Thursday, March 4, 2010

(Three) Beautiful People in the Sundance World

I received a catalog from Robert Redford's Sundance company, founded in 1969 and located in Salt Lake City, Utah. It has some aesthetically-pleasing items in it, of the artistically-inclined, follow-your-own-pricey-drumbeat vibe. Laid back ease fused with rebel chic. The perfect attire for Elizabeth Gilbert. Other words that dominate the copy are: handcrafted elegance, poetic simplicity, earthy, ruggedly sleek, luxuriously fluid, talisman, ancient, alluring. Oh, and "dazzling Bohemian illumination," used for a lovely Palazzo Chandelier.

I had fun sifting through the 84 pages, but I couldn't help but think that it has been a very long time since I looked through a catalog featuring such a limited range of beauty. No ethnicity, except for the Indo-European kind. (Think France, or a Mediterranean vacation. No, think Lake Tahoe– or the Orange County in California.) In fact, for female models, the photos offer only slight not-quite-discernible variations on these two:

There were no male models, but I found guy below ("your manly man") all over their website:

I was surprised. It seems clear that they think their ideal shopper is Elizabeth Gilbert and her younger cohort, and pretty much nobody else. Yet most people associate Redford with the independent Sundance Festival, where the films tend to give you a broader view of the world. (The aim is to "discover, champion, and spread brave new ideas.") A Small Act by Jennifer Arnold, for example, tells this story:
As an impoverished boy in Kenya, Chris Mburu's life was dramatically changed when an anonymous Swedish woman sponsored his primary and secondary education. Now a Harvard-educated human-rights lawyer, he hopes to replicate the generosity he once received by founding his own scholarship fund to aid a new generation. The challenges Mburu faces instituting his new program seem at times insurmountable but lead him down the path to discovery. Who is Hilde Back, the person who signed the checks that gave him a chance to succeed?
If you click on the Artist Community section of the Sundance site, the world becomes just a bit more diverse, with photos of Chann Luu and Thoi Vo, and little snippets about their identities. Here is Chann Luu's photo, with a brief description of her work:

Born in Vietnam and currently residing in Pacific Palisades, California, Chan Luu relates easily to the landscapes of both mountains and beaches. Her loves of hiking and scuba diving put her in touch with the colors, shapes and textures of nature. But while many of her design ideas may begin in the natural world, her chic finished pieces often end up on the glossy pages of fashion magazines. Scores of celebrities are smitten with her earthy/urban aesthetic.

So what about other company catalogs? Over at Eddie Bauer, at least you see a couple of African-American models. (No one from Asia, though.) That site won't let me snag their photos. The opening image for their Outdoor Ecudor section shows you the Eddie B. version of Angelina Jolie, with a Brad Pitt clone standing on the roof of a Hummer-wide expedition vehicle, bungie-cording numerous Eddie Bauer bags of gear. (No children in sight; it's a couple's getaway.)

I did find this model at the Sundance Festival Store, but you won't find him in the Sundance catalog. You don't find that earthy custodian work gear there, either.


ArtSparker said...

I take your point, although I also suspect that most of the people attending Sundance are probably mostly of a comfortably off white demographic. I could stare at the photo at bottom all day, I must say, he is quite beautiful in his proletarian garb..

Nor said...

What's really interesting is that the three models look like younger airburshed alterations of Ellen & Kathy & JOhn!! --glad to know that the site expands into these other possibilites you show.

Lyle Daggett said...

"...dazzling Bohemian illumination..."

And mind you, I have ancestors from Prague (in what was then Bohemia).

As for the "poetic simplicity," well...

I don't know much about the inside workings of the Sundance festival, though it's clearly megamorphed a long way from its original vision, swallowed up by corporate machines.

I mean, what's a film festival doing (let alone one ostensibly set up to encourage filmmaking independent of Hollywood corporations) selling clothing from a catalog? What's next, Sundance cell phones? Sundance Visa credit card?

The Blogger word verification oracle is "hypensea," oddly well-matched to what you're talking about here.

elena said...

I am really enjoying this conversation, especially your rant, Lyle. Ah,'s to "poetic simplicity." And to the hypensea. (Thanks to you, I pay attention to all the Blogger word verifications, and their potential metamorphical links.)