton as well as the rising force that is Proenza swings a sword that cuts through the world of celebrity (Hi Scarlett!),campaigns , editorial and runway. That's a big swath of property and a huge field of influence! While she may not be a household name, Grand has emerged in the Zeroes as one of the most directional style-mavens on the new fashion market. In other words her ideas of style are probably copied (unconsciously of course) by lesser practitioners who wait each season to see how Katie will layer it and twist it. Said to be a killer businesswoman Katie Grand has managed to make an institution of her taste without ever having to lower that taste. Prada, Vuitton, Calvin...that was quite the triumvirate there for a second no? Rumors have it that her split from the house of Prada was occasioned by how extensive her personal aesthetic was becoming at a company that seems to hate the idea of a definitive identity. But Grand keeps on sailing, through Harper's Bazzar, through countless campaigns, experimenting and reinventing her chief motifs season after season. Pop now looms on the market as the defining English style bible in the lost tradition of The Face. Look at her work in the current issue, especially on The Gossip's Beth Ditto in the “Size Hero” Steven Klein edit. It is of sheer “shut your mouth, sit down and study it” magnificence.
Mr Joe McKenna is probably the greatest long distance runner of them all and the stylist's stylist. This man who is said to live and breathe his job to the point of insanity but it is an insanity(see Joe Magazine) that lifts what can be a daily grind to the realm of creative genius and true inspiration. McKenna has been A-list and blue chip at virtually every blue chip company and A-list magazine in the last 20 years ( Jil Sander, Calvin, Pop ) but still keeps pushing the borders of what styling is and isn't. Look at his work with V/VMan Magazine, especially the Alphabet story shot with Inez and Vinoodh as well as the before/after portrait collaboration in V 48. For range, modernity, subtlety and complexity McKenna is the man to go to for a rendering of fashion in its pure form. His styling can make of T-shirt and jeans, a moment that is both poetic and prosaic. They're clients who have not understood his need to be so exacting, but for the one's who have granted him that trust and freedom, the results have been some of the most historic sittings in the past 10 years. Now we're off to watch the DVD of “Absolute Beginners” that mid 80's non-masterpiece lensed by Julien Temple where Mr McKenna has a cameo. Don't you just love fashion's secret history!