Archive for September, 2010

in the line of fire

Tonight I’m going to see Arcade Fire – Montreal’s indie darlings who now fill stadiums around the globe. That means, of course, that music geeks are beginning to call them “sellouts.”

On the website Consequence of Sound, Alex Young writes:

“I feel like Arcade Fire has reached that point where they’re now Mother-approved. As in, you’ll soon be receiving a call from your mom asking if you’ve heard of this band called ‘The Arcade Fires’, because she read about them in Entertainment Weekly or heard them on NPR’s Morning Edition. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, of course…”

Ouch.

It’s an age-old story. A band / artist / designer / performer tips into mainstream popularity and is immediately branded dull and irrelevant. But unless they start churning out sub-par material (see U2), popularity doesn’t have to equal creative compromise.

As for Arcade Fire, their third album, The Suburbs, has received heaps of critical acclaim and they’re known for serving up positively electric live shows. They’ve also become savvy viral marketers.

The band doesn’t court mainstream press, but partnered with Google Chrome to release a buzzy, interactive film that quickly made the rounds on Facebook and Twitter. They also created eight different covers for The Suburbs and multiple purchase options, including CD, premium digital files, double 12-inch vinyl, and combinations of all three. They’re smart with social media — and they give back, with a focus on rebuilding Haiti through the KANPE Foundation and Partners in Health.

Sellouts? Not in my book, but we’ll see if they deliver the goods tonight.

posted 28 Sep 10 in: art, business, music, performance. This post currently has no responses.

kate vs. the kitten heel

I love the clean, girlie-punk look of Elle style director Kate Lanphear — and I’m not alone. She’s got hoardes of online fans who dissect each and every thread she sports on the streets of NYC.

Even more impressive than Kate’s way with black silk and silver chains is her unwavering self-possession. In this story for Elle.com, Kate describes her conservative upbringing and a brief period of conformity via preppy plaid, ladylike slingbacks and knee-length dresses.

But when a pair of acid-washed jeans drew her like a sailor to a siren, she decided to chuck convention and wore the denim to a critical meeting. It was time to unveil her true fashion-savant self — take it or leave it.

Now her distinctive aesthetic is copied in cities worldwide. It’s perhaps her greatest professional asset. What’s even better? Fashion insiders say she’s a kind and generous presence in a notoriously catty industry. Heck, she’s even talked about leaving the fashion world to become a social worker. Kate demonstrates beautifully why style is always best served up with substance.

posted 21 Sep 10 in: design, fashion, inspiration, media. This post currently has no responses.

rue style

Have you noticed the new trend in home decor, design and lifestyle magazines? They’re going exclusively online.

First came Lonny. Now there’s Rue — a polished new publication from co-founders Crystal Gentilello and Anne Sage.

Like the pioneering Lonny, the free pages of Rue are beautifully laid out with a full index, searchable content, and clickable links that make it a breeze to learn more about featured items. You can also choose to read in magazine, presentation or paper layout, depending on your viewing preferences. All the pages are printable, too.

Thanks to bigger, brighter computer screens, e-readers and iPad mania, digital publications are coming of age. Both Lonny and Rue have strong content and staff that understand how to create for this brave new medium. I still prefer that slick paper in my hands, but more than anything, I love magazines. I want to see them survive.  For that selfish reason alone, I’m excited to see how this technology evolves.

posted 20 Sep 10 in: business, design, media. This post currently has 2 responses.

photography

I’ve been thinking lately about photography as a tool for innovation. Of course, it’s also a serious art form, but even the most amateur photos reveal something that’s nearly impossible to write or speak. Cameras are instruments of creative democracy.

Painters, architects, writers, foodies, fashion designers — name an artsy pursuit and it inevitably intersects with photography. Still images offer inspiration, reference, perspective, memory and so much more.

My first camera was a Kodak disc. I took it to the zoo and when the prints came back, I had shot after blurry, bleary shot of llama nostrils and elephant skin. Following a series of increasingly high-tech point-and-shoots (a mini zoom lens! leather wrist strap!) I graduated to my Mom’s Nikon FG manual SLR, which had been gathering dust in the broom closet. I took an art college course to learn basic shooting and darkroom techniques and began snapping photos for my university’s student newspaper.

I loved the constant access to a darkroom and, more importantly, I was thrilled to stand below the stage and capture Radiohead, the Cowboy Junkies, Art Bergmann, Billy Bragg and long-gone punk bands in the dusty light. I lost track of photography after I graduated and struggled to join the digital revolution. But I’m finding my way back. I have a new camera that I love and I’m using it more often for interviews and to explore my favorite subject — people.

I hope to post more photos in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I dug out some old black & white prints and put the scanner through its paces.

How do you use photography in your creative work?

posted 16 Sep 10 in: art, inspiration, performance. This post currently has no responses.

content questions

Tommy Ton photo by Kurt Geiger

Women’s Wear Daily recently published an interesting article by Cate T. Corcoran about the blossoming relationship between clothing brands and influential fashion bloggers. The story suggests that these popular (and formerly DIY) sites now provide increasingly hospitable territory for big budget advertisers.

Companies such as Coach, Gap, Barneys New York, Urban Outfitters and JCPenney are testing new connections — and the idea of customer-brand “conversations” — with fashion bloggers that can include product references, design collaborations, videos, giveaways and contests.

– Is this smart business or corporations invading what were formerly organic online spaces and communities?

– Are fashion bloggers independent self-publishers or simply small-scale fashion magazines (which have always been supported by advertising)?

– How do you draw appropriate lines between editorial content and advertising? And who does the drawing?

The article raises these and other questions that apply not just to fashion scribblers, but also to anyone who’s developing content — and hoping to earn a paycheck from their work. Take a look and let me know what you think.

posted 8 Sep 10 in: business, fashion, media, retail. This post currently has no responses.