Catalogs are not cool. For models they are a paycheck, for consumers they are yet another piece of junk mail. They get no respect. Most catalogs aren’t talked about the way magazines are, nor are they typically held in high esteem. Save the efforts of a few diligent ad-addicts (The Fashion Spot, I salute you) the contents of most catalogs would be forgotten without a moments notice. What is there to discuss really? No matter how you dress it up a catalog’s primary function is to move product – it’s commerce, not art. A even the most banal magazine editorial can at least cling to the pretense that it is something more than just consumerism – most catalogs cannot make that claim.
Unless they stretch beyond their constraints…
Barneys has always been one of the stores to go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to the art of the catalog. Their company in general has a certain irreverent spirit. Name one creative director more willing to parade around in Miu Miu heels than the incomparable Simon Doonan. Their catalogs have always been standouts – things that can be discussed on their own rather than tied to a larger campaign. Anyone who has been paying attention over the years can recount their recent highlights – Malgosia Bela as the intrepid Sylvia for S/S 06, Coco Rocha shot in the softest shades by Catherine Servel for F/W 08, Meghan Collison and a host of misfits for CO-OP. Many of the images featured in these mailers are strong enough to stand alone as ads or even as – gasp, editorial pages.
Which brings us to the present day and the current mailer for which I cannot hide my glee. Shot by Patrick Demarchelier and styled by Marie Chaix featuring Sessilee, Eniko, Liu and Iris (love the multi-cultural cast of dynamos) this is about as close to an editorial as anything can get but it’s not the high end names that make it work, it’s the combination of haute allure and real life wearbility. The makeup may be intense and the poses precarious but the looks themselves are pitch perfect. You have Rodarte styled to look almost casual while Alaia is fit for a night out. Looking at the pictures one gets the sense that the clothes can not just be gawked at but they can be worn in everyday life. Worn with flair of course but isn’t that what the Barney’s client was looking for in the first place?