Stealing Beauty

When it comes to discussions of intellectual property and copyright, things tend to slant in two directions: pass stringent laws to protect creators and artists or, conversely, avoid any legislation that might encroach on individual freedoms. While these arguments address the rights of people and corporations, they tend to ignore the bigger picture. How do IP rights affect the advance of culture as a whole? Enter Ready to Share.

The Ready to Share project “explores the fashion industry’s enthusiastic embrace of sampling, appropriation and borrowed inspiration,” positing that the lack of restriction actually makes fashion a business leader and one of the most creative (not to mention profitable) business models going. The project includes participants from fashion and entertainment quarters, as well as academics, scientists, business executives and archivists, and has published several research reports. I have to say, I was really pleased to see fashion hailed as a visionary industry – especially when it’s so often dismissed as trivial by more, well, industrial types.

In the clip below, the smart and stylish Johanna Blakley explains why fashion is (or should be) the envy of innovators everywhere.

- G.

Look Pretty! Feel Beautiful!

From Mommie Dearest
Photographers Sofia Sanchez & Mauro Mongiello
Stylist Samuel Francois, Model Siri Tollerød
For Numéro 97

When I was small, maybe eight or nine, my mother bought me my first makeup kit. A cheap drugstore affair, it would serve the double purpose of keeping me out of her “good” makeup while teaching me how to use the stuff before I took it out into the world. In the last few months, celebrity mom Katie Holmes has been taken to task for allowing her daughter (age four) to walk around in ballroom dancing shoes – essentially child-size high heels. In my mind, giving little girls (or boys) the tokens of adulthood is mostly harmless; an amusing gesture, a little parental indulgence.


Created in 2001 by a Parisian digital arts collective called Pleix, the video below shows a series of four imagined “Beauty Kits for Little Girls” containing DIY beauty treatments. But rather than the customary cheap-makeup-and-nail-polish combos, these kits promise breast implants, liposuction, rhinoplasty, and cosmetic dental surgery.

Part kitschy vintage ad, part modern infomercial, the piece takes you through step-by-step guides, juxtaposing playful music, simple images and rudimentary drawings with creepy flashes of bloody scalpels and bone fragments. It’s both amusing and disturbing – an apt commentary on an increasing appetite for and obsession with (arbitrary) aesthetic perfection that, at this point, seems to claim its acolytes almost in infancy.

This work is already nine years old (just a little older than its implied target market), but I think it might actually be getting more relevant over time.

- g.