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

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
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.

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness