Saturday, 23 February 2008

I Swore I Wasn't Going to Do This But....

Here's an email I received from a reader of the International Herald Tribune, when I said Think! was over.

A couple of comments I'd like to make after reading this blog.

First of all thank you. The IHT deserved an independent blog and thanks to its ex-insider-publisher it-at least for a while-had one. It offered some insight into an uncategorizable and supranational newspaper that is all too rarely analyzed. To keep our beloved IHT on its toes and to help guarantee a bright future to a paper that has already had such an extraordinary past, critical analysis is essential.

My second point is a topic that came up a few times in your posts. Like many other readers, I do not consider myself part of the class of people the IHT has tried to market itself to lately. I understand that business readers are advertisers' target audience, but denying the existence of a core readership of non-CEO workers, diplomats, journalists, teachers, students, humanitarian workers, etc is wrong. Most of the people I know who read the IHT do so because it is the only socially-conscious globally-available international daily, however they dont make enough money to buy the kind of products advertised in its pages. I know I cant really afford the paper either but subscribe nevertheless because I too believe in the values you have described. I believe in paying for quality journalism, a centerpiece of democracy.

Now, that all said, here's an open letter I sent to Mike Oreskes at the International Herald Tribune about this month's editon of T magazine.

To: Mike Oreskes

From: Ian Walthew

Date: 23 February, 2008

Subject: T Magazine


Dear Mike,

I know fashion and style are needed to pay the bills, but this month's T magazine is the product of some strange subset of the NYT in Manhattan, and offers no resonance with most (existing) IHTs reader I can think of, aside from the fashionistas.

The letter from the publisher included said:

T is a useful and sophisticated instrument for navigating our visually obsessed planet, culling what is new and worthwhile...

Alice Rawsthorn wrote that there's a school 'that likes to believe changes in fashion reflect broader shifts in society, geopolitics, the arts, the economy and so on.'

There is no way that the publisher's statement can stand up to any close textual or visual analysis of the Naked Ambition edition of T.

Equally, when an issue of an IHT magazine devoted to fashion should and could differentiate itself from all over fashion glossies and show how fashion is indeed reflecting shifts in the bread and butter of the IHT's daily work - society, geopolitics, the arts, the economy and so on - T conspicuously fails to even try and do this.

My wife was reading it in bed this morning and asked me whom amongst the IHT's readers (beyond the fashion crowd) the IHT thought would be interested in receiving this magazine with this conventional approach to fashion reporting.

My sense is that this isn't an IHT magazine when it needs to be.

I would recommend taking the IHT's name off the cover and offering it to IHT readers as the product of the NYT (style team), or the IHT taking charge of the content.

Below are some quotes that caught my eye. It's the approach I take issue with, not a magazine dedicated to fashion: it's the writing, it's the content and it's all very not-IHT.

How does the content in anyway fit with the IHT's daily coverage for a socially aware, globally engaged audience, (and yes, even wealthy) with reports ranging from the subjects of sex slavery to personal carbon footprints from travel (I'm glad Alexi Worth went all the way to Tokyo - how he profited from the experience personally and professionally).

CONTRIBUTORS: ALEXI WORTH"Her (Japanese artist Yoyoi Kusama) airmail-sticker collages moved me because they spoke to Kusama'a special connection to the feeling of being in exile," he says. Although it was his first visit to Japan, Worth, a native New Yorker, didn't get too homesick. "I spent the majority of the time with my computer, talking to dealers and riding the subway," he says. "So it really wasn't that different from my life back home."

KUSAMA DOTCOM: Is she mad or merely cunning? While the art world debates, Yayoi Kusama climbs back on top. By Alexi Worth.

After Akari [the photographer] left, we sat back down at her conference table. I told her it seemed odd to me that a woman whose art was so often comic, and even outrageously funny, should smile so seldom."I don't know what you are talking about," she answered. There was no anger in her voice, but she whispered something further in Japanese to an assistant. The assistant leaned over to me:that was it. The interview was over.


Innocence, Yin and Yang, Scents of History, Liberty Belles, Power Vibes, Shades of Gres.(Picture: Soft focus: A detail from David Hamilton's 1971 photograph "The Shell Seekers" captures the season's gauzy sensuality.)


Of course the idealized vision of the incorruptible girl-woman, which has been sampled add nauseam throughout the years, should surprise no one.And isn't innocence the ultimate fleeting moment - in other words, catnip for an industry perennially in search of the, well, moment?Needless to say, transgressive designers are most likely drawn to virtue because of the possibility of its being defiled. After all, even those most above suspicion can turn out to be as sweet as sour milk.

Innocent but carnal - how very this season.

The model Liya Kebede has made great strides for racial diversity in fashion. Now, she's starting Lemlem, a mostly hand-woven line of children's clothes made in Africa, in the hope that a younger crowd will embrace her multi-culti ideas.
The outfits have an Ethiopian vibe with a New World ease. Finicky tots will approve.

THE FLAPPER DOESN'T CHANGE HER SPOTS: What Lindsey Lohan can learn from a 1920's 'IT' girl.
Sally Phipps played a new kind of heroine who flirted with morality while dressed to the nines.

Photographs by MARK SEGAL
[P.74 Picture of a flat chested, heavily made up model dressed in lingerie, shot in soft-focus David Hamilton style. The model appears to be about the age of Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver.]

SCENT NOTES (Chandler Burr)
Purple Patouchli, one of Tom Ford's Private Blends created by David Apel, is a different gloss on the art-house scent. Apel and Ford have refined and enlarged the patchouli scent track of a 1968 acid trip into something marvelous: Jimi Hendrix in a Tom Ford suit. This perfume is sweat and animal wildness, at the volume of a concert amp, swathed in a $4,000 handmade European-cut worsted suit, Italian 42 long.

THE GET: Mirror Image
Calling all narcissists: now you can check yourself out in your shoe. This mirrored platform is by Roger Vivier.


One of her (Lane Crawford's Sarah Rutson) favorite accessories is invisible. Yu, a limited-edition perfume from Mane, costs $5,000 and "contains rare, sustainably harvested plant essences like Indonesian champak and Mysore sandalwood."

Photographs by MATTHIAS VRIENS
LH: In your new film, "Sleepwalking", you not only star but you also produce. Was that difficult?
CT: People forget that I produced "Monster" [the 2003 film for which Theron won an Oscar...]

(Would this question have been asked if the star was a man?)

In her library, with its Andy Warhols and Keith Harings, Holzer mixed vintage chairs by Jacques Adnet and Marco Zanuso with a sofa from Macy's. One thing Holzer is not is a snob.

All this said, from a business perspective T is the way forward for the IHT. Perhaps more on that another time.

Kind regards,

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