Sunday, 31 March 2013

The unreal world of modelling according to Muriel Rodriguez

Photographer: Milly-Anne Kellner

Quite recently yet another book, by former model Muriel Rodriguez has been published about the 'unreal' world of fashion modelling, sensationalising it - girls are told not to eat, are given free drugs, their earnings are eaten up by unscrupulous agents, they are even pimped, you name it.
It reminds me of comparable stories about the world of rock and roll - the sex, the drugs, the rampant exploitation of un-savvy musicians. 
I have no experience of the rock scene, apart from being a fan of a few bands who occasionally goes to their gigs - more rarely, however, as gigs have become an extremely commercial enterprise, see the palaver about Glastonbury 2013 where the only band I would care to see this year is The Rolling Stones, but am not willing to fork out hundreds of pounds for the privilege. Therefore I will refrain here from commenting further on drugs, sex and rock and roll.
I do not have much experience of high end fashion modelling either, apart from a foray into fashion films, so maybe I am not quite qualified to comment. I can't help thinking that yes, exploitation does go on, but there are many good agencies and many perfectly sane models. Sure, a great number of fashion models are very skinny, naturally so, and very young, thus a bit naive - many adolescent girls are extremely thin, like bean poles, and metamorphose into curvy women as they grow up. They are not necessarily all anorexic. And yes, as they are young, they need to be advised and protected.

Photographer: Milly-Anne Kellner
What bugs me is this idea that models are not real women, because they are, albeit adolescent women, and full blown women when they get past their teens. The obverse of this is the belief that if you look like a real woman you are not a real model. I can assure you that there are many models who look very much like ordinary women. And who is an ordinary woman, anyway? How do you define that 'ordinariness'?
This misconception is all to do with the "Dove campaign syndrome", as I call it, a misinterpretation of the Dove campaign - I have talked about it in earlier posts. When Dove launched their Pro-age range they searched for women who had not modelled for a campaign before and were not represented by a model agency. There were stringent criteria for the casting, however, and being photogenic and comfortable in front of the camera were among those criteria - these are, after all, a modelling pre-requisite. The other criteria were a range of sizes, of heights, and ages of 30 upwards.The product was aimed at an older section of the market, why would teenagers want to use a pro-age cream?

Photographer: David J. Green (from The Guardian)

This was very commendable, as it stimulated wider discussion about the need for greater diversity in the modelling industry. Organisations such as AllWalksBeyondTheCatwalk and Models of Diversity have embraced this idea and have been campaigning for it, sustainedly, over the past six or seven years. 
However, this is not to say that the models that MoD and AllWalks champion are not real models. They are women who represent the diversity of our society. But the models are still disciplined professionals. It is disrespectful to them to say that they are not real models, just as it is somewhat disrespectful to say that models are not real women- or men, for that matter. 
 As for modelling not preparing you for anything, as Rodriguez maintains in her book, well, that is questionable. As a model you learn many skills, which are transferable. Modelling should be seen as a profession not as a quick ticket to celebrity status. In my view this is an important shift that needs to take place and I am grateful to Equity, the union for professional performers,  for having a models network, precisely to make this point.

(All photos modelled by Alex B)

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Life modelling and live art (Part 2)

Photographer: Elina
I am continuing in this post the discussion about life modelling, and in particular, whether I believe life models are artists. I tend to say they are not.
 As it happens, I modelled for a group of artists yesterday evening. It was freezing outside, we are having such a spate of bad weather.  The class was held in the basement of a club and thankfully there was a fan heater. Being warm is very important to me when I model, you can injure yourself if you attempt certain poses without being properly warmed up.
The structure of this class was such as to give me an opportunity to select more adventurous poses because I had to hold them for shorter periods of time.  There was music in the background, I enjoyed the selection of tracks the artist who led the class had chosen, quite a mix, including Smashing Pumpkins - it had been ages since I heard them. And work wise, there was the usual request to do something dynamic and dance inspired. At some point I remembered, while posing, the question about life modelling (art or not art).  My experience of last night confirmed that no, I was not the artist, I was the one who enabled the artists. I saw some very good drawings and was struck by the talent of the participants. I felt I did well with my modelling, I took up contortion classes some months ago and this is definitely giving me greater flexibility and endurance. But even though I was an enabler, posed creatively and performed satisfactorily what I did was a far cry from art.

Photographer: Milly-Anne Kellner
I think that when people claim life modelling is art what they really have in mind is live art and equate life modelling to live art. But there are crucial differences. Live art is the term chosen in the UK by the Live Art Development Agency (elsewhere it has been variedly called performance art or time based art), to describe "a strategy to ‘include' a diversity of practices and artists that might otherwise find themselves ‘excluded' from all kinds of policy and provision and all kinds of curatorial contexts and critical debates". This description is somewhat technical and assumes these creative individuals are involved in an artistic practice of sort. Could that be life modelling?  Well , no.
Live art is conceptual and is totally controlled by the performer. I may choose to do a live art performance, totally naked and somewhere public. To do so I will have a concept , an idea that I have developed and am  presenting to my audience. Someone might photograph me, someone might want to draw me but I would be leading this whole process, I would not pose for anyone, any posing would be incidental.
Photographer: Milly-Anne Kellner
Think of Marina Abramovic, the acclaimed live art performer originally from Serbia, whose work, in her own words, explores the relationship between performer and audience, the limits of the body, and the possibilities of the mind. She enjoyed a long collaborative partnership, a symbiosis,  with the German live artist Ulay. They famously performed their split by staging a walk along the Great Wall of China, both coming from opposite directions. It took ninety days for them to finally meet and when they met  they immediately parted for good, walking alone, each in their own direction. Abramovic commented that it was a spiritual journey and the best way to mark the end of their intense association. "At the end, we are all alone", she said.
In 2010 Marina was given a retrospective at MOMA in New York and there she performed The Artist is Present, a 700 hour long act, recorded on camera,  in which she shared a minute of silence with each stranger that sat opposite her, closing her eyes as every new person came by and fully engaging with each individual through intense gazing throughout the 60 seconds interaction. Lady Gaga went, that tells you the scale of Marina's popularity. At some point Ulay arrived, walked among the reconstructions of his work with Marina and then sat opposite her. She knew he would be coming but did not know when. When Marina opened her eyes, all they did was look at each other.  I have never seen anything as moving and as intense as the moment when Marina and Ulay saw each other at MOMA and am so glad it is available on film for all to view. Absolutely no word was exchanged. The only departure from what Marina usually did was her sudden decision to lean across the table and hold his hands. After the one minute was up Ulay left and Marina continued her performance with the next stranger.

Over her long career Marina Abramovic has had someone point a loaded gun at her head and even set herself on fire (not on purpose, it was an accident while performing). "I test the limits of myself in order to transform myself," she says, "but I also take the energy from the audience and transform it. It goes back to them in a different way. This is why people in the audience often cry or become angry or whatever. A powerful performance will transform everyone in the room."

Granted, not every live artist has achieved the same pinnacle as Marina Abramovic. I have briefly discussed her work because most compellingly she provides evidence for settling for good  this debate on whether life modelling is art or not.  We really have to conclude that life modelling can be a wonderful creative endeavour, and good life models are highly skilled individuals, often with a strong performance background, but no, it is not an art form. It is not live art.
And why would everyone want to have the 'artist' label attached to them, may I ask?

(All photos modelled by Alex B.)

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Why old pictures matter

Photographer: Milly-Anne Kellner. Model: Alex B
I received a lovely surprise today from a very old friend of mine whom I have not seen for over 30 years. A couple of weeks ago he tracked me down through the internet and sent me a scan of a picture of me aged 17 which had been published in the  catalogue of an exhibition about a famous spot in my  home town, where I have not been since I was 19. When I emailed him back to thank him I asked him to let me know how I could get hold of the catalogue. He promptly posted it to me so when I got the book this morning it really was a welcome surprise. I was over the moon.
The  exhibition was about what used to be a special place, some public gardens where young people used to gather to make music, engage in discussions, spend time together and  dream of amazing things they would do in the future.
At some point these beautiful gardens were no longer looked after by the municipality and became a shadow of their former glory. This year, 2013,  it will be two hundred years since the modern city was planned expanding the ancient nucleus and, as part of the celebrations, an exhibition was recently put together about these famous public gardens, which have punctuated the history of the city, throughout their phases of growth and decline.

Photographer: unknown. Me at 17 with two friends

 The curators of the exhibition asked people to send in pictures of the time when the gardens were a lively meeting point, a centre of counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s, a modern agora as someone has called them.  The years when I was growing up, the 1970s, were definitely pre-Facebook and pre-mobile phones days and people would gather spontaneously to meet up in the one place which seemed to be an obligatory stop in one's everyday routine. 'Let's go to the gardens' or 'let's meet at the gardens' we would say, in the knowledge one could always join a group of known young people, sitting around the benches, having fun. Many of these pictures were in private collections, as memorabilia - the old snapshots of one's youth.
 I have lost a lot of pictures throughout my life, due to moving from place to place and not caring much about carrying around old boxes, but have subsequently regretted it. This is why, since I began modelling in earnest, I have made it a point to collect as many images of me as a model, in my deviantArt gallery, regardless of whether I like the images or not, sometimes  displaying them in special folders eg The Discarded. My dA gallery is not my modelling portfolio, I have images in it of varying quality which  I would probably never show elsewhere. It really is my very own private collection of my images, of  me as a model and also as a photographer. I know at some point I will stop modelling, but I will have most of the pictures.
Photographs are such that often a few years down the line they seem to be more beautiful and interesting than when they were actually taken.

Photographer: my father. Me at 3

All I am trying to say is that keeping old pictures, to me, matters, it does now. After all, if those old snapshots of the gardens had been thrown away, the exhibition and the book would have never happened. I can assure you that seeing myself as I was back then really moved me and gave me joy and it was equally good to see the faces of my old friends and school mates, some of whom are no more. Photos play an important part in how we remember and allow us to revisit the past, from the standpoint of today.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

A girl as white as snow

I mentioned Blanche-Neige, Angelin Preljocaj's ballet (2008) in another post, promising I would discuss it at some point. I thought I could elaborate on it in today's post.
 I did not see  Blanche-Neige (Snow White), based on the famous brothers Grimm's fairy tale, when it was shown at Sadler's Wells a couple of years ago.  But I have watched it on DVD, the film rendition that Preljocaj directed in 2010. The more I watch it, the more intrigued I am by it. This is an attempt at gathering some of my thoughts around it.
We all know the story: the beautiful but wicked stepmother plots to kill her young, beautiful daughter several times, including an attempt with a poisoned apple. Miraculously, Snow White does not die but falls into deep slumber and is reawakened by a handsome Prince, whom, in this ballet, she had already met at court. This twist on the original fairy tale  provides continuity to the balletic narrative.
Blanche-Neige is a ballet but not on pointe, it is contemporary choreography. Yet Preljocaj calls his company Ballet Preljocaj and explicitly refers to Blanche-Neige as a ballet. His dance vocabulary owes a lot to that of ballet. Does this mean that the divide between ballet and contemporary dance is not as clearly defined as some would have it?

Photographer: Michel Cavalca, Ballet Preljocaj  (Google images)

Then there are the costumes designed by Jean Paul Gaultier. I love this partnership between haute couture and dance. In a stroke of genius, Gaultier chooses to dress the wicked queen as a dominatrix, and Preljocaj gives her strong and lascivious moves. She is the older woman whose sexual power is threatened by the young, blossoming sexuality of her stepdaughter and she  comes across as a tragic character.The music Preljocaj chose for the ballet is by Gustav Mahler, a nod to Romanticism. The seven dwarves are miners and they display their aerial skills by climbing up and down walls made of rocks.

Model: Alex B
The tale of Snow White has never been used for a ballet before and the treatment given to it by Preljocaj is outstanding -  when the ballet toured internationally it was received with acclaim, barring a few scathing critiques, some in his own country - "les montagnes hypes n'accoucheraient-elles pas de temps en temps, au passage, de nains chorégraphiques?" asked Azulynn in Dansomanie (roughly translated "will mountains of hype not give birth, from time to time, to choreographic dwarves?")
The central theme of the story remains the relationship of the Queen with the mirror. Originally, the Queen was Snow-White's own mother rather than stepmother, she was turned into a stepmother when the brothers Grimm wrote down the story - the idea of a mother killing her own daughter seemed inadmissible at the time. The crucial moment is when the mirror returns to the older woman the image of her daughter/stepdaughter, in a shift from imaginary identification to symbolic identification (the daughter as other): from this point on the tragedy unfolds.
The erotic element in the ballet is very strong: you can see it in the couple dancing throughout and in the several pas de deux of Snow White with her Prince - the joyous first one at court and the final, dramatic one in the forest when she is found  by the Prince who believes her dead and forever lost. The fetish clothing of the Queen also underpins a strong erotic charge. The dancer shows a range of strong facial expressions and this adds to her performance.

Model: Alex B
It is also a very violent ballet: the apple scene is reminiscent of a rape, even more frightening when you realise this is a woman raping another woman, and in the pas de deux between Snow White and the prince she is often thrown about in ways which would hardly be described as gentle. This is particularly evident in the pas de deux ensuing the moment he finds her lying on a glass sheet : there is a strong element of necrophilia in the scenes which unfold.
It is a stunningly visual production and definitely worth watching. And I would not mind wearing that fabulous gown Snow White dons in the final scene: am I being too flippant here?
(Oh, about my own pictures: I obviously have nothing to do with the Blanche-Neige production, but in this blog I try to showcase my work as a model as well as share my thoughts.)

(All photos of Alex B by Natalia Lipchanskaya)

Friday, 22 March 2013

Episteme, techne and phronesis: life modelling part 1

I am going to talk about something that has been on my mind for a while and which came up in some Facebook exchanges this morning. But first let me update you about the Dove Real Beauty campaign. I heard on the grapevine that Dove is relaunching it - apparently the same models as in 2005 will be photographed, however this time it will not be by Rankin. Dove has launched a competition  among photography students and the best one among them will do the shoot, no retouching whatsoever  allowed. I did my shoot with Elina from LCF who was preparing to enter this competition and asked me to test with her and I got the images a couple of days ago, completely unretouched. I quite like them, see for yourselves. The shoot was quite eventful as I ended up having a nasty accident with a brush that got stuck in my hair, I had to tear my hair from it, fortunately only a strand. I was not pleased at all and from now on I shall watch like a hawk anyone who does my hair on shoots. I have heard that Yasmina's hair was burnt by hair straighteners and she had to cut off a good few inches. That's horrid.

My hair is what makes me unique, as a casting agent recently told me, my success as a photographic model is totally linked to it, there are few models of my age with hair as long as mine and in an industry that values quirkiness and a distinctive look this is a great asset, so I am really going to look after my hair!
But let me go back to the FB discussion. I belong to a closed group for life models only, I am also a life model, as you know. I constantly hear from some life models that they see themselves as artists. A great many people, it seems, want that label attached to them.
I view this desire for artistic status and artistic recognition with some suspicion. I do not wish to romanticise life modelling and to me invoking art at every turn is problematic. Life modelling is a skill and at best it can also be a know-how, a savoir faire, in line with what Aristotle called phronesis, the virtue of practical wisdom, the 'other type of knowledge' that comes from experience, not based on speculation. In more recent years, the Aristotelian notion of phronesis has enjoyed a renaissance in relation to professional knowledge and professional practice, particularly as phronesis involves reflection:  intentional cognitive reflection, embodied or tacit reflection, and critical reflexivity.  Life modelling seems to fit well in the professional practice category.

Portrait of me, Kathy Barker's  studio
Earlier I described life modelling as a set of skills. In doing this I relate it to the knowledge Aristotle called techne (think here of the English cognate words technology and technique): context dependent, pragmatic, variable craft knowledge, oriented towards a conscious goal. The third type of knowledge discussed by Aristotle is episteme. I presume we all agree that life modelling is not an epistemology: I have been practising it for many years and if it has epistemic connotations, I have been totally unaware of them, so please, those among you who believe this is the case, enlighten me, just as you have tried to do by pointing out that life modelling is art.
(Of course, I am aware of the link that some people have tried to make between art and epistemology, claiming that art is epistemic but I will not go there today, precisely because I do not believe life modelling is art).
Life modelling is certainly a creative practice but this is not enough to regard it as art, and definitely not Art! I am not an advocate of postmodernism, now thankfully dead, but we owe a couple of  good things to postmodern thinkers and to Lyotard in particular: the dismantling of Grand Theories and the understanding that there is no such a thing as Art, but a more modest art, fully inscribed in its socio-cultural, socio-political and,I would add, socio-economic context.
Now you will have to wait for part 2 of this post, where I shall marshal some good arguments to support my view that life modelling is not art, pace those who firmly believe it is - the world used to be divided between those who believe in God and those who don't, but it seems that now it is a case of those who believe in Art and those who don't. Oh, there are also agnostics. But wait for  part 2.
And, on a completely different note, I am proud to share the new 'fashion film' made by Marie Schuller, with me and Natalia modelling Saloni's A/W 2013 collection. Enjoy! And let me ask you: is a 'fashion film' art?

(All photos modelled by Alex B)

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Whatever happened to Dove Real Beauty?

A student from LFC has asked me to pose  for an image inspired by the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. This is part of her college work, another finalist. I obliged, I love working with LFC students. But it set me thinking. Whatever happened to the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty? It was ditched two years ago, amidst controversy. Dove has gone back to professional models and a less 'preachy' tone, so they say.

To be honest I never really bought into the Dove campaign, even though I got to benefit from it, somehow.  As a model I have on occasion referred to Dove Real Beauty to increase my modelling chances and I do acknowledge the campaign has made people aware of the possibility of diversity within the fashion and advertising industry. Wonderbra made a similar attempt in 2008, asking 'real women' to model their new pushup bra available in A to G sizes. I was part of it. I was already a model, agency signed,  but who is to say that models are not real women? I was never a supermodel, so not instantly recognisable! And I am an older woman.

Alex B in the Wonderbra 2008 campaign

Dove Real Beauty Campaign. Google images

On a personal note, when I first joined dA in 2008, I received a DD for this photograph, which apparently had been chosen because it could have been a Dove Real Beauty campaign image. It was indeed a great compliment to me and the photographer, Terry Lee-Shield. 

Photographer: Terry Lee-Shield. Model: Alex B

Now that it's done and dusted it's time to reflect on the campaign. Was there any problem with it? Well, it was a campaign to sell a beauty cream, a firming cream at that, and then the 'Pro-Age' range.
Below is the ad which was banned in the US for showing too much skin

Dove did it for profit and cashed in on women's insecurities. The women in the ads were scouted and were non-professional models, but still extremely attractive, even though a couple of sizes larger than the standard catwalk model and a few older women thrown in. Today, some of them model professionally and one of them at the time of the campaign barely qualified as non-pro as she had already appeared as a model in France. The pictures were airbrushed - all pictures used in advertising are, routinely. Dove lashed out at airbrushers, in a subsequent development of this massive campaign,  as if they were doing this of their own bat, when in fact they are employed to do it and by Dove themselves - a bit hypocritical, if you ask me.

Dove did not launch a campaign for diversity, this was simply a consequence of their marketing campaign. Dove's PR and marketing machine latched on to feelings that were already being articulated, with people regularly questioning the fashion and advertising industry for its obsession with very slender, very thin children dressed up as grown up women -  Sara Ziff eloquently addressed the issue in a broadcast last year following the release of footage which exposed the abuses of the fashion industry.

Dove ingeniously decided to work on this discontent to its advantage. The campaign should not be seen as anything more than a skin deep attempt to change perceptions of body image, underpinned  by commercial reasons. It will take more than a marketing campaign for a firming cream to change perceptions of body image.

Friday, 15 March 2013

My fifteen minutes

Photographer: Michael Cheetham

...of fame. I was interviewed by Woman, recently, for a piece that is out this week. I did it because I wanted to push the Models of Diversity agenda.
It is not a bad piece at all, all considered, and the photo they chose to publish is one of my favourites, an image taken by Michael Cheetham on the occasion of a MoD fashion show, in which we all modelled ethical lingerie, three years ago.
The interview is funny, unintentionally so. A bit trashy, a bit sensational, but the point is that it reaches many women who otherwise would not know of the shifts now occurring in the fashion industry and it might make them feel differently about their looks and bodies.
The whole thing is about me being a mature model and starting so late in life with my modelling work. I told the journalist that it was because, truly, I was not interested in modelling when I was younger, I did not even think I was the type.

Photographer: Natalia Lipchanskaya

What I was not too happy about was the plug given, totally unbeknownst to me, to a commercial organisation which operates online and where everyone, for a  fee, can display a portfolio - the point of my interview was to discuss the work of Models of Diversity, but MoD only got a mention in passing. However, it did and at the end of the day, that's what matters.
The piece is written in the first person. What can I say? Always take with a grain of salt what you read about someone in the press, and really, I should take a leaf from supermodel Kate Moss, who never speaks, and whose motto is  'Never complain, never explain'.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

I am thinking about... films. Marie Schüller has been in touch again for a new one which we will shoot on Tuesday and which I am really keen to do. With clothes on this time, by a known designer, and shot in a beautiful ballroom - the one I did with Marie last time involved clothing but also nudity.
I can't wait.
Photographer: Natalia Lipchanskaya  Model: Alex B
But no, I am thinking about how fashion films seem to have radically changed the way we view fashion and yet they are a recent phenomenon as the first ones appeared in 2009. Now they are everywhere. I like the fact they turn the model into a recognisable actor - she moves, she dances, she can even speak, should the director require it. But she still does what she is there to do: she wears the clothes, the designs.
Fashion films bear an affinity with music videos - do you remember when they first appeared? Time flies, they exploded in the 1980s when MTV came along. But they are, evidently, not music videos.
When I did Visiting Hour with Marie, it was for Showstudio Fashion Fetish, the 'provocative fusion of fashion with fetish'. For Schüller it was a way to make a statement about the female body, ageing and female sexuality - that's why she chose me to model the fashion. I turned into a character and there was no story line as such, the latex clothing I wore helped me to create this character. I have no idea what I will be doing on Tuesday, I will have to see when I get there on set.
This is my own experience of fashion films so I would not want to generalise but if I compare a fashion film with a dance film, I know that there are a lot of differences, enough to justify their being  a different genre. What is the difference you may ask, as in fashion films models often dance?
In a dance film it is the choreography that is centre piece, no matter how fragmented it may be. In a fashion film the dance is incidental, it is the clothes that come first and everything else is a consequence of it.  See the except below, of Anne Therese de Keersmaeker Rosas danst Rosas - I am choosing this on purpose because Beyonce did a version of it in one of her videos, Countdown without acknowledging de Keersmaeker.  It outraged people and she was accused of plagiarism. De Keersmaeker graciously said that she was actually pleased as it inspired people to view the original. But I am digressing here, this is something for another post.

I am very interested in seeing what possibilities  there are for the future, because as you know we neatly categorise, only for someone very imaginative to come along and change things. The English National Ballet has unveiled a new season under the leadership of former Royal Ballet dancer Tamara Rojo through a campaign in which the dancers are wearing Vivienne Westwood's creation. Photographed by Guy Farrow the campaign projects ENB new image. Tom Sharp, Creative Director of TBM, the creative agency that is behind the campaign, named Like humans, only more graceful (I have a problem with this, but never mind):

 “It is about taking dancers out of tutus and moving away from conventional backstage images to show the intensity and creativity of the dancers. The Company’s directive is to respect the tradition of ballet but build on it, and our copylines are designed to reflect but challenge a perceived view of the art form. Tamara Rojo inspires unusual collaborations so to create a campaign that combines choreography, amazing fashion and beautiful photography demonstrates her ethos in every single image.”

Photographer: Guy Farrows. ENB dancers. Google image

Will we be seeing dancers wearing Westwood on stage? Is this a marriage in the making? Quisaz, quisaz, quisaz as Nat King Cole sang

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Fashion, fashion, fashion

Photographer: Natalia Lipchanskaya
Fashion is on my mind at the moment. In different ways. I did a fashion show in aid of Victim Support fairly recently and I loved it, even though the venue was not glamorous. It had been organised by Models of Diversity and meeting their spokesperson, model Bonnie Bee (Bonnie Locke), a bubbly, highly articulate, young woman, was the highlight of the evening for me. We hit it off straightaway. We talked and laughed and we will be brainstorming together for the next show -all in due course.
Fashion is also on my mind because I was having a late afternoon snack at a local café where they were playing, to my surprise, the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show on a large TV screen, for the entertainment of the customers. I watched in amazement, I had never seen such kitsch before. The Victoria's Secret Angels were beautiful and surely, a carbon copy of each other. I have seen them before on the catwalk, I am talking of Miranda Kerr, Alessandra Ambrosio and co.  But this show was so kitsch it made them look like Barbie dolls. It was all about stereotypes, the girls throwing kisses at the audience and posing sexily. It was interesting to watch the reaction of the customers. A pretty girl sitting with two young men, one of whom was obviously her boyfriend, when one of them said that the models were not skinny, began to explain  they were 'lingerie models, a bit more curvy' and then felt a little uncomfortable about the men ogling the girls on the screen, so she asked for a different table, making an excuse, while saying to the guy who was not her boyfriend that he could watch the show in the mirror hanging opposite their new table, which reflected the large TV monitor.
The waiter thought I was quite weird because I forgot to look at the menu and order, so engrossed I was in the show, he had to come and remind me a couple of times.
And now I am thinking of fashion, generally, and why it has such an allure. Alison Bancroft, author of Fashion and Psychoanalysis, defines fashion as being  "primarily concerned with innovation in the surface decoration of the body, and the wider social and cultural responses to this innovation. More importantly, it is the wearer, and the act of wearing, that are central to fashion. Fashion is not a collection of singular items. A garment is not an independent, fully formed object that is superimposed on the blank canvas of a woman’s body. On the contrary, fashion comes into being only when it is in the process of being worn. When it is not being worn, it is something else – a product to be sold, a museum piece, or even laundry"
Fashion is activated by the body, in other words.
Lastly, fashion is on my mind because of the recent furore over Numero magazine and its use of white model with bronzed skin in a spread entitled African Queen.

Photographer: Sebastian Kim. Model : Ondria Hardin
I feel most ambivalent about it. Whilst having a white person impersonate a black one is reminiscent of the Minstrels Show, nevertheless the idea of race bending does appeal to me. Was it really wrong of Numero to cast their model as African Queen? The photographer Sebastian Kim is not white. Does this make it any better?

(All photographs apart from the last one are modelled by Alex B)