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 boo.com to zoom.co.uk (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 vogue.com, 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, show.uk.com, 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 show.uk.com 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 show.uk.com 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 show.uk.com 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 show.uk.com. 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 show.uk.com 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 boo.com, 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."

show.uk.com 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 show.uk.com. 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.

show.uk.com launches in mid-January

Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
artVoted for by the public, artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried