Here’s A Brand New Project I’m Very Proud Of

I have some very exciting news to share: an organization that is very dear to my heart, and a project that I’ve had the honor of working on in one capacity or another on and off since the fall of 2009, is now on the cusp of its public début.

The Model Alliance is the brainchild of my friend and partner Sara Ziff — check out Shakthi Jothianandan’s excellent profile of Sara in the brand new issue of New York — and I am proud to serve on its board. The Model Alliance is a brand new nonprofit that works to address labor issues in the fashion industry, particularly labor issues affecting models. We want to promote the health and well-being of the very young people — many of them just children — who work as models.

We’ve been thrilled at the level of support we’ve enjoyed from the fashion industry: for many months now, we’ve enjoyed a very productive relationship with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and we’ve had positive meetings with top editors at American Vogue,  show producers, casting agents, key people at various top modeling agencies, and many, many models. And we are lucky enough to count professor Susan Scafidi of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School and professor Dorian Warren of Columbia University as members of our board. The top model Coco Rocha sits on our advisory board. And we just got a shout-out from none other than CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg in her seasonal open letter to the industry. She threw her support behind our Backstage Privacy Policy, one of the three initiatives we’re pushing for this coming season.

Our Web site very quietly went live on Monday. You should all go click on it! Especially this page, where we’ve published beautiful, un-airbrushed portraits by Peter Ash Lee of many of our founding supporters, and this page, where you can read Sara’s introductory note, and this page, where you can see three excellent essays. One is by Lisa Cant, who writes about navigating the conflicts between having a career and getting an education, one is by Lisa Davies, who writes about financial transparency, and one is by Jessica Clark, who — under consideration for a major international cosmetics campaign — writes about the construction of race within the industry. You could also click here to get information on our three policy initiatives for the FW12 season, here to check out our news feed, where I’ll be writing about labor issues and news, and, oh, look, here you can even give us money. (Money is great, it really helps us do things.) Over the coming weeks, we have so many great things in store. If you want to make sure you’ll be the first to know, follow us on Twitter or “Like” us on Facebook.

This has been a long time coming. I love working in fashion, but given my background and experiences, I know first-hand there are problems in this industry. I, for one, am proud to be helping to find solutions.

A New Interview With Me In Black Magazine

Last September, my friend Isaac introduced me to a photographer from New Zealand named Adam Custins. Adam works mostly on large-format Polaroid film, and he was visiting New York for the first time. He came up to my apartment for a cuppa on one of those languorous late summer afternoons when all you want to do, if you’re me, is make tea and conserve energy for fashion week, and we had a great conversation about models and modeling, how the industry works for photographers, finding Polaroid film, and the places we’ve lived. I think we ate some biscuits that had just arrived in the mail from my mum. Somewhere in there, he took a few Polaroids of me.

A few months later, once Adam was back in Auckland, he asked if he could interview me for the New Zealand fashion and culture magazine Black, which was interested in running one of his portraits along with a short feature on me. I happily consented, and we had a long chat on Skype about fashion as art, writing for online vs. writing for print, my family background, growing up in New Zealand before the Internet was really A Thing, and how that meant I had to pay $20 a pop for my out-of-date issues of Vogue Paris at the only newsagent in Christchurch that would special-order them for me. (You kids with your Fashion Gone Rogue, you don’t know how easy you got it.) The resulting story is now out; click on the thumbs to enlarge, or else I’ve copied and pasted the text after the jump, in case you’re curious.

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Fuck Yeah Henri-Georges Clouzot at MoMA

Clouzot directed the controversial 1943 film Le Corbeau, in which the residents of a charming little French anywheresville turn against one another after someone who signs off as “The Raven” begins sending letters alerting folk to their spouses’ acts of adultery, business partners’ fraudulent dealings, their pharmacists’ drug-stealing, and accusing the local doctor of performing (illegal) abortions. (Otto Preminger later remade it as The 13th Letter.)

Here is a scene (un-subtitled; I looked) from near the end of the film, in which the protagonist, the widower Dr. Rémy Germain, finds an unsent letter signed by the Raven on the desk of his girlfriend, Denise Saillens. It reads, “My dearest surgeon, the time is ripe for an operation: Denise is pregnant with your child. Did you know?” While he hides, Denise enters the room, addresses an envelope to Germain, and seals it. When he confronts her, she denies being the Raven, claiming tearfully that she has written only this one letter, and that she did it because she knew no other way to tell him that she is pregnant. “Je vais avoir un enfant de cette demi-folle?” says German, angrily. He even threatens her with an abortion: “Non. Je veux pas d’un fils taré. Le Corbeau a raison.” The conversation gets at the meaning of evidence, perception, and the nature of guilt. Denise implores him to look into her eyes, to truly look at her, so that he might know that she is innocent. But Germain, in the film’s emotional climax, says he doesn’t know. He can’t know. He needs some more tangible proof than a look. Romantic ideas of human behavior don’t cut it, in France in 1943.

It is most emphatically not made explicit, or even really alluded to in the film — which was financed by a German-French production company, again, in 1943 — but I always saw the unsavoury developments that unfold as a metaphor for Pétainisme and the culture of denunciation and collaboration that it spawned. And the film was in fact suppressed by the Vichy government. But the underground Résistance press, too, objected, and condemned Le Corbeau as a vicious and inaccurate portrait of the ordinary French people as immoral, spineless, and conniving — Nazi propaganda in disguise. After the war, Clouzot was tried as a collaborator for making a film with German backing, found guilty, and banned from film-making for two years. It would have been for life, but for the interventions of dozens of actors, directors, and writers, including Marcel Carné, Jean Cocteau, and Jean-Paul Sartre. So thanks to them, we got the whole 1947-1960 Clouzot golden period: Quai des Orfèvres, The Wages of Fear, Diabolique, La Prisonnière, and all the other films that will be shown at the Museum of Modern Art’s series. It runs from December 8-24.

There’s a special kind of drunk that can only be achieved after many hours of careful, consistent drinking. You have to climb through tipsiness, buzz, slur, and slop — but over on the other side lies a place of perfect equilibrium, an alcoholic zen state where all the ethanol coursing through your veins resolves itself into something jangly and serene. Certain drugs aim to hasten or mimic this effect, but they do so poorly. You really have to drink your way there to get there at all. Recently, I was sitting in a bar that made gestures towards an “English” theme — there was a red “Telephone Booth” where you could pay to charge your iPhone — when it struck me that I had been drinking steadily since a first cup of whiskey consumed in Prospect Park around four that afternoon. I was watching New Zealand play the Rugby World Cup final, and for some reason Mickey Rourke was there. If I concentrated, I could retrace my steps. I’d moved from dark liquor through beer and onto vodka and back again, through dinner and a Jean Renoir movie and yet more beer, and now, sitting in the corner of a dank and fundamentally charmless Greenwich Village bar at a quarter to five in the morning, drinking PBR tallboys at $3 a pop, I realized I was balanced on the tip of that spear. Then France scored a try, and converted. The score was 8-7.

Tommy Ton took my photo on the first day of New York fashion week as I was racing to the Richard Chai show (which I reviewed here). A tremendous compliment to my $30 Filene’s Basement skirt and Harlem street market satchel! I am embarrassed, but only moderately, that I was going about my business the morning after still wearing the wristband from the night before.

I Saw Courtney Love Play “Violet” Last Night

And I wrote about it for the Village Voice. My only regret is that she did not play “Credit In The Straight World.” Celebrity Skin came out during my last year of intermediate school, when every cultural experience still left marks. And even though I could hardly bring myself to look at the cover of Ask For It, when I bought it that year at a second-hand record store in Christchurch, New Zealand, it still kind of changed my life. I don’t care how many times Courtney Love, with middling coherence, insults the blog I write for; I will never not know and love each and every word in “Northern Star.”

UPDATE 1: Courtney Love saw the review, and wrote a long response in the Voice comments section. It mentions Pynchon, “several  high end bythat i mean GOOD  psychiatrists” with whom she has experience, and split infinitives. It is an all-round highly entertaining read.

UPDATE 2: Courtney Love saw this post, too. Hi, Courtney.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to read something by Courtney Love that is long, precisely written, and well-argued, I recommend the transcript of a speech she once gave about the economics of the music industry, which Salon published as an essay in 2000. It’s still riveting.

“Sometimes I say, What is so interesting about me?”                                                                                                                                                          — Carine Roitfeld