PRINT December 1997

Richard Buckley

1 Steven Meisel Meisel’s monthly spreads in Italian Vogue continue to test the limits of current trends in fashion photography. His references are encyclopedic, and his pictures, therefore, aren’t always what they seem. In the May issue his black and white “Untitled,” showing a model in a barren, windblown landscape laid out as sixteen double-page spreads, makes an artistic nod to Jeff Wall’s A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai) and to the Japanese woodblock print that was its inspiration. “The Goodlife,” in the October issue, has the glossy look of popular ’50s photography, where everyone and everything appears prosperous and happy. A closer look at this camp romp reveals Meisel’s ironic take on Nan Goldin wannabes and the media’s obsession with “heroin chic.” His work acknowledges the illusion and artifice that are part and parcel of both fashion and photography and implicitly asks us not to accept the image as reality.

2 Polly Mellen When she accepted her Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in 1994, Mellen introduced herself as the “world’s oldest living sittings editor.” The choice of phrase is telling: the more contemporary job description “stylist” often seems to entail a decision to layer one T-shirt over another or to pop the model’s zits (or not). When Mellen began her career in the early ’50s at Harper’s Bazaar (under the tutelage of Diana Vreeland), it was another time and aesthetic, as styling required the coordination of hats, bags, gloves, jewelry, undergarments, etc., etc. “It took Alexandre so long to do those extraordinary coifs,” Mellen says she took up needlepoint. For her tireless energy (“I never lose my lust for it”) as one of the fashion world’s living treasures and for her motto, “It’s time to move on,” Polly Mellen is the best of this or any other year.

3 Amy Spindler Simply the best fashion journalist in the business. Spindler is a true critic and not just a reporter of trends. Her writing for The New York Times never fails to put fashion into its cultural, social, and economic context. The CFDA award she received this year was long overdue.

4 Franca Soncini For the past twenty years Soncini has been in the business of creating the image for designers, producing shows (casting, sets, lighting, hair, makeup, and music) as well as overseeing the advertising campaigns that follow. For the campaigns of the Italian fashion house Alberto Aspesi, she sought out documentary photographers like Robert Frank (he has shot three campaigns) and Ken Griffiths (who shot a series with Native Americans). This year, she brought together Aspesi and Dirk Van Dooren of the British design group Tomato for a purely conceptual campaign that is this year’s most original in fashion.

5 Wong Kar-Wai The best films coming out of Hong Kong today. Wong’s fragmented narratives, combined with Christopher Doyle’s luscious cinematography, make these films (most notably, Chungking Express, Fallen Angels, and this year’s Happy Together) hipper and more stylish than most magazine spreads or music videos.

6 Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons, and Martin Margiela The two attempted the unthinkable this year by showing their Spring/Summer 1998 collections back to back in the same Paris location. If the experiment failed, it was nevertheless (considering the jealous nature of most designers) a noble effort—not unlike their unflinching approach to garment design by continually redefining clothing’s relationship to the body by its structure, cut, and drape.

7 Jeremy Scott 1997’s most quietly hyped rising star. The twenty-four-year-old American with shaved eyebrows and gold front teeth is the reigning darling of Paris fashion. The two collections Scott has shown this year have been an odd cocktail of Pierre Cardin and Rei Kawakubo—with his own signature punk/gothic twist—in clothes that are sexy and modern.

8 Raf Simons “No one is doing interesting menswear that’s avant-garde without making you look like a faggot,” Jeremy Scott was quoted as saying in the magazine Dazed & Confused. He must have never seen the clothes of twenty-nine-year-old Belgian designer Raf Simons (even though they share the same Paris showroom). Trained as an industrial designer, Simons was encouraged to turn to garments by Linda Loppa, the legendary Antwerp Academy professor who taught Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, and Walter van Beirendonck: “‘Start by making one jacket and one pair of paints,’ she told me, so I went home and did.” His vision, based on a mix of classic tailoring and hip sportswear, can be summed up in a word: cool.

9 Diana Vreeland D.V. (Da Capo Press): Mrs. Vreeland’s memoir and revisionist history of the highest order, reissued this fall. A true fashion original, her camp pronouncements (“pink is the navy blue of India”) remain classics.

10 Wallpaper Wallpaper’s cosmopolitan, hip combination of men’s and women’s clothes, decoration, entertaining, and travel make it the ultimate modern lifestyle/fashion magazine.

Richard Buckley is a fashion and lifestyle writer based in Paris. Fashion consultant for Dutch magazine and European editor-at-large for Condé Nast House & Garden, he also contributes to Harper’s Bazaar and the International Herald Tribune.