Tuesday, March 29, 2016

No Holds Barred: Forget Politics

By Blair Sabol

Forget Politics.
Fashion campaigns are off and running and going crazy. Last week Caitlyn Jenner was chosen to be the star of H&M’s sportswear line. As H&M sees it: “For H&M it is important to show diversity and range in everything we do ... as part of H&M’s sports campaign we want to illustrate that everything is possible in sports, and in life. It is a collection of performance sportswear made to celebrate individuality and self belief.”

Wow! All that promotion and all you get is the typical black leggings, sneakers and a hoodie? So much for celebrating individuality. Jenner is also in collaboration with MAC Cosmetics on a new lipstick called “Finally Free” that debuts April 7th.
Star of H&M’s sportswear line, Caitlyn Jenner.
At least Caitlyn is “working it.” Which is more than Hillary Clinton is doing in her cross-country blitz. Don’t get me wrong — she is campaigning incessantly but what happened to her appearance? In 2008 it was rumored that she spent over a million dollars on hair, makeup and style. And she looked like a million dollars.

In the last year her hair has petrified into a helmet and her pantsuits resemble North Korean Kim Jong Un’s attire. Her jackets are huge with enormous pockets (for cough lozenges?) and such stiff fabric that her pants made her legs look like giant Sequoia tree stumps.
"Mom, can I look inside her pockets? please!"
I realize she has gained some weight, but she still has a great “selfie-ready” smile and an unbelievable basic elder naturalness. Actually Hillary’s greatest look and appearance was on SNL when she played “Val the Bartender” in a basic white shirt and black trousers. She looked terrific and was a “natural” at pouring drinks and giving out phony heartfelt advice.
"Now, that's a good look!"
It must be hard to find fashion leaders nowadays. Beyoncé is going cross-country on her “Formation” tour dressed in her own “black power” statement for women: hot pants, fishnet stockings, chunky motorcycle booties, and a zip-up tight black leather jacket enhanced with silver bullets. Her microphone resembles a gun! She is using this theme in her own line of clothes along with her musical message of “unapologetic blackness and black lives matter.” “Fierce” is the overused fashion word of late. Beyoncé has got a lock on that description. And with this summer promising to be “all street riots all the time” — Beyoncé is already ahead of the game.
Okay, we don't get it.
On a lighter side — we have 2 major spring catalogs promoting two female icons. J Crew decided to return to their original “Star” model of 40 years ago — Lauren Hutton. In the spring campaign, she is pictured dressed in her original basic plaid shirt and denim jacket and jeans. Nothing new there. Then we see her checking out art books at the New Museum Shop and walking about the Bowery. Does this really inspire shopping? Sure she looks great for her age. But dare I say… “So What?” We sure don’t need J Crew or Hutton to tell us that denim and plaid shirts are perennials.
Okay, we get it, but so what.
Lands End put 81-year-old Gloria Steinem in their catalog’s “Centerfold.” Basically it showed Gloria dressed in a nondescript black blazer and black jeans, white shirt and a polka dot scarf. Moderate pricing and and beyond boring! Then again, Lands End is about tote bags and “Mommy Jeans” so what did we expect. The “What” turned out to be a 2-page interview with Lands End chief executive Frederica Marchionni asking Steinem about the challenges that women face in the work place and the Equal Rights Amendment. The feature also told Lands End shoppers that if they opted for personal initials embroidery, Lands End would donate 50% off the fee to the ERA coalition.
Don’t you love it when fashion becomes overly political?
Within days they had to issue a formal apology and pull the insert off their web page. It seems the blowback from Lands End customers was overwhelming. They were offended by Steinem’s support of abortion rights amongst other stands. Forget being a fashion icon, (which outside of her Aviator glasses and long streaked flip hair and exotic long nails – Gloria never was), she is no leader to them. The company quickly issued their statement; “It was never our intention to raise a divisive political or religious issue. So when some of our customers saw the recent promotion that way, we heard them. We sincerely apologize.”

Poor Lands End ... it has tried to reinvent its image. After all, other retailers like Gap and Target have taken up support for certain issues. But you gotta know your market, and Lands End choice of Gloria Steinem was questionable.
And to think Lands End is a major merchandiser of school uniforms – what did they expect?
Steinem herself stated “Fashion is what some one else tells you what to wear. Style is personal expression and freedom.” But Gloria honestly didn’t even look that self-expressive in that typical matron attire of black blazer and pants. Would Maggie Smith have been a better choice? Why not go for the gusto and have Dame Edna be the face of Lands End’s new image.
Actually the star that has caused the most buzz and should be on some retailer’s campaigning beat is Robin Wright. Forget last year’s “Cookie” (Taraji P. Henson) of “Empire” fame. Wright, who plays first lady Claire Underwood in the successful current season of “House of Cards,” is setting the world on fire by wearing sleek tight straight skirts (hemline to the knee or lower) and 12-inch stiletto pumps (that she actually “runs” in.) But most pronounced is her stick straight posture — and so is her character. Wright is 50 years old and is currently the last word in REAL visual “power.”
Even Megyn Kelly of Fox News has copied Wright’s hair and makeup. Kelly has relinquished her double-decker “porn” hair extensions for Wright’s short “tough cut” and “fighter” tight Jackets. By the way – Robin Wright has also directed at least two of the most popular episodes of HOC.
Fashion has always reflected the times we live in. It’s been a challenging time for retailers and political campaigns. Clearly we are seriously leader-less in both arenas!

But I say ... party on!!
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