W Magazine Celebrates The Changing Face Of Beauty

Beauty means different things to different people — and it changes with the times. Think of the Christie Brinkley/Cheryl Tiegs blue-eyed blond ideal of the Seventies, the Cindy Crawford/Naomi Campbell curvy supes of the Eighties, the Kate Moss/Shalom Harlow Nineties’ waif era and the anything-goes period that we currently find ourselves in.

So it seems only fitting that when invited by W magazine and P&G Prestige to direct a film on The Ever Changing Face of Beauty, photographer Sølve Sundsbø created a visual paean to a constantly morphing ideal, as realized via a quartet of vertical panels — head, torso, legs, feet — that segue from male to female, and from human to animal to vegetable (as in plants and flowers, not peas and carrots).

The result, starring models Lara Stone and David Agbodji, was unveiled at the Park Avenue Armory during New York Fashion Week at a star-studded party that drew more than 600 guests, including Cate Blanchett, Sienna Miller, Evan Rachel Wood and Chris Evans, all of whom stood gaping in awe at the two 50’ video screens that displayed towering images of these otherworldly creatures.

“Once we had the idea of doing the parlor game with the head, the torso, the crotch, the legs – the surrealist game of changing – then it all clicked into place,” Sundsbø said of the film, which was six months in the making (though the actual shoot took only a day).

“The modern face of beauty?” mused Nicole Miller, who was hanging out at the bar with Helen Schifter and Martha Stewart. “I think it’s not so dictated anymore. There’s a lot more options and it’s about less is more in terms of makeup – I remember in the 60s it was all about makeup. Things are much more diverse now.” She added that this season, she cast five girls from Brazil, a girl from Angola (“who spoke Portuguese and hung out with the Brazilians!”) an Asian girl and four Americans to walk her runway. “I do like to have some pretty blonds in there, but I had a very diverse cast.”

I asked Stefano Tonchi, the gracious Italian-born editor-in-chief of W and the evening’s host, what The Ever Changing Face of Beauty meant to him. “Beauty today is about transformation,” he said in his elegantly-accented English. “It’s something that you cannot define anymore.”

Lauren David Peden writes for Rue La La as a Contributing Editor.

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February 16, 2012