Putting celebs on the cover of magazines that are ostensibly about fashion - but are really thinly-disguised celeb worship - takes the focus away from the clothing & the design, and puts it squarely on the celeb du jour being pimped. And Tom Ford? He contributed by making the sex-drenched glam lifestyle something that normal folk no longer simply envy from a distance, understanding it to be an unrealistic fantasy, to something they actually crave.
And yet, I can't help but wonder how much responsibility we bear as the consumers of fashion & magazines? Although labeled "tastemakers", magazine editors & fashion marketers are at the mercy of the market...as in that old adage: Give the people what they want. A designer like Tom Ford may have a sixth sense about what people want, but he can't force people to buy it. Designers present their ideas through runway shows, magazine ads, licensed products - but it's We-The-People that happily hand over our cash.
Same with magazines - celebs sell covers. It's a common lament amongst the fashion "cognescenti" that the celeb cover effectively killed true fashion covers which featured fashion models. Yet, the magazine editor is directly responsible for increasing & maintaining circulation. How? Since they can't coerce readers to buy the magazine, they stick Gwyneth on the cover to give people what they want.
The people demand. Tastemakers provide.
In a recent W Magazine article (W, November 2005) Tom Ford - the man held responsible for society's current sex overdose in fashion - actually worries that we've become alienated from ourselves and our inherent animal nature: "We're living in a very plastic moment where everything is manufactured and pumped up. If you look at SUVs, they look like station wagons that have been inflated. Breasts today look pumped up. Lips are pumped up. Butts are pumped up...One of the reasons we're so obsessed with thinness is that we've never been fatter. We're also living in a culture of extremes, with no middle ground. People are either bingeing or purging...We've become plastic, objectifying the human body. We're no longer animals. Women and men are so waxed and polished and buffed and shined up and manipulated. We don't age. We've got these weird lips that don't really look like lips...We treat women almost like cars...When we were kids, it was lift and separate. Now, of course, Victoria's Secret pushes it all together...We're in a cartoonlike moment. I mean, think of Angelina Jolie's face. It looks like Lara Croft. She's exaggerated. Her lips are exaggerated. Our beauty standard today is cartoonlike and artificial."
Because we've become so cartoonlike, we've become disenfranchised from what makes us really human: "I've always talked about why the Seventies were such an important moment to me - because there was a relaxed quality; bodies looked real. I think it had to do with the fact that back then you really could have sex. We used to watch sitcoms where people had one-night stands all the time, and we grew up thinking that that was okay. Today we have a more perverse look at sexuality, but stylized and almost fake. If you watch a porn film today versus a porn film from the Seventies, there's something much sexier about the Seventies film because it's more natural...We've started to lose touch with what a real breast looks like; we've started to lose the animal side of our nature."
- Lesley Scott