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Monday, 6 October 2008

Frock Me, Channel 4

Did we like it?
Being over the age of 23, we’re not sure if our opinion matters at all. It was slick, well-presented, fast-moving, colourful, and filled with features that often spouted absolute nonsense, but never taking itself too seriously.

What was good about it?
• Alexa Chung is developing into a bloody good TV presenter. She was the best thing in that recent Ben Elton abortion on ITV1, and here somehow manages to host enthusiastically while assuring you she’s quite aware of how absurd and ephemeral everything around her is. She also speaks with a subtle guttural tone that implies gentle mockery.
• Alongside her, “designer extraordinaire” Henry Holland follows in that line of semi-celebrities given a presenting job on the basis of their suspicious semi-celebrity status, such as Anton Du Beke. Alone he would be appalling; he’s quite stiff, doesn’t really listen during interviews and has an annoying habit of exclaiming “wow” when he hasn’t got anything to say – which is quite often, but as a foil for Chung he works, even if it is just as a caricature of a fashion designer.
• Watching an episode of Frock Me is akin to being strapped into a chair and subjected to a succession of non-sequitured flashing images, and is a microcosm of the fashion industry in that it confronts you with something new before you get bored. This isn’t the route to profound television, but it is entertaining.
• On reflection, many of the features are simply filler, boards of wood framed in mass graves to divide up the corpses – a fallow recreation of Nick Kamen’s iconic Levi 501 Jeans advert (which must be to fashion what the Crucifixion is to Christianity), Henry Holland’s chats with ‘supermodel’ Aggy D in which they reminisce about their schooldays as if demented old people about to be kicked out of their care home – but because they’re so quick and everything’s so colourful it’s difficult to get bored.

What was bad about it?
• It’s pointless to criticise fashion argot – 99% of every single word spoken or written about clothes and fashion has the relevance of vacuum, and there was plenty of stuff here in that category.
• What we will pick up on is our bewilderment of how each generation, including our own, concocts an illusion that they are the first generation to experience the riches of culture. Of course, it’s a pitfall of youth but Henry Holland’s veneration of Converse as the preserve of “cool rock stars”, or Alexa Chung’s awe at a leather jacket and pair of Puma trainers devised by a famous designer (in this case Alexander McQueen) could have occurred at any time over the past 50 years.
• And do people really dress to look like “a clash of MGMT and Pixie Geldof”? MGMT we can perhaps understand, but do folk educated in a school really idolise a meaningless woman who is the daughter of a man who sang some of the worst songs in musical history?
• In the item about music soundtracking fashion shows, it would have been helpful to actually learn more about the relationship between the two and how they affect the designers, models and audience – but this would have perhaps taken longer than the requisite three minutes and needed someone who could speak to a depth greater than a puddle.
• Frock Me is ostensibly a segue between fashion and music. The music in this first show was provided by anti-music coma rock pioneers The Kooks, seducing the weak, naïve and superficial with melodies made from the flayed hides of Menswear, stitched together with the rotten teeth of David Bowie’s execrable Let’s Dance period, the sort of dirges beloved of people who have pulled out their hearts from their chests with their bare hands to stop them feeling anything at all.

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