Monday, March 29, 2010

She's A Lady

If you haven’t already, head to 4 on Demand to catch the hilarious doc The Lady and the Revamp. The Lady was founded 125 years ago and is the go-to mag for finding a butler, sycophantic coverage of the royal family, ugly covers of owls and kittens and articles on the history of cucumbers and cobnuts, whatever they are. The Lady fascinates me: how can it still exist? Its readership continues to drop and it haemorrhages cash. Anyway, here comes Rachel Johnson to wield her machete in the office she describes as a cross between an undertakers and a lunatic asylum. At one stage, Joan Collins wanders through to do "something" and tea and sponge cake is served. I so want to work at The Lady! Rachel knows she has an impossible task ahead - to modernize the mag without alienating the existing readers – and from this show, they seem like a rather scary bunch. She starts off the programme by describing the magazine’s appearance as a cross between an in-flight magazine, a funeral parlour brochure and a Bupa catalogue and towards the end of the programme says angrily: “In the real world this is a piddling magazine that nobody cares about or buys.” It’s clear Rach doesn’t care a jot for the mag or its readers but has been brought in to get some much needed publicity and for her valuable contacts. In exchange she gets lots of entertaining material she can use for the diary she’s writing on the experience. It’s not quite as glamorous The September Issue but it's infinitely more amusing. NOK

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happiness in Magazines

There were lots of reasons why I was looking forward to the launch of The Gentlewoman: it’s the sister mag of the rather fantastic Fantastic Man, the cover girl is woman of the hour Phoebe Philo, its editor is Penny Martin and I just can’t refrain from buying yet another, new magazine. So what’s the verdict? : yes, we likey. It has a nice, clean modernist typeface and I love a cover that’s brave enough to go without the usual overload of straplines. Aimed at a thoughtful, sophisticated woman, each profile has a very specific theme like time management, cycling, housekeeping, which is quirky and throws up lots of interesting insights. I have no idea what Daisy Lowe is doing here though. She seems totally out of place next to profiles of Alice Rawsthorn and Jenny Holzer and I really don’t know need to know what her cleaning product of choice is. The fashion is graphic and grown-up, very Philo’s Celine. In fact one editorial could be the outtakes from the ”headless” Spring 10 campaign. Daniel Riera’s portraits are great, capturing a group of women working in various parts of the fashion industry, caught off guard and in the moment. And I loved the centre section printed on uncoated stock that features a series of ‘references’ – footnotes –additional information on the rest of the mag’s content.

When you pop to RD Franks for The Gentlewoman, keep an eye out for L’Officiel’s tribute to Alexander McQueen with images from all his shows, alongside photos and interviews from the L’Officiel archives. And if you haven’t already done so, pick up a copy of Elle Collections. I usually have no time for collections supplements , always consisting of cobbled together photos that you can see on but Elle totally impressed me with this Spring 10 issue. They’ve presented the collections in such an original way, so not dreary and functional like they are usually. One page is dedicated to designers’ show exits, another to show invites. It’s really detailed and I loved how they used different paper textures throughout. I never thought I would say this about Elle but it is a masterclass in layout and crammed with tons of fashi tidbits: lots of lists like “5 things I’m looking forward to this season and a roundup of fashion week tweets. NOK

Friday, March 5, 2010

The News

Shiloh Pitt-Jolie landed herself several front covers recently after stepping out with a new haircut. Last year we wrote about how Brad and Angie’s daughter managed to escape the “What’s the little fella’s name?” comments that dogged us as tomboyish toddlers due to her lovely hair, but it seems we spoke too soon as her new do has attracted lots of negative press. American mag Life & Style ran with the headline “Why is Angelina turning Shiloh into a boy?” and proceeded to get insights from experts like celebrity stylist Gili Rashal-Niv and Glenn Stanton, director of Family Formation Studies at the conservative organization Focus on the Family. The thing is I know exactly how Shiloh must be feeling. I had a haircut almost identical to Shiloh’s when I was 5 – the only difference was that my hair was curly! – and it wasn’t the reaction from my peers that I dreaded but the comments from mean adults. “What have you done to your hair?” my first class teacher asked and I actually wanted to die. Poor Shiloh is dealing with this on a global scale so I think we should all just back off and remember that a bad boyish haircut is a rite of passage for all the best girls. I mean, who’d want to be one of those creepy, prissy, long-haired girls whose idea of a good time is playing with My Little Ponies? Yeah, Suri, we’re looking at you.

In other news, American Vogue has gone mean. Yeah OK we know they’re always mean – see the scenes where they discuss Sienna Miller’s fillings in The September Issue – but generally in interviews they have tended to stay on the nice side, with Sally Singer extolling the virtues of Michelle Williams or whoever is on that month’s cover. But for the last two months Jonathan Van Meter has been given the task of interviewing the cover girls and he’s been really insulting. OK so everybody knows that February’s Jessica Biel’s career isn’t stellar but did he need to say this?

The conversation quickly settles on her vexed post-TV career, which goes like this: ill-conceived remake of famous horror film; tragic Bret Easton Ellis adaptation; even more tragic Kim Basinger vehicle; meaningless third installment of franchise; terrible movie; terrible movie…

He doesn’t stop at belittling her career and actually brings up Rihanna, who Biel’s boyfriend Justin Timberlake is rumoured to have an affair with. That’s just rude, Van Meter. I mean I like a good honest interview as much as the next person but it feels a bit like Biel is being picked on because she doesn’t have the clout or power that some of the bigger stars possess.

To add insult to injury, the accompanying shoot featured some truly horrible pictures of Biel, especially the one where she looks like she’s just stepped out of a 70s catalogue.

And then this month, Van Meter starts on Tina Fey. It’s less a traditional interview, more of a little collection of facts about Fey under unflattering titles like 'Hand-Me Downs' and 'Revenge of the Nerd'.

A typical paragraph reads: On Monday morning I was at the gym bright and early—the only person there. Until Tina Fey walked in. All traces of the previous evening's glamour were gone. In fact, the person before me looked nothing like the person who'd been on TV. She could have been any harried working mother who had dragged herself to the gym in rumpled workout clothes, clutching a cup of coffee as if her life depended on it.

Van Meter seriously needs to take some tips from Christa D’Souza whose interviews for British Vogue are always honest but never bullying. LE

Monday, March 1, 2010

Boys We Fancy

Conan O'Brien
I have loved Conan since my other The Portmanteau half and I spent a summer working as chambermaids in a weird Mafia-run inn on Long Island. OK so the Mafia thing was only a rumour but if you heard the way the proprietress pronounced the word ‘blind’, you would believe it too. (“Girls you’ve gotta remember to clean the blooiinds!”) Anyway we were under 21 and broke so we spent most of our evenings watching TV rather than engaging in typical J1 pursuits like binge drinking and vandalism. American Idol (the first series) was followed by some local news and then Late Night With Conan O'Brien would come on and what can I say? I fell in love. And I’ve loved him ever since. Obviously I was on Team Coco as the war with Leno and NBC got underway and I actually cried at his gentle and dignified leaving speech. The thing is though that although lots of people “love” Conan, very few can claim to fancy him. “Really though, do you think you could actually... you know?” they ask, wincing. Yeah, totally, he’s hot. L

Declan from Leap Year
The Irish Times film critic Donald Clarke had warned that Leap Year “is offensive, reactionary, patronising filth” but we went along regardless. And yeah it’s crap. Ridiculous clichés abound as gombeen locals yell ‘top of the morning’ to each other and an entire village is nearly blown up after an American plugs in her fancy schmancy BlackBerry. But Matthew Goode is incredibly hot as hapless Dingle publican Declan. I mean let’s get some things straight: he cannot do the accent - he tries to do a traveller-esque brogue but his own posh Rs keep creeping in so he just sounds like some poor unfortunate with a speech impediment – and the character is kind of a loser. But yeah despite all that, we fancy him. The Oh-God-I-am-so-sad-I-fancy-a-romcom-lead moment happened somewhere around the middle of the movie when is forced to don a big farmer jumper (hot) and kill a chicken with his bare hands (also weirdly hot). And so I guess we’ll go along to A Single Man to catch Goode in an actual proper, well-made, fashionable film but I just don’t think that he’ll have the same appeal once he’s clean-shaven. L

The Miliband Bros
It may end up being the battle of the brothers when it comes to the next Labour leadership contest but the only battle that really matters is for the title of hottest brother. Am I crazy? Maybe not. The "David Miliband is Hot" page on Facebook has 97 members. Wow – impressive. They are total geeks – Miliband Snr’s nickname is Brains – but that has never stopped me before (see previous posts on David Mitchell and Moss from the IT Crowd). I have formidable competition for David's affections in the form of Hillary Clinton who was gushing over him in a recent US Vogue interview, calling her colleague “vibrant, vital, attractive and smart”. I totally agree Hills. I'm also fascinated with his hair. It’s Action Man-esque and truly weird. But I think Ed has to win this battle: for his impassioned performance in Copenhagen, which was in total contrast to David’s withering reaction to the attempted coup to oust my other beloved Gordon Brown, and for being just a tad hotter. N

Zac Goldsmith
On the other side of the political divide is Zac Goldsmith. He hit the headlines again recently with the Sunday Times claiming that his donations to the Tories were “improperly registered” - sounds dodgy to me. Zac is a bit of scoundrel alright - this story follows on from accusations that he’s buying his seat in parliament and claiming non-dom status on his estimated £220m. Let’s not forget that he also cheated on his lovely organic wife Sheherazade with his sister in law Alice Rothschild. He denied it of course, claiming they were simply planning a charity poker event. Yeah sure Zac. There are many reasons not to like this guy but he‘s just so golden and gorgeous that I try and ignore them. N