Sunday, April 27, 2008

Magazines du Mode

It’s probably no revelation, but France has some of the finest fashion magazines in the world; Italy does too, so I can’t place France in a separate rank, but they’re both at the top of the heap. I have already accumulated a hefty stack of them and my time here is only half-done. Clearly, I will have to winnow out the best, or Claire will shudder at the clutter when I get home.

I don’t really know what to call these magazines; when I call them fashion magazines, people think I’m talking about those supermarket magazines that tell you how to get a man and a skinny ass. The magazine sellers call them design magazines, as opposed to women’s magazines: in English, I think calling them “mode magazines”, as opposed to “fashion magazines” might work. I loathe the gender-separation of magazines anyway. When I need a quick shot of pure artistry and aestheticism, these are the magazines I buy, along with Juxtapoz. Great haute couture is like the eruption of the marvelous into everyday life. Fashionable Parisian sidewalks are like a drunken Fellini parade.

The best-dressed people I’ve seen in my life were leaving black churches in Baltimore on Sunday mornings. The men were neon dandies and the women were walking paradise gardens. There’s a difference between stylish and fashionable: stylish is the application of the artistic soul to the body; fashionable is an attempt to wear one’s wallet on the outside. Many Parisians are stylish; sadly, more are fashionable. You can’t buy taste. On the other hand, I usually dress in grad student/hobo chic. Trust me: I am no fashionista with my facial hair growing wild like some tropical vine and my posture so bad it’s as if I’m trying to strangle my kundalini. So, apparently, I can’t even buy style on my paycheck.

Nevertheless, my favorite mode mags are Numéro, Jalouse, and Citizen K. My magazine dealer told me yesterday that she thinks Citizen K is the best magazine in France. It’s huge and beautiful and creative, and if you buy it in France, it’s one euro. Outside of France it’s more expensive, but here it can’t be beat. Like great science fiction novels, great fashion magazines open up a door to an unbelievable other world and you scratch your head wondering how they come up with this stuff. Having lived in the haute couture district of Paris, at the corner of Blasé and Bourgeois, I now know that these fashions come from another economic solar system far away from our own.

Jalouse is currently irritating me: they seem to have decided that rich teenage girls are their market and they’re running photo spreads with 14 year olds dressed to look like the Olsen twins. They’ve also featured the rich brat kids of famous rock musicians, as if that’s a group that needs more undeserved attention! People complain that fashion models don’t look like normal people, but I don’t want them to. If I wanted to see normal people, I could go for a walk. I want models to be outside of the norm. I want to see freaks. But teenagers are just not attractive to me- these trust fund brats look like those Margaret Keane paintings of urchins with giant eyes- and I certainly don’t want to see adults convinced that they’re role models.

I think the reason I admire these magazines is because they suggest that everyday life can be made extraordinary.

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