Usually the domain of celebrity weeklies profiteering off our not-so-admirable fondness for seeing our fellow (pretty) woman at her pimply/wrinkly/sans-Photoshop worst, French ELLE has brought refinement to the hackneyed editorial tradition of 'stars without makeup'.
French ELLE editor Valérie Toranian has given us Eva Herzigova, Monica Bellucci and Sophie Marceau sans makeup and retouching, as captured by Peter Lindbergh's lens (let's lay aside the forgiving lighting and 'they had beautiful faces to start with' arguments for a lovely moment).
Sure, companies like Dove successfully latched onto the appeal of 'real beauty' a while ago, and the glossies have dabbled in women-without-makeup features, but until now we've yet to see the concept manifest itself on an actual magazine cover (Jennifer Hawkins almost went makeup free for Marie Claire). Perhaps because said glossy covers are often funded by the likes of L'Oreal and Estee Lauder? Or maybe we actually like to look at artificial celebrities who resemble plastic dolls?
Anyway, at a time when most magazines are running 'safe' covers, cocooned in the all-too-familiar airbrushed world of celebrity and the more well-known models (e.g. Daria for UK Vogue; Gisele for Vanity Fair), French ELLE, I believe, represents the feminine Zeitgeist personified. In short: we want to cut the crap. Get back to basics. Return to something real.
Speaking to demographer Bernard Salt last week, I asked how our return to "traditional values" and the domestic arts, in the wake of the economic crisis, might reflect in the media and the glossy-sphere. It's more than about frugal living, he suggested, citing the now-hackneyed term "frugal chic"; it's about moral living. Therefore, we're more likely to eschew anything that seems overtly garish in such times (see: Paris Hilton) or completely unrelatable, and flock towards the authentic and meaningful. Meaningful magazine covers - how 'bout that?!
"There’s a shift from the excesses of celebrity culture," he said. "Paris Hilton is a product that evolved with the boom. She symbolized all the excesses of the boom: slim, blonde, ostensibly a bimbo, obsessed with the here and now and living for the moment. Paris’ star may fade during the recession because she symbolizes all the frivolity and emptiness of rampant consumerism. She’s the wrong product for the time."
Replacing the likes of Paris, perhaps, will be the more down-to-earth Hollywood beauties (Angelina Jolie, Cameron Diaz, arguably Jennifer Aniston), power-women (Michelle Obama) and stars or 'It girls' with something more to give than a new film release or fashion line (though one can hardly argue with the enduring, trend-defying power of Kate Moss, and Victoria Beckham was U.S. ELLE's best seller in 2008 – the affable Beckham clearly has an every-girl appeal).
Botox confessions appear to be on the rise, while the suspiciously wrinkle-free Nicole Kidman remains out of favour, and the gossip weeklies will be struggling to maintain relevance in an environment that demands credibility and accountability. The old "magazines are for escapism" theory might still ring true, but mags like French ELLE, which appeal to our desire for authenticity (also reflected in our predilection for the 'real people' of street-style blogs), will get the collective female seal of approval... until the Zeitgeist shifts again.
Girl With a Satchel
French ELLE Pics: Fashionologie.com
Posted by Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) at Monday, April 13, 2009