Maybe it's a reaction to all those see-through frocks that didn't sell or to seven years of the Coy Girl from Croydon, but fey, cute-but- dim girls have had their day. In every glossy magazine and newspaper this month, power suits and stilettoes are back - and who better to wear them than The Vamp. The girl who personifies the new man-eater is Karen Elson, Mancunian pie-eater, Chanel muse and the hottest model in a decade.
The 18-year-old from Oldham was discovered by Manchester agency Boss when she was 15, brought to London by Models One at 16 and, on her 18th birthday, photographed by fashion Svengali Steven Meisel in new hair and make-up - a severe fire-red bob, a micro-fringe and no eyebrows.
By March she was the face of Chanel - a contract which reputedly made her pounds 100,000 richer - and consequently of Moschino, Sui Anna Sui, Christian Lacroix Bazaar & Jeans labels and Versace Couture. In August, you couldn't turn a page or pass a billboard without seeing her pouting for Versace or smouldering for Chanel. Her "come have a go if you think you're hard enough" stare made her the embodiment of the new swagger, a far cry from Kate Moss's frontal-lobotomy chic.
The Autumn/Winter 1997-98 catwalk shows were all spiked heels and angles, and Elson stole the scenes at Versace, Givenchy, Dior, Chanel and Lacroix. She cleaned up in advertising and popped up in a 12-page shoot for Vogue, towering over co-star Iris Palmer like an Amazon. She has a list of editorial commitments as long as her arm, including a forthcoming shoot with Ellen Von Unworth for US Vogue.
So, why does Elson embody the New Vamp look? Karl Lagerfeld, who photographed Elson for the Chanel campaign, described her in the Times as a mixture of "someone from the Middle Ages and a mutant from another planet... She has this very rare gift that makes a great model. It's beyond beauty and style. She has a fresh approach to life and photography."
"She's has a hugely strong character," says Hetta Scherman, MD-designate for Models One. "She looks strong and she challenges the camera. Karen's no simpering beauty and she's not fazed by anybody." Elson left school at 15 with nine good GCSEs. With brains and Northern attitude, she's not the kind of girl to be intimidated by the fashion industry.
Elson's look has delighted fashion editors from Vogue to Company, because for once there is a strong theme running through the collections that is easy to interpret. The Vamp, Go Get It Girl, call her what you like, it all involves suits, shoulder pads, micro skirts and stilettoes. But, it's a mixed blessing to those editors who remember the Eighties first time around.
Susannah Frankel tried out shoulder pads in Elle and rediscovered that she liked them but they didn't like her. Liz Tilberis, editor of Harper's Bazaar, was nervous of the Eighties revival and claimed that the new suit doesn't bear "much relation to the cliched silhouette of the power suit of ten years ago", even though the magazine reported that NY thrift shops are selling out of vintage Montana and Mugler.
Tatler advised us to "retrieve from the attic those Eighties power suits", while its models and minor celebs looked miserable rather than moody in the new suits. But uberbimbo Dannii Minogue popped up modelling the New Vamp but even shoulder pads couldn't stop her looking vapid. In Harpers & Queen, The Vamp was blonde and smiling contently in a spread called "control chic" (swiftly followed by a stiletto still-life called "absolute power". Phew!).
In Harper's Bazaar, Amber Valetta and Stella Tennant both posed pensively in shoulder pads and draped themselves around various Manhattan high-rise offices. Vogue, however, let Janet Street-Porter - who didn't have any style in the Eighties, let alone the Nineties - loose on the suit, cataloguing all the good two-pieces she had known. Strangely, this took more than one sentence. Naughty Vogue also gave The Vamp an S&M twist with PVC knickers and corsets, while i-D went back to the Eighties via Bladerunner.
A rather terrifying creature modelled leather and latex for the Sunday Times Style. In the Times, an Executive Blonde was photographed in pinstripe suits and ES Magazine added inch-long nails to the New Vamp's arsenal.
The fulcrum for the New Vamp was Gucci's show, which embodied everything that was sex in the Eighties, especially the stiletto. The steel-heeled pounds 230 totterers were everywhere. "Within 24 hours of their arrival in Milan," said Harpers & Queen, "the world's fashion editors, having witnessed the staggering heels at the Versace and Gucci catwalk shows, had acquired every pair of heels at Sergio Rossi and were learning to walk again." "At Gucci, Tom Ford sharpened his sheers and went for the kill," said Cosmo. Indeed he did, and if anyone can walk in them, Karen Elson can.
+ Who Shot
l Profiles: The Times Saturday Magazine went for Collette Dinnigin, Aussie feminine designer (like Stella McCartney with talent); Zandra Rhodes' garden cropped up in The Times, as did Alberta Ferretti's home in the Sunday Telegraph Magazine; Pearce Fionda were in the Independent on Sunday Review, Guess Jeans in Vogue, and Aquascutum, once Maggie Thatcher's fave, in the Evening Standard
l Cover girls: Demi Moore was shot by Patrick Demarchelier for Harper's Bazaar; Helena Christensen revealed her bosoms for a lucky few on the cover of Dazed & Confused (you had to scratch off the silver bit, lottery style); Shakira Caine covered Harpers & Queen; Liz Hurley appeared in Tatler in a full-length fold-out; and Kylie proved once again she was too cool for Dannii with an i-D cover.
l Suits were strong for boys in Arena, in a Kraftwerk kind of a way. "Goodbye to glam", it said. Ah well, sometimes girls have all the luck.
l Not a label in sight. Vogue went vintage eclectic with Karen Elson and Iris Palmer doing the Cheap Date thang in pounds 2,000 outfits; Sky mixed sequins with sheepskin; Harper's Bazaar put sweaters with everything else; and the Independent on Sunday Review devoted a double-page spread to no-label sportswear.
l The return of the mini: school-girl minis and knee-length socks in Cosmopolitan and the Independent on Sunday Review; Vogue wondered how short you can go, and offered a helpful chart for everyone from 20 ("up and away") to 59 ("the long drop"); the Evening Standard predicted that micro-minis would be the smash hit on the high street this winter.
l The Daftest Item of Clothing Award goes to Helmut Lang, as featured in Vogue. A 6in strip of pink netting you wear across your chest costs pounds 145. There's one born every minute.
l Shine On! Tatler has positively encouraged Tara Palmer-Tomkinson's flamboyant streak by shoving her in spangly Versace. The Daily Telegraph and the Times predicted metallic tones for wintry days.
l Rebirth of the rock chick (again): Cosmo ran a fashion profile on Eternal in leather and leopard-skin (can you be a Christian rock chic?), Marie Claire gave us the Patti Smith treatment; and Vogue rolled out Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde (above) as perennial influences.
l Shock! Horror! The Daily Express exposed the "make them wear brown" fashion scandal. Apparently, designers made us all rush out and buy tan, for us only to find it is now the negative equity of fashion. Now, you can't even get rid of last season's caramels in Dress For Less shops. Will we never learn?
+ Oxygen +
"I said something like: 'What must it be like inside Galliano's head?' to which Gideon replied: 'I don't know, but I'd like to live there.'"
Sally Brampton on post-show trauma with film director Gideon Koppel, Elle
"You know what they say - big logo, small genitals."
Minx magazine on cK fakes
"When you have to get up, get a couple of children to school and yourself to work on time every day, you get pretty annoyed if fashion throws yet more complications your way."
Liz Tilberis, editor of Harper's Bazaar
"This September I start a nationwide promotional tour for my new novel, and I certainly can't go out looking like Margaret Thatcher."
Edwina Currie in a letter to Vogue, prompting this month's make-over
"What more could you ask for than some big pores, with a light sprinkling of hair, just a hint of cellulite and the odd freckle?"
Reader's letter on August's warts 'n' all skin shoot, The Face
+ Miss Of The
The back pages of Hello! are a delightful oasis of bad taste in a parched autumn fashion scene.
Last week we were treated to the lovely Normandie Keith wearing Gai Mattilo's tutti-frutti embroidery, and this week it is none other than the striking Sheryl Gazza (above) sporting frocks by the "Brunnhilde" of the Cheyne Walk fashion set, Isabell Kristensen.
Sheryl Gazza's vacant gaze and sickly smile is interpreted as "striking looks and a natural gift for modelling", while Isabell's lime-green, feathered frocks and fuchsia, ruched creations are described as being "fabulously feminine creations."
Barbie, you are not a doll, you are a real person.
In a summer dominated by flowers, Laura Ashley should have bloomed. Instead, fears are mounting that some of its six British factories will close as share prices have fallen from 219p to 61p in less than a year. A too-swift US expansion plan has been mainly blamed for the slump.
(Sources: Telegraph, Sunday Times)
John Idol, ex-financial whizz-kid for Polo Ralph Lauren, is the new chief executive officer at the troubled Donna Karan International, which manufactures Donna Karan New York and DKNY lines. It is believed that Karan spread herself too thinly by insisting that diffusion ranges be developed in-house rather than licensing them out. The company forecasts a loss of $12 million for the year.
(Sources: Guardian, Evening Standard)
Tesco began selling Adidas clothing and footwear at 200 stores 40 per cent cheaper than in traditional sports shops. It predicts that pounds 2 million worth of products will be snapped up in two weeks. Adidas refuses to supply Tesco, so the supermarket is going direct to a supplier in North America. The Tesco move has been backed by consumer affairs minister Nigel Griffiths.
(Sources: Independent, Guardian)
Harvey Nichols owner Dickson Poon is said to be considering moving the London store's chief executive, Joseph Wan, to Barney's in New York. Poon's bid for 51 per cent of the New York store will allow Barney's to regain its financial footing 20 months after it became bankrupt.
Smoking + Catwalks + Smoking + Catwalks + Smoking + Catwalks +
Smoking jackets might be happily back in fashion but the habit itself is a different matter. On 4 August, the Telegraph, the Independent, the Guardian and the Daily Mail reported the Health and Education Council's survey which blamed men's mags and style titles for popularising smoking among young people.
The main concern was that smoking is only on the increase with young people. "While smoking is on the decrease across England," said the Daily Mail, "...those aged 16 to 24 are taking up the habit with alarming speed - with one in three smoking. Young women smokers have increased by more than five per cent in the two years from 1996."
Apparently, it is the supermodels wot dunnit. "Young women, in particular," reported the Independent, "acknowledged in the survey that they are influenced by glossy fashion photographs featuring cigarettes... Lots of models smoking at parties were found to be "very influential" for young people." The Guardian agreed. "The authority asked for the views of around 150 young people, aged 13 to 24, and found that glossy photography of models with cigarettes was influential."
Health secretary Frank Dobson joined in by condemning models who smoke cigarettes on the catwalk as "disgusting", saying in the Daily Telegraph, "Fashion models also deserve some of the blame." Claudia Schiffer (right) came under scrutiny for posing with a cigarette on the catwalk even though she doesn't smoke. "I am aware that some of the girls' role models are only smoking when they are on the catwalk," said a huffing and puffing Dobson in the Evening Standard. "They are not doing it with consenting adults in private [is smoking the new S&M?] but are only doing it in public and I think that is really awful." The fact that non-smoking models are a rare breed seems to have escaped the minister.
What was strange was the lack of comment by the fashion press. Maybe it's because they are just as prone to a Silk Cut as the catwalk queens.
+ Bits 'n' Bobs + Bits 'n' Bobs + Bits 'n' Bobs + Bits 'n' Bobs + Bits 'n' Bobs +
It was a month for grandiose ad campaigns. According to the Independent, Vivienne Westwood OBE drew inspiration from the great masters for her forthcoming campaign. A pic of Jerry Hall and Westwood's son Ben called "The Queen And Her Punk" is a pastiche of Van Dyck's "Henrietta Maria And Her Dwarf".
Meanwhile, the Sunday Times Style ran an exclusive preview of Givenchy's ad campaign shot by Richard Avedon and styled by Katy England. Among other tableaux, it featured muse Honor Fraser staring into a smoking Givenchy bag. Spooky!
Hello!, that paragon of celebrity gossip, revealed that Kate Moss has landed a pounds 500,000 contract as a "leading lady" in a futuristic drama called Woundings. It also reported that super-twiglet Jodie Kidd is returning to IMG Models. Her manager Jonathan Phang, who quit the company two years ago, is returning to the agency and taking the Kidd with him.
The Telegraph wrote that athletes have taken over models in promoting sportswear, citing Jamie Redknapp for Top Man, David Seaman for Debenhams and Linford Christie for Kangol as examples.
According to a Marie Claire survey, 90 per cent of British adults won't wear fur despite it becoming fashionable again. Eighty per cent want a ban on trapping wild animals for their fur and 66 per cent want farming animals for their fur banned.
Elle "The Body" Macpherson (left), is expecting a baby, said the Independent, and the happy father is 35-year-old Swiss financier Arpad "Arkie" Busson.
Just six weeks after Gianni's death, there is already talk of film rights. The Sunday Telegraph reported that Warner Brothers has already approached a number of stars to play Versace and his killer, while ABC, the US television station, wants to make a film for the small screen. And who's up for what? Apparently, Madonna for Donnatella, Patrick Stewart for Versace and Robert Downey Jr as Andrew Cunanan.Reuse content