There’s been a bit of a debate going on around the fashion weeks that seems to have started with Suzy Menkes’ piece for the New York Times’ T magazine in which she bemoaned the “cattle market” of “showoffs” waiting to be snapped outside shows.
It is certainly true that what goes on inside on the catwalk is no longer the only object of attention; what goes on outside is now real competition for media space.
I’ve never been to a fashion week and I’m not particularly interested to go – you can watch a lot online these days and it is the posing, posturing and peacocking that in part put me off. It was interesting to read this post by Lauren, a fashion lover who felt decidedly uncomfortable on her first visit to London Fashion Week.
It’s clear from the volume of photos taken on the street, and the scrum you often see in the background, that show attendees (or simply those wishing to be thought of as such) have become a real spectacle. During fashion week they are snapped like celebrities.
And at that time, that’s what they are. Like the reality TV star who has their 15 minutes of fame, fashionistas have a few weeks a year when they know they have their best chance of the cameras seeking them out.
Menkes is, by all accounts, a highly experienced fashion journalist but where her article falls down I think is in belittling bloggers, marking them amateurs compared to “pros”. Instead, she should recognise that they bring a great deal to the fashion scene.
She names some bloggers I really admire and criticised the fact that their sites are all about “me” – but that is the very wonder of blogs, and the wonderful addition blogs make to the mass media.
We don’t have to rely any more on the opinion of a few journalists employed by a handful of multimillionaire media moguls. Now anyone can be a publisher, writer and blogger. Few make a success of it and those that do deserve credit because, trust me, blogging is hard, hard work and you can bet your bottom dollar that blogger with thousands of followers has put millions of hours into building their site and cultivating that community.
These bloggers don’t have a ready-made audience of people who have always bought the New York Times and always will. They build their readers from the ground up, from nothing.
They broke the mould of blogging and gave to the worldwide web something innovative, useful and wanted. They simply wouldn’t have the huge popularity they have if not. They have created a niche for themselves in a saturated blogosphere and an incredibly competitive industry; why shouldn’t they reap the rewards?
But for some people in fashion – as in the arts more widely – popularity is a dirty, vulgar word. And this really gets my goat. Who has the right to say one thing is more deserving of attention than another?
Fashion is notoriously elitist and some would like to see it stay that way. I saw a tweet this week that questioned whether fashion had become “too accessible” because bloggers sat on the front row.
I find this a bit crazy. Apart from the fact that some bloggers have many more readers than mainstream magazines, fashion is perhaps the most democratic and inclusive art form – anyone can get in on the act, you don’t need a Central St Martin’s degree (though it might help) and it doesn’t have to cost you much.
Street style photos are of huge interest to brands these days, and influence moves both ways, between wearers and designers. Grassroots fashion changes the industry in the way that citizen journalism is changing news.
Menkes questions whether bloggers and others who dress to stop traffic do so just for the attention and the reassuring camera click, or because the way they dress – as style should – makes them feel good.
It’s worth asking whether it’s authentic, but does the answer matter? Does anyone actually believe they’d dress like that to go and get a pint of milk?
Fashion – haute couture or otherwise, worn on the street, catwalk or red carpet – has always been about grabbing attention, often at the expense of wearability. I hardly think when Liz Hurley donned that infamous Versace safety-pin dress she thought for a minute she might be mistaken for a wallflower.
I tend to agree with the Man Repeller’s response to Menkes that if a girl has the guts to dress in a way designed to elicit a head turn from everyone she passes then good for her. I enjoy looking at people like that. Wouldn’t the world be a dull place without the showmen?
I love looking at street style, good and bad. I love the colours, the contrasts, the combinations. It often feels more accessible and uncontrolled, less severe and serious than what you see from some designers. Sometimes it works – you think, I want to recreate that. Sometimes it doesn’t – you think, woah girl, what were you thinking this morning? Was the light out in your bedroom?
Blogging is about more than what you give to the world, it’s about what you get back from blogging. Blogging makes me do, see and learn about things I probably otherwise wouldn’t. You blog as a creative outlet, just in the same way many people express their creativity in the way they decide what to wear to walk down the street.
I’d love to know what you think too.
UPDATE a couple more interesting posts on this subject:
Style Bubble: The Sad Clown
The Business of Fashion: In The Glare of Fashion’s Growing Circus, A Double Standard?