ANNE GILDEA

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - REAL LIFE - anne.gildea@mailon­sun­day.ie

Ilove fash­ion mags. Not that I buy them — I flick through them in the shop. And not that I’m gag­ging for their fash­ion-for­ward ‘ad­vice’; I’m too hefty and fi­nan­cially con­stricted for things like sliv­ers of cov­etable Vivi­enne West­wood or a Miu Miu skirt that costs gazil­lions. And not that there’s any­thing, in any one of them, ever, that re­flects what I un­der­stand, be­lieve and aspire to as re­ally im­por­tant in life.

Ba­si­cally, I love them in a love-to-hate-them kind of way: the daft ‘lux­ury’ im­agery, the re­gres­sive ex­pres­sions of fem­i­nine re­al­ity, the be­yond id­i­otic wordage. In a re­cent is­sue of Vogue, a six- page ar­ti­cle banged on about ‘why we are still los­ing our hearts to the hand­bag’. Ha ha, I go, imag­in­ing the edi­tors and writer screech­ing with laugh­ter as they churned that one out. What next: ‘why the love of my life is a hat’; ‘why gloves make the world go round’; ‘why my best friends are boots’?

But I also think ‘boo’ for the cyn­i­cal mar­ket­ing that fos­ters the im­pres­sion that it’s nor­mal to con­sider pay­ing four fig­ures for a ‘grown-up hand­bag’, as they put it. Then, as I was flick­ing through InStyle, there was a piece in which the de­signer of a new € 2,000-plus Gucci bag was asked how she would style it. ‘With a dou­ble­breasted suit or a kaf­tan for a more ca­sual mood’ was the an­swer. ‘Bel­lis­sima!’ the writer cooed. ‘Get up the yard!’ I har­rumphed. Don’t you just love it? The idea of a bag be­ing ‘styled’ by ev­ery­thing else you wear, of your out­fit be­ing the ac­ces­sory to your ac­ces­sory? I like the no­tion of look­ing nice as much as the next per­son, but not to the point where I might be think­ing, ‘Are my anorak and Crocs work­ing this Lidl car­rier?’ ev­ery time I go to the shops… Ah, I could bang on and on about fash-mags, with their ridicu­lous never-end­ing litany of ‘lust-have’ items, warped world­view, re­ac­tionary spin on wom­an­hood, and pages and pages of ema­ci­ated young ladies — skinny streaks of un­fea­si­bly tall, thin and leggy young ones; hun­dreds of beau­ti­ful-faced, mas­sively made-up fe­males, putting it up to the rest of us: ‘Why can’t I look like that?’

Funny, that re­minds me of an ar­ti­cle I read re­cently in which a fash­ion in­tern re­vealed that the at­mos­phere in high- end fash-mag of­fices is of­ten tense and catty be­cause ‘ev­ery­one is starv­ing’. In one of­fice she worked in, the edi­tor even banned food! There’s a comic jus­tice in

What do you have to do to win Model of the Year? Race each other in high heels? Com­pet­i­tive pout­ing, per­haps?

the push­ers of un­re­al­is­tic phys­i­cal as­pi­ra­tion suf­fer­ing to at­tain it them­selves.

All that is re­ally just a pre­am­ble to my point: and that is Cara Delev­ingne. ‘Who?’ you may well ask, as I did my­self when I sud­denly saw the name and face all over the glossies I love to loathe. Put it this way: Twiggy, Iman, Gisele, Cindy, Kate, Naomi, Clau­dia, Ag­y­ness: she’s the new one. She’ll be known as ‘Cara’ soon enough. An­other one-name model won­der, the lat­est su­per­model. She’s cer­tainly a very beau­ti­ful young lady: tall, twig-thin, with a big pair of wide-spaced eyes un­der a cou­ple of fierce hairy eye­brows, set in a face of such per­fect sym­me­try, you can’t but look at her and go, ‘OMG, wow, she’s, erm, just as beau­ti­ful as all the other mag­a­zine mod­els.’ Why, I won­dered, is this one sud­denly The One? Well, she won Model of the Year 2012 at the Bri­tish Fash­ion Awards last Novem­ber. What­ever do you have to do for that? Is it a kind of It’s A Knock­out com­pe­ti­tion? The gir­leen fi­nal­ists have to zip around a run­way of traf­fic cones faster and faster, in higher and higher high heels, un­til there’s just one left stand­ing? Pout hard enough that they can stick them­selves by their lips to a Per­spex cliff; who­ever hangs on long­est wins? En­gage Karl Lager­feld or Anna Win­tour in con­ver­sa­tion, re­sist­ing the au­to­matic im­pulse to say, ‘Sorry, I find you very strange. Ex­cuse me, I need to run away from you, with im­me­di­ate ef­fect’? Cara is just an or­di­nary 5’10’’, size-six blonde from Lon­don’s Bel­gravia, with a ‘Sir’ for a grand­dad, a for­mer Vogue colum­nist granny and an aunt who’s edi­tor of Condé Nast Trav­eller. She’s well con­nected enough. But that’ll only bring you so far. She had to rely on her own fine pair of brows to carry her that ex­tra few pho­to­shoots and run­way shows to model su­per­star­dom. I sup­pose.

I don’t un­der­stand any of it, to be hon­est. If the edi­tors chose absolutely any one of the mod­els, in any of the ads or style spreads, and they said, for ex­am­ple, ‘Meet Sheila-Mau­reen von Maguire — she’s the new It-face; you heard it here first,’ and they banged on and on about it, and stuck the award for Model of the Year 2013 in her hand, you’d go, ‘Okay, Sheila-Mau­reen von Maguire is the new face of what beauty is.’ It could be any of the beau­ties, but it’s not. It’s Cara Delev­ingne, okay? Or is it? I’ve lit­er­ally just read this on the Marie Claire blog: ‘Is Suki Water­house the new Cara Delev­ingne?’ Ah, feck it, I can’t keep up.

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