Marc Jacobs:’ I have the word Shameless tattooed on my chest’

The recognise designers return to New York has been triumphant. Here he talks about sobriety, social media and how clothes help articulate our feelings

You can ask me anything. Im an open book. What do you want to know?

That, right there, is who Marc Jacobs is. Perhaps he doesnt entail it quite literally what smart-alecky, self-respecting 52 -year-old is going to share his deepest secrets with a journalist he scarcely knows? but the sentiment is heartfelt , no doubt about that. I Want Your Love, Chics 1979 disco classic, is playing in its term of office, seven floors above Spring Street in New Yorks SoHo. Jacobs illuminates a cigarette and leans back in his chair. I have the word Shameless tattooed on my chest. I want to be as honest as I perhaps can, he says. I sleep better at night.

Marc Jacobs constructed his first appearance in American Vogue in 1986, sporting long hair and an oversized black sweater in the back row of the working group shot of eight up-and-coming decorators. Thirty years later his name remains box office, with the clout to close New York way week. But this Marc Jacobs, on the other hand the joke-sharing, secret-spilling social media personality is newly minted in the two years since he finished an epic 16 -year stint at the helm of Louis Vuitton. He has climbed down from his Parisian ivory tower, resolved back into downtown New York and begun a restructuring of his label that puts Marc Jacobs, the man his face, his values, his sense of humour front and centre. And in doing so, he has rebooted his persona as one of the most compelling figures in the fashion industry.

Marc
Marc Jacobs for S/ S 16. Photograph: Edward James/ WireImage

Right. So what do I ask him? I want to ask about his spring/ summertime collection, conceived as a celebration of Americas legalisation of lesbian wedding. And about his casting of transgender director Lana Wachowski as a campaign model, and the process by which he is engaged, through way, with contemporary issues around gender. But I am also dying to be really nosy about what went down on his recent Caribbean holiday, the one from which he posted Zoolander tribute videos and amateur cabaret skits wearing polyester Santa costumes, and was rewarded for his jollity with snipey online noise about whether he was partying when he are due to be intend.( Jacobs did spells in rehab for alcohol and drug addiction in 1999 and 2007, before get sober .)

So, naturally, I ask him about the videos. That was a happy, healthy vacation after working really hard all year. It was actually hilarious, because one day were all at the table I was with Neil[ Barrett, fashion designer] and his boyfriend, and Dean and Dan[ Caten, decorators of Dsquared2] and their boyfriends, and they are all European, so they take the whole month of August off and theres this magazine article about Marc Jacobs never-ending vacation. And Im like, what? Ive had two weeks off this entire year!

Sober? Altogether. The previous year, I would have had maybe a glass of ros at lunch. But this Christmas I didnt drink at all. The notion for the first video came at about 11 am one morning. We had drunk grapefruit juice and doubled espressos, eat brioche and omelettes. We were having fun, which is what being on holiday is about, right? And dressing up, self-expression that is what style is all about. It has nothing to do with being drunk.

Portrait
If theres a great Prada coat that fits me, I dont care if its in the womens department. Photograph: Platon for the Guardian

As if to demonstrate his phase, the Marc Jacobs I meet is quite different from the one you see in the portrait, taken a couple of hours ago. I got up this morning and garmented for the photo. I believed, I want to wear a suit, I want to shave and trim, I want to mean business. And then I came into work and 10 minutes later I changed into this, which is what I work in every day. His office uniform is hi-low athleisure: Marc Jacobs sneakers, white towelling socks, lean Adidas tracksuit bottoms, a snug long-sleeved ribbed T-shirt he calls a thermal. It presents off a gym-honed body constructed, if not for sin any more, then certainly for selfies. The insanely good shape he is in for 52 surely corroborates a holiday fuelled by nothing more than coffee and omelette. He is refreshingly open about having had a little help with his youthful complexion his first-ever Instagram selfie was captioned No filter,( some filler )! but his healthy glow looks very real. Merely the salt-and-pepper stubble clues at his age, and it suits him.( I guess he knows this, because the silver flecks are on his face but not his head, so if he didnt like them he could lose the beard .) The one hangover from his misspent youth are the ever-present cigarettes, which he treats like a stage prop. When he is being intense, he presses the manicured fingers of his smoking hand to his forehead, smoke curling above his head, like Marlene Dietrich.

There is something of the character actor about Jacobs, a petite man with six-foot-four charisma. My relationship with manner has always been that each of us starrings in our own movies and costumes ourselves to play the part we want. You take blouses and jeans and garbs, and you put them together and they tell your story. This is especially potent for people who feel they dont fit in, or that the jeans or dress laid out for them doesnt reflect who they genuinely are. In October 2012, Lana Wachowski, director of the Matrix films, devoted an emotional and candid account of her transgender experience in an acceptance speech for the Human Rights Campaigns Visibility award, in which she spoke of feeling that I am broken, that there is something wrong with me, that I will never be lovable. The speech resonated with Jacobs, because, while I didnt have that particular experience I never had any kind of gender embarrassment I knew from a very early age that I was gay. And so at nine years old I felt like I was different from the other boys. I didnt want to play sports or roll in the mud eating worms, or whatever. I wanted to stimulate ceramics and embellish my jeans and go shopping for back-to-school clothes. My parents never, ever taught me that one skin colour was better than another or a particular sexual preference constructed me normal and yet when I was with the other kids, I only knew that I was different. That was hard. Thats where I had such a connection to what Lana was saying. Sandra Bernhard, Bette Midler and drag queen Dan Donigan also feature in this seasons campaign. Authentic, extraordinary human being who, at various days in my life, opened my mind, he says. And, you know, wouldnt it be wonderful if we could just all accept each others changes? He hurls his arms broad in a Broadway flourish, ever the performer.

Marc
Marc Jacobs for S/ S 16. Photograph: Edward James/ WireImage

Jacobs himself has always been broad-minded about gender in his wardrobe. He wore a kilt to jury responsibility in 2010 and a black lace dress to the Met Gala two years later. Lorenzo Martone, who I used to be engaged to be married to, used to pester me about wearing skirts. But I dont see how theres anything masculine or feminine about a piece of attire. If theres a great Prada coat that fits me, I dont care if its in the womens department. But things are changing. Lorenzo has evolved, so much, as every human being, that he would never say something like that now. Despite their split, Jacobs and Martone remain such good friends that Martone and his boyfriend, as well as Jacobs boyfriend, were part of the Caribbean holiday gang.

***

Jacobs early childhood was chaotic. After his father died when he was seven, his mother remarried several times in quick succession, uprooting the family each time before Jacobs determined emotional stability as a teenager, living with his grandmother on the Upper West Side. You get the impression he became worldly at an early age, even for a New Yorker. Last September, Jacobs closed New York style week with a love letter to his native city, an exuberant, Broadway-themed prove staged in the historic Ziegfeld theatre, entitled Marc Jacobs: One Night Only. It was part nostalgia and portion optimism, born out of the feeling of the June day last year when the supreme court ruled same-sex wedding to be a legal right across the US. We were all elated on that day. We were together for the first session about the collecting and in a very flip sort of style I said to the design team, we should do Americana, the red, white and blue. And we started talking about America, and about New York, and Katie[ Grand, Jacobs stylist and collaborator] told me about this documentary where Bette Midler, who is a musician I have loved since I was eight or nine, takes the journalist around all the places of her past in the city. And when I watched it, so much of it was my New York, the city I grew up with. So that became the starting point for the collection.

But how, I ask, does that translate into way? How do you get from the emotional power of the idea of New York City, to clothes in a store? Because theres a visual aspect to everything. And to me the visual proportion is the seductive part. Every colour, every publish, every embroidery in that collecting references some aspect of my life in New York over the past 40 years. The depict was a knockout, and its autobiographical spirit seemed to symbolise how Jacobs , no longer splitting his time between Marc Jacobs, a diffusion line and Louis Vuitton, was once more putting his heart and soul into Marc Jacobs.

Portrait
Dressing up, self-expression that is what fashion is all about. Photo: Platon for the Guardian

Jacobs is wearing Adidas striped tracksuit bottoms, the polyester kind, and a Cartier Juste un clou bangle, styled after a curving fingernail, which retails at 34,300. A healthy tension between low-fi and high-flying has been a topic since 1993, when the Grunge collection he designed for Perry Ellis, aged 30, won him the prestigious CFDA Womens Designer of the Year award, but also got him sacked. Many promising young way starrings, once knocked off course, are never seen again, but not Jacobs. Within a year he was back on the New York way week schedule with his own label, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell walking in the first reveal for free. In 1997, he was hired by Louis Vuitton, where he turned a luxury luggage company into a way powerhouse, while simultaneously expanding the Marc Jacobs empire with the launch of a Marc by Marc Jacobs diffusion line in 2001. In 2013 Jacobs left Louis Vuitton to concentrate on his own line, after which the Marc by Marc Jacobs line enjoyed a feted last hurrah under British designers Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier, and then shuttered. The signs are that the freshly streamlined Marc Jacobs company majority owned by LVMH, with Jacobs and longtime business partner Robert Duffy each retaining a stake is headed for a stock market launch.( In 2013, a timescale of three years was mooted, but no date has yet been set .) Duffy has stepped aside from CEO duties, replaced by Sebastian Suhl, fresh from overseeing a period of expansion at Givenchy, and today Jacobs is enthusiastic about pouring his energies into a new, potentially lucrative Marc Jacobs beauty line. I love cosmetics, he says. Its like a prove: choosing the colours, the image, the shapes and forms with the packaging, the names.

Marc
Marc Jacobs for S/ S 16. Photograph: Edward James/ WireImage

Jacobs first Marc Jacobs reveal after leaving Louis Vuitton was a homage to the veteran Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. At the time, Jacobs was quoted in Vogue saying, I am so appalled by the whole social media thing. I dont get onto, it doesnt appeal to me. I spoke to Jacobs backstage after that demonstrate, and wrote in my notebook that he spoke of Vreeland as passionate in her savors, but never afraid to totally change her mind words that seemed prophetic a month afterwards, when Jacobs espoused Instagram with zeal. He giggles about this, when I ask him. When I said that about social media, I was on a bit of a tirade. Four blocks of the West Village were shut off that day because of the crowds to gratify Kendall Jenner, and it just seemed insane. I was very into Vreeland at that time, and her thing of being very absolute yet very arbitrary in her tastes. She absolutely loved something right up until the phase where she absolutely disliked it. The day he read his quotes in Vogue, he went home and took a selfie. And that was how my Instagram account was born.

He currently has 400,000 followers. I like the attention, he says, disarmingly. I like reading the comments. Well, most of them. Of course the problem is that there can be 500 positive remarks, but the one negative comment will be the one that I remember and the one I talk to you about. I talk to my therapist about this all the time.

The dynamic runs like this: I ask Jacobs questions about fashion, which he answers by talking about people and relationships and conversations, rather than about clothes. Ask him about red carpet manner and he talks about how much he loves Cher, whom he dressed for the Met Gala last year. Ask him about the Americana collection and he talks about his memories of clubbing in the meatpacking district before gentrification. Ask him about the advertising campaign and he talks about how he and his boyfriend screamed when they listened to Lana Wachowskis speech. He is good at chat, the type who can make a taped mid-afternoon workplace interview feel like an after-hours catchup. Even his personal extravagances seem centred around relationships rather than esthetics: when I admire the Cartier bracelet, he tells me how he bought plain gold versions for each of the friends he went on holiday with. A generous gesture, because Cartier bracelets, even the ones without diamonds, arent cheap, and he ran through the holiday guest listing at one point and I am pretty sure it ran into double figures. And its the same later on, when he tells me about his art collecting. Its about creating a dialogue in a room, he says, about filling a space with ideas and emotions. One of his favourite pieces, he says, is a 1960 s Ellsworth Kelly. Its a yellow curve on a white canvas, which Ive imbued with these warm feelings, like a beautiful sunny smile. Truly, its only a yellow shape. But I feel like it tells a story.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

The art of being Azzedine Alaia, darling decorator of style insiders

A stunning display at the Design Museum presents the master couturiers own vision although sadly he wont see it. By Kate Finnigan

When Azzedine Alaia, the Tunisian master couturier, died of a heart attack in Paris last November, aged 82, the Design Museum in London was seven months into preparing a big demonstrate dedicated to his run. It was to be the first style exhibition in the museum’s new building in Kensington and the choice of Alaia had been carefully attained.” The museum has very special architecture ,” says Alice Black, co-director.” What Azzedine Alaia generated over his career is also striking statue. We felt that his work against the backdrop of the museum would be amazing .”

Black had come to know the tiny and charismatic designer over the previous few months. The team had been working closely with Alaia himself, a human known for his perfectionism and hands-on approach.” Azzedine was the heart and soul of his label. For a while I wondered if the exhibition could still go ahead ,” says Black.” But because he had really wanted it, everyone took it on themselves to make it happen. It was his theory, his idea, so we hadn’t been left to second guess .”

Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier, curated by Alaia’s long-term collaborator and friend, Mark Wilson of the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands, opens this Thursday. The museum has defied the temptation to turn it into a retrospective and has bided with the designer’s original vision for it to be a study of technique and craft, with more than 60 examples of couture pieces. It is the first-ever UK show dedicated to Alaia, who is less well known here than in his adopted France. But those who know style revere Alaia almost like no other. The industry loves a secret and there has been a cult surrounding Alaia for five decades, inspired not only by his unique- although much-imitated- style but by his longing for perfectionism( a dress could take five weeks or five years ), his refusal to be dictated to by commercialism and his personal style of business, largely conducted in his atelier-cum-apartment in the Marais around a kitchen table, where Alaia served guests with his own cuisine.

Turning
Turning heads: Azzedine Alaia with Tina Turner, Paris, 1989. Photo:( c) Peter Lindbergh( Courtesy Peter Lindbergh, Paris)

The Alaia aesthetic is so powerful that, to those who know it, merely uttering the name will summon up a vision- a living, exhaling woman, her form enhanced by textiles that sculpt and mould, clinch and cling.” He’s the master of cut and fit, a sculptor,” says Wilson.” He didn’t do depicts that somebody else translated. He designed everything directly on to the body. That’s how he made things .” In both his couture and ready-to-wear collects his materials were Lycra bandages, smooth velvet, stretch wool and leather- lots of it, moulded or cut like lace by laser or riveted with silver eyelets. Wilson is presenting the couture garments, choice with Alaia, in themed clusters- velvet, African-inspired, bandage gowns.” You get to see everything in 360 degrees and the groupings mean the viewer gets a better understanding of the craft and the technique ,” says Wilson, who has now curated six Alaia reveals.” If you looked at these pieces separately, you would ensure less how each of them is very special in its own way. You can really ensure the cuts and seaming and building, which in other exhibitions you might not be able to appreciate .”

Alaia find the exhibition as an installation and asked artists to stimulate screens as a backdrop to his run.” I came up with the idea and Azzedine selected the artists, who include Marc Newson, Tatiana Trouve and the Bouroullec friends. Wrapping around the walls is a collection of pictures taken by Richard Wentworth, who expended two years documenting Maison Alaia.

” I stimulate clothes; girls attain manner ,” the designer said. For Black, the magic of the Alaia look is that it is timeless.” They are garments that you look fantastic in today, much as you would have done 20 years ago, or will do in 20 years’ period ,” she says.” It’s that workmanship, the perfection. In the exhibition you do ensure patterns and attires that he’s been working on and reworking throughout his career, but in parallel you assure very interesting fluctuations of cloth. He’s always bringing innovation in there- the laser-cutting or working with a glass powder that gives fabric an iridescence. There’s innovation as well as a respect of a certain tradition .”

When Michael Jackson made the 1992 video for In the Closet– directed by Herb Ritts, co-starring Naomi Campbell and with a voiceover by Princess Stephanie of Monaco- Alaia Campbell’s barely there clothes, white crop top and flippy skirt. This was the glitzy stratosphere he occupied. The designer was stimulated more famous by a line in the 1995 film Clueless when Alicia Silverstone’s fashion-obsessed Cher is robbed at gunpoint and refuses to are going to the ground with the immortal words:” You don’t understand, this is an Alaia !”

But Alaia himself was not a flashy person. The term most used about him is “humble”. He was kind and empathetic, a friend and guide to many people, including Mark Wilson who knew him for 22 years.” Oh, he was a sweetheart. I loved him ,” says Wilson.” We were family. He was my favourite artist and he also opened his home to me .” He was a father figure for Naomi Campbell, who knew him as Papa, and moved into his apartment in Paris when she was 16. The model made a compassionate speech about him at the British Fashion Awards after his death last year:” Back in the day, our fridges weren’t stuffed with food: we bought what we eat on a daily basis and if there was one egg left in his fridge, Papa would offer it to me to make an omelette .”

Born in Tunis, the child of wheat farmers, he studied statue before transfer, self-taught, to fashion. He moved to Paris in 1957 and got a job at Christian Dior, but was rejected after five days for not having the correct newspapers. After working with Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler he set up on his own, but it wasn’t until 1979 that he opened his own atelier, where he garmented Greta Garbo and Marie-Helene de Rothschild.

He is perhaps most recognised for dressing the supermodels who bestrode the 1980 s and 90 s- Elle Macpherson, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell- as well as the awesome frames of Grace Jones and Stephanie Seymour. The height of these women and his lack of it often demonstrated irresistible to photographers; images of the 5ft 3in Alaia, towered over by some 6ft super-beauty, possess something of the fairytale. But his clothes were not only for Amazons. The Kardashian sisters, with their curves and gloss, was like they were conceived to wear Alaia and are followers. So, too, is his friend the gallerist Carla Sozzani, as was her late sister Franca, who was editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue . Pale blonde Italian waifs, they slipped their slim frames into wide-tiered skirts with flat black shoes so that the architecture of the dresses sway around them like kinetic sculpture.

” He was at the service of women ,” says Black.” Some have been his couture clients for a lifetime- once “youre starting” wearing Alaia you only never stop. But even with his ready-to-wear he set so much attention into the structure. They don’t crumple and don’t fall the wrong way. A plenty of the women we’ve talked to mention this feeling of empowerment they have while wearing his clothes. When you feel so beautiful, you feel confident and you can go out and take on the world .”

The museum will exhibit a few dress in the public foyer, alongside photography, as a taster for a wider audience. With a new flagship three-storey Alaia store recently opened on London’s New Bond Street, this is perhaps the biggest year ever for the once tiny label. Alaia may have left us, but his legend will endure.

Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier is at The Design Museum from 10 May to 7 October ( designmuseum.org )

Read more: www.theguardian.com

The art of being Azzedine Alaia, darling decorator of fashion insiders

A stunning indicate at the Design Museum presents the master couturiers own vision although sadly he wont see it. By Kate Finnigan

When Azzedine Alaia, the Tunisian master couturier, succumbed of a heart attack in Paris last November, aged 82, the Design Museum in London was seven months into preparing a big show dedicated to his run. It was to be the first fashion exhibition in the museum’s new building in Kensington and the choice of Alaia had been carefully built.” The museum has very special architecture ,” says Alice Black, co-director.” What Azzedine Alaia created over his career is also striking sculpture. We felt that his work against the backdrop of the museum would be amazing .”

Black had come to know the tiny and charismatic designer over the previous few months. The team had collaborated closely with Alaia himself, a human known for his perfectionism and hands-on approach.” Azzedine was the heart and soul of his label. For a while I wondered if the exhibition could still go ahead ,” says Black.” But because he had really wanted it, everyone took it on themselves to make it happen. It was his idea, his idea, so we hadn’t been left to second guess .”

Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier, curated by Alaia’s long-term collaborator and friend, Mark Wilson of the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands, opens this Thursday. The museum has defied the temptation to turn it into a retrospective and has stayed with the designer’s original vision for it to be a study of technique and craft, with more than 60 examples of couture pieces. It is the first-ever UK show dedicated to Alaia, who is less well known here than in his adopted France. But those who know way revere Alaia almost like no other. The industry loves a secret and there has been a cult surrounding Alaia for five decades, inspired not only by his unique- although much-imitated- style but by his desire for perfectionism( a dress could take five weeks or five years ), his refusal to be dictated to by commercialism and his personal style of business, largely conducted in his atelier-cum-apartment in the Marais around a kitchen table, where Alaia served guests with his own cuisine.

Turning
Turning heads: Azzedine Alaia with Tina Turner, Paris, 1989. Photo:( c) Peter Lindbergh( Courtesy Peter Lindbergh, Paris)

The Alaia aesthetic is so powerful that, to those who know it, merely uttering the name will summon up a vision- a living, breathing girl, her form enhanced by textiles that sculpt and mould, clinch and cling.” He’s the master of cut and fit, a sculptor,” says Wilson.” He didn’t do describes that somebody else translated. He designed everything immediately on to the body. That’s how he made things .” In both his couture and ready-to-wear collectings his materials were Lycra bandages, smooth velvet, stretching wool and leather- lots of it, moulded or cut like lace by laser or riveted with silver eyelets. Wilson is showing the couture garments, opted with Alaia, in themed clusters- velvet, African-inspired, bandage attires.” You get to see everything in 360 degrees and the groupings mean the viewer gets a better understanding of the craft and the technique ,” tells Wilson, who has now curated six Alaia indicates.” If you looked at these pieces separately, you would watch less how each of them is very special “in ones own” route. You can really consider the cuts and seaming and building, which in other exhibitions you might not be able to appreciate .”

Alaia considered the exhibition as an installation and asked artists to stimulate screens as a backdrop to his work.” I came up with the idea and Azzedine selected the artists, who include Marc Newson, Tatiana Trouve and the Bouroullec brethren. Wrapping around the walls is a series of scenes taken by Richard Wentworth, who spent two years documenting Maison Alaia.

” I attain clothes; girls stimulate style ,” the designer told. For Black, the sorcery of the Alaia look is that it is timeless.” They are garments that you look fantastic in today, much as you would have done 20 years ago, or will do in 20 years’ period ,” she tells.” It’s that craftsmanship, the perfection. In the exhibition you do assure patterns and garbs that he’s been working on and reworking throughout his career, but in parallel you see very interesting fluctuations of textile. He’s always bringing innovation in there- the laser-cutting or working with a glass powder that gives fabric an iridescence. There’s innovation as well as a respect of a certain tradition .”

When Michael Jackson built the 1992 video for In the Closet– directed by Herb Ritts, co-starring Naomi Campbell and with a voiceover by Princess Stephanie of Monaco- Alaia provided Campbell’s barely there clothes, white harvest top and flippy skirt. This was the glitzy stratosphere he occupied. The designer was stimulated more famous by a line in the 1995 cinema Clueless when Alicia Silverstone’s fashion-obsessed Cher is robbed at gunpoint and refuses to get to the ground with the immortal terms:” You don’t understand, this is an Alaia !”

But Alaia himself was not a flashy person. The word most used about him is “humble”. He was kind and empathetic, a friend and guide to many people, including Mark Wilson who knew him for 22 years.” Oh, he was a sweetheart. I loved him ,” tells Wilson.” We were household. He was my favourite artist and he also opened his home to me .” He was a father figure for Naomi Campbell, who knew him as Papa, and moved into his apartment in Paris when she was 16. The model made a compassionate speech about him at the British Fashion Awards after his death last year:” Back in the working day, our fridges weren’t stuffed with food: we bought what we consume on a daily basis and if there was one egg left in his fridge, Papa would offer it to me to make an omelette .”

Born in Tunis, the child of wheat farmers, he studied sculpture before transferring, self-taught, to manner. He moved to Paris in 1957 and got a job at Christian Dior, but was rejected after five days for not having the correct papers. After working with Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler he set up on his own, but it wasn’t until 1979 that he opened his own atelier, where he garmented Greta Garbo and Marie-Helene de Rothschild.

He is perhaps most recognised for dressing the supermodels who bestride the 1980 s and 90 s- Elle Macpherson, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell- as well as the awesome frames of Grace Jones and Stephanie Seymour. The high levels of these women and his lack of it often proved irresistible to photographers; images of the 5ft 3in Alaia, towered over by some 6ft super-beauty, possess something of the fairytale. But his clothes were not only for Amazons. The Kardashian sisters, with their curves and gloss, look like they were conceived to wear Alaia and are devotees. So, too, is his friend the gallerist Carla Sozzani, as was her late sister Franca, who was editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue . Pale blonde Italian waifs, they slipped their slim frames into wide-tiered skirts with flat black shoes so that the architecture of the garments sway around them like kinetic sculpture.

” He was at the service of women ,” says Black.” Some have been his couture clients for a lifetime- once you start wearing Alaia you only never stop. But even with his ready-to-wear he put so much attention into the structure. They don’t crumples and don’t fall the wrong way. A lot of the women we’ve talked to mention this feeling of empowerment they have while wearing his clothes. When you feel so beautiful, you feel confident and you can go out and take over the world .”

The museum will exhibit a few garments in the public foyer, alongside photography, as a taster for a wider audience. With a new flagship three-storey Alaia store recently opened on London’s New Bond Street, this is perhaps the biggest year ever for the once tiny label. Alaia may have left us, but his legend will endure.

Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier is at The Design Museum from 10 May to 7 October ( designmuseum.org )

Read more: www.theguardian.com

VFILES launches its first crowdsourced publication, ‘WOMB’

Image: Philip errico/ supersabrina vfiles

At a period when magazines are folding, one is being birthed.

VFILES, the New York-based Web portal, app and retail store with a user-base mostly composed of the representatives of Generation Z, simply announced it was launching its first-ever magazine.

Image: iveyislame/ vfiles

The publication in question is aptly called, WOMB , one that delves into youth culture through the purveyors themselves. The entire magazine was crowdsourced from VFILES users and fans from vfiles.com.

“A womb is literally where we all came from, it’s the start, it’s a common denominator that everyone has, ” Julie Anne Quay, VFILES founder, told Mashable .

Image: vfiles

Its first issue of the quarterly, composed of 104 pages is called, “We’ve Got Issues, ” and has little to no editorial text. Rather, it’s composed of the representatives of images from novelists, stylists, photographers, makeup artists, hairdressers and models from the platform.

Quay says that it’s not because youth don’t like reading, just that the goal is more a visual publication and dialogue.

Image: philip errico/ vfiles

“Pictures tell hundreds of thousands of words, ” she told. “We don’t want to set terms in people’s mouths and what we think of this and that. Instead, their images are published on beautiful, luxurious paper to celebrate their perspectives. It’s a really personal thing.”

WOMB comes with a handful of well-known figures within the downtown scene. They include co-founder and editor-in-chief Kevin Amato, influential social starrings like Luka Sabbat as a curatorial director at large and vocalist CL and Will.I.Am as contributors. Calvin Klein was onboard to finance the endeavor.

“I wanted to create a project that focused on emerging and undiscovered talent, ” said Amato to Mashable , who’s casting credentials range from Hood By Air to HBO and the VMAs, among others. “Young artists have limited subsistence, limited resources and no fund. [ WOMB ] isimportant because it’s the voice of our future. Gen Z is somewhat more removed from real life shit, communicate more with hands than voice, yet the objective is style smarter, progressive, more educated and exposed to more than past generations.”

Image: luka sabbat/ vfiles

Instead of a lucrative endeavor ( WOMB is free ), Quay says it’s more a festivity of VFILE’S talented community. The same portal, after all, is where decorators are detected for the brand’s annual runway show in September. It’s also a style for older generations to understand the youths of today, Quay says.

“Youth culture is leading the world, ” she said. “The older generation has no clue. To see how these kids are pushing culture forward is an inspiring thing. It’s a glimpse into their world from their perspectives.”

Before launch, Quay told VFILES sent out a survey to its 200,000 active users. It asked its youths about various topics including: health, identity, relationships, love, violence, style, abhor, economics, among others.

“Media runs around and pretends life is one thing and another, it’s not honest, ” Quay says. “This is raw and uncomfortable at times. But it’s truly what these young people are thinking about.”

Amato said the magazine was all about freedom and providing the tools necessary to be creative.

Before the launch, Amato said he dedicated 50 disposable cameras to VFILES users. They took their photos from their own vantage points and sent them in for submissions.

“Each artist and contributor is present in their work , not a spectator, ” Amato said. “I hear people talk about the youth. ‘Do it for the youth.. blah blah buy my product.’ WOMB is the realest way to give the youth a voice, resources and exposure while respecting and distinguishing all calibers of talent on an even playing field.

“Oh, and WOMB is free.”

WOMB is now on newsstands and available on VFILES.com.

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The spectacular power of Big Lens | The long read

The long read: How one giant company will predominate the route the whole world sees

If you have been wearing glass for years, like me, it can be surprising to discover that you perceive the world thanks to a few giant companies that you have never heard of. Fretting about the fraying edge of motorway lightings at night, or words that slide on the page, and occasionally spending a fortune at the opticians is, for many of us, enough to think about. And sights are unusual things. It is hard to think of another object in national societies which is both a medical device that you don’t want and a fashion accessory which you do.

Buying them, in my experience anyway, is a fraught, somewhat exciting exert that starts in a darkened room, where you contemplate the blurred letters and the degeneration of your visual cortex, and ends in a bright, gallery-like space where you enjoy the spry feeling of acetate in your thumbs, listen to what you are told, pay more than you were expecting to, and look forward to inhabiting a new, somewhat sharper version of your existing self.

The $100 bn( PS74bn) eyewear industry is built on impressions such as this. In the trade, the choreography that takes you from the consulting room to the enticing, bare-brick display of PS200 frames is known as” romancing the product “. The number of eye exams that turn into sales is the” capture rate”, which most opticians in Britain( or optometrists, as they are known in the rest of the world) set at around 60%. During the 20 th century, the eyewear business worked hard to transform a physical deficiency into a statement issued style. In the process, optical retailers learned the strange fact that for something that costs only a few pounds to build( even top-of-the-range frames and lenses cost, blended , no more than about PS30 to produce ), we are happy, happier in fact, when paying 10 or 20 hours that sum.” The margins ,” as one veteran of the sector told me carefully,” are outrageous .” The co-founder of Specsavers, Mary Perkins, is Britain’s first self-made female billionaire.

Almost everyone wears glasses at some phase in “peoples lives”. In developed countries, the rule of thumb is that around 70% of adults require corrective lenses to watch well. In Britain, that translates to some 35 million people. But it’s hardly a topic of national dialogue. To the casual commentator, the optical market also presents a busy and confusing sight. In Britain, thousands of independent opticians rub alongside a few big retail chains such as Specsavers, Vision Express and Boots. The wall displays in even a small, local optician hold several hundred frames, metal, acetate and rimless, while posters advertise a range of lenses with sciencey-sounding properties- “freeform”, ” photo-fusion”,” reflex vision”- and names so bland they are hard to remember even when you are looking straight at them.

But what we watch masks the underlying structure of the global eyewear business. Over the last generation, merely two companies have risen above all the remainder to dominate the industry. The lenses in my glasses- and yours too, most likely- are made by Essilor, a French multinational that controls almost half of the world’s prescription lens business and has acquired more than 250 other companies in the past 20 years.

There is a good chance, meanwhile, that your frames are made by Luxottica, an Italian company with an unparalleled combination of factories, designer labels and retail outlets. Luxottica pioneered the use of luxury brands in the optical business, and one of the many powerful functions of names such as Ray-Ban( which is owned by Luxottica) or Vogue( which is owned by Luxottica) or Prada( whose glass are made by Luxottica) or Oliver Peoples( which is owned by Luxottica) or high-street outlets such as LensCrafters, the largest optical retailer in the US( which is owned by Luxottica ), or John Lewis Opticians in the UK( which is run by Luxottica ), or Sunglass Hut( which is owned by Luxottica) is to build the marketplace feel more varied than it actually is.

Between them, Essilor and Luxottica play a central, intimate role in the lives of a remarkable number of people. Around 1.4 billion of usrely on their products to drive to run, read on the beach, follow the whiteboard in biology lessons, type text messages to our grandchildren, land aircraft, watch old movies, write dissertations and glance across eateries, hoping to look slightly more intelligent and interesting than we actually are. Last year, the two companies had a combined customer base that is somewhere between Apple’s and Facebook’s, but with none of the hassle and scrutiny of being as well known.

Now they are becoming one. On 1 March, regulators in the EU and the US gave permission for the world’s largest optical companies to sort a single firm, which will be known as EssilorLuxottica. The new firm will not technically be a monopoly: Essilor currently has around 45% of the prescription lenses market, and Luxottica 25% of the frames. But in seven centuries of sights, there has never been anything like it. The new entity will be worth around $50 bn( PS37bn ), sell close to a billion pairs of lenses and frames every year, and have a workforce of more than 140,000 people. EssilorLuxottica intends to dominate what its executives call” the visual experience” for decades to come.

The creation of EssilorLuxottica is a big deal. It will have knock-on repercussions for opticians and eyewear manufacturers from Hong Kong to Peru. But it is also a response to an unprecedented moment in the story of human vision – namely, the accelerating degradation of our eyes. For several thousand years, human being have lived in more or less advanced societies, read, writing and doing business with one another, mostly without the aid of glasses. But that is coming to an end. No one is exactly sure what it is about early 21 st-century urban living- the time we spend indoors, the screens, the colour spectrum in LED lighting, or the needs of ageing populations- but the net outcome is that across the world, we are becoming a species wearing lenses. The require varies depending where you go, because different populations have differing genetic predilections to poor eyesight, but it is there, and growing, and likely greater than you think. In Nigeria, around 90 million people, or half the population, are now thought to need corrective eyewear.

There are actually two things going on. The first is a largely unreported global epidemic of myopia, or shortsightedness, which has doubled among children and young people within a single generation. For a long time, scientists believed myopia was primarily determined by our genes. But about 10 years ago, it became clear that the way infants were growing up was harming their eyesight, too. The consequence is starkest in east Asia, where myopia has always been more common, but the rate of increase has been uniform, more or less, across the world. In the 1950 s, between 10% and 20% of Chinese people were shortsighted. Now, among teenagers and young adults, the proportion is more like 90%. In Seoul, 95% of 19 -year-old men are myopic, many of them severely, and at risk of blindness later in life.

At the same time, across the developing world, a slower and more complex process is underway, as populations age and urbanise and move indoors to work. The history of eyewear am saying that people do not, as a rule, start wearing glasses because they notice everything has run a little out of focus. It is in order to take part in new different forms of entertainment and labour. The mass market in sights did not emerge when they were invented, in 13 th-century Italy, but 200 year later, alongside the printed term in Germany, because people wanted to read.

In 2018, an estimated 2.5 billion people, mostly in India, Africa and China, are thought to need spectacles, but have no means to have their eyes tested or to buy them.” The visual divide”, as NGOs call it, is one of those vast global shortcomings that abruptly makes sense when you think about it. Across the developing world, straightforward myopia and presbyopia, the medical name for longsightedness, have been linked with everything from high road deaths to low educational achievement and poor productivity in factories. Eye-health campaigners call it the largest untreated disability in the world.

It is also a staggering business opportunity. Essilor and Luxottica know this. It was Essilor that worked out and first publicised the 2.5 billion statistic, in 2012.” For 2,000 years people were living mainly outside ,” said Hubert Sagnieres, Essilor’s chairman and chief executive, when we gratified lately in Paris.” Abruptly, we live inside, and we use this .” He tapped his mobile phone on the table. The legal and technical details of the EssilorLuxottica merger will take a few years to iron out, but Sagnieres was transparent about its mission: to equip the planet with eyewear over the coming decades.” I am driving a very profitable company ,” Sagnieres told me.” You know, between 2020 and 2050, governments will not solve all the problems of the world .”

The looming power of EssilorLuxottica is the subject of morbid obsession within the eyewear world. Everyone knows the new company is poised to have a profound impact on the way that we are going to see. “Forgive me,” said one longtime entrepreneur in key sectors.” But it is nothing short of control of the industry .” One investor described the new firm as a” category murderer “. In many dialogues, people described its arrival, which would have been genuinely unthinkable a generation ago, as both extraordinary and somehow inevitable at the same period. That struck me as the kind of contradiction you come across more often in a person than in a business. And it is true of EssilorLuxottica and, to some extent, the business of vision itself, because it is- to an amazing degree- the legacy of a single man.


Leonardo Del Vecchio is the patron, legend and haunting spirit of the global eyewear business. He is its Citizen Kane and its Captain Ahab. His father died before he was born; his mother was poor; and he was raised in an orphanage in wartime Milan, where he went out to work as a metal engraver at persons under the age of 14. In 1961, Del Vecchio opened a workshop in the town of Agordo, in the Dolomite mountains. He was 25, and starting out on his own. The valley around Agordo was emptying out because of the closure of a mine, and the town was giving away land to companies that were willing to move there. Del Vecchio asked for 3,000 sq metres on the riverbank to build a factory to induce components for sights. He had a young household, and in time, he constructed a home next door to the workshop so he could step from one to the other, starting his day at 3am.

Over the next half century, Del Vecchio grew his company, which was called Luxottica, into the world’s greatest maker of glasses frames. In an industry that was traditionally fragmented and small-scale, the totality of Del Vecchio’s ambition took his competitors by surprise. He sought to control every part in the business, from the metal alloy of the hinges to the stores where eyewear is sold.” Never assume that you have arrived, or look at the world as your only point of reference ,” he liked to say. In a series of audacious takeovers, Del Vecchio acquired brands such as Ray-Ban and Oakley and Persol, and signed contracts with fashion houses such as Armani, Ralph Lauren and Chanel. He constructed factories in China, acquired vision insurance schemes in the US and retail chains on four continents.

Since 1994, Del Vecchio has been Italy’s highest individual taxpayer and the country’s second-richest man. A few years ago, people supposed his career had run its course. But in January 2017, at the age of 81, Del Vecchio announced the greatest deal of his life, in which he also secured the final missing part for his frames- the lenses- when Luxottica agreed to merge with Essilor.” He wants to do this consolidation ,” a former colleague told,” thinking he will leave behind this great company that will last for 100 years .”

When I arrived in Agordo one recent afternoon, it was thinking about starting to snow. The township rests among steep wooded mounds and the bare gray sides of mountains. The blue houses of the Luxottica factory, with Del Vecchio’s house still standing by the entrance, glowed across the river. Although the plant is now merely one of the company’s 12 frame manufacturing facilities, which stretch from Sao Paulo in Brazil to Dongguan in southern China, the founding in Agordo remains Luxottica’s organising myth. Every year, Del Vecchio hosts a Christmas dinner for the plant’s 4,500 employees( the town of Agordo has a population of 4,000 ), which is entertained by an Italian pop star of his choose.” People are screaming and screaming when he comes in ,” said Giorgio Striano, Luxottica’s chief operating officer. In Agordo, Del Vecchio is referred to as simply, “ Il Presidente “.

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Leonardo Del Vecchio( right) with Giorgio Armani in Milan, 2013. Photograph: Stefania D’Alessandro/ Getty Images

For the company’s 30 th anniversary, in 1991, Del Vecchio renovated some 15 th-century stables in the middle of Agordo and opened a private glass museum. The curator, Caterina Francavilla, who is the daughter of Del Vecchio’s longtime deputy, showed me round before she closed up for the day. The first glasses were almost certainly induced in northern Italy in the past several decades of the 13 th century.( Lenses are called lenses because they looked like lentils .) But for centuries after their invention, sights and other magnifying lenses were mostly rejected by medical men, who warned of their unnaturalness and recommended potions to correct people’s eyesight instead. In The Perfect Oculist, of 1666, Robert Turner, a London doctor, recommended turtle’s blood and the pulverized head of a bat for the therapy of squints. For weak eyesight, you might try wearing cow’s eyes around your neck.

The cabinets in Del Vecchio’s museum traced the evolution from the leather frames and hinged bridges of the middle ages to the gold rims of the 19 th century. There were opera glasses designed by Napoleon for his Polish mistress, Maria Walewska; a pair of Emperor Franz Joseph’s sights; and some pink “ occhiali appartenenti a Elton John .” No one knows why it took 400 years to put the arms on glasses- which are known as temples, and were pioneered in London in the early 18 th century- so they eventually sat comfortably on people’s ears. To mark another historic milestone, one cabinet also held a copy of Luxottica’s slender debut catalogue, from 1971, when the company induced its first complete frames.

On a shelf near the door of the museum, I spotted A Man Who Sees Far, an official Luxottica biography of Del Vecchio, which was published in 1991. I expected the optical world to be genteel and polite, and was taken aback whenever dialogues turned to the personal charisma, and menace, of Del Vecchio.” He’s the godfather ,” told Dean Butler, who founded LensCrafters in 1983.( Del Vecchio bought it in 1995.)” The godfather, to me, is the guy . He runs it .” One former senior Luxottica executive told me:” Honestly, he kind of rules by dread .” Very few opticians would even mention Del Vecchio’s name- lending him a Voldemort-like aura- for anxiety of offending him, however unlikely that are likely to. One talked about” getting a horse’s head in the bed “. Another concluded our interview by saying:” You can quote me as long as it sounds like I am sucking Del Vecchio’s dick .”

I took A Man Who Sees Far back to my hotel. Even in the company’s hagiography, Del Vecchio goes across as improbably driven and unfeeling. The biographer fights to get a few words with Il Presidente as he traverses the tarmac to his private plane.( Del Vecchio rarely gives interviews; he declined to speak to me .)” There were no kisses , no snuggles ,” his eldest daughter, Marisa, recalls in the book.” Frankly, we were scared of him .”


Del Vecchio built the empire of Luxottica on two ideas. The first was to do everything itself. After the company’s initial progression from components to frames in the early 1970 s, it set out, step by step, to control the entire process of making and selling glass, from acquiring the raw materials to selling its own products “in ones own” stores. No one had done this before Del Vecchio.” There is a simplicity to him ,” one former colleague told me.” To him it is a very simple equation: I build the best stuff, why doesn’t everybody buy it ?”

For the first 25 years, Luxottica remained on the wholesale side of the industry- “behind the curtain”, as it is known- selling its glass through opticians to the public. In the 1990 s, however, Del Vecchio chose he wanted a retail network too. First, he got Luxottica listed on the New York stock exchange, an almost-unheard of move for a mid-sized Italian business.” A plenty of big experts said it was impossible ,” told Roberto Chemello, the chief executive at the time. Luxottica afterward estimated the listing to have been worth around $100 m in advertising in the US- and it laid the ground for Del Vecchio’s hostile takeover of US Shoe, a conglomerate that owned LensCrafters, the country’s largest optical chain, in 1995. On paper, the deal seemed outlandish. US Shoe was five times larger than Luxottica, and its board did not want to sell. Having its own stores would also set Luxottica in direct competition with the thousands of optometrists it had been supplying for decades.” You have to be not only courageous ,” said Chemello, of the transaction,” but a little bit crazy .” Luxottica bought US Shoe for $1.4 bn.

Once the bargain was done, Del Vecchio promptly broke up US Shoe, whose roots went back to 1879, until all that was left were the LensCrafters stores that he wanted in the first place, which he proceeded to fill with Luxottica frames.” That is precisely the formula they have utilized ever since ,” said Jeff Cole, the former chief executive of Cole National Corporation, an even larger optical retailer that sold out to Luxottica in 2004.” When they buy a company, they spend a little time figuring it out and kick out all the other suppliers .”

The formula means that when you or I walk into a LensCrafters, or a Sunglass Hut, or a David Clulow, or an Oticas Carol( which has 950 branches in Brazil) or a Xueliang Glasses in Shanghai, or a Ming Long store in Hong Kong, around 80% of the frames on display will be made by Luxottica. Having its own designers, technologists, factories, render depots and retail outlets- Luxottica currently has almost 9,000 stores and contracts with a further 100,000 opticians around the world- means it can bring products to market faster and in greater quantities than any of its competitors. It also maintains a larger proportion of its earnings as a result.

In the factory in Agordo, I insured dual-armed robots pinning together the front and temples of Ray-Ban Wayfarers, and basket after basket of metal frames being dunked in a series of chemical baths to coat and colour them. Glasses may appear to be relatively simple objects, but they involve between 180 and 230 manufacturing stages to produce. With its own designers, lasers and massive, softly humming machines, Luxottica can take a pencil sketch to global production in about three weeks.” We are in a closed loop ,” told Striano, the operations chief. Taking into account all the different colourings and face shapes( Japanese noses are not the same as Latino noses ), Luxottica has around 27,000 models in production at any one time. Its plants turned off 400,000 pairs of frames per day. I asked Striano if any other company came close.” I suppose nobody ,” he said.

Del Vecchio’s second great insight is the one that changed the nature of the optical business- and that was to combine it with the fashion industry. Although designers such as Pierre Cardin and Christian Dior had been experimenting with frames since the 1960 s, Del Vecchio find a way to take their notions, and more importantly, their labels, to a mass marketplace. In 1988, he signed a licensing enter into negotiations with Giorgio Armani, another self-made tycoon, who had started out as a window-dresser at a department store in Milan. The deal transformed the glasses game. Until then, customers in Europe and America who wanted fancy sights had to rely on staid, industry names such as Zeiss, Rodenstock or Silhouette. After the Armani deal, they could buy Prada, Gucci and Chanel, and they were willing to pay for it.” It generated something ,” as one Luxottica manager artfully told me,” to build the needs where probably they are not .”

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A store selling Luxottica brands Oakley and Ray-Ban in New York. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

By the early 1990 s, Luxottica salesmen furnishing opticians in the City of London were attaining so much money that the latter are use chauffeurs to get around.( Armani himself has sat on the board of Luxottica, and owns a 5% stake in it .) In early 2018, Luxottica has around 30 brands, including some that it owns outright, such as Ray-Ban and Persol, or that it makes under licence( Michael Kors, Paul Smith, DKNY, Burberry and so on ).

People in the industry observe that taste in frames follows a approximately 30 -year cycle, from metal, to rimless, to acetate and back again, in which familiar spectacle shapes recur and then disappear. The trend right now is towards metal, and designs that last flowered in Ronald Reagan’s America. In the “Style Area” in Agordo, on the factory’s first floor, I gratified Mario Mollo, a senior product director.” You see now the 80 s is becoming very popular ,” he told.” You ensure shallow, very wide .”

Mollo was poring over a desk of large-scale drawings of a new acetate frame for Oliver Peoples, named “Leonardo”. Spectacle frames require a thousand barely noticeable design decisions, around the shape of the bridge, the thickness below the eyes, or the pantoscopic tilt( how the slant of the lens fulfils the front of your cornea ). The Leonardo had an unusual temple, in which a curving piece of wire “mustve been” sandwiched between two pieces of acetate.” Sometimes this one is not easy to find the right bending ,” told Mollo, tracing his finger along the drawing. Like every other senior Luxottica figure I met in Agordo, Mollo was Italian, male, dressed in cashmere, and wearing a pair of the company’s frames. On a workbench a few feet away, there was a pair of EUR4, 000( PS3, 500) Dolce& Gabbana sunglasses that were hand-painted in Sicily, made out of wood and looked like a carnival float.” With sunshine, you can go totally crazy ,” told Mollo. Luxottica had stimulated only 100 for the entire world. “Crazy,” told Mollo,” but sold out .”

The transformation of glasses from a medical device to a means of self-expression, like clothes or sneakers, has been a source of pleasure for millions of people. But it has furthermore obscured their original intent, and complicated efforts to distribute them as easily as, say, mosquito nets or aspirin. When I mentioned this to Mollo, he recalled a recent trip-up he had taken with Luxottica’s corporate social responsibility program, conducting eye tests and distributing glass in rural China.” They were so happy having the possibility to see. They were hugging us. It was actually not for fashion ,” he said.” Then they started, you know, looking at themselves ,”- Mollo paused for a second-” and the style moment arrived .”

The fusion of the fashion industry and the optical business is now regarded as complete. Until recently, eye-health charities and campaigners used to distribute thousands of pairs of secondhand glasses from richer countries to poorer populations that lacked them. In 2011, the World Health Organization advised them to stop- in part because people were refusing to wear outdated styles.” Being poor doesn’t mean we want to look stupid, you know ,” Prof Kovin Naidoo, who runs the Brien Holden Institute, one of the world’s resulting eye-health NGOs, told me.

My last stop in Agordo was Luxottica’s sample room, a broad, quiet, carpeted space looking out over the river. The room contains every current Luxottica design, arranged on various tables and ranked in order of marketings. The system has been in place since the plant was built in 1972, and during that time, it has been the domain of Luigi Francavilla, Luxottica’s deputy chairman, who is now in his early 80 s.” Glasses are beautiful ,” he told, pausing among the hierarchies of Ralph Lauren, Valentino and Bulgari models.” Especially the ones that sell the most .”

It was snowing outside and Francavilla was wearing a thick blue cardigan. One of the first things he did was to take my glass off my face to identify the tortoiseshell acetate, which is known as Havana. His own glass were a pair of rimless Ray-Bans with pink carbon-fibre temples. Luxottica bought Ray-Ban from Bausch& Lomb, one of the 20 th century’s great optical companies, in 1999. At the time, the label was washed up. You could buy a pair of Aviators at a petrol station for $19( PS14 ).” It was a train smash ,” a former senior Luxottica executive told me.” They were selling Wayfarers at Walmart .”

Del Vecchio paid $645 m( PS476m) for Ray-Ban. During the negotiations, he promised to protect thousands of jobs at four mills in the US and Ireland. 3 months later, he shut the plants and shifted production to China and Italy. Over the next year and a half, Luxottica withdrew Ray-Ban from 13,000 retail outlets, hiked their costs and radically improved the quality: increasing the layers of lacquer on a pair of Wayfarers from two to 31. In 2004, to the incredulity of many of his subordinates, del Vecchio decided that Ray-Ban, which had been invented for American pilots in the 1930 s, should branch out from sunglasses into optical lenses, too.” A lot of us were sceptical. Genuinely? Ray. Ban. Banning rays from the sunshine ?” the former director told.” But he was right .”

Ray-Ban is now the most valuable optical brand in the world. It produces more than$ 2bn( PS1. 5bn) in marketings for Luxottica each year, and is thought to account for as much as 40% of its gains. Francavilla joined the company in 1968. I asked him how a human with a small sights workshop in the Dolomites had come to bestride the global eyewear industry. “ L’appetito cresce con il mangiare ,” said Francavilla. The appetite grows with eating.


How did just two companies- one in frames, and one in lenses- come to predominate something as generic, as obvious, as glass? It’s almost as if the world had one producer for pens, and the other for ink. The conditions that have allowed for the rise of Essilor and Luxottica are rooted, deep down, in the way sights are sold. Until the end of the 19 th century, you could buy a inexpensive pair of glasses- for read or for distance- out of a rack in Woolworth’s, or from a jewellery shop, or a guy in the street. Eyewear was a craft of tinkerers and discoverers.” I this evening did buy me a pair of green spectacles ,” Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary on Christmas Eve 1666,” to see whether they will help my eyes or no .”( They didn’t; Pepys’ failing eyesight forced him to give up his publication three years later .)

It was the birth of the optometry profession, around 1900, that changed things. This was a new breed of sober, respectable spectacle-sellers- not unlike pharmacists- who are seeking to standardise eye testing and to restrict the sale of glass to licensed professionals. Their aim, for the most component, was to raise standards. Eyeglass pedlars in the 18 th and 19 th centuries were notorious for swindles and faulty lenses. But there was also another compelling reason to take a cheap, widely available product and set it in the hands of a few authorised dealers- and that was to make money.

The first opticians had a tough time of it. They were disdained by ophthalmologists- proper eye doctors, who had trained in hospitals and considered themselves above the tawdry trade in glass. The first optometry course in the US was taught at Columbia University’s physics department because it was not allowed inside the medical school.( A remnant of this racism still holds: within the optical industry, optometrists are always being taunted for their chippiness and self-importance.” One step above dermatology ,” a former Luxottica executive sniped to me ).

But the new professionals persevered and, in a way, the story of optometry for much of the 20 th century was of receiving new ways to protect their patch. Across Europe and in the US, optometry laws and regulations were passed to control the prescription and selling of eyewear. Many of these had a “doctorly” aspect, but they also had the effect of creating a highly opaque marketplace. For a long time, opticians fought all manner of advertising, for example, which might force-out them to spell out their costs and allow customers to store around. In some places, this reached ridiculous extremes: in Kentucky, for a time, optometrists’ signs could not be more than four inches high. Under Britain’s Opticians Act of 1958, the display of costs was banned wholly, which meant that opticians were more or less free to build them up on the spot.” The cost would come from a little black book ,” one veteran practitioner told me.” There was a lot of sharp practice around .”

Limiting the number of glass sellers dedicated the largest optical producers opportunities to try and corner the market. As early as 1923, the American government was investigating a scam to fix prices of the nation’s best-selling Kryptok bifocal lenses. After the second world war, researchers at the US Department of Justice uncovered a vast bribe strategy- thought to amount to $35 m a year, and to involve some 3,000 eye doctor- in which the American Optical Company and Bausch& Lomb effectively bribed practitioners to prescribe their lenses. In 1966, after another scandal, the two companies, which at a time fabricated around 60% of the glass sold in the US, were banned from opening new retail and wholesale outlets for 20 years.

This was when Essilor went on the scene. In 1972, Essel and Silor, two French optical companies, merged and began sell aggressively into the US market. Essilor specialised in plastic lenses, which were replacing glass, and it also had a magical product: “Varilux”, the world’s first progressive lens, invented by an Essel engineer named Bernard Maitenaz in 1959. Progressive lenses allow people who are both long- and shortsighted- typically older customers- to combine their prescriptions into a single, graduated lens. The early Varilux models were experimental and not everyone could adapt to them, but they were probably the most important point invention in eyewear since the invention of bifocals around the time of the French revolution. The company set out to make sure that Varilux and the rest of its products( Essilor’s current sales manual operates to around 400 pages) were sold in every optometrist in the world.

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The Essilor department of the Vision Institute research centre at the Quinze-Vingts National Ophthalmology Hospital, Paris. Photo: BSIP/ UIG via Getty Images

Lenses are the pixie dust of the optical business. Barely anyone knows what they are made of, how the objective is constructed and, especially at the high end, exactly how they work. For the last half century, persuading opticians to prescribe Essilor, as opposed to Hoya or Zeiss, the company’s main rivals, has been painstaking, face-to-face work. One British optician, who stocks Essilor, describing him to me this way:” Is there a difference between an Audi, a BMW or a Mercedes? Probably not. But you prefer that badge to that badge, or the route they win hearts and minds .” For years, the company has brought opticians to Paris and its Essilor Academy, where they are wined and dined and taught about its latest products.” It’s not really bribes; it’s the way it works ,” one industry veteran told me.

And when all else fails, Essilor- like its rivals, and like all wholesalers- use financial incentives to keep its customers satisfied. Opticians and industry analysts that I spoke to for this article described how Essilor employs so-called ” spiff money”- offering stores large, multi-year discounts and money bonuses for selling its products- in order to squeeze out the competitor.” Essilor wants to dominate this industry worldwide ,” one retailer told me.” They are actually a well run company. They are not a ruthless company. But they get away with all this crap which in any other industry would be anti-consumer .”

The arrangement suits Essilor and its clients pretty well. The profit margins within the optical business are a closely guarded secret, but insiders explained to me that while opticians might sell frames for two, or two and a half hours, their wholesale price, it is the lenses where they induce the most money, charging markups of 700% or 800% to their clients. The largest margins of all are on complex progressive lenses and protective coatings- for scratch resistance, or to cut out blue light- features that expense Essilor a few cents to build, and which opticians sell for between PS25 and PS50 a pop. Even Luxottica executives are awed by this.” Ray-Ban did a good job of saying Ray-Ban would cost $150, PS150, EUR1 50 and the equivalent across the world. A little bit like the Big Mac, right ?” one former marketing manager told me.” But lenses? Nobody knows how much lenses expense. The customers don’t know. Nobody knows .”

Some opticians call Essilor” The Big E “. The company boasts of rendering between 300,000 and 400,000 stores around the world- three or four times as many as Luxottica.” The strategy has to be absolutely global ,” Sagnieres, the chief executive, told me.” Not just for the rich or poor .” The company has not limited itself to lenses by any means. If Luxottica has expended the last quarter of a century buying up the most conspicuous the components of the optical business( the frames, the brands and the high-street chains) then Essilor has busied itself in the invisible portions, acquiring lens producers, instrument makers, prescription laboratory( where glasses are put together) and the social sciences of sight itself.

The company holds more than 8,000 patents and funds university ophthalmology chairs around the world. In deals that rarely induce the business pages, Essilor buys up Belgian optical laboratories, Chinese resin manufacturers, Israeli tool makers and British e-commerce websites. You can find threads on optometrist message committees with headings like” Essilor Has Bought and Now Owns( Insert Company Name Here )”, which attempt to record all the independent lens makers and laboratories that used to exist. Within the industry, the Big E is generally considered less rapacious than Del Vecchio’s Luxottica; people consider it instead as a kind of unstoppable, enveloping tide.


The first rumour, imagines really, of the two companies joining forces-out began more than a decade ago. The notion has an intuitive appeal- the fulfilling click of lenses with frames- but there were considerable obstacles. The first was culture. Essilor might be huge, but it has retained the feel of a traditional, French industrial enterprise: 55% of its employees are shareholders of the company. Luxottica, on the other hand, functioned more or less like a autocracy, with none of the management structures of most multibillion-dollar companies.” The corporate governance and headquarters of Luxottica were Mr Del Vecchio’s dining-room table ,” one former administrator in the US business recollected of the early 2000 s.” We would fly to Italy, go to his home, show him our annual scheme … He was like,’ Go do that again .'”

The companies watched themselves differently too.” I guess Essilor, while not a model company by any means, has a moral intent ,” the former manager told.” With Luxottica, it’s just lip service. It is all about dominance .” The most infamous Luxottica bargains carried an edge of brutality. In 2001, the company clashed with Oakley, the world’s hottest stimulate of sunglasses at the time. Luxottica had just bought Sunglass Hut, which sold a third of the US’s sunglasses, and Del Vecchio demanded that all its suppliers drop their prices. Oakley refused. In the summer of 2001, the company’s founder Jim Jannard flew to Milan to fulfill Del Vecchio and strike a deal. Jannard had founded Oakley out of the back of his auto in 1975. According to Forbes magazine, at the end of their conversation, he said he hoped the two men would one day be friends.” We will never be friends ,” Del Vecchio reportedly replied.

A few months later, Il Presidente swung into action. In November, Sunglass Hut stopped selling Oakleys. The chain made up around a quarter of Oakley’s business and the market share cost fell by 37%. Then Luxottica began to produce Ray-Bans with bright blue and green lenses that were eerily similar to Oakley’s trademark ” Ice” and “Emerald” coloured shades.” We were doing stuff like generating fake Oakleys ,” a former Luxottica executive who was involved in the strategy told me.” There was a kind of war going on .”

After Oakley sued in 2001, Luxottica issued a statement” denying the allegations in Oakley’s complaint in all material respects” and the case was resolved out of tribunal. But Luxottica won the war, buying Jannard’s company for $2.1 bn( PS1. 5bn) in 2007.

By that time, Del Vecchio appeared ready to retire. In the summer of 2004, as he approached his 70 th birthday, Luxottica’s founder handed over day-to-day control of the company to Andrea Guerra, a young chief executive he hired from Indesit, the Italian white goods company. Under Guerra, Luxottica rationalised its manufacturing, changing more production to China. It also became more stable and predictable. The share price trebled. But according to several former executives who were close to Guerra, he was opposed to any enter into negotiations with Essilor, considering the company as a long-term rival.( Guerra declined to speak with me ).” He did not want to merge with Essilor ,” a colleague said.” He wanted to protect us in a different way .”

In 2014, however, Del Vecchio came back to work. He was 79.” We were all pretty shocked ,” a former senior Italian executive told me. But it became clear that Del Vecchio cares about what would happen to Luxottica where reference is dies.” His most precious infant is this company ,” the US manager told me. Del Vecchio has six children around four matrimonies to three women( he remarried his second spouse, Nicoletta Zampillo, in 2010) but he has always insisted they will never succeed him. According to several senior figures at Luxottica, Del Vecchio came to believe that folding Luxottica into Essilor was the best style for his work to endure, and informal talks between the two companies began.

In many routes, the final chapter of Del Vecchio’s rule at Luxottica has been chaotic and disorienting. Guerra was soon forced out. After that, Del Vecchio went through four chief executive in three years. In his early 80 s, he is no longer the force that he once was. Subordinates told him that Del Vecchio can no longer work a full week and sometimes loses his place in meetings, while demanding to sign off on decisions as small as the floor-plans of new Luxottica stores. Dozens of senior managers have left.” He truly doesn’t trust anyone ,” one told me.

But throughout his shaky return, Del Vecchio maintained his eyes on the award, meeting in secret with Sagnieres, the CEO and chairman of Essilor, until, by the summer of 2016, Sagnieres told, “it was obvious” that the deal would go ahead. When the two men announced the formation of the blended company on 16 January last year in a call to investors, Del Vecchio’s voice came on the line.” I’m very pleased to be here with you today ,” he told,” to present the achievement of a lifetime dreaming .”


Over the coming decades, EssilorLuxottica will have the power to decide how billions of people will see, and what they can expect to pay for it. Public health systems are always likely to have more urgent problems than poor eyesight: until 2008, the World Health Organization did not measure rates of myopia and presbyopia at all. The combined company is able to interpret its mission more or less however it wants. It could share new technologies, screen populations for eye both problems and flood the world with good-quality, affordable eyewear; or it could use its commercial dominance to choke furnish, jack up prices and induce billions. It could go either way.

Right now it is EssilorLuxottica’s putative rivals in developed markets, such as the US and Europe, that are most anxious about the power of the new company. In January, Doug Perkins, the other co-founder of Specsavers, warned that EssilorLuxottica was ” hurling millions of pounds” at new technologies, such as automated optometry kiosks and online retailing, that threatens the future of Britain’s high-street opticians wholly.” That is 100% certain to happen ,” said Perkins.

The bigger scene takes a moment to discern. Late last year, I visited Britain’s most important optical collect, which is kept in the cellar of the College of Optometrists, a townhouse around the corner from Charing Cross Station. For the last 19 years, Neil Handley, the college’s historian, has been cataloguing 27,000 items donated by opticians and eyewear producers, detecting the story of the industry as he goes along.” It’s under the radar ,” he told.” It’s not something that is talked about .” When I asked Handley about the creation of EssilorLuxottica, he pointed to an old display of British sight components, made by a firm called Hadley in Surrey in the 1930 s. Until the 1970 s, and the rise of inexpensive manufacturing in China, Britain used to have hundreds of frame-makers up and down the country.Today it has four.

” What you are seeing is a potential monopoly, and health risks that brings ,” told Handley. While it’s easy to fixate on the brands and the profits of the giants of the optical sector, the industry as a whole must expand dramatically in order to serve the world’s growing, ageing populations and increasing myopia among the young.” The peril is if their proposed answer to these problems turns out not to be the answer ,” said Handley.” They have stifled all opponent, and so nobody else has the chance to come up with the answers .” The stakes are highest in parts of the world that currently do not have anything like enough access to eyewear- what the industry calls the” white spaces” of Africa and parts of Latin America and Asia.

” It is always better if there is more diversity in the market, and less predominance ,” said Prof Naidoo, of the Brien Holden Institute, about the impact of the merger.” I don’t think everyone can argue with that .” In 2013, Naidoo was one of the authors on a groundbreaking newspaper that forecast that half the world’s population will be shortsighted by 2050- virtually 5 billion people. In the course of a single generation, across the world, from Inuit communities in Alaska to secondary-school students in Northern Ireland, researchers have recorded a rough doubling in the number of people who become short-sighted as children.

Does a nose job hurt? You asked Google- here’s the answer | Virginia Blum

Every day millions of internet users ask Google some of lifes most difficult questions, big and small. Our novelists answer some of the more common queries

The nose job. Such an inoffensive, even cheerful, euphemism. An unwanted bump is straightened or the long nose sweetly bobbed.

The nose is simply fixed. Matter-of-factly, we tell friends and family: I dont like my snout, so Im having it done. Once the province of celebrities and the affluent, the nose job has become one of the most popular and accessible procedures. Theres something nearly coy about the term, playing conceal and seek as it does with its stern medical equivalent rhinoplasty, the word the plastic surgeon will use during the consultation.

While rhinoplasty remains a popular cosmetic surgery in both the USand the UK, plastic surgeons admit that it has low patient gratification rates compared to other aesthetic procedures. Many surgeons blame poor patient selection by which they entail patients with unrealistic expectations. Others acknowledge that rhinoplasty is one of the most technically challenging cosmetic surgeries and thus prone to more botched results.

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Advertisement from the 1930 s for the Trilety nose shaper, a nose-shaping device. Photograph: Flickr

As a teenager, I had a nose job that went seriously awry and required revision, a journey that was emotionally and financially draining. For Jewish Americans like me in the 1970 s , nose jobs were fairly common, especially on the two coasts. My parents fostered me to narrow the broad tip-off and, although initially hesitant, I was open to what seemed at the time like a minor intervention. But my surgical outcome was anything but. I was left with a lump on one side of what had been a straight bridge and a flat columnella( the piece between the nostrils ). In chiselling the tip, the surgeon had removed too much of the lower snout, which left me feeling as though part of my face was missing. As period went on, the tip was beginning to sag due to lack of support. After two revise surgeries, I resigned myself given the fact that there existed mistakes that could not be reversed, even by a very talented surgeon.

Still, most patients are very pleased with their outcomes. If you go online to discussion boards that focus on rhinoplasty, you will find abundant accounts by delighted patients extolling their surgeries as life-changing. Some acknowledge that the new nose isnt identical to the perfect nose they anticipated, but are pleased nonetheless.

Patients considering a nose job necessarily have a range of fears, and its indisputable that surgery will cause physical discomfort. With rhinoplasty, the most unpleasant part tends to be during the course of its initial aftermath. Patients are bruised and swollen and their snouts are packed with gauze, but it looks much worse than it feels. Once the initial post-op edema subsides( relatively quickly ), some swell may persist for many months. The degree of pain and post-op swelling and bruising depend on the individuals own threshold for pain as well as the extensiveness of the surgery( rhinoplasties differ from minor to major interventions. Typically, when individuals try plastic surgery, they are so invested in the transformation that the relatively short period of discomfort seems worth it. When I was first considering surgery, I was apprehensive about both the pain and the recovery period( how long before I could re-enter the world looking normal ?), yet I discovered both easily manageable.

What can be truly distressing, however, is the discrepancy between expectation and outcome. Most patients eagerly await the resolution of the swelling as a kind of final unveiling of their beautiful new nose; but sometimes the objective is stunned, as I was, by the revelation of all that went wrong. What was indiscernible in the swollen tip is now exposed as lopsided or dented. The broad bridge of the swollen nose resolves into a twist, the opposite of the smooth straight line the patient was after. Post-operatively, the patient may not exhale as well as they once did.

Other changes can manifest themselves decades after the original surgery. Thinning skin can expose hitherto concealed cartilage grafts, while contracting scars might compromise the nasal structure.

Even though plastic surgeons concede that the operation is complex, much of the popular literature enthusiastically suggests the inevitability of a positive result and minimises, omits or misrepresents the risks. While minor primary surgeries to the nose( say, shaving off a bump) mainly have successful outcomes, more extensive interventions necessitate commensurately more surgical skill.

Surgeons Ive interviewed explain that for young and less experienced surgeons, rhinoplasty has an remarkably steep learning curve due to the lag time between the surgery and its final result a year later; only then can surgeons assess what they should do differently. A recent issue of Annals of Plastic Surgery, published this month, is wholly to be given to rhinoplasty, and its sobering reading. Most articles make clear what the general public doesnt know about the procedure that the technique( as well as outcome) of the nose job remains heavily disputed among surgeons. And there are many things that affect the outcome, from the inherent structure of the individuals snout to the surgeons experience, planning and skill.

Patients who experience poor outcomes often have to resort to expensive revise surgeries. Ones fixed nose, the nose that was intended to increase ones confidence, instead leaves one impression damaged.

For a long time after the initial surgery, my nose was all I insured when I appeared in the mirror. The very idea of cosmetic surgery stirs up fictions of miraculous transformation. Most of us like to believe we are realistic about what surgery can accomplish, but cosmetic surgery comes with implicit promises of the largest physical perfection that can be psychically distorting. When the result is not only less than the patient expected but also worse than the original, it can feel devastating.

Nevertheless, because the healing process is protracted, one tells oneself that what seems bad in the short term is wholly attributable to swelling( at least, thats what my surgeon assured me ). Dont obsess, in other words everything will turn out right in the end. So many “girls ” have been raised on fairytales about ugly ducklings becoming swans “that weve” pre-programmed to be patient in anticipation of beauty. Every day, we look in the mirror, waiting.

Surgical error isnt the only problem. Patient dissatisfaction also ensues from significant disconnections between the surgeons aesthetic goal and the patients. Surgeons might be exhaustively pleased to see results that leave patients distressed. The nose seems strangely short, for example, or the altered tip the surgeon deemed too narrow, the patient now sees as bulbous. The dorsal hump the patient hated before surgery is still in plain view. In these cases, there was a bad match between surgeon and patient.

My first revise surgery was just such a bad match. Because the surgeon agreed that my first surgery was disastrous, I didnt seem any further. Before I went under, I heard him tell a nurse: Seem what some joker did to this poor girls nose. He harvested cartilage from behind my ear in order to replace those bits excised during the original surgery. The surgery on my ear was more painful than my nose and took considerably longer to resolve. Some patients are advised that so much cartilage is required for graftings that the surgeon will need to invaded the ribs for a bountiful furnish. There are associated hazards; although rare, pneumothorax( collapsed lung) is one, and surgeons describe in chilling detail how to assess its severity and remedy it on the operating table. Pain( perhaps prolonged) always results from such intercostal harvesting.

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Advertisement for a nose-shaping device, 1923. Photograph: Alamy

This second nose was very small and didnt suit my face or my notion of what real noses should look like. Put differently, it was a great nose on someone elses face. If I had been paying more attention, if I had even momentarily put aside my driving fantasy about being fixed, I should have recognised that every woman in its term of office, from nurses to receptionists, was branded by his signature style the tiny up-tilted nose.

For my third, and final, surgery I went to a surgeon whose practice was largely devoted to rewriting other surgeons bad rhinoplasties. He not only improved function( the second surgery had partially blocked my airway with bone ), he expanded the bridge and supplemented the supporting structure of the lower third of my snout. This last surgery took place 20 years after the initial operation.

Whatever picture they may bring to the surgeon, patients should be aware that surgeons remake noses in line with their own aesthetic vision. And like any manner tendency, esthetics in noses differ over day. Indeed, they can go out of style. The history of the nose job in the United States is deeply linked to the pursuit of ethnic assimilation to an ostensibly generic American appearance. The paradigm of the perfect snout, unmoored from any particular face, is what resulted in the proliferation of cookie cutter 1960 s and 70 s nose jobs among certain affluent populations in the United States. The ski-slope nose coveted by so many Americans whose ethnic appearance diverged from the persisting white Anglo-Saxon Protestant esthetic, was often tried with little regard to facial context. These surgical noses tended to exaggerate aspects of the Wasp ideal too small, too turned-up, pinched and over-sculpted nasal tips-off. Patients who were initially pleased with their results became less so as fashions in beauty shifted. By the 1980 s, surgeons began to identify the various deformities( such as alar retraction, by which they mean flared nostrils ), links with what for years had been the quintessential fixed nose.

Some surgeons specialised in revising snouts that were now deemed overdone. In the 1990 s, there was widespread criticism of the operate and maintain nose and, in its place, surgeons claimed to build a natural-looking nose tailored to enhance the individual face. Since that time, there has been a growing body of surgical literature exhorting surgeons to attend to racial and ethnic changes, both anatomically and in the service of culturally appropriate aesthetic outcomes. Still, many plastic surgeons persist in aesthetic homogeneity and rely on what they consider the ideal( white) proportions for their surgical templates. Just last year, for example, a study claimed to have confirmed the most attractive measurings for nasal tip projection and rotation among young white girls. Despite increased consciousness among surgeons of aesthetic relativism, “were not receiving” avoiding the obduracy of each surgeons perspective. The plastic surgeon isnt simply a technician; instead, she or he is an individual guided by personal savor. Yet, in a mass culture dominated by celebrity images of beauty, we can feel as though beauty is altogether objective and its criteria universally shared. The presumption of a shared aesthetic can misinform both patients and surgeons.

This is not intended to dissuade people from having surgery. Rather, I am urging prospective patients to be as informed as possible about how experienced their surgeon is, about the varying approaches( eg closed rhinoplasty, where the surgeon works within a limited visual field, v open, where the surgeon unmoors the nose from the face) as well as the real physical the limit of the body itself.

As members of a culture deep invested in physical appearances, we are all at some risk when we visit plastic surgeons, those self-styled architects of beauty. We may be overly vulnerable to their assessment of our flaws because, after all, they are the experts, arent they? There are surgeons who will sweet-talk you. My first surgeon reeled me in with a photo of a model he had operate and maintain, all the while promising an enormous( and candidly impossible) improvement to my appearance.

Make sure you schedule consultations with several surgeons. Ironically, although we commonsensically tend to seek multiple bids on a new roof for our home, when it comes to our own bodies we can be easily swayed by the first magical surgeon we visit. If the surgery have started to audio extensive( if it involves grafts, for example ), you should be doubly cautious because more can go amiss.

If you are looking for an outcome congruent with your race and ethnicity, go to a surgeon who is both surgically experienced with and aesthetically sensitive to a diverse patient population. Different surgeons may present different operative schemes and objectives to you, and you will need to decide among them. One important factor is whose work you like best insist on watching a lot of before and after photos. Of course, photographs can misinform through carefully staged angles and lighting, but at least you will know if you and the surgeon are on the same page regarding appearance.

Imaging software both 2D and 3D are applied to simulate what the change will look like on your own face, is a marketing tool that can be simultaneously informative, seductive, and beside the point. Real flesh and bone will not yield to the scalpel like a two-dimensional image.

The clairvoyant danger posed by such technology comes with the implicit temptation to imagine ourselves as infinitely mutable; this morphed version of our face beckons us into a future of potentially unsatisfying surgeries that dont measure up to the screen image.

Failed nose jobs can become lifelong preoccupations, as patients wander from one expensive surgeon to another. It is not simply the search for the perfect snout that compels us. Many of us yearn for our pre-operated, intact nose so we can go back to the beginning, before the physical and emotional damage caused to our appearance from which we cannot recover. The real risk of rhinoplasty is not inevitably physical at all. It is about becoming more preoccupied with ones appearance after the surgery than before.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

The art of being Azzedine Alaia, darling decorator of fashion insiders

A stunning indicate at the Design Museum presents the master couturiers own vision although sadly he wont see it. By Kate Finnigan

When Azzedine Alaia, the Tunisian master couturier, succumbed of a heart attack in Paris last November, aged 82, the Design Museum in London was seven months into preparing a big depict dedicated to his run. It was to be the first style exhibition in the museum’s new building in Kensington and the choice of Alaia had been carefully attained.” The museum has very special architecture ,” says Alice Black, co-director.” What Azzedine Alaia created over his career is also striking statue. We felt that his work against the backdrop of the museum would be amazing .”

Black had come to know the tiny and charismatic decorator over the previous few months. The team had been working closely with Alaia himself, a man known for his perfectionism and hands-on approach.” Azzedine was the heart and soul of his label. For a while I wondered if the exhibition could still go ahead ,” tells Black.” But because he had really wanted it, everyone took it on themselves to make it happen. It was his concept, his idea, so we hadn’t been left to second guess .”

Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier, curated by Alaia’s long-term collaborator and friend, Mark Wilson of the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands, opens this Thursday. The museum has defied the temptation to turn it into a retrospective and has stayed with the designer’s original vision for it to be a study of technique and craft, with more than 60 examples of couture pieces. It is the first-ever UK show dedicated to Alaia, who is less well known here than in his adopted France. But those who know style revere Alaia almost like no other. The industry loves a secret and there has been a cult surrounding Alaia for five decades, inspired not only by his unique- although much-imitated- style but by his passion for perfectionism( a dress could take five weeks or five years ), his refusal to be dictated to by commercialism and his personal style of business, largely conducted in his atelier-cum-apartment in the Marais around a kitchen table, where Alaia served guests with his own cuisine.

Turning
Turning heads: Azzedine Alaia with Tina Turner, Paris, 1989. Photograph:( c) Peter Lindbergh( Courtesy Peter Lindbergh, Paris)

The Alaia aesthetic is so powerful that, to those who know it, merely uttering the name will summon up a vision- a living, inhaling woman, her form enhanced by textiles that sculpt and mould, clinch and cling.” He’s the master of cut and fit, a sculptor,” tells Wilson.” He didn’t do describes that somebody else translated. He designed everything directly on to the body. That’s how he made things .” In both his couture and ready-to-wear collects his materials were Lycra bandages, smooth velvet, stretch woolen and leather- lots of it, moulded or cut like lace by laser or riveted with silver eyelets. Wilson is proving the couture garments, choice with Alaia, in themed clusters- velvet, African-inspired, bandage dress.” You get to see everything in 360 degrees and the groupings mean the viewer gets a better understanding of the craft and the technique ,” says Wilson, who has now curated six Alaia indicates.” If you looked at these pieces separately, you would insure less how each of them is very special “in ones own” route. You can really find the cuts and seaming and building, which in other exhibitions you might not be able to appreciate .”

Alaia insured the exhibition as an installation and asked artists to induce screens as a backdrop to his work.” I came up with the idea and Azzedine selected the artists, who include Marc Newson, Tatiana Trouve and the Bouroullec friends. Wrapping around the walls is a series of pictures taken by Richard Wentworth, who expended two years documenting Maison Alaia.

” I build clothes; females construct style ,” the designer told. For Black, the sorcery of the Alaia look is that it is timeless.” They are garments that you look fantastic in today, much as you would have done 20 years ago, or will do in 20 years’ period ,” she tells.” It’s that craftsmanship, the perfection. In the exhibition you do watch patterns and garbs that he’s been working on and reworking throughout his career, but in parallel you insure very interesting variations of cloth. He’s always bringing innovation in there- the laser-cutting or working with a glass powder that gives fabric an iridescence. There’s innovation as well as a respect of a certain tradition .”

When Michael Jackson induced the 1992 video for In the Closet– directed by Herb Ritts, co-starring Naomi Campbell and with a voiceover by Princess Stephanie of Monaco- Alaia Campbell’s barely there clothes, white crop top and flippy skirt. This was the glitzy stratosphere he occupied. The designer was induced more famous by a line in the 1995 cinema Clueless when Alicia Silverstone’s fashion-obsessed Cher is robbed at gunpoint and refuses to get to the ground with the immortal terms:” You don’t understand, this is an Alaia !”

But Alaia himself was not a flashy person. The word most used about him is “humble”. He was kind and empathetic, a friend and guide to many people, including Mark Wilson who knew him for 22 years.” Oh, he was a sweetheart. I loved him ,” says Wilson.” We were family. He was my favourite artist and he also opened his home to me .” He was a father figure for Naomi Campbell, who knew him as Papa, and moved into his apartment in Paris when she was 16. The model made a compassionate speech about him at the British Fashion Awards after his death last year:” Back in the day, our fridges weren’t stuffed with food: we bought what we eat on a daily basis and if there was one egg left in his fridge, Papa would offer it to me to make an omelette .”

Born in Tunis, the child of wheat farmers, he studied statue before transfer, self-taught, to fashion. He moved to Paris in 1957 and got a job at Christian Dior, but was dismissed after five days for not having the correct papers. After working with Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler he set up on his own, but it wasn’t until 1979 that he opened his own atelier, where he garmented Greta Garbo and Marie-Helene de Rothschild.

He is perhaps most recognised for garmenting the supermodels who bestrode the 1980 s and 90 s- Elle Macpherson, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell- as well as the awesome frames of Grace Jones and Stephanie Seymour. The height of these women and his lack of it often demonstrated irresistible to photographers; images of the 5ft 3in Alaia, towered over by some 6ft super-beauty, possess something of the fairytale. But his clothes were not only for Amazons. The Kardashian sisters, with their curves and gloss, look like they were conceived to wear Alaia and are devotees. So, too, is his friend the gallerist Carla Sozzani, as was her late sister Franca, who was editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue . Pale blonde Italian waifs, they slipped their slim frames into wide-tiered skirts with flat black shoes so that the architecture of the attires swung around them like kinetic sculpture.

” He was at the service of women ,” tells Black.” Some have been his couture clients for a lifetime- once you start wearing Alaia you simply never stop. But even with his ready-to-wear he put so much attention into the structure. They don’t crumples and don’t fall the wrong way. A lot of the women we’ve talked to mention this feeling of empowerment they have while wearing his clothes. When you feel so beautiful, you feel confident and you can go out and take on the world .”

The museum will exhibit a few outfits in the public foyer, alongside photography, as a taster for a wider audience. With a new flagship three-storey Alaia store lately opened on London’s New Bond Street, this is perhaps the biggest year ever for the once tiny label. Alaia may have left us, but his legend will endure.

Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier is at The Design Museum from 10 May to 7 October ( designmuseum.org )

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Pirelli’s all-black calendar:’ Any daughters should be able to have their own fairytale’

Diversity takes centre stage as Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyongo, Whoopi Goldberg and Sean Diddy Combs feature in Tim Walker and Edward Enninfuls twisted version of Alice in Wonderland

I chop off people heads and I like it. Naomi Campbell appears up from her telephone to tell a group of journalists about her role in the most recent Pirelli calendar. It is inspired by John Tenniels original illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, and Campbell is on set in a photographic studio in north London, surrounded by a twisted fairytale scene of mouldy jam tarts and scorched doll houses.

She plays the Royal Beheader of course she does and is joined by Lupita Nyongo as a dormouse, Sean Diddy Combs as Campbells fellow beheader, South Sudanese-Australian model Duckie Thot as Alice, Whoopi Goldberg as the Royal Duchess and Sasha Lane as the March Hare. Fashions woke poster-woman and feminist activist Adwoa Aboah has been shot as Tweedledee. And RuPaul will also appear, as the Queen of Hearts.

RuPaul,
RuPaul, Duckie Thot and Edward Enninful backstage at the shoot. Photo: Alessandro Scotti/ Pirelli PR handout

This is a staggeringly talented and eclectic cast. It is also all black, with the calendar styled by Edward Enninful, the newly appointed editor of British Vogue, the first person of colouring to have held the post. That said, the concept is the work of a white photographer, Tim Walker, who explains his motivation by saying its never been did before. Alice has never been told like this.

This is not the first time Pirelli has featured an all-black lineup in 1987, a 16 -year-old Campbell posed topless for an edition that featured only black models. This time, however, the tone is wildly different. And it feels precision-engineered to strike a chord in an epoch in which way ultimately seems to be addressing its diversity problem, with Enninfuls appointment, the autumn/ wintertime 2017 runway collectings in just about every city featuring their most racially diverse cast ever, as well as Guccis recent campaign that featured merely black models all being presented as green shoots of change.

Adwoa
Adwoa Aboah. Photograph: Alessandro Scotti/ Pirelli PR handout

But reflecting, even leading, cultural conversations is what the Pirelli calendar does these days, which may seem bizarre given that it is essentially a promotional exert for tyres.

This was not always the way. For much of its history the calendar, launched in 1964, was most famous as a place where supermodels took off their kit sometimes artily for photographers ranging from Terry Richardson to Herb Ritts.

Alpha
Alpha Dia and King Owusu. Photo: Alessandro Scotti/ Pirelli PR handout

But in 2016 Pirelli commissioned Annie Leibovitz to shoot females known for their professional, social, cultural, sporting and artistic accomplishment, including Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, Serena Williams and Amy Schumer, without the male gaze in mind. Earlier this year, Peter Lindberghs instalment continued in the same vein, presenting portraits of women with their clothes largely on: Uma Thurman was snapped in a rib-knit roll-neck. Both calendars inspired thinkpieces aplenty.

Thando
Thando Hopa and Whoopi Goldberg. Photo: Alessandro Scotti/ Pirelli PR handout

The cynical might question Pirellis motivatings for using an all-black cast, and whether its nod to manners vogue for diversity is a little too on the nose. With that box ticked, will Pirelli forget about diversity for its 2019 edition? Will the rest of the fashion industry, for that matter?

None of these concerns are at the fore on decide, however, where models wearing vinyl skirts and platform shoes mill around to a soundtrack of Aretha Franklins Respect and Otis Reddings( Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher& Higher. The dark detritus of fairytale is strewn about cakes with plastic hands erupting out of them, burnt toast and a looming, giant stuffed hare that refuses to stay upright.

South African Thando Hopa plays the Princess of Hearts. She is a law graduate who worked as a prosecutor specialising in sex offence examples, and only got into modelling because she wanted to have a greater level of representation for someone who appears so different( she has albinism ). Expended in the power of images you find someone portrayed in a particular way and it gives you inspiration and motive

Read more: www.theguardian.com

How Beyonce’s Ivy Park attained sportswear sexy

The vocalists fitness label rebrands bodycon by merging style and functionality. But can a gym-friendly version reclaim this unforgiving trend?

The hype surrounding Beyoncs new sportswear line, Ivy Park, is already off the scale. Its not even launched yet, and it has already violated the internet, or at least photo-sharing sites such as Instagram. No surprise, you might tell, she is very famous, and very zeitgeist. But that Ivy Park is, to an extent, a niche fashion genre fitnesswear as opposed to, say, shoes, suggests something is brewing in fashion. Why would the worlds most famous pop star( not to mention bellwether of style and fourth-wave feminist) undertake sportswear if it wasnt a trend sleeper, mass or otherwise? The brands manifesto has a go at answering this My goal with Ivy Park is to push the boundaries of athletic wear to subsistence and inspire women who understand that beauty is more than your physical appearance but equally, this feels at odds with what youre looking at: here is Beyonc, in the rain, outdoors rather than in the gym, appearing purposeful in a leotard, and wet. Could it be any sexier?( And: how am I meant to crosstrain in this ?)

This looks like sportswear, but sportswear that you would also wear to a gig. Its not really on the catwalk at the least not overarchingly so and while sportswear and athleisure have always included tight-fitting pieces for various ergonomic and aesthetic reasons , none of it has really been in fashion. Athleisure, a very close way has come to accepting sportswear, tends to be loose-fitting, minimal and sometimes comes in cashmere. Its also lucrative athleisure is worth 6.4 bn and looks set to increase over the next three years. Ivy Park is, arguably, more than sportswear. Its a sideways take on bodycon or bodycon 3.0 as were calling it, given that its not new sitting somewhere between sportswear and fashion-tight. And, like bodycon, its sexy as hell, even if retailers arent selling it as such.

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A Herv Lger dress, 1992. Photo: Associated/ Rex/ Shutterstock

Short for body conscious, in laymen terms bodycon is clothing usually a dress defined by its tightness. Historically, its one of the few tendencies that has leapt between catwalk and mass marketplace. Theres version one: Jean Paul Gaultiers outer-corsets; Herv Lgers bandage-style bodycon outfits which were, ostensibly, couture spanx; and king of cling Azzedine Alaas creations, which predominated the tight market in the 90 s. Version two, a slightly more formal take, was more about structure and tailoring than cling( find Roland Mourets galaxy dress and Victoria Beckhams first collections ). It was bodycon taken down a notch, but bodycon all the same.

Sitting simultaneously on the catwalk and in red-tops, bodycon has given us some memorable celebrity imagery: Liz Hurley safety-pinned into Versace at a movie premiere; Eva Herzigova vacuum-packed into a lilac dress on the 1993 Herv Lger catwalk; Victoria Beckham for the best part of the 2000 s.

So, in all regions of the 1980 s, 1990 s and early 2000 s, bodycon became the gold-standard of red-carpet fashion. This was status wear and power-dressing combined the acme of sexiness, designed to giftwrap the body.

But for whom the wearer? Unlikely. Bodycon was, arguably, womenswear designed for the male gaze. As style historian Amber Butchart explains, its a sign of the corset morphing from actual to internal, with bodies being shaped through diet and workout instead. This increased throughout the 20 th century and reached an apex with the rise of bodycon, she says.

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Eva Herzigov, Kim Kardashian and Victoria Beckham do bodycon. Composite: Rex Features

If you think this feels at odds with new, gym-friendly bodycon not to mention Asos bodysuits and Calvin Klein bralets( a bestseller at Selfridges) then youre right. This version is as tight as its forebears but is more focused on fitness and leisure, constructed with technical textiles and with mesh detailing, for example. Is it simply a example of bodycon sexy, tight and unforgiving being skewed and rebranded back to us as something else solely?

Instagram hasnt helped: in the past few years, tight fitnesswear worn in or, increasingly, outside the gym has become acceptable to post. Ditto the way we post it usually in the mirror, usually with the wearers iPhone camera in shot, so as to reclaim ownership of the image. It says: I am wearing this and I am photographing this and you, the spectator, are secondary. Concurrently, bikini shoots appear to be on the decline, especially ones taken by your mates which objectify the wearer by default. And yet, in terms of body coverage and flesh-flashing, they are one and the same, even if the latter focuses on celebrating women bodies rather than fetishising them. The internetification of self-image might have changed but the clothes havent.

In the past 10 years, the catwalk moved away from tight-fitting clothes, with brands such as Cline, Stella McCartney and The Row going for extreme minimalism. Kenya Hunt, fashion features director at Elle, supposes the demand shifted to more volume and a more casual stance because it was easier to wear. The wide-legged trouser. The oversized cocoon coat. Various boyfriend-adjectived blazers, jeans and shirts. Cerebral fashion if you are able to. Christopher Kane, Marios Schwab and Saint Laurent leant towards fitted rather than loose, suggesting there is also appetite for this look, but on the whole, bodycon sat in the shadows of late 2000 s minimalism. Until now, that is.

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Roland Mourets galaxy dress, 2005. Photograph: Fernanda Calfat/ Getty Images

Butchart guesses the recent resurgence of feminism might have contributed to the phasing out of bodycon. Not that there is anything unfeminist about these styles by any means, she says, but that there is much more debate now around identity politics and representation in the media, and creating spaces for previously unrepresented bodies. The change is palpable and the updated bodycon is aimed at all body kinds, with a focus on functionality and movement.

This is the thinking behind Selfridges brand-new Body Studio, a cavernous series of rooms dedicated to undergarments( swimwear, lingerie, hosiery) designed to be shopped by females. The designers, too, half of which arent household names, are predominantly females: The Upside, Michi, Lisa Marie Fernandez, Varley, Monreal are all designed by women and based on what they want to wear. Butchart tells: This underwear, sleepwear and bodywear is intended to be seen. Were insuring a shift away to a small extent from dictatorial beauty standards that the bodycon gym body of the past seemed to represent.

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Liz Hurleys famous Versace dress, 1994. Photograph: Dave Benett/ Getty Images

Aside from sportswear( for the gym or, at best, the tavern ), high fashion is wading in, from the tight-fitting negligee-style garbs at Cline, Givenchy and Balenciaga, to the knicker and bra shapes at JW Anderson, Marc Jacobs, Dries Van Noten and Saint Laurents AW16 collecting. Hedi Slimanes swansong for Saint Laurent, and the fact that Anthony Vaccarello, monarch of the tight, high hemline, has moved to the French style house, both suggest that this seem may stick around for a while. The current issue of Vogue has a whole shoot geared around super-tight underwear worn outdoors, often caveated with a Dare you? caption.

If this is bodycon( and it almost certainly is ), it smacks of the commercialisation of feminism, a savvy intersection between retailers and purchasers that endorses tight garment by not branding it overtly as sexy. Bodycon with a different narration. Cynically speaking, it could be interpreted as health and wellness being sold back to us, a rebranding of sportswear as sexy but functional. Of course you can wear it to the gym and doubtless people do but, as the Vogue shoot testifies, its also designed to be seen: Paco Rabanne heralds the return of the corseted playsuit with a new athletic spin. Do you dare to sport it alone? The answer may well be no, but, as Heather Gramston, buying manager for Body Studio explains: Who would have believed girls would so espouse the pyjama trend?

Yet fashion commentator Caryn Franklin remains unconvinced: The latest bodycon look from Beyonc is a believable offering of 21 st-century womanhood despite the unnecessary smoulder and sulk in the marketing suggesting the male gaze is still paramount. Still, she concedes, sweat, grit and healthy body ideals signal modernity. Either way, even if bodycon is back, the women who buy into it are more interested in looking good for themselves. If they look sexy, too, well thats just a bonus.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Pirelli’s all-black calendar:’ Any daughters should be able to have their own fairytale’

Diversity takes centre stage as Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyongo, Whoopi Goldberg and Sean Diddy Combs feature in Tim Walker and Edward Enninfuls twisted version of Alice in Wonderland

I chop off peoples heads and I like it. Naomi Campbell seems up from her telephone to tell a group of journalists about her role in the most recent Pirelli calendar. It is inspired by John Tenniels original illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, and Campbell is on set in a photographic studio in north London, surrounded by a twisted fairytale scene of mouldy jam tarts and scorched doll houses.

She plays the Royal Beheader of course she does and is joined by Lupita Nyongo as a dormouse, Sean Diddy Combs as Campbells fellow beheader, South Sudanese-Australian model Duckie Thot as Alice, Whoopi Goldberg as the Royal Duchess and Sasha Lane as the March Hare. Fashions woke poster-woman and feminist activist Adwoa Aboah has been shot as Tweedledee. And RuPaul will also seem, as the Queen of Hearts.

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RuPaul, Duckie Thot and Edward Enninful backstage at the shoot. Photo: Alessandro Scotti/ Pirelli PR handout

This is a staggeringly talented and eclectic casting. It is also all black, with the calendar styled by Edward Enninful, the newly appointed editor of British Vogue, the first person of colouring to have held the post. That said, the concept is the job of a white photographer, Tim Walker, who explains his motivating by saying its never been did before. Alice has never been told like this.

This is not the first time Pirelli has featured an all-black lineup in 1987, a 16 -year-old Campbell posed topless for an edition that featured only black models. This time, however, the tone is wildly different. And it feels precision-engineered to strike a chord in an epoch in which way eventually seems to be addressing its diversity problem, with Enninfuls appointment, the autumn/ winter 2017 runway collections in just about every city featuring their most racially diverse cast ever, as well as Guccis recent campaign that featured only black models all being presented as green shoots of change.

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Adwoa Aboah. Photograph: Alessandro Scotti/ Pirelli PR handout

But reflecting, even leading, culture conversations is what the Pirelli calendar does these days, which may seem bizarre given that it is essentially a promotional exercising for tyres.

This was not always the style. For much of its history the calendar, launched in 1964, was most famous as a place where supermodels took off their kit sometimes artily for photographers ranging from Terry Richardson to Herb Ritts.

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Alpha Dia and King Owusu. Photograph: Alessandro Scotti/ Pirelli PR handout

But in 2016 Pirelli commissioned Annie Leibovitz to shoot women known for their professional, social, culture, sporting and artistic accomplishment, including Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, Serena Williams and Amy Schumer, without the male gaze in intellect. Earlier this year, Peter Lindberghs instalment continued in the same vein, presenting portraits of women with their clothes largely on: Uma Thurman was snapped in a rib-knit roll-neck. Both calendars inspired thinkpieces aplenty.

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Thando Hopa and Whoopi Goldberg. Photograph: Alessandro Scotti/ Pirelli PR handout

The cynical might question Pirellis motivatings for using an all-black cast, and whether its nod to styles vogue for diversity is a little too on the nose. With that box ticked, will Pirelli forget about diversity for its 2019 edition? Will the rest of the fashion industry, for that are important?

None of these concerns are at the fore on set, however, where models wearing vinyl skirts and platform shoes mill around to a soundtrack of Aretha Franklins Respect and Otis Reddings( Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher& Higher. The dark detritus of fairytale is strewn about cakes with plastic hands erupting out of them, burnt toast and a loom, giant stuffed hare that refuses to stay upright.

South African Thando Hopa plays the Princess of Hearts. She is a law graduate who worked as a prosecutor specialising in sex offence lawsuits, and only got into modelling because she wanted to have a greater level of representation for someone who appears so different( she has albinism ). Expended in the power of images you ensure person portrayed in a particular route and it gives you inspiration and motivating

Read more: www.theguardian.com