Even during New York's Fashion Week, when hitting the party scene is just as important as attending the shows (if not more so), Horacio Silva and Ben Widdicombe are hard to spot. The two masterminds behind the fashion world's newest addiction, "Chic Happens" -- the style-industry gossip column that appears every Wednesday on the Website Hintmag.com -- first failed to turn up at the Visionaire Gallery for the "1%" exhibit of punk clothing. At the Marc Jacobs store opening, someone reported having just spoken to them, but when I went looking, they were nowhere to be found. At the midweek party thrown by Hintmag.com at Serena, we finally came face-to-face. When I turned my back to get a drink, they had vanished as quickly as a size-eight Blahnik at a sample sale.
Add to this the fact that the pair don't participate in cell-phone gabbing (too Mitchell Fink), travel with models (too "Page Six"), or wield notebooks (too Fashion Wire Daily), and it's no surprise that few fashion editors know what they look like. But the fashion world knows who they are. "I've bumped into Anna Wintour so many times," says Silva. He always says hello, but he's certain she doesn't recognize him. Wintour has been skewered in "Chic Happens" nineteen times, most notably when the column was the first to report (albeit in a blind item) that the "frosty fashionista" was having an affair.
Widdicombe, 29, and Silva, 34 -- who moved together to the city from Australia in 1998 -- don't need to be front and center to acquire gossip. Because they've made their name on the Web, many of their tips come via anonymous e-mails. They don't rely on publicists for information or invites, and this has helped inform their sharp tone. "We don't do what we do so we can get discounts at Gucci," says Widdicombe, when we finally sit down for a post-Fashion Week dinner.
But journalism -- reporting facts -- is only half of what makes "Chic Happens," which celebrated its second birthday in August, so appealing. It's the duo's saucy wit that has the fashion world addicted (designer Jeremy Scott, Sophie Dahl, Chloë Sevigny, and David LaChapelle are all fans). They recently noted "Claudia Schiffer told reporters that she's partial to the odd glass of wine now that she's practically retired from the catwalk. Elsewhere she revealed she needs twelve hours of sleep a night. Coincidence?" Decoding a "Chic Happens" blind item ("Which Manhattan decorating and beauty impresario searches for his trade in Harlem? The cheapskate tried to pay one hustler in flowers. Said hustler told us he would have preferred an unlimited MetroCard") is a lot more fun than reading the LVMH business plan.
Lee Carter, the editor of Hintmag, says the column is such a hit because "it accurately portrays the fashion industry as a cast of freaks -- ourselves included." The site's players also say "not being in it for the money" helps -- Silva works as an Internet consultant and Widdicombe earns a steady paycheck as a producer for Worth.com. But Hintmag is beginning to turn a profit, thanks to corporate sponsorships from Ford Motors, Elle.com, and Luxlook.com (a luxury-goods site), and Carter says he's currently in negotiations with other sites to syndicate the column.
For now, however, they're satisfied with their cult fashion following. As Amy Spindler, style editor of the New York Times, puts it, "With all the homogenization of fashion coverage these days, 'Chic Happens' is one of the few guilty pleasures left."