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The Circus of Fashion: A Response


I recently came across this T Magazine article by Suzy Menkes after taking my weekly trip over to Susie Bubble's blog. After reading it, I had a lot of things I agreed with her on, a few that I didn't, and a few things I was a little confused about. 

Ms. Menkes starts off the article by mentioning the differences between what NYFW used to be, and what it has become. In fact, there aren't many. Once upon a time, everyone was there solely to see a collection, form an opinion on that collection, write or talk about it, and repeat. Now, people go to see a collection, form a less perceptive idea on the collection, write or talk about it, see lots of nice fashionistas wearing nice clothes and write or talk about them too. So since the rise of the fashion blogger, many people now have an opportunity to command attention through clothing, and the time to do so is during fashion week. 

Suzy Menkes disapproves of these "poseurs", because they do not seem to have earned their right to fame. It is no longer as difficult for the paparazzi to sieve the well-dressed from the bland. They are now"famous for being famous." I however, have to disagree. They are not famous for being famous, but are famous for having the ability to create art out of what they are given. Yes, some of the things worm may seem far out, but the magic of seeing two people running around in a Derek Lam piece, and yet wearing it in two completely different ways is inspiring, and, frankly, beautiful. I do, agree, however, that we have adopted a "look at me" style of dressing (I freely admit to it, since this is a personal style blog). That is not a problem, in my eyes. While Ms. Menkes waxes increasingly nostalgic over "how different things were when cool kids loved to dress up for one another — or maybe just for themselves, "I think she fails to take into account the fact that a lot of these people are dressing for one another and themselves. The fashionable are the cool kids, and if you are an extroverted human being who enjoys adulation from those you may never meet, as many are, you are, in a sense dressing for yourself as well. The point of personal style is that there is a trademark that is uniquely yours, that you have developed and edited over time. And so what if it's out there, crazy, or impractical? 

Well, the author argues that these unsubstantial bloggers have, in fact lost, and not gained an individual identity through becoming famous for wearing expensive stuff, because they "are used to promote the brands that have been wily enough to align themselves with people power." I doubt that a reasonable blogger would align themselves with a brand they don't like or that doesn't align with their ethical values for the sake of money and fame. I'm not going to glorify bloggers here, simply because I'm aware many do so, and I'm almost convinced it will blow up in there faces sooner or later. What interests me about her perspective here is that she included the word "used." It gives a sense that bloggers, starting out fresh in the late 2000's were snapped up willy-nilly and promptly exploited by various brands looking for new means of publicity. It wasn't a congenial partnership where both parties loved one another and worked towards each others' best interests and a common goal. And while it can be said that this is a situation that has happened in the past, I doubt that these companies were even receptive to the use of fashion bloggers as a form of media. It seems to me that they had to prove to these corporate giants that they were worthy enough to hang with the big dogs, by reaching and influencing hundreds of thousands of people, affecting sales, documenting events, visually representing the brand in the best light possible, etc. And all these things tended to be split up into marketing, visual merchandising, and press, so finding one person who claimed to be able to do them all would have been a bit dubious. 

Suzy Menkes criticizes the acuity of many a fashion blogger by claiming that they generally lack perceptive, succinct commentary (I am personally incapable of succinctness, so I thought Twitter would help me with that). In that regard, I'd say she was wrong. You don't need a degree to be a pro in the fashion world. Going to school to learn advanced sewing techniques and dropping out of school to spend your time practicing advanced sewing techniques have the same outcome. So it goes in the world of fashion. Yes, someone may have a degree as a stylist, but someone else may never have stopped playing dress up. The end result? They are both skilled in color theory, pattern, cut, and texture. 

At the end of the article, she claims that 
...Something has been lost in a world where the survival of the gaudiest is a new kind of dress parade. Perhaps the perfect answer would be to let the public preening go on out front, while the show moves, stealthily, to a different and secret venue, with the audience just a group of dedicated pros — dressed head to toe in black, of course.
I daresay this argument may not hold true for a few reasons; not only does she mentions Anna Dello Russo and her qualifications as a renowned designer and fashion editor, then denounces the way she dresses, brusquely deeming it "look at me" fashion, but she later proceeds to cast fashion shows as an underground, into-it-before-it-was-cool sort of event, where no one wants any attention at all, but want to focus all energies on the designed collections*. 

Because the "common person" has had such a huge impact on fashion weeks in general, restricting it to those who have a degree and a monochrome wardrobe to show for their accomplishments is a little short-sighted. It's better to keep who will be wearing these clothes in mind. And if it's gonna be that girl next door or the guy you met at that club, let 'em in, in all their gaudy, overly accessorized glory. 



Obviously, I need to end by explaining yesterday's non-post. Well, I didn't actually finish writing this post on time, and I was at my school's fashion show last night (which is actually a surprisingly big deal in Pittsburgh). I took as many pictures as I could, and then went to the afterparty which was awesome because it was like, chaperoned by big security guards, so generally everyone (especially the legally drunk people) were kept under control. I basically want to do this for the rest of my life. #NYFWFall'13?