Saturday, July 08, 2006

Who you know

I was off ill from work yesterday, and miserable and listless in my flat. I ventured out once, to do some software training for clients which no one else was available to do, and on the way home in stifling humidity and sunshine, I succumbed to buying a copy of British VOGUE.

I should have known better. More than usually after reading it, I felt the mix of excitement and despair that always stems from reading fashion magazines: "I could be like that/I'm not like that". Sometimes the clothes seem baroque, ugly, unwearable, but sometimes deep in my shallow little black heart all I want to do is rush out and buy "autumn's new egg shape".

But this time I was also absolutely infuriated by much of the content. The cover story "COUNTRY HOUSE FASHION GETS A REVAMP" should have alerted me; the nod to the toff Tory leader David Cameron in the editor's letter; the Checklist piece which began "British Fashion has no greater champion than the Queen"; but worst of all, even by VOGUE's London-insular, nepotistic standards, was an article about "YOUNG LONDON" photographed by Mario Testino. Darling Mario says at the beginning

"What I absolutely loved about this shoot was photographing all the kids of my

- such an unvarnished, unashamed admission of what this piece was really about! And sure enough, across dozens of pages the spoiled, petulant offspring of the rich and well-connected, among them the sons and daughters of VOGUE contributors ("London's coolest teenagers") sprawled their way and, despite the billing ("our 'Young London' story ... shows that teen style can be every bit as quirky and innovative as it ever was", Alexandra Shulman gushes in her intro), they were not even wearing their own clothes. A sample:

"VIOLET NAYLOR-LEYLAND in Luella, LUCY LYTTLETON in Molly Grad ... Photographed at the Cuckoo Club."

"Fifteen year old TAMARA BELL claims she grew tired of the London club scene
when she turned 12. These days, though, she promotes a music night at Madame
Jojo's in Soho."

and most risible of all (but absolutely typical of the fawning tone of the entire piece):

"Art lover CLARA PAGET, the 17 year old daughter of the Earl of Uxbridge, loves
the culture surrounding the drum'n'bass scene and has been known to devote entire evenings to flyering upcoming nights." [my emphasis]

Sadly, none of the above is ironic. Rarely has the phrase "First up against the wall come the revolution" seemed more appealing.


LottieP's sister said...

Aaaaaaargh! My blood boiled just reading your blog entry; thank god I don't have to see the pictures of Violet, Tamara and Clara (how long would they last at the Ross High in Tranent with those names?). It reminds me of Edinburgh Uni, and the pleasing and highly entertaining anti-yah graffiti all over the desks in the library. Never mind come the revolution, come the day when we can close the border to such privileged, self-involved brats.

Violet said...

(Commenting on the comment although in pretty much agreement with the original post)
ha ha ha ha ha.
I've never read anything written with such genuine pashion yet wreaking of such chippiness and anger against your fellow humankind. If Mario Testino rang you up one day and asked if you'd like to pose for him in a shoot for Vogue, I'd be incredibly impressed (and frankly pretty surprised) if your 'vanity morals' came into it and pushed you to saying 'no'. You feel anger towards the models and not the directors of the shoot?! hmmm... interesting one... the real and most glaringly obvious reason why you are so pissed off (and have totally missed the point of the 'who you know post') is that 10 letter word starting with 'p' you've used as if it were a disgusting crime or an insult. Not meaning to appear patronizing (assumption made by implication of the word "brat") but I think i have a remedy for you: I'd be delighted to send you my copy of the Issue that I've kept for my mum, signed if you like and then you can take pleasure in setting it alight and burning it in your garden. Take in a deep (if a little smoky) breath and then I'm positive you'll feel a whole lot better. If you'd like me to do this then please send a stamped addressed envelope to me and I'd be happy to oblige.

Violet said...

Apologies for spelling.

LottieP said...

Thanks for stopping by, Violet. I doubt Mario will be offering to photograph me or my sister any time soon, since we're neither micro-celebrities nor aristocrats; but it's an apposite question: who can say that any of us would have the strength of character to resist an offer like that?

What I really objected to about the piece is that clearly the people photographed were neither representative of "Young London" (no black or Asian kids?) nor (and don't take this personally) "cool". If you believe in the principle of meritocracy, as I do, then you have to condemn the whole premise.

Thanks for the offer of a signed copy of the offending issue. I'll pass: there are more important things to burn on the bonfire.

Violet said...

I am in pretty much agreement about the models who appeared in the shoot hardly representing a wide spectrum of 'young/young cool London'. They represent a minute minority of youngesters from a small part of London society. They're wasn't much branching out in that area BUT on the other hand, the article certainly didn't prepare one for that sort of piece in the first place. Mario, as you mentioned was happy to say how much he had enjoyed photographing his friends children who he must have befriended partly through his work (fashion/models) and secondly the artcle was for Vogue. If the models had appeared in say Marie Claire (a beauty and fashion magazine that also looks into a lot of human issues) or the ecologist or the economist, it wouldn't have made sense. Vogue is elitest in the way it chooses what's fashionable and beautiful in art, fashion and society but one mustn't see it as some sort of life bible, possibly merely as a romantic view on life.

Talking of elitism: Check out William Conde Nast's directive written in about 1909 in this month's mag 'Vogue should be authorative in all areas, appeal to people with money but who believed in taste, not mass popularity'.

(As for microcelebs or aristocrats/any sort of label or whether anyone thinks anyone is 'cool' or not, is frankly just personal opinion.)

WIth regards to meritocracy: (one of the real and best reasons you could give anyone the 'cool' label in my opinion) if this had been part of the story, the models wouldn't have had a hope in hell in appearing in the article - chiefly as most of them were still at school! I really don't think the article was meant to be taken so seriously in fact some of the interviews were meant to be tongue in cheek e.g. the one interviewee you mentioned earlier "bored already by the clubscene" already at the age of 12 (or whatever age it was), to me and most people I know, we found the absurdity of it pretty funny actually and so, I'm sure did the people doing the interview. It certainly wasn't meant to anger anyone.
Vogue is and always has been elitest about 'fashion' but this very word denotes fickleness and transience so if we were to take it too seriously, we would be very foolish indeed for what Vogue says is 'cool' on page 10, by the time you've turned to page 12 it's virtually passe.
Lastly, I was actually referring entirely to your sister's 'Aaaaaaaargh....' comment, not your original post and can quite see why a signed copy of the issue is laughably the last thing you desire. Apologies if offence was taken.

Claire said...

Violet, I too apologise for any offence caused (though I realise that your apology was directed at my sister). Perhaps I'm still smarting from the complacency of my fellow students at university - the ones studying history of art and Italian, whose idea of a hard time was when daddy's trust fund money didn't come through on the right day and who thought nothing of phoning Sophie to ask whether Olly still had that essay on Hogarth so they could copy it and pass it off as their own work. I got into uni without any help from my school or parents, and worked throughout to supplement the dwindling student grant. Yet my sister and I, growing up in a rural Scottish village, were considered to be posh and English. Oh, the irony. Although this sounds like a sob story I certainly don't intend to invite pity. My sister's original post is far more elegantly put - perhaps that's why she's an MD in Hong Kong and I'm a mere civil servant - but we're saying much the same thing. I hope that, if anything comes out of this exchange, it's that both parties have more of an appreciation of how, despite vastly differing backgrounds, feelings can still be hurt to the same extent by unfounded criticism.

Claire (Lottie P's sister)

Walker said...

might i suggest a subscription to tatler.

Anonymous said...


claire says growing up in a rural Scottish village, meant her and her sister were 'considered to be posh and English' yes not nice when people assume what your like when they have no idea of your personal background..which is why im confused as to why you have done so in such a rude pathetic manner

'privileged,self involved brats'

its amusing how ignorant you are for a girl who clearly thinks shes very you contradict the hell would you know by seeing a photo and a couple sentances what any of these kids are like or of thier financial/family background for that matter? please go back to your little scottish hill and cry out to anyone who might listen about how wonderfully common and normal you are.

LottieP said...

Dear Anonymous

Thanks for your belated contribution to the debate. Had you read the comments properly before posting your intemperate response, you would have seen that Claire apologised to Violet for the assumptions she made.

Anonymous said...

"your" = you're
"im" = I'm
"its" = it's
"shes" = she's
"intellegent" = intelligent
"sentances" = sentences
"thier" = their

Poor Anonymous. Whatever else they teach you at your private school, clearly it isn't the rules of English grammar.

Away you go back to your tutor and learn how to spell. Oh, and some manners.

LottieP said...

Interesting how trends change. When this was first written, everyone wanted to know about Violet; now the biggest single search term used by readers who come to my blog is clara paget... Anyone care to leave a message about why you searched for Clara on Google?

Anonymous said...

clara is now a model and stars in the new st trinians film

LottieP said...

Thanks for the comment, Anonymous. 5'7" is small for a model, isn't it? I'm sure Clara's connections had nothing to do with her success.

Anonymous said...

What order would the following names be placed in term of how "public school" they sound.

Tamara, Violet, Clara, Lottie P

LottieP said...

Interesting question, Anonymous. I think you got it right first time. Although actually, since this is the internet, my name's not Lottie.

LottieP said...

I'll delete any stupid, and/or rude, anonymous comments. Take note, Anonymous. Yours was both.

Anonymous said...

I went to school with Tamara Bell... I remember reading this article in the quad, seeing her face and what she said. She was a pretty messed up child in all honesty. Barely ever in school and suposedly in milan... still tickles me pink.

Anonymous said...

p.s... it wasn't a public school, nice state school. Her mother I believe was a head at another school... so not so upper class?

LottieP said...

Just goes to show, Anonymous, that it's never safe to make assumptions. Although if I really were a class warrior (which for the avoidance of doubt, I'm not), I'd point out that being the daughter of the headteacher of a "nice" school qualifies Tamara as, at worst, firmly middle class.

There was an interesting article in December's Word Magazine about how everyone in the top forty's now a toff. It's all about connections and access, isn't it? And that what this VOGUE article perpetuates. (Time has not dimmed my righteous indignation, even though many of the individuals featured may have been nice people and/or not toffs).

Anonymous said...

wow this reeks of bitterness, if you were so appauled why read the article

LottieP said...

Dear Anonymous

Do you not read anything properly? Clearly not.

1. There's actually a bit of a debate here where people apologise for the assumptions they made.
2. I absolutely stand by the original comments.
3. I couldn't know I'd be appalled before I read the article, and hence not read it, could I? Your remark is nonsensical.
4. I reserve the right to delete anonymous, and/or rude, and/or stupid, comments. Yours is all three.
5. However, I'm leaving it up for long enough to point out that the correct spelling is "appalled".