Catfish: A Cautionary Tale for the Digital Age!

If anyone caught the network premiere of Catfish on More4 last night, they would’ve been given a harsh and often hilarious reminder of the certian perils of social networking and the potential pitfalls of finding love online. The documentary created by 28-year-old Henry Joost and 29-year-old Ariel “Rel” Schulman using handheld digital cameras follows Schulman’s brother Nev after he makes a Facebook connection with child prodigy Abby Wesselman and her eccentric family, including her creative and beautiful 19-year-old sister Megan.

What was initally intended as a sweet record of the shy photographer from New York’s burgeoning online relationship with Megan, Abby and her mother, soon turns into an engrossing detective story; as Nev becomes more involved in the family it becomes increasingly apparent to the three young film makers that things arent quite as they seem!

Things start innocently enough. Nev recieves painted copies of his own photos in the post from Abby, a little girl from rural Ishpeming, Michegin. They become pals via Facebook, Nev chats on the phone with Abby’s mum and begins a cyber relationship with Megan, at which point Rel and Henry begin filming the scenario from Nev’s point of view – they reckon the resulting film will be a great mememto for the couple, but when the group start to become suspicious of the Wesselmans, after Nev discovers that songs Megan claims she wrote for her beloved are taken straight off Youtube, a surprise trip to Ishpeming uncovers a twist in tale so bizzare that you couldn’t make it up! Or could you? (cue spoilers)

Since Catfish’s debut at the Sundance Festival, critics and audiences alike have been fairly dubious about the film’s authenticity as a documentary – given its incredible twist in which sexy Megan, her network of 17 Facebook friend’s and Abby’s artistic talent all transpire to be complete fabrications, labouriously created by Angela – Abby’s 39-year-old mother/bored housewife and carer, who suffers from schizophrenia and it seems is besotted with poor Nev. (the scene towards the end where Nev sits in a rocking chair chatting to Angela about the deception as she paints his picture and swoons over his smile is painfully hilarious!)

True or false (and I think I’m a believer here, whatever Morgan Spurlock might have to say on the matter) Catfish may begin as a seemingly intrusive look at online love but ultimately turns into a rather moving and haunting story of someone looking for an escape from a tedious life and the extent to which social media can be used, and sometimes abused, to obtain that. It’s certainly a far more candid and revealing look at how big a role social media and networking plays in our lives, with Henry and Rel incorporating Facebook images, status updates, Youtube clips and even Google Maps to chart the trio’s bizzare journey.

The experience doesn’t seem to have put Nev off looking for love on Facebook though (he met his current girlfriend through the newtorking site) and at the end of Catfish we’re told that he remains friends with Angela, who has started selling her artwork online. While all involved seem to have proffited from the film, its ultimately little Abby I feel sorry for – she’ll eventually grow up and learn of Catfish’s twisted tale and her mother’s oddball actions.

Still, I’d reccomend Catfish as essential viewing: a fascinating cautionary tale for the digital age!

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Exclusive Interview with Janie Bryant: Mad Men’s costume designer Part 2

Read on for the second part of my interview with the extrememly talented women behind Mad Men’s costume design, in which she tells all about the women in Mad Men, working with Christina Hendricks and how to achieve tht that sexy sixties silhouette …  

 

 

 

 

(make sure to check out the complete editorial version of my interview with Janie at http://issuu.com/noirmagazineuk/docs/noirmagazine6 for more on what goes into creating the wardrobe of the most stylish show on telly!)

So Janie, are you a fan of 60’s style, and when did you first become familiar with 60’s fashion?

I think we use fashion to be beautiful and the Mad Men era, the 50s and early 60s, was so ladylike and elegant. The colours, the fabrics – everything about the period is beautiful. I’m a big fan of this era because the silhouettes are so flattering; they take inspiration from art, sculpture and architecture. Mad Men appeals to me so much because the period is elegant and sharp.

How do you go about creating the Mad Men wardrobe?

Creating the wardrobe for Mad Men is a combination of designing and building costumes from scratch, buying vintage, sometimes redesigning vintage pieces and renting costumes from the amazing shops in Los Angeles.

What’s been your favourite outfit used in the show?

There are so many! One of my favourites would have to be Joan’s red Christmas dress from season four. I designed this for her. It was wool crepe, silk satin around the neckline and cuffs and bows. I loved that dress on her but I also loved the way she moved in it during the scene with the conga line at the office Christmas party. Christina Hendricks who plays Joan has an amazing figure. She truly is the sexy bombshell of the office.  

What has Christina been like to work with and how have you gone about her costume design? 

I love working with Christina and we share a love of her character. Christina has an appreciation for her costume and how it informs her characterisation of Joan. She loves the details of the costumes like the scarves tied to Joan’s handbags and the bows on her dresses.    

The jewel tones Christina wears are a fabulous contrast with her alabaster skin and red hair and all work towards portraying her character’s strength in the office. Joan is a very sexy character and her costumes, from the tight sweaters and pencil skirts to the ruby sheath dresses, reflect this along with her poise and self-possession.

Joan wields a lot of power in the office for a woman, how have you reflected this through her costumes?

Joan is one sassy lady. She tells it as she sees it which inspired me to use a lot of strong colour in her palette on the show. This is in direct contrast with the mossy, earthy tones of other women in the office in less influential positions. Joan wears clothes that show us she understands the power of her femininity – clothes that show off that amazing hourglass figure. 

How do you go about shaping that perfectly sculpted silhouettes on Joan and the rest of the female cast?

On Mad Men the actors know all about the importance of great undergarments. The foundations of a costume help to create a beautiful line and it’s amazing how long-line bras and girdles can help create this. It’s not purely about the clothes because the actors use these foundations to help them to fully inhabit their characters. Wearing the proper underwear from the period is part of the creative process and the transformation through costume. It was important for me to give the actors the same experience of getting dressed that women in that period had. There can be discomfort, and of course I’ll help with a little pad of moleskin or other ways to make it more comfortable for them. Christina now comes into my fitting room and announces “I love my bra, I love my girdle”!

Both Peggy and Betty have grown more independent and confident as the series progressed, how did you reflect this through their costumes?

In terms of Peggy’s character arc overall she has changed so much. In season one when Peggy was pregnant and struggling with both her private life and issues in the workplace her costumes got uglier and uglier as time went on. In season four she is really coming into her own in the workplace and her clothes reflect bolder choices and a greater level of sophistication. In this season she wore a black and mustard windowpane dress, a navy dress with red inserts and one that I particularly loved was her grey and black wool crepe dress with a full skirt and big bow at the neckline. Peggy’s costumes are graphic, multilayered and strong, the same as her character.

Many of Betty’s transformations occur through colour. Take for example season two, Betty wears what I called her “sad clown dress” when she is hosting dinner and is “performing” to her house guests. She has this huge transformation in the story when she’s finally realising who her husband Don Draper is and this is the first time we see her in really strong colours – bright yellow, green and turquoise.  It was important to me to have a shift in her colour palette at this point. One of my favourite costumes for Betty was during her trip to Italy with Don. She wears this dramatic black fringed dress – again a time of another transformation in her character. In season four it is all about Betty being the perfect politician’s wife and her clothing reflects this. During this season my inspiration for Betty’s costumes come from Jackie Kennedy.

Out of all the characters, whose wardrobe would you love to steal for yourself?

Trudy’s wardrobe is very appealing to me because I envision her as the younger, city version of Betty.  She wears some very fashionable fabrics and optimistic shades of blue. I love her hats too. I’d like to steal some of those for myself.

In terms of costume design, what other period would you like to bring to life?

This is always difficult to answer. I love the Baroque period, I love the Romantic period and I love the 1970s. I would wear a gown every day of my life if I could!

Exclusive interview with Janie Bryant: Mad Men’s costume designer Part 1

 Janie Bryant is the exceptional Emmy-winning costume designer behind Mad Men; the acclaimed American drama set in the advertising world of 60’s New York, and arguably the sexiest and most stylish television series in recent years. The show’s cultural and sartorial impact has been immense and Bryant’s influence on the fashion industry is equally undeniable – her recreation of the period’s fashion has inspired the collections of top designers including Prada, Louis Vuitton and Thom Browne, and has also had a profound effect on our wardrobes!

 

In an exclusive interview, Bryant talks about creating the Mad Men aesthetic, the importance of costume design and bringing vintage sixties fashion back into vogue.

What do you think of the influence Mad Men has had on designers and fashion trends since 2008?

It’s amazing and such an honour each and every time I hear that the show has inspired people.  It has also been very gratifying for me on a personal level since I started my career as a fashion designer too, to know that the fashion community has been interested in the show.  I feel like my path has come full circle.  Vintage clothing has always been such a big part of my lifestyle and there is a sense it has become more popular since Mad Men, and I’m so flattered when top designers like Prada, Thom Browne and others cite my work as an influence on their collections.

You started out as a fashion designer, how did you move into costume design?

I think that my interest in the transformative power of costume was there from a very young age.  I used to dress up all the time as a little girl and would dress my Barbies in outfits I created for them using upholstery swatch books my mother used to decorate the home.  I was obsessed with watching old movies and spent a great deal of my childhood experimenting with fashion.  I studied fashion design at college, lived in Paris and then moved to New York.  At a party in New York City I met a costume designer and knew this was the perfect career to combine my passion for film and my love for fashion. I particularly enjoy getting into the psychology and motivation of a character and looking at all the choices a person makes in his or her life, with the clothes and accessories they wear.

In Mad Men costume plays an important part in recreating the era but also says a lot about the characters. How much would you say you can communicate about a character through their clothing?

We all tell stories about ourselves with what we wear.  A costume is about creating a character, so I am always thinking “how am I going to tell the story for this scene?”  For example, let’s think about colour. For the character Joan Holloway, I always design costumes in jewel tones – forest green, teal blue and red – because they reflect her strength in the office.  For Peggy, particularly in the early seasons of the show, she wears a lot of mustard and green, lacklustre tones which were very popular in that era but also convey her character’s modesty. I love to visually contrast Betty’s prim femininity with Don’s rugged machismo – I juxtapose Don’s cool sharkskin suits with Betty’s floral dresses and pearl necklaces to show the chasm in their relationship.

Where do you find your inspiration? How did you go about creating the unique, distinctive look of the main characters?

I spend a lot of time researching so that I can visualise the signature style of each of the characters.  I look at old catalogues, vintage Vogues, Ladies Home Journals  and Good Housekeeping magazines, fabric swatches, advertising and stock photographs from the 50s and 60s to fuel my inspiration for Mad Men’s costumes. I’m a very visual person and it’s all about seeing it.  I create visual boards for each of the main characters in the series. These boards bring colours and textures together that inform each character’s palette. I also look to my family for inspiration; Betty Draper’s board is filled with pictures from my grandmother’s knitting magazines from the 1960s (my grandmother was an immaculate hostess and true style icon,) photos of Grace Kelly, even a picture of a pink and white washing machine is in there! 

Looking to the icons of the big screen also helps me with style cues. While Betty’s ladylike glamour and poise is a Grace Kelly inspired look, I often view Joan’s character as cut from the same cloth as that of Sophia Loren; a pure woman, a celebration of curves and sensuality. 

And the men?

The cast of men in Mad Men spend a lot of time together in suits in the office and so it’s very important to keep them visually different. Just like the female cast members each male character has his own colour palette. Don Draper rarely strays from greys while Pete Campbell is seen in teal and French blue, to demonstrate his heady aspirations.

The details of a suit are also important to me. You will always see Roger Sterling with a monogrammed shirt, the ultimate nod to sophistication. You’ll see Don wearing French cuffed shirts with cufflinks – rectangular shapes rather than rounded because I want to show his austerity and edge. I adore the details of men’s tailoring. Cary Grant often provides the inspiration for Don Draper’s simple colour palette and impeccably tailored style. I love a man in a suit! A smart tailored suit, like a uniform, never fails to make a man look his best.

Tell us about the costumes of Don Draper?

What man doesn’t want to look like Don Draper? And what woman doesn’t wants to dress her man like Don Draper? So of course, the inspiration behind the suit was recreating his look. Brooks Brothers manufactured some of the suits for Mad Men according to my design specs and fabrications – worn by Don Draper, Roger Sterling, Pete Campbell, Bertram Cooper and also Lane Price, the British character in the show.

(make sure to check out the complete editorial version of my interview with Janie at http://issuu.com/noirmagazineuk/docs/noirmagazine6 for more on what goes into creating the wardrobe of the most stylish show on telly!)

Rebelle Loves .. The Mad Men Influence

Tomorrow the fourth series the seriously stylish America drama Mad Men comes out on DVD, giving us the chance to get our fashion fix of 60’s glamour and style, exuded by its superb cast of characters.

While this seasons catwalks were drenched with70’s influences, that doesn’t mean we should forget the ‘Mad Men’ style which for the past few years has seduced both us and the entire fashion industry, nor the phenomenal show that inspired it!

Yes, I know the return to the 60’s was so last year and it’s true that the trends displayed on SS11 catwalks of Marc Jacobs, Rodarte & co. certainly swung towards 70’s retro glamour. Yet, while I love this funky and relaxed look, I still can’t get enough of the 60’s inspired trend that exudes femininity and sex appeal, celebrates the girl with curves and puts the pow in power-dressing for the office.

 

 Since it debuted in 2007, the American series set in the advertising world of 60’s New York struck a chord with millions of viewers who fell in love with its riveting characters, smart dialogue and, of course, its fashion! With a fifth season in the works, a recent DVD release in the UK of its fourth series and the launch of Janie Bryant’s vintage-themed fashion line for QVC, the Mad Men effect is showing little sign of waning; we noticed its lingering influence in this seasons’ collections which continued the theme of lady like hems and full skirts.

 

Not since Patricia Field’s styling for Sex and the City has a TV series exacted so much influence on designers and trends. Over four seasons, Mad Men’s award-winning costume designer Janie Bryant has inspired countless designers, with labels like Prada and Louis Vuitton attributing her as a key influence on their collections. Thanks to Bryant’s vintage outfits, the show’s leading ladies have become serious style icons, signalling the welcome return of a more womanly silhouette with Christina Hendricks as a poster girl for curvy figures.

Despite the blatant sexism suffered by the show’s female characters, these ladies are top dogs when it comes to fashion (and they can hold their own in the work place as well!) Take office seductress Joan Harris, who emphasises her sexy hourglass figure in skin-tight blouses, slinky dresses and pencil skirts. Then there’s career-driven Peggy Olson whose experimental, preppy work wardrobe includes polka dots, over the knee skirts, peter-pan collars and satchels, or Don Draper’s ex Betty; the suburban ice queen sitting pretty in full skirts, floral prints and chic pearls.

 Whichever character you choose to channel, achieving the look can be simple. While time-consuming, checking out vintage stores can get you the genuine pieces, but the high street offers an affordable and modern take on the 60’s look. Embrace your curves by keeping silhouettes fitted on top and flowing on the bottom in A-line skirts that flatter any figure. Pencil skirts are great for the office and showing off an hourglass figure. Emphasise your waist by cinching it in with a narrow belt, pile on the jewels and top off with a classy clutch and a dash of red lipstick to raise the temperature in any office.

Here’s some high-street picks to get you inspired!

Are you a Peggy?

                     

From left to right, top to bottom: very.co.uk £24.99, Monsoon £35, River Island, A Wear £20, Fever £49.90, Ben De Lise for Principles, River Island £34.99

A Joan?

                                    

Red dress £80 Linea, clutch Next £12, belt M&S £15, pink dress Fever £69.99

or a Betty?

            

Dress Monsoon £180, Dress Linea £160, Belt Accesorize £25, Compact Accesorize £7. Dress Debenhams

Janie Bryant, the creative genius behind Mad Men’s wardrobe offers some advice on how to recreate the look:

“If you are new to vintage, a great place to start is accessories like bags, jewellery and belts that add fun and a unique touch to your outfit. Fashion and accessories were charming in the 1960s. I love matching shoes and handbags from this period, beautiful hats, white gloves with detail, dramatic gold brooches and layers of pearls.  Have fun with it!

 “The hourglass figure and the sheath dress were also important facets of 50s style so I would advise wearing shape wear underneath clothes to achieve a ladylike physique like Betty’s ultra-nipped waist or Joan’s seamless silhouette.”

Kelsey Chow Interview: Disney’s gorgeous new ‘It’ Girl

The lovely Kelsey Chow is best known in the US for her current role in Disney’s Pair of Kings and her stint on popular teen drama One Tree Hill. Having caught the acting bug early through Community Theatre, the 19-year-old actress has quickly become Disney’s new ‘It’ girl and, thanks to her impeccable fashion sense and casually elegant style, she’s also proving a definite hit on the red carpet.

While Chow is certainly one to watch when it comes to aspiring American actresses, for her it’s not all about the bright lights of showbiz. She chats about her career so far, the importance of education and her interest and activism in Global Health.

You first burst onto our screens as Gigi in One Tree Hill. What was it like starting out on such a well-known show? 

Surreal! One Tree Hill has the most devoted and enthusiastic fans and working with the cast, the crew, producers, and the creator, Mark Schwahn was such an unbelievable experience. I loved being able to take chances and expand on her character when Gigi returned to the series. 

Tell us a bit about your character Mikayla in Pair of Kings.

Mikayla is the daughter of the Royal Secretary of a remote island paradise called Kinkow. She assists the Kings and is a Royal Guard, who takes her responsibilities very seriously. It’s a fun role because she’s well-trained in the martial arts, so let’s just say she can take care of things if she needs to!

Chow with the cast of Pair of Kings

You guest starred in Little Britain USA, how did you find the experience? 

Working with Matt and David was an opportunity to watch them do what they do best – develop these very real characters and show us this over the top absurdity which is in all of us at times. It was a day full of laughs, that’s for sure!                                            

You’ve also performed in Les Miserables at the Edinburgh Fringe. Did you enjoy your festival experience? 

I love musical theatre and performing in Les Miserables at the Fringe Festival in Scotland was an experience of a lifetime!  I loved Scotland, and just being in the centre of so many incredibly creative people was astounding.  

 

As an actor, what particularly attracts you to a role?

I look for roles that allow me to take risks, and that challenge me beyond my comfort zone.  Every actor seeks that special role that puts them in a place they have never been before as an actor, and my dream role is to be allowed that opportunity.

 

 

 What future projects have you got in the pipeline?

I’m very excited about getting started on Season 2 of Pair of Kings, so that will keep me busy. I want to continue acting as long as I can and hope to expand into film and theatre but also  plan to complete my education at Columbia.

How have you found juggling college and acting?   

My education is very important to me, but I love acting more than anything I’ve ever done. I’ve been lucky because I was able to attend high school full-time and still work on One Tree Hill for three seasons. It can be difficult at times but I love being able to do both; it keeps me grounded and focused.

What inspired you to study Global Health as well as Community Theatre at Columbia?  

My grandparents were both physicians with the World Health Organization in North Africa. My father, also a physician, is quite involved with not only the practice of medicine, but with humanitarian efforts and health funding for those in need. During high school, I attended a medical forum in Boston and came away with a newfound awareness and strong conviction that everyone deserves basic health care, no matter where they are.

Do you have any role models who have strongly influenced you?

My parents have really set the bar for me by living their lives to the fullest. From them I’ve learned if you work hard and really keep your focus, you can accomplish anything. And of course, my grandmother (who’s 94!) still gives me advice. She has lived one of the most exciting and courageous lives, especially when it comes to helping others.

Kelsey is actively involved with Club Red (a new division of the Red Cross) and has participated in and supports the “It’s On My Mind” campaign for the Jed Foundation.