Deciphering Fashion’s Infatuation with Lindsay Lohan
Lindsay Lohan looking as 'radiant' and fresh as the McDonald's hamburger pickle that fell into our kitchen vent and my brother ate when he found it six months later. When he was little. Not last year.
I wrote this article for Models and Moguls last week and decided to share it here as well. I want to be clear that this isn’t a mean-spirited attack of a young woman who, denial aside, is a mess. Rather, I see a girl who is dying – emotionally, from a string of failed relationships and a lack of meaningful family support (I'm being exceptionally easy with that description); and physically from drug and alcohol abuse which one can only assume is an ongoing problem simply by looking at her otherwise inexplicably ravaged face. It’s the overlooking of these questions by those who hire her for image enhancing purposes that I take issue with. I just don't get it, but here I tried to figure it out.
Also, since I wrote this, Ungaro CEO Mounir Moufarrige has resigned while Lohan is to stay on for another season, at least. My head just exploded.
This week we’ve been treated to, or visually assaulted by – depending on which way you lean – a photo spread in Italian magazine Muse, featuring a raunchy Lindsay Lohan. According to photographer Yu Tsai the struggling actress – her latest film Labor Pains went straight to cable – was channelling Kate Moss in a threesome scenario with a Johnny Depp look-a-like – Moss and Depp had a turbulent, four-year relationship in the late 1990s – and another woman. Tsu said of Lohan’s performance for the camera: “She is stunning and radiates in the pictures. Lindsay is incredibly focused where it comes to her career and fashion is her passion. It’s raw, it’s exposed, this is her at her best.”
Fashion may very well be Lohan’s passion, but stunning and radiant? Really? Are we looking at the same pictures? Because what I see – and according to a blitz of blog articles and commenters I’m not the only one – is an under-fed, hard-faced, inflated-lipped girl who looks at least a decade older than her 23 years. Further, what we’ve observed of Lohan’s behavior beyond this photospread – arrests for DUIs and cocaine possession; three stints in rehab; being photographed sans underwear; receiving a public spanking via open letter by her Georgia Rule director in 2007 for “discourteous, irresponsible and unprofessional” behavior on set; public rows with her on-off girlfriend; rambling Twitter messages about her on-off girlfriend; theft; and showing up 12 hours late for an Elle UK cover shoot this year – resembles nothing that could even loosely indicate a “focused” career woman. It makes one wonder if Tsai had any knowledge at all of Lohan before they met for the shoot. (Then again, fashion is about being in the moment and one can't take responsibility for an opinion they expressed five minutes ago, can they?)
The editorial spread and subsequent risqué video of the shoot follows the astonishing appointment of Lohan as “artistic advisor” of French fashion house Ungaro, a heritage brand that has been struggling since the house’s founder Emanuel Ungaro retired in 2004. Lohan was the shocking choice to oversee the work of creative director Estrella Archs, the replacement for Esteban Cortazar who left the brand in protest of the tabloid fixture’s hiring. At the time, Lohan’s fashion experience was limited to a line of leggings that included a style called the Mr. President – complete with quilted leather knee pads – and spray tan.
The idea to hire the controversial actress and sometime pop singer came from Ungaro CEO Mounir Moufarrige who was keen to revive the label with a celebrity face. Despite the fashion editors’ punishing reviews of Lohan and Archs’ debut collection for spring 2010 – WWD called it an “embarrassment” – Moufarrige stood by his choice to keep Lohan on his team, saying “There are some girls out there that whenever they move, whatever they wear, they attract attention, even if they make mistakes. It’s all publicity.” Now she knows what to put on her CV.
Aside from a guest-star spot on Ugly Betty last year and a role in Robert Rodriquez’s upcoming film Machete – far from a full schedule for a once promising actress – it would appear that her future lies in fashion. And it seems most likely to flourish in Europe and the UK, as the general perspective of her image abroad is far more favourable than it is at home where she’s become somewhat of a joke, thanks to her inability to stay out of trouble and her attention-whoring parents. Before her appointment at Ungaro, the youthful Italian luxury brand and little sister to Prada, Miu Miu, hired her to front their spring/summer 2007 ad campaign, and this year she’s the face of another Italian clothing brand, Fornarina. She donned black leather thigh-high boots for the sexy cover and editorial spread for Elle UK’s September fashion issue, shot by British photographer Rankin. And to be fair, she doesn’t do a bad job moving like a model. Rankin even compared her to Gisele and Angela Lindvall, saying “she works it.”
As Americans seem to have a thing for Europeans, so do Europeans sometimes find fascination with Americans, especially young actresses, and they are far less critical of personal troubles and love a bit of edge – Kate Moss, anyone? So maybe Lohan is a natural fit with their “let’s go with it” attitude (though their more astute fashion observers have made it explicitly clear they’re not buying what she’s selling). But can we, who know all of the dirt, separate fact from fiction and find inspiration in the hard-faced fantasy presented to us?
Lohan told Tsai on the Muse shoot “I want it to be iconic.” And maybe that’s what her fashion bosses are hoping for when they take her on. I’m hoping one day she’ll instead give us “ironic” and deliver the opposite of what we’ve come to expect – that focused, radiant young woman we’ve been promised. Because until then, I don’t think I can take anymore.