How do you take on the mighty world of fashion, shake it awake and begin a revolution?
By playing to its vanity, creating your own carnivale hall of mirrors… and dragging it inside? This is what Steve Oklyn, creator of NOTVOGUE.com seems to have succeeded via his online magazine, with its glossy photos and terse rebukes, setting the chattering classes of the fashion world laughing, pouting and stamping its feet.
As well as his scathing wit, anonymity is another part of his armoury and in this interview we get a glimpse behind the mask. Oklyn talks about where the Not Vogue name came from, how his philosophy is influenced by thinkers such as Jean Baudrillard and Paul Virilio from the 50′s and 60′s, explores Interdependency in context and how his goal is to “create a crack in the reflective surface of power”.
What follows, undertaken over a period of several weeks in the Spring of 2013, is a summary of discussions between Curated Futures and STEVE OKLYN, who described it as a personal journey and “…our first intellectual adventure together”.
CF: Q#1_Who is STEVE OKLYN and What is NOT VOGUE?
s/O: A#1_ Steve Oklyn is the author behind the NOT VOGUE project. Steve Oklyn was an idea that evolved slowly over time. Steve Oklyn is not a he. Steve Oklyn is not a she. Steve Oklyn operates as a we. Steve Oklyn is an intellectual process. That process has taken the form of an online journal. INTRODUCTION: In the Fall of 2010 as she was exiting as the Editor-in-chief of VOGUE Paris Mme Carine Roitfeld during an interview stated “You are VOGUE, or not VOGUE” Steve Oklyn was instantly taken by the arrogance and inherent satirical potential of that pronouncement. Steve Oklyn immediately registered the domain http://www.notvogue.com. At the beginning of 2011 just after the Automne Hiver 2011-2012 collections season and at the beginning of the Libyan civil war a mental image to represent the NOT VOGUE concept formed.
That visual was Colonel Gaddafi sitting next to Anna Wintour front row at a fashion show. Both the Colonel and Anna were wearing their signature sunglasses. The imaginary fashion show CHANEL. The name working in concert with that image signaled the project’s content direction. An uncompromising critique and real time commentary focusing on the global fashion industry and the industry protagonists.
Since the globalized fashion industry infrastructure which includes the critical review process is an interconnected and interdependent commercial network NOT VOGUE to ensure editorial freedom operates as a 100% commercial free critical voice. That voice is informed by the critical precedent set by Mr. John Fairchild an heir to the FAIRCHILD publishing group. As Publisher of WWD [1960-1996] he helped to manufacture and ultimately shape a “cult of celebrity” around the lives of fashion designers. He wrote in his memoir “I have learned in fashion to be a little savage.” That quote encapsulates perfectly the editorial direction of NOT VOGUE. The NOT VOGUE critical algorithm is composed of an array of Post-WWII post-structuralist investigative processes, positions and strategies plus an intuitive mix of aesthetic ideas emanating from the conceptual art movement. Steve Oklyn wanted to take a leap outside of his/her fate in homage to the writings of E.M. Cioran. NOT VOGUE is that leap. The first page was posted on Tuesday, July 12, 2011 AT 10:10 AM The text read: NOT VOGUE 1 TERRY 0 a seminal comment declaring war on the compromised state of current fashion criticism which is really fashion public relations. Think Paul Virilio not Cathy Horyn.
CF: Q#2_ Paul Virilio talks about ‘logistics of perception’ – the use of images and information in conflict situations – do you feel there is a direct correlation with the use of images and information in Fashion? Are we ‘at war’?
s/O: A#2_ The global fashion industrial-complex is organized as a war machine incessantly attacking the consumers’ perception of selfhood. The goal of the sustained attack on the consumer is to weaken their belief in their own social image. Once the sense of self has been weakened and in some cases shattered the natural self is replaced by a fashion definition of self. This is so beautifully camouflaged by the most unscrupulous of terms: STYLE. This style war is waged with weapons of selfhood destruction. The war is extra-dimensional and psychological.
The fashion-industrial complex’s armory is built from images and information. Fashion is the weapon. It’s technical components and delivery systems are built from styles, trends, must-haves, brand ambassadors, tastemakers, editors, stylists, models, photographers, galas, premieres, actors/actresses, musicians, signature perfume deals, books, exhibitions, and at the center of it all the unending seasonal assault of fashion weeks. This “campaign” is controlled by a very small group of fashion product/image corporations and fashion families.
The war is waged long-term. So long in fact that in some cases there now exist pockets of propaganda four generations deep all working towards one goal. To control the consumer’s perception of selfhood. To control the self’s image and language commands that equate to happiness and ultimately a perfectly product and brand sedated humanoid. The command centre for the fashion-industrial army is currently the 23 international editions of VOGUE.
The war for the global consumers selfhood is ultimately waged by who is chosen to be on the covers each month. NOT VOGUE believes that this network of covers and the editorial politics involved in choosing the cover subjects plus the products exhibited on these covers is operating as a LOGISTICS OF PERCEPTION. April 24, 2013 ANNA WINTOUR hires former Democratic National Committee Finance Director as the new Communications Director at VOGUE. Anna Wintour is Editor-in-chief of American Vogue. She is editorial director of TEEN VOGUE. Anna Wintour has just been named Artistic Director of CONDE NAST. In war terms Anna is now the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the fashion- industrial complex’s assault on billions of emerging individuals and their emerging identities.
The writer Ernst Junger is the creator of the politico-ideological concept of Total Mobilization. Paul Virilio was aware intellectually of this concept of TOTAL WAR. Virilio famously stated “War is my university.” You have asked Steve Oklyn are we in the midst of a war when thinking about the fashion-industrial complex. My answer is yes. Our solution is a counter-narrative. To attack using the strategies and initiatives of guerrilla information warfare. As Virilio does NOT VOGUE deplores the homogenizing effects of fashion’s INFORMATION BOMB. Our position is to disrupt VOGUE’s destructive psychological message with a counter-narrative focused again on Virilio’s example to experience life as a journey of self REFLECTION as opposed to living life as a REFLEX to consumer brainwashing.
CF: Q#3_We are seeing a state of Inter-dependence rising in the world, where all participants share in the journey and outcomes – whatever that may be, positive or negative, ultimately showing that in order to make progress and impact, we need to pull together. How does this translate in the world of fashion?
s/O: A#3_ NOT VOGUE takes the position that the current state of the globalized fashion-industrial complex is neither positive nor benign. Fashion changed forever when Bernard Arnault entered the picture. It all begins with the engineering of the sale to Mr. Arnault of the textile company Boussac which owned CHRISTIAN DIOR. With the formation of LVMH SA in 1987 we are at the seminal moment for what in 2013 is defined as luxury fashion. Within the LVMH mission statement is a key objective “…kindle dream and fantasy.” Here is the moment where the question of interdependence and where all participants share in the journey and outcome becomes not a social question but a political one. It is way easier to control a global populace through their dreams than reality with the science of luxury propaganda guiding the process. Tonight at the Metropolitan Museum in New York is the gala for the exhibition PUNK: CHAOS TO COUTURE which is being hosted by the designer Riccardo Tisci of GIVENCHY a LVMH corporate equity.
Anna Wintour the Editor-in-chief of America VOGUE who is a trustee of the museum and has chaired 13 Costume Institute benefits is very much acting as a symbol for CONDE NAST owned by the Newhouse family for this event now considered the fashion world’s OSCAR’S. The metaphor relates to the massive global media coverage. With every guest through social media, instagram in particular hundreds of millions of world citizens are experiencing this event simultaneously and in real time. Now here is where the interdependence becomes exploitive. You have the fourth richest person in the world Mr. Arnault which through his corporation LVMH controls GIVENCHY. You have Anna Wintour who is a symbol of the authority [read power] to decide all things fashion worthy and fashionable also acting in her role as a trustee of the venerable “public” institution the MET Museum they are all acting interdependently but for what end: dominion. We have to also bring in all the soft power from the various fashion designers, the fashion models, the actors and actresses, the musicians and now “reality” TV personalities who are the real global audience’s reason for caring about this event. Everyone in attendance this evening is interdependent with each other to benefit of course their career agendas [those lucrative global ambassador contracts] which need to be reinforced by multiple global VOGUE international editions covers and profiles.
As a top down global economic and political structure LVMH and CONDE NAST are in total control. There is a need to endlessly promote their one message which is consume our products and personalities and all your dreams and fantasies will be fulfilled. The very title of the exhibition shows the hubris and unchecked power to dominate at play. The overlords [LVMH + CONDE NAST + The MET] can like fashion world supervillians take control of the creative CHAOS of PUNK culture and guide it to the needs of the COUTURE ateliers in Paris. The objective here is to control creativity and by controlling creativity control history and by controlling history controlling the consumer’s world. NOT VOGUE sees this as a fashion industry “matrix” governing the dreams and fantasies of the world through a global interdependent DREAM CONSTRUCT. The members of the NOT VOGUE COMMUNE also have a mission statement which is to investigate and continually question the goals and objectives of the fashion industries BLUE PILL fantasy. We have enough RED PILLS to open the eyes of the young optimistic citizens of the 21st century. VOGUE wants you to dream their synthetic dream. NOT VOGUE wants you to think about that simulated world. Blissful ignorance or painful truth.
CF: Q#4_ In this context, is NOT VOGUE an adversary or a commentator?
s/O: A#4_ NOT VOGUE is by its very nature constructed to be an adversarial irritant. It is authored to be as antagonistic as possible to the fashion-industrial complex. The system’s players, power grids and personalities. Its values, its objectives and its methodologies. By antagonism you have to go to the Greek origin: to struggle against. This is not a project devoted to an emotional agenda. It is not a project based on any need to even the score, to right any personal grievances. It is a political critique.
It is an anthropological investigation and sociological study. It is cool and actually at its most effective when the commentary is rigorously rational. NOT VOGUE does not have any feeling towards any of the subjects being discussed. The project is composed page by page as a mathematical progression. One of the guiding structural principles used while organizing each page visually and how the text supports and drives the images is OCCAM’S RAZOR: entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity. A visual analogy for the rigor imposed on the construction of a NOT VOGUE critique is Donald Judd’s series titled PROGRESSIONS which were manufactured between 1964 and 1970: http://www.elviragonzalez.es/fotos/foto_186.jpg
The intellectual challenge when composing a page is to see the idea in total clarity.
To choose images that only support the idea. To choose or compose a line or multiple lines of text only to support the idea. Bringing any emotion to the project in any manner defeats the operating order of the universe of interrelated and interdependent ideas needed to build an alternative intellectual space. There is VOGUE which is a matrix organized as an all seeing and all knowing reality for its participants and its audience. We use the term BLUE PILL to describe that world. There is NOT VOGUE which is an algorithm. The protocols used to process the NOT VOGUE calculations are built from candor and equilibrium. VOGUE is a map of reality. NOT VOGUE is a deconstruction of that map. When viewed in full the project will transform from being an adversary to a form of illumination. That illumination when grasped as a single totality will have a message and a message does contain the attributes attributed to commentary. That message is simplicity itself. They [the fashion-industrial complex] need you. You do not need them. It is a project about institutional power overthrown by what NOT VOGUE perceives as the strongest process in our universe. An awareness of the aptitude inherent in each of us to determine our own world. It is essential to study the reality presented to us as a construction but once you can see the grid of rules and laws of behavior as arbitrary and restrictive the power of control evaporates. What NOT VOGUE offers is a RED PILL. The choice is yours. VOGUE with its delusional world. Built for you. Maintained for you so you can live to consume or a place where every decision is yours. Each moment is yours. Each awakening is yours. Time to make a decision.
CF: Q#5_ The final word [for now]:
s/O: A#5_ Steve Oklyn has been asked to author a final word. Here goes!
The fashion world is an artificial construct. In that space everyone now experiences selfhood from within the hive mind which is called VOGUE. As we move forward it will have countless other names. In the near future fashion will still have a commanding social presence. The corporations and the families involved in maintaining the societal power they grabbed since the late 1980’s exists as a global plutocracy. Billions of dollars are in play and are at stake. The illusion of fashion’s importance to us all is accepted on a grand and religious level. Anna Wintour with the full support of her employer CONDE NAST has built a mythic narrative of invincibility. It is important to understand that it is just a narrative. It is a fantasy. There is no rationale except monetary or vital cultural importance to anything published or promoted by the current international editions of VOGUE magazine. It is a visually induced dream.
The objective of the fashion-industrial matrix is to continually grow their system of images fuelled by your identity. Therein lies the danger. The leading fashion industry operatives are just a desperate chattering class dependent on your time and your financial resources to survive. The antidote to their invasive message is self-determination.
I am ready to state the final word: nothing…
VOGUE is nothing.
Postscript: NOT VOGUE is evolving steadily forward. The future will see our other correspondent Stanley Blade taking a more prominent role in shaping the editorial strategy. Fact: Stanley Blade is a close technological relation to DAVID 8 in the film PROMETHEUS. To be continued…