Fashion: When glamour hits the web

Fashion websites are nothing new - there are plenty of them around. But they've lacked creativity and style. Until now. By Susannah Frankel

IT'S NOT news that fashion has arrived on the Internet. From to (the site owned by the mighty Arcadia Group - owners of Top Shop and Warehouse, among others - and Associated Newspapers), should a girl, or boy for that matter, wish to view, then snap up, a garment all from the safety of their own home, and at just the click of a few buttons, the world is her oyster. Similarly, should anyone wish to view the forthcoming international spring/summer collections without having to wait for the glossies to come out with their catwalk reports at the beginning of next year (there's the great waiting-list debacle to contend with, after all), all they need do is click on, American Vogue's Internet showcase, where every outfit, from each and every designer's show, is online.

From a retail and research point of view, then, the Internet is coming on in leaps and bounds. What is not quite so impressive is the way that these sites actually look. The Internet as a medium is not nearly as visually pleasing as the increasingly sophisticated pages of fashion magazines, not to mention designer ad campaigns, and the brains behind the aforementioned sites have broken little ground where this is concerned. Enter Peter Saville and Nick Knight - big-name British graphic designer/art director and photographer respectively, and two of the most visually literate minds of the past 20 years - and their new site,, and you have a very different story.

"The Internet is the most quickly expanding medium in the world," Knight says, "but part of the problem with the web is that it looks so ugly. It's one of the ugliest mediums ever, because you get this window in the middle of your desktop area, and you have all your desktop items all over it, everything overlaps. It's like me trying to show you a nice picture, and it's the size of a Snappy Snap print, and I put it on a copy of the Yellow Pages, or the Radio Times, so it looks a mess. Most of the stuff printed and shown isn't designed to be shown on the Net. You're dealing with different chemical reactions. The colours work differently. In some ways, you're developing a whole new medium."

This is precisely what aims to do. The site will include short films, shot specifically for the Internet, musical accompaniments, pulsed images, as well as stills. Knight is setting up Net cams in his studio so those who care about such things will be given behind-the-scenes access to some of the most high-profile models, stylists and hair and make-up artists in the world, working live with the photographer from his studio.

"The Internet is a very democratic medium. It occurs to me that I would have loved to have been there when Richard Avedon was shooting Dovima and the Elephants. All those great pictures that you see as one moment in time and we try and read into them, see the painful process gone through to reach those images. Fashion photography is very glamorous, but when you go into a photographic session it actually doesn't have that much glamour to it. But there are odd moments."

It helps somewhat that to say Knight and Saville are well connected would be something of an understatement.

"I said to Nick, if we do this, it can't just be the Nick and Peter show," says Saville, "that would just be embarrassing. We should invite other people to contribute, so now it has evolved into a big, moving, group show."

Those who have already contributed to include Massive Attack, Kate Moss, Craig McDean, Corinne Day, David Chipperfield... the list goes on. The list of those involved with the site reads like a Who's Who of British fashion and culture, and it's barely started. The possibilities seem to be endless. So, given the visual restrictions of the medium, what exactly is the appeal?

"Often Vogue talk to me about photographing the modern urban woman, that's where they're aiming at," says Knight. "Well, the modern urban woman has breast cancer and is in a car crash. But that's not the modern urban woman I'm photographing for Vogue. There is a balance there that needs redressing. The site gives me somewhere where I can communicate those things. It isn't meant to shock. It's just a way of speaking, another visual communication - a bit like starting a magazine or a television channel."

Knight has long challenged the fashion establishment, safe in the knowledge that, if you are actually going to change anything, you're more likely to be able to do so from within. As well as shooting huge global commercial campaigns for the likes of Christian Dior and, more recently, Lancome, his more visually challenging work has recently included photographing models in their seventies and eighties, for a Levi's ad campaign, Sophie Dahl for i-D, and the equally curvaceous Sara Morrison for British Vogue.

The photographer was also behind the series of portraits of men and women with physical disabilities that appeared in Dazed & Confused, guest edited by Alexander McQueen. Given that all of these have sparked some of the most heated fashion discourse in the last decade, it's safe to say this man is willing to put his money where his mouth is.

Saville, equally, sees as an arena for expressing ideas that may not fit into the commercial mould. As someone who spent his formative years as a graphic designer/art director at Factory Records, working first with Joy Division then New Order, he feels he was "spoilt in many ways. I had complete freedom to do exactly what I wanted. There was no agenda."

His first experience working with Nick Knight was, to Nineties sensibilities, almost indulgently creative. In the mid-Eighties, while Saville was busy creating a new visual identity for the Whitechapel Gallery, then presided over by current Tate director, Nicholas Serota, he teamed up with Knight, art director Marc Ascoli, and fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto to produce collections catalogues that changed the face of fashion as we know it.

"The notion of a graphic design sensibility - the way a logo looked, the typography - being integral to photography had never really happened before," Saville says. The people he worked with at that time, he notes, were more like patrons than clients. Today, with only a handful of corporate giants handling both the fashion and music industries, both are bigger businesses than they were then. Commercial restraints are, therefore, greater.

"I don't think it's right to grab the first bit of commercial work that comes your way and make it fit your own agenda. Neither is the devaluation of a moral agenda for the purpose of promoting fashion consumerism acceptable. That leads me to I've always had things I wanted to do without the consideration of a client, things that weren't art but they were coming from the heart, if only from the part of the heart that goes shopping if you like."

It is precisely because neither Saville or Knight wanted to mould their ideas to suit any such commercial requirements that is entirely self-funded. Saville says: "We don't want investment because then there's no such thing as a free lunch. Our site isn't, it's not Nike or whatever, we're not selling clothes," Knight adds. "We haven't asked anyone for any money for the site. I didn't want to accept any money from anyone who will put a financial spin on it. I don't want us to have to meet an audience of 30,000 or 40,000 or whatever. If one person looks at one of the things on the site, then that's fine." is likely to have more of an impact than that, however. Early work put out on the site will include Diamonds - a short film by Knight in which Kate Moss, filmed through the window of a Manhattan skyscraper, relates the story of the diamond necklace given to her by Johnny Depp. Suffice to say, Depp did unspeakable things with the piece before handing it over. Then there's Doll Story, a shoot of a model made up by Knight's children, their young family and friends. "We laid down all this make- up and the children painted the model completely free of restraint," Knight says.

Sweet features stylist Jane How's favourite garments from the collections, remade out of sweet wrappers then filmed by Knight on a 3D scanner. But Saville's Waste Paintings will have pride of place on These are pieces created at the end of each commercial job, at which point the designer shreds any material and "turns it into something better, hopefully, make it like a Rothko". Knight's obsession with cars is in evidence in Crush. The photographer has placed cameras inside a car which has then gone on to be pulped - Massive Attack have produced the soundtrack.

There's a glorious creative freedom to the whole, not seen in this country or anywhere else for that matter, for many years. The only question it raises is whether Knight and Savillemight possibly be accused of biting the hand that feeds them.

"Good," says Knight. "It deserves to be bitten."

Saville says: "The Internet is possibly the most egalitarian means of communication. A kid can sit in his bedroom in Norway and play a guitar and people can hear it - he doesn't need a record company. A boy can write a book in India and he doesn't need a publisher. I said to Nick, if we had a home page we could just do all the things we want to do."

A visual treat's in store, then, for the humble likes of you and me. launches in mid-January

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones