Thursday, April 17, 2008

nu waif - part 2

joel west, mark vanderloo, tyson beckford, alex lundqvist

mathias lauridsen, cole mohr, clement chabernaud, hugo sauzay

the powers that be that controls the mechanism of the fashion world is unfairly still dominated by the ones born with the xy chromosome. regardless of their sexuality, these purveyors of style are still genetically male. as a consolation, there is no argument that it is the female of the species that inspires them most. from poiret to galliano, these designers have divined inspiration from women. poiret's wife denise boulet was the prototype for his "la garconne". while galliano channeled the mystique of mata hari to one of monsieur dior's personal muse, mitzah bricard, a woman who once uttered the phrase when asked who her favorite florist was replied "cartier". since the dawn of time, the mystery of female seduction inspired artists to no end. they have been the subject of literature, music, poetry, and visual art. their intangible allure, the spark that drove artists into creative fervor. if mona lisa and aphrodite were the archetypes of beauty in their own respected time, the same could be said for models daria werbowy and giselle bundchen for the present. while these women can command as much as twenty thousand dollars a day for a day's work, even in a male dominated world, male models makes considerably less than the girls. the dynamics of business and a capitalist society where women have become the targeted consumers have assured that idealized beauties like werbowy and bundchen will be greatly rewarded for winning the genetic sweepstakes. as the closest avatars they are to the idea of female perfection, that idea has also been challenged from time to time. in a constantly shrinking world when the general idea of beauty needs to adapt to a more universal language able to be understood by a wider range of audience of all demographics, enters girls like kate moss, guinevere van seenus, alek wek, or gemma ward to challenge the status quo. with all the debate, attention, and controversy that comes along with the female modeling bussiness, the boys, have unwillingly sat on the back seat to their female counterparts. without the hoopla and media attention usually reserved for the big name girls, the male modeling industry have basically gone through the same metamorphosis minus the microscopic scrutiny. like the female equivalent to early eighties gia carangi who best represented the physical ideal of the time, jeff aquilon gained notoriety by being shot by legendary photographer bruce webber for calvin klein. ushering in an image of a sexually charged male to the public. it unintentionally lead the way for calvin klein's iconic marketing strategy that manifested itself into seven story billboards on time square depicting adonis like male models in various stages of undress. images of michael bergin, joel west, and tyson beckford were stripped because many believed that their provocative images were too distracting for drivers passing by. it didn't however stop the sudden realization that male sexuality could also be a brilliant source to be marketed, wrapped, and sold. one only has to look at an old men's fashion magazine from the late nineties and see muscular models selling everything from sodas to deodorants. while mass media still manages to generate a lucrative profit from using a robust form of male sexuality to sell products, the male fashion world was to enter a new era. when hedi slimane became creative director for ysl and then eventually dior homme, a more romantic male idea emerged and suddenly everything started to change...drastically. in a short time, the gym perfect bodies were replaced by an almost disturbing image of lanky androgyny. models boyd holbrook, scott barnhill, and anthony vibert were suddenly everywhere and the old guards like mark vanderloo, jason lewis, and marcus schenkenberg were considered not of the moment, and their representation of male perfection seemed out of touch. but just as how the waif movement was a cleansing palette for the female modeling industry, so were these new crop of male models. they represented a more democratic idea of male beauty. their bodies weren't acquired from hours at the gym lifting weights but at skate parks and basketball courts. tattoos and piercings were a form of self expression, and individuality, not perfect symmetry, was the thing that mattered most. while the notion that success in life is measured by the girth of your bank account, these modern men measured it by how much they enjoyed their youth, their nonchalance, and the possibilities for the future. this sense of optimism was inspiring to designers but at the same time they also looked to the darker side of youth: rebellion, uncertainty and angst that came with the years before adulthood. the celebration of youth and the freedom that comes along with it became the general theme that reverberated throughout the business. menswear designers like slimane, raf simons, and alexander plokhov of cloak became the ambassadors of the new direction menswear was heading. one that combined traditional technique with a street wear sensibility to produce something completely modern. as the old millennium drew to a close, a more liberal aesthetic became obvious. the runway has become an arena where avant garde models like cole mohr with his lanky physique and tattooed framed and the reigning king of the male modeling world, mathias lauridsen from denmark, one that is gifted with a linda evangelista chameleon like ability to one moment be the image of smoldering male sexuality for gucci's "pour homme" fragrance, and in a blink of an eye almost unsettingly androgynous in front of fashion forward photographers for the most influential magazines. these new breed of models became the new harbingers for the new idea of a modern man. while models like mohr and lauridsen have become the poster boys for the prevalent mood in modeling and menswear, there is still a commanding market that craves for men that is reminiscent of the "hunk" ideal. after so many seasons of seeing man-boys on runways and magazine editorials, the rugged uber masculinity of a new crop of models like dolce and gabbana fixture david gandy, calvin klein's male answer to natalia vodianova garrett neff, and armani's andrew cooper are suddenly everywhere and able to command top dollars for their work. the "hunk" ideal will never fade away because of their commercial selling power, but only time will tell if the male waifs have the capacity to achieve the longevity of kate, or shalom, or amber.

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