Thursday, March 18, 2010

Trend : Stardoll, the end of innocence

The time where girls were dressing plastic dolls is over. Now, a girl throws her Barbies before 6 years old and starts dressing herself like the models and celebs she sees on TV and magazines. At 8, she knows how to put make-up, at 10 she wants to buy DKNY, and at 12, she has got her own opinion on the last Balenciaga's runway ... The evolution of girls induced an evolution of their games.
When the website first appeared, around 2003, its name was Paper Doll Heaven. Its creator, Scandinavian graphic designer Liisa, wanted to recreate an old tradition, those of the paperdolls, figurines you dress with paper. But then, the website became more and more popular, and in 2006, became Stardoll. With this new concept, players still can dress celebrities ( such as Sandra Bullock, Amy Lee, Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker, Gisele Bundchen, Eva Longoria, Marie Antoinette and many more ) but they can also create their own doll, their look-alike or a complete fantasy of themselves, dress it, decorate its room and meet friends from many countries.
Initially conceived for girls from 7 to 17, Stardoll is evolving toward a more mature identity, recreating clothes of Haute Couture, promoting movies, TV shows and video games, and warning their players about global warming and endangered species. No surprising then to find as many mothers as daughters, and fashion fanatics in their twenties. For Stardoll is like every woman's dream comes true. There, you can buy ( and wear ) Christian Dior dresses for only 16 stardollars ( the website's currency ) and Hermes bags for 5.
A complete Miss Sixty's outfit ( top, jeans, hat, shoes and bag ) who costs 471 euros in real shops, costs only 74 stardollars. A gorgeous Diane Von Furstenberg skirt costs 494 euros in real life and 8 sd on Stardoll, and Miu Miu shoes, 725 dollars the pair, only 4, and avaible for "non superstars".

But, money, like in the real world, doesn't fall into your lap. When you create your doll for free, you're a non superstar : you receive 45 sd for free, and you can earn 5 a day ( 70 maximum per month ) by using the different functionalities. But soon, you will realize that the clothes and objects you can buy as a free user are the less interesting. Only two real brands are for those players, Kohl's and Olsenboye, and only 13% of the dresses are avaible without a superstar account. Actually, to be able to use Stardoll as a whole, you have to buy, with real money, a Superstar account. During a certain amount of time, you will be able to buy gorgeous clothes, decorate up to ten rooms, threw chat parties, create your own designs ( some users are genuine artists ), etc.
You can choose to buy an account ( and amount of money ) for one month, six months or one year, with a credit card. If you are living in France like me, one month will cost you 5,95 euros, six months 29,70 and one year, 47,40. The funny thing is that the prices vary with the countries ! For the same account, you can pay 5 euros less in the United States, 7 euros less in Great Britain, and 8 more in Sweden, for example.

And there, you quickly see the limits of Stardoll. This is not a beautiful world where teenagers can have fun and blossom in complete innocence. For Stardoll is, in the first place, a commercial product. The goal of its conceptors is to lead the players to buy, more and more. Some items, especially the clothes from the real brands ( DKNY, Miss Sixty, Vivienne Tam, Philosophy di Alberto Ferretti to name some ) end really expensive. And if you wish to buy Limited Edition, you will have to spend your whole month of Superstar in just one dress, whereas you could have bought over 20 different items with it. I let you calculate !
Stardoll is just a virtual world, and the money you spend on it is wasted away for good, as you will never wear the clothes for real. It could even create frustration when easily influenced teenagers realize that they can't afford the brands in real life, or when they click on the adds surounding the website. You should see them, driven to madness for an account or just one virtual piece of clothing. The frenzy seizes them, and the game turns into addiction. Then, they would be able of anything, even stealing other players' accounts or scamming them. The website also attract people with intention other than fashion ... Of course, Stardoll tries its best to prevent abuses, but the risk is still there for the young and naive users.

So, is Stardoll a good thing ? Yes, if you only take it like a game you play from time to time and if you are a mature and reasonable person. But for teenagers and children, I wouldn't recommend it : it's a poor education to give them, letting them believe that life is easy and they can have everything, and it's also a financial crisis for parents.
So, whatever they say, Stardoll is for adults who like to dream sometimes rather than for a young public whose dreams could turn into nightmares.
Sources :

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A girl, a style : We want more Kristen Bell !

I must admit that I was sceptical after reading the plot of serie Veronica Mars, but it only took me few seconds to change my opinion as Kristen Bell appeared on the screen. She was amazing, completely inside the skin of this cunning high-school detective who tried to solve the murder of her best friend. The show was great, but Kristen brought the witty element for sure.
The 30 years old actress is a 5'1'' extract of pure energy, with sparkling eyes, a mischievous smile and beautiful face and hair. Looks like she has got everything for her.
Before her break out role in Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell made several appearances on TV, in series like Deadwood, American Dreams and The Shield, and had consequent parts in movies like thriller Spartan with Val Kilmer. But after 3 great years in the shoes of Veronica, the young lady seems to have difficulties to detach herself of her famous role.
Hitherto, she had played a CSI-type actress in crude comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Then, she won the guest role of Elle Bishop, the high-voltage love interest of Zachary Quinto, in popular serie Heroes, but failed to secure a regular part. She is also the narrator's voice of preppy serie Gossip Girl, a character of video game and the wife of Jason Bateman in comedy Couples Retreat.

But, hopefully, her next important roles would be in the romantic comedy When in Rome, also starring Josh Duhamel, and the musical Burlesque, where she will perform along famous singers Christina Aguilera and Cher. For yes, she can sing, she even has got a great voice, and she is used to perform in front of audiences as she started her career in Broadway. She even played with superstars Laura Linney and Liam Neeson in the 2002 play The Crucible. Kristen likes the scene. She even dreamed to become a stand-up comic. She certainly would be successful, as she has got a real sense of humor and comedy.
She is also appreciated by photographers as a model : she even had been shot for famous magazine Vanity Fair in a retro pin-up theme.

In pictures or in public events, Kristen Bell shows her grace and style, always dressed with tasty yet sober outfits. As far as I know, she seems to be a very natural woman, sane and intelligent, not just a pretty face. When she is not all doll up, she is also a proud vegetarian, doesn't hesitate to volunteer for humanitary actions in South America or saves and protects animals. For sure, she is a very positive and energetic person, who could be a role model for young girls and women.
Recently engaged to boyfriend actor Dax Shepard, I wish her the best in her life and in her career, and hope that she will stay the smiling heroin we all like !

Monday, March 15, 2010

Decoding : All gaga of Lady GaGa ?

She is everywhere : on TV, on Internet, in every magazine, in the teenagers' minds, everywhere. She doesn't let anyone insensible : at the first glance, you like her or you hate her. Some see her as a monster, some as an icon. Her name is on every lips : Lady GaGa.
At only 24 years old ( almost my age ), this New York Italian girl exploded in the medias in 2008 with her debut singles Just Dance and Poker Face, soon-to-be international number-one hits. She has already released 2 albums, The Fame in 2008 and The Fame Monster in 2009. Her voice is deep, her music rythmed and effective, reminding that hits-machine that used to be Madonna.
But it's not her music that gives her such renown, it's her look. The young woman quotes David Bowie, Freddy Mercury, Madonna, Michael Jackson and Donatella Versace as inspiration for her out-of-the-common style. But, those artists seem rather pale in comparision with Lady GaGa, who literaly seems to go out from an ad of French brand Galeries Lafayette. Extravagant hairdos, like the Hello Kitty bow or the button one, Warholian make-up and spectacular, even outré outfits, those criterias define the visual identity of the pop singer.

Lady GaGa likes to play with her appearance, even hanging out half naked. She is hardly seen with pants on, and seems to have a very light sense of prudishness. Her imagery is sexually explicit, not ashamed to wear ambiguous and SM outfits, and she is sometimes considered as shocking by people. But do we have to stop to prejudices ? No. Is she even the very first one to have bizarre and outrageous looks ? Actually not. For example, her hairdos are not as extravagant as those of Marie Antoinette and aristocrat women of the 18th century. You have to think outside the box : it is rather Contemporary Art and Haute Couture than clothes. She is an artist, and her painting is her body, her sculpture her dresses and hair. There is something of Dali about her.

She is the result of a lineage of persons who tried to evolve in narrow-minded societies. She is what Visual Rock is to Japan, with a touch of Geisha. She is the heiress of the exuberant personnalities of the punk movement of the 1970's : drag-queen Jayne County, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, singer Siouxsie Sioux, Jordan the famous seller of Westwood and MacLaren's shop, Sue Catwoman the Sex Pistols icon, Klaus Nomi, Perry Lister, Nina Hagen, and singer Cherry Vanilla, who, in 1977, already launched the no-pants fashion and equivocal attitudes. These people too used bondage accessories and strange hairdos to make their own style.

Actually, there is something British about GaGa. She must have been raised watching serie AbFab and dreamed, as a little girl, to wear the spectacular hats of Queen Elizabeth ... She is a mix of Alice in Wonderland, Boy George, Elton John and Grace Jones, no more. Her look is vaudevillian, giddy, romanesque, epic, fierce, mind-blowing ! But it needs to, because if she doesn't want to disappear after 3 or 4 hits, she has to make an impact in people's minds. She needs to boggle, and her eccentric style is just "a way to stand out unique in a very crowded field", which journalist of the Star Trish Crawford perfectly explained with this statement.
For the Lady has got brains. Her references go to Queen ( her stage name was inspired by their song Radio GaGa ) to philosopher Rainer Maria Rilke. She is a complete business woman and even has got her own production team, Haus of GaGa, which creates most of her outfits.
Yes, she is wild, and yes she makes little girls dress in leotards and sing songs about adults relationships in reality TV shows. But her songs are well over the average pop soup you can hear on radio, and she brings back women fashion best accessory : the hat ! So, I have to say : GO, GAGA, GO !

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spotlight : Patric Shaw, State of Grace

"It's your limits that define your style" is Patric Shaw's motto, but it doesn't seem to match his work. There is a spark of infinity in his photographies, something bigger than their subject, and you fail to find any limit in the beauty you are witnessing.

I first met Shaw's work many years ago, on Flickr, and it was soon clear that no one can compete with him in portraits. He transcends faces, turns skin into silk, eyes into precious stones, hair into ivory. His portraits are modern painting, which don't have to blush of a comparison with Titian, Caravaggio or Boticelli.

Every picture is a cold but luminous morning, and every woman a nymph, with that kind of charming anxiety into her eyes, as if she was wondering where she had awaken.

Shaw succeeds in capturing the sensibility of his models. He, who photographed Penelope Cruz, Liv Tyler, Thandie Newton, Agyness Deyn and many more, seems to capture a bit of soul in pixels.

If Shaw was a traveller in his youth, born in West Germany, living in Cyprus, Singapore, Malaysia, England and finally Australia, he makes us travel through a Wonderland, full of Alices and mysterious Sphinx-women.

I strongly invite you to visit his website and his Flickr page to discover this wonderful fashion photographer.