Monday, October 10, 2011

on the changing nature of street style




I liked Lara Stone in Holland, but I love Kim Noorda in London from the Fall 2011 issue of Tank Magazine. I'm all about prop-heavy styling so the jar of apple-flavoured boiled sweets and tempting bookshop shelves are appreciated additions to Kim's day of wandering. 

It's also nice to see Viktor Vauthier's photography featured in a fashion magazine, I much prefer his professional work to his personal, ironically it seems feels more relaxed, maybe because I always consider how his personal photos probably involve just as much planning, so that although they are 'off the cuff' they actually feel more contrived.  When leafing through a magazine editorial there is a suspension of disbelief; you know that the clothes featured will have been painstakingly called in and steamed and ideas will have been scrapped, advertisers consulted and you know too that the model is essentially acting. Street style and personal photography blogs however are more real, usually disconnected from commercial incentive and their success lies in the honesty that they project. While I once loved personal photography sites like (the now defunct) The Skullset, or even more recently Viktor Vauthier, because they felt real, these days as with street style blogs the boundaries are more blurred. I find that sense of 'ad-hoc' photography, as something that counters the glossiness and exclusivity that once defined mainstream fashion publications harder to find because the two styles have themselves blended. Anna Della Russo dresses up to be photographed just as street style photographers are commissioned to shoot campaigns and editorials. And this merging is okay, in fact it's exciting (the Anna Della Russo part not so much, that makes me feel uncomfortable) but I feel like there needs to be more honesty about the photographs. This Viktor Vauthier editorial in Tank Magazine works for me because I know it's a commercial piece of work but sites like The Sartorialist, Garance Dore or The Facehunter aren't as believable to me anymore, particularly when the photographers plan to meet subjects in order to photograph them. 

For me it's also about always seeing the same faces on the sites, so that person becomes defined as a clothes horse rather than style being just another facet of subject. But arguably this then turns into a debate about the changing nature of street style photography; who is the subject of street style and should well dressed Fashion Editors be excluded just because they have become familiar after previous documenting? It's an internal debate that always resurfaces around the time of Fashion Week as that is when the current contrived nature of street style is at it's most apparent to me and it becomes a thread of conversation between those attending. That street style photography encourages a more entrenched 'parade' mentality isn't anything particularly new but it does feel like a backlash is in swing, both from those tired of being involved and those who, like me, want more from sites which seem preoccupied with snapping subjects for the 'it' status of their clothes. Of course capturing the zeitgeist is of great importance to many street style photographers, but it can mean that their sites become less about showcasing true flair and more about 'grabbing that lady over there to photograph her Prada brogues' as if she is part of a universal club regardless of what the rest of her outfit is like. 

I find myself thinking about the nature of street style photography a lot and for me it says a lot about our approach to the way in which we consume fashion because it is very easy for the 'real style' bracket that encompasses street style it to become just as 'fantasy' orientated as magazines. Is there a difference between seeing that glorious Balenciaga dog sweater in an editorial or snapped on the street? I think I'd be more inclined to buy it if I saw it on someone 'real' but at the same time, I don't want to read street style blogs so that I can leave myself lusting after the same items featured in magazines. I read street style blogs because I want to be inspired by the clothes people wear without it going hand in hand with the notion of 'needing more stuff'. It also continues to surprise me that considering the wealth of blogs and sites across the internet, genuinely satisfying street style blogs are lacking. And the title 'Street Style' is itself increasingly confusing, because some of my favourite go-to sites like Turned Out or Closet Visit involve pre-planned shoots with subjects and therefore lumping all sites that showcase style under the one umbrella title feels too broad.

Though it's a topic that regularly pops up in my brain for mulling over, it's not something I've come to any concrete or even coherent conclusions about, just as with the nature of street style itself, it is constantly changing.

13 comments:

SymbioticLife said...

Hmmmm. You've got me mulling it over as well now. You brought up some really interesting points...yeah, you've got my brain cooking and I haven't had my morning coffee yet. This could be dangerous. Let us know if you reach any conclusions of the moment.

lauraa said...

"I read street style blogs because I want to be inspired by the clothes people wear without it going hand in hand with the notion of 'needing more stuff'."
Yes yes yes! This post is really good. I love how you write and how you reason out your arguments. And here, I completely agree! I feel the same about blogging. So many feel like adverts and almost competitive in their attempts to show yet more things that they have bought, rather than about the inspiration and creativity I want to take from them. Commercialisation is just so all-pervasive.
xxx

Jessica said...

Interesting post, thanks. Have you read Dick Hebdige, Subculture: the meaning of style? It's mostly about Punks and Mods, but his main theory has become universally applicable, that any subculture, which is threatening to the mainstream is assimilated by the mainstream thus neutralising it and removing the threat. This seems to fit the trend you describe in street style being picked up by established designers, photographers and editors and assimilated into their mainstream practice, which removes any threat it may have posed to their hegemony...
It's interesting to think about anyway.
Great blog

Jane said...

Some very interesting points here. i started my blog because I was sick of Liverpool and Liverpool style being solely portrayed as WAG. Real style is on the streets where it evolves from creativity rather than buying it off the shelf. Yes I love looking at fashion shows and editorials because I love clothes, but style comes fromt he streets.

Send A Raven said...

as a new blogger wanting to photograph what I think are genuine 'real' stylish people, rather than set up fashion shoots I found your article highly interesting and I will take some of your points on board. Please check out my blog and your feedback would be very welcome
peter
www.sendaraven.blogspot.com

blue roses said...

i totally agree, the term "street style" is not monolithic and ubiquitous to describe all these new venues for fashion. they are so varied in their production and their ultimate agenda, or goal.

it can be frustrating, watching the evolution.

on another note, it is editorials like these that have convinced me that doing away with eye brow grooming is totally the way to go.....

Duck said...

The only reason I ever look at sites like The Sartorialist or The Facehunter is because I want to find photos of my friends or people I know. I'd never look at them for inspiration based on "real people" - Scott and Yvan know who everybody is, sometimes pre-arrange their shoots, and half the girls they use are professional models! I really don't think they make this clear on their blogs either.

Kb said...

Interesting post, I've seen a lot of posts and articles popping up about the authenticity of street style.

http://nymag.com/daily/fashion/2011/09/street_style_rules.html

http://fashionista.com/2011/09/how-im-making-it-street-style-photographer-mr-newton/2/

Although I still find them inspiring, it is frustrating that they pander to the typical things seen in magazines (the latest designer heels, skinny 6 feet models) though this is ultimately what can make them money. After reading that interview with the Satorialist I feel disenchanted somehow.

Mara said...

Really great post, and I totally agree with you about the street style blogs, and I also rather like Vauthier's fashion editorials, though he has some awesome personal pics. Kim looks truly adorable in these pics, and the Lara Stone's editorial with her parents that you posted a few days ago was a favorite of mine too.

kisses!

Kat said...

Excellent post Stevie - you've got me seriously thinking. I agree wholeheartedly with what you're saying about the blurring of the boundaries between fashion shoots and street style blogs, and could not agree more about the rampant 'it' obsession across street style blogs. Indeed, in away that is at odds with what 'street style' is supposed to represent... consider what street style would have meant back in the 80s/90s..something much grittier and far less shiny/polished..

That editorial is yum though. I was in London over the weekend and saw that copy of Tank magazine at the Tate and was so close to buying (Tank is definitely not availabe in Cork where I live!). Kicking myself now!

Lia said...

very interesting. you make great points that some of the comments above have mentioned. maybe these changes in 'street style' blogs (ie. becoming too much like magazines) will hurt them in the end since magazines are already serving this purpose. people crave accessibility. if ya wanna see street style get out on the street. if the street style sites are no longer providing it, then people will have to go out and see it ourselves. the inspiration is still out there, outside.

disneyrollergirl said...

Oh man that Tank shoot is just fab! I preferred 'street style' when it was more incidental, grabbed shots on the go and not so stylised. But I guess everything needs to evolve.

Daniel said...

Very true and insightful.