Thou Shalt be Iconic…

11 Feb

… is the last commandment, coming to us through the rather mysterious channel of Dior’s marketing department.

In this context, iconic means emblematic, which in turns is equivalent (modulo irrelevant details) to being such that anyone would associate your aspect with some brand. Obviously, the suggestion from Dior’s apostles is to become a walking commercial for them. How nice. Not that it’s really new either. For the last 20 years, everybody, and especially her sister, has been exposed to such unreasonable doses of commercial brainwash they think it’s a good idea to walk with garment displaying logos as big as said garment can hold.

Rule: NEVER buy clothes with visible logos. They are a bad taste fucking manifesto. Like ‘hey look at me! I can’t tell beautiful from ugly if it’s not written on the label.’

Let’s set aside Dior and disgraceful marketing.

We need another reading, and my little shrimps, here’s mine. The true meaning of the holy commandment of iconicity is found considering yourself as a brand. And then be a walking commercial for yourself. There’s a troubling proximity between good brand image management and just style. Style (in most cases) is style because it is recognizable as such, which involves some strong distinctive features that the media call iconic when they are sufficiently far from the rest of the crowd.  The good ol’ medievals had a notion for this they had inherited from Aristotle: sui generis. Something is sui generis when it is so different from everything else that you have to create a new category to classify it. Like this guy for instance, a living proof that the Creator either has a weird sense of humor, or invented pot before finishing the animals.

Consequently, we introduce equivalence (1):

(1)    Be iconic = Market yourself as a sui generis brand

I hear you, my delirious hordes of readers (all the six of you): why, you ask, are you so particular and concrete? Wouldn’t you please ascend to the universal and provide us with transcendental deductions of the conditions of possibility of iconicity? After all, that’s why we got PhDs in the first place…

Well, let us not go astray from our true path, the one that will lead us to conquer the world and pinch the flabby cheek of Lagerfeld, and that path of glory goes through absolute domination of the blogosphere, which is good, of course, and forces us to give examples because we want everyone to follow us.

(And that would the end of our psychotic episode of the day)

So. Here’s my list of highly iconic people: the singer, the actress, the blogger, the model and the designer.

Case 1: Gaga. We’ve been through it already. She has a way with clothes that sets her apart. You can make a joke about her outfits, everybody will get it. Even the devotees of death by fashion boredom (sweaters+jeans+sneakers).

You know I like her

Case 2: Helena Bonham-Carter. She’s got a truly fine attitude, the crazy witch. She cares about fashion, it’s obvious. But fashion rules and common wisdom? She doesn’t give a friggin’ fuck. Like, who said shoes must have the same color?

Victorian irrational

Case 3: Suzie Bubble. Another major player in the sui generis league. She’s a leading expert in unconventional fashion. You won’t find her in the usual random-glam stuff. She rocks the edge of fashion with the aplomb of the true adventurers.

Fashion Stuntgirl

Case 4: Kate Moss, post 05 era. First she was just extremely beautiful in a girly way. Throw in a daughter and a salad bowl of cocaine, a hefty measure of sex scandal and being the godmother of two children of one of the Clash, and what do you get? The last living scion of the noble house of Punk, that’s what you get. Fools ran away. The smart guys came running. People like their ads with a touch of rock’n roll in it, it covers well the sour taste of greed.

Soho 77 meets glam porn

Case 5: Herr Lagerfeld. He’s arch-evil, but in a most distinctive way. There are lots of loud eccentrics in the fashion world, but he is by far the best at the game of branding himself. Look at that: he’s the bride of his own défilé:

Who's bad?

Are you iconic? What would you do to brand yourselves?

18 Responses to “Thou Shalt be Iconic…”

  1. winnsome February 11, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    totally agree with you about all ur choices suzie i love and karl is just hilarious (especially fake karl). It really bothers me how the trash mags make a habit of criticizing bonham-carter for her red-carpet “attitoood” seriously i am really sick of all of the other celebs who have tonnes of money all wearing the equivalent of a high school prom dress soooo boring/tacky/swarovski crapness so i’m really glad u put her in but i think viv westwood maybe should have been in ur list she’s an awesome psycho chicky seriously even her adds with pamela anderson/trailer trash vibes are so damn cool
    luv ur blog btw

    • Miss Eliza Wharton February 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

      I’m sorry your comment didn’t get through before… for some reason wordpress foolishly thought it was spam.
      I’m 110% with you on the boredom martyr inflicted to us via the ad nauseam celebs’ proms défilé.
      Westwood was definitely in my mind but didn’t make it to the list (which is by no means a top 5, regardless of what I told Suzy — she’s on my top 5) because I just wanted one designer, and had to chose. Lagerfeld’s style is just that: iconic, it’s a pure case if you want. Westwood is miles above, her personal style is exactly as beautifully creative and eccentric as she is. She’s one of my HEROES.

    • Virginia Postrel February 16, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

      I’m glad to see someone stick up for Helena Bonham Carter’s shoes. Her style isn’t my cup of tea, but it’s aesthetically coherent and obviously well-considered. Everybody described her shoes as “mismatched,” when in fact they matched perfectly. They were just two different colors.

      • Miss Eliza Wharton February 17, 2011 at 12:32 am #

        “Her style isn’t my cup of tea, but it’s aesthetically coherent and obviously well-considered.”
        I couldn’t agree more. Plus, it’s generally fun to watch, not a small feat in the ocean of boredom of the red carpets.

  2. Madame Suggia February 11, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    After the insomnia-ridden night from hell I’m not at my most lucid or erudite but I must say, you are one fantastic writer. Love it all, please may I have some more?

  3. Miss Eliza Wharton February 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    Oh Madame Suggia, look what you’ve done: you caught me off guard and now I’ve spelt my tea everywhere jumping around in excitement. Thanks so much for the joy rush!!

  4. Miss Eliza Wharton February 11, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    And let me add, for some of my little shrimps are distracted and may have skipped this, that you are a true gem in your way, displaying wealths of everything which is good in life: beauty, cello, red drape, and high heels.
    You got all my lady bells tinkling.

  5. Madame Suggia February 11, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    Eeeek! You found my portrait!

    Saw this at the swagger Portrait exhibition at (I believe) the Tate long long time ago…had the poster for an age, now this is my wallpaper on all my gadgets…fabulous, non?

    In my next life I’m coming back with that hair, that nose ( a diva nose if ever I saw one!) and that big fat red dress.

  6. aurumgirl February 11, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    I would brand myself as the kind of gal who looks great in a magnificent gown, but is utterly invisible otherwise. No inbetweens allowed (which means I need to find an up-to-date version of Augustus John to keep around at all times. Now that is some sui generis kind of man).

    Am I completely alone in preferring the cape-wearing-fan-flashing-mommy-worshipping-Memphis-furniture-collecting-fatty- Karl Lagerfeld icon to this dour and babbling excuse for a high collar we’re stuck with now?

    P.S. Madame Suggia makes a good point.

  7. Miss Eliza Wharton February 11, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    Hey Aurum! So you are one of those rads all-or-nothing girls. Wow! I do agree that having an ability to go unnoticed is a really useful superpower (of which I’m totally lacking since I’m the superhot bitch, as you’ll see for yourselves as soon as I get on of my toymen to properly shoot a picture). But at times I get SO bored of all this men throwing themselves at my feet I wish I could disappear. I try to. Alas, when I do that I look even better.
    Karl 1.0 was an interesting character. He was nuts but his belly made him a little shy (hence the fan). Karl 2.0 is just nuts. But his style is now like his stomach: firmer.

  8. Manolo the Shoeblogger February 11, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    All of these peoples you have cited are indeed iconic, however, the Manolo would aver that there are the ways to be iconic without looking like the circus clown, or Lestat the Vampire’s Elderly Gay Brother.

    And while the Manolo adores Suzy Bubble, her iconicity should not be equated with elegance. Indeed, the problem for all of the peoples you have cited above (with the noble exception of the Kate Moss) is that they believe that the more is better: more layers, more bangles, more different fabrics, more wackiness.

    It is the opinion of the Shoeblogger, that it is better to pare back the layers so as to achieve iconicity through the starkly elegant, rather than through the piling on of conflicting and/or contrasting elements.

  9. Miss Eliza Wharton February 11, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    I’ll bravely face the accusations of sycophancy, and repeat myself: Manolo, you hit nails!
    Now watch this, I’m going for encephalitis attack! Beware!

    Let me both agree with you and beg to differ.
    Had I referred to elegance in the first place, you would have been more than right to forcefully claim the rights of controlled and tasteful choices.
    Where I find myself doubting for once your wise judgement is when you claim one an achieve iconicity through elegance.
    (I can’t believe I’m writing this. But Amicus est Socrates, magister meus, sed magis est amica veritas, as they say).
    The point is, I find that there is a tension between iconicity and real elegance, stark or otherwise. The reason is that I think that the former depends on being recognizable as a singular individual, while the latter is above all a matter of good taste. Now if there’s something like good taste (and I think I’m safe assuming we both believe there is), it is something that people have in common. With this democratic lunacy we live in where every taxpayer is entitled his/her own good taste, we just end with no taste at all. Elegance is a matter of subtle differences on a shared basis. Iconicity is by definition an ‘in your face’ affair.
    Miranda Priestly herself achieves iconicity only by pushing the envelope way beyond the limits. Take back her (admittedly über-classy) quirks, the glacial look, the hushed voice, and you get elegance but no icon.
    Now, thinking about it, maybe I get your point. Which is tastefully desperate. You would be saying: there’s so few people left with a sense of true elegance that elegance alone will suffice to set you completely apart, and therefore make you an icon.
    O tempora o mores!

  10. Madame Suggia February 11, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    May I just jump in here and add to your list of icons? Agree with Susie Bubble and of course the Gaga, but may I give you exhibit 1, Dame Edith Sitwell (a bonkers Brit arty-aristo with a diva-schnozzle) and if you have a look here, you’ll see Gaga channeling Dame Edith Exhibit 2, Mrs. Diana Vreeland, again with the nose…I’m seeing a theme here. Anyone else care to share, personally I’m done with the Audrey/Grace/Jackie trinity of style icons?

  11. aurumgirl February 12, 2011 at 12:58 am #

    Amen on the “enough” of Audrey/Grace/Jackie. Rossy de Palma, for example, puts them all to shame.

  12. winnsome February 12, 2011 at 6:38 am #

    bonjour lovely
    I totally agree with you about elegance/poise which i definitely aspire to but it’s not the same thing as what you’re getting at. it’s more like you’re saying iconic is the kind of person you remember because they have a style all of their own and are famous for it.
    I totally hear you with Bonham-Carter it really bothers me when all of the trash mags have a go at her individuality and sing the praises of all of the rest of the celebs with no imagination who all look more like they are going to their high school prom. I always think far out if I had that kind of money I would at least be wearing McQueen or Ackerman or something equally exciting.
    love ur blog btw

  13. Miss Eliza Wharton February 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    Oh yeah, I would rock in some Galliano’s riot of a dress.
    But it’s a common misconception that because you’re famous, you’re not just plain boring and/or stupid. Actually lots of those red carpeteers really are. Both.


  1. A rejoinder of sorts… | Which_is_Good - February 12, 2011

    […] … is what I owe to Mr. Manolo, Miss Suggia and Miss Aurum, who were kind enough to provide enlightening comments in this iconicity affair. […]

  2. Beauty, Changing the Game, Iconicity, and the Lady Gaga | Manolo's Shoe Blog - February 16, 2011

    […] is secret of most of the fashion icons that our friend Miss Eliza has cited in her post Thou Shalt Be Iconic…As the Manolo has said, great beauty is inherently compelling. It stands out from the crowd and […]

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