“Fashion Rocks” Serves Up Anna Wintour’s Vision Of A Music Magazine

Aug 21st, 2008 // 8 Comments

fashionrocks.jpgOnce again, we present Rock-Critically Correct, a feature in which the most recent issues of Rolling Stone, Blender, Vibe, and Spin are given a once-over by a writer who’s contributed to many of those magazines, as well as a few others! In this installment, he looks at the Condé Nast-produced, music-centric one-off Fashion Rocks:

Let Your Boy get something out of the way immediately: the main reason he chose to assess this particular publication this week is simply that it is likely that many, many more Idolator readers will have access to it than the printed versions of the magazines he normally considers in this space.

Which is to say that Fashion Rocks was mailed in the last couple of weeks to subscribers of Vanity Fair (of which it is nominally a supplement), Wired, and probably a few other magazines published by Condé Nast. Which is also to say that Condé Nast succeeds in producing publications that bespeak heft and significance and thus are less expendable to readers who would otherwise forsake printed matter entirely for the options presented by the Device You Are Currently Gazing At. Discriminating readers… like you!

Like last year’s Movies Rock, a supplement sent to GQ and Vanity Fair subscribers, Fashion Rocks is clearly intended to attract additional revenue from many of Condé Nast’s advertisers and also pimp a TV special by the same name that will be broadcast on CBS on Sept. 9.

But unlike Movies Rock, this issue is produced under the auspices of Vogue. (Previous iterations were produced under the auspices of GQ.) Which is yet again to say that it’s more than likely that editor-in-chief Jonathan Van Meter had very little leeway as to what sort of content would constitute the issue and essentially carried out the wishes of Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue since 1988.

About the best thing YB can say about Ms. Wintour is that she demonstrated a previously disguised sense of humor about herself by attending a high-profile screening of a movie premised on the persistent perception that she is, frankly, a cunt. Unlike virtually every woman he’s ever known, YB is not fascinated with Vogue, the instrument with which Ms. Wintour preys on the insecurities of women. Wintour has been so good at making females feel like they’re worthless unless they spend money on material goods proffered by Vogue advertisers for so long that, in terms of the publishing milieu, she’s indestructible.

And so she’s charged with producing a one-off magazine that is intended to promote a television special that involves famous music figures. Fashion Rocks is best understood as how Ms. Wintour contends with music culture. This means that Justin Timberlake, a guy with no new music on the horizon but whose fashion imprint, William Rast, will put out its fall line next month, is an appropriate cover choice.

It is beyond doubt that Wintour is familiar with Timberlake. But had she heard of the Kills, who are profiled herein via an article entitled “Band of Outsiders”? The London duo certainly bears a certain Velvet-esque élan that stands them in stood stead with runway habitués, but there’s one aspect that’s sure to get Wintour’s attention: Kills guitarist James Hince is Kate Moss’ latest pale, leather jacket-clad stunt dick. If pint-size hesher icon Ronnie James Dio found himself as Moss’ dragon-slayer (or fellow dragon chaser) du jour, then he’d be profiled herein, no questions asked.

Writers and personalities that are only vaguely in Wintour’s orbit are called in for pieces that are each headlined with a startling lack of flair. In the issue’s de facto introduction, “Sound and Fashion,” longtime Village Voice fashion scribe Lynn Yeager explains that “music and style have always been in sync,” an idea which doesn’t need explaining; Joan Jett talks about her own style aesthetics in “Born to be Bad”; in “Dirty Pretty Thing,” Liz Phair is described as “the rock equivalent of Carrie Bradshaw”; the part of ex-label honcho Danny Goldberg’s mem-wah, Bumping into Genius, concerning Courtney love and “that dirty little man she married that the younger people think is so wonderful” is excerpted in “I Am Legend”; “Hearts of Darkness” explores “emo” culture now that designers have taken note of it; “Fine and Dandy” examines André Benjamin and his Benjamin Bixby line; and finally, in “Hit Man,” profilee Mark Ronson, a DJ at several events that Ms. Wintour has surely attended, is described as the son of “socialite Ann Dexter-Jones” and incorrectly as the stepson of “the singer of Foreigner, Mick Jones.”

Ultimately, the writing in the mag does not address the point of Fashion Rocks. But the photographs accompanying the articles cited in the previous paragraph are lensed by the likes of Terry Richardson and Steven Meisel. And a marquee photo package, featuring several performers that will probably drop out of the accompanying special by the time it’s broadcast, involve the contributions of Meisel, Norman Jean Roy, and Jean-Baptiste Mondino. Pretty pictures, after all, are the point of Fashion Rocks and of any endeavor involving Ms. Wintour.

(YB should say that an essay appending Meisel’s shot of Mariah Carey includes the single, solitary example of memorable, insightful scribbling in the entire issue, courtesy of Michael Joseph Gross: “…Carey is Long Island’s answer to Dolly Parton, a woman whose bodacious bod and over-the-top style have distracted many people from her rare and substantial talent…Carey’s aspiration to G4 style seems an effort to make up for her bridge-and-tunnel background.” True dat, and thus it’s the one of very few ways someone with that kind of background can matter to Ms. Wintour.)

So clearly, YB finds Fashion Rocks to be a fairly vile proposition. But one photo essay therein is particularly ghoulish, and is the other reason he chose to write about the mag.

“Here Comes the Son” finds Dhani Harrison sporting a mustache and styled in the manner associated with his father George in 1967-1968. He also cavorts with one Sasha Pivovarova, one of those Eastern European wraiths models that Wintour often employs. This young woman is clearly cast as Patti Boyd, the woman pere Harrison was married to in the late ’60s and early ’70s–although Harrison disingenuously describes her look in a caption as being based on Stones muse Anita Pallenberg. Dhani’s mother is Olivia Arias, who no doubt is thrilled to not only see her son pantomiming his father, but to witness him hugging up to a representation of her husband’s first wife.

Harrison’s new band thenewno2′s album apparently will be released soon. YB can only assume that young Harrison or someone (poorly) advising him believes the record faces nigh-unto-impenetrable barriers, since somebody in a relevant position thinks there’s something to be gained by breaking the rule observed by all Beatles progeny: “I will not be judged based on my dad’s legacy–or at least I will avoid the appearance of doing so.”

But Van Meter quotes Harrison in his editor’s letter as a way to justify this bizarre exercise: “It’s very hard to take a step in any direction musically without referencing something The Beatles have done.” Van Meter adds, “In every way, our ten-page layout with Dhani and Sasha perfectly captures what Fashion Rocks is all about.”

Precisely. It all makes perfect sense and is very high concept to vampires like Ms. Wintour and her underlings.

idolator

  1. Audif Jackson Winters III

    “Crazy Sexy Cool”? In 2008?

  2. Maura Johnston

    @Audif Jackson Winters III: Well, the title of the mag uses “rock” as a verb, so I think there’s a lot of source consideration that should be going on.

  3. Nunya B

    As a longtime Liz Phair stan I had to ask- why put her in unflattering clothes and write a puff piece on Exile a freshman at Bryn Mawr could probably have done better? It just diminishes the importance of the album (and that’s enough out of you, anyone who is thinking of saying that “Liz Phair” and “Somebody’s Miracle” did that better than Vogue ever could).

  4. the rich girls are weeping

    I have to say, the Fashion Rocks issue two years ago was much, much better (the Marilyn Manson/Lily Cole spread RULED) than this tired old thing. I can’t remember much about last year’s, though. Probably for the best.

  5. Anonymous

    Fashion Rocks are generally AWFUL, and this one was far worse than the batting average. At my office they are scattered all over the “take me!” file cabinet; no one’s touching them. The only redeemable thing in there is the Joan Jett story.

    Also, I hear that Dhani Harrison’s band is awful. Has anyone actually heard them?

  6. Michaelangelo Matos

    Last year’s Movies Rock had a terrific piece on the making of Saturday Night Fever; fortunately it’s also in the new Da Capo anthology.

  7. ObtuseIntolerant

    No Jonas Brothers therein, I heard…therefore,I have no time for it. Pfeh!

  8. philip sherburne

    Very timely, yr analysis. Lately I’ve been wanting to undertake a project that would tally the number of times any given fashion magazine referenced “rock” or “rock ‘n’ roll” in a fashion context. it’s the laziest, lamest thing ever, and yet editors everywhere from NYLON to i-D just can’t seem to get over the fact that “OMG! rock and roll is like, so totally cool.” Has EVERYONE simply given up on ever having an original thought, or at least vaguely novel angle, ever again? (Answer: probably.) I mean, in the latest i-D there were designers ONCE AGAIN saying things like, “This season, I’ll be listening to and taking inspiration from Blondie’s Parallel Lines.” I mean, ok, fine, it’s a great album, but is there really anything more to be gleaned from that particular cultural node, at least for the next 10 years? Did (fashion) time suddenly stop with the Strokes in 2001?

    I wanna know what’s on Margiela’s iPod. Or, since he doesn’t do interviews, Ghesquiere’s.

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