As fashion companies grapple with the Internet and the recession, things are changing, as they must in all fields over time. Where there is change and a burgeoning, very different generation, there will be some upset among the generation that came before. In a dense op-ed piece, WWD editor Bridget Foley enumerates these changes, and her frustrations that stem from them. She's sick of labels feeling a need to meet the challenges presented by the Internet and deliver clothes and pictures immediately to their adoring fans. She doesn't like that people online obsess over bland actresses who wear bland clothes. She also doesn't sound like she appreciates the culture of fashion fan blogs such as those run by BryanBoy and Tavi.
The Web provides instant access to all: live-streamed collections; the minutia of magazine staff moves (“and the latest intern upgraded to the closet full-time is -----!”); endless photos of any starlet in a cocktail dress, no matter how mundane the girl, dress or event. And all this while the blogosphere and Twitter provide platforms for a culture of self-proclaimed critical experts, some apparently knowledgeable and definitely influential in that proverbial high school seizure-of-power way.
She accuses designers of frantically trying to "court favor" of "anyone who swings slightly more elegant than Snooki (who, by the way, was quite cute on David Letterman on Monday night)." She continues, "When was the last time a fashion-centric publication or Web site went tough on a celebrity? Implicit in the cover wrangling is a pleasant, upbeat story to justify the pictures." Because the parenthetical about Snooki was something different than that? Some words down, she writes, "if the threat of yuk-it-up, mean-spirited criticism loomed a little less large, some of them might opt for frocks a little less boring." So she wants fashion journalists to be honest about celebrities — though she can't bring herself to say a bad thing about Snooki without a parenthetical to counter it — but not so honest that it scares them into bad dressing, and designers into making bad dresses for them?
"Fashion with a capital F," as Foley calls it, isn't disappearing. Christian Lacroix Couture may have folded, but in many other regards high fashion is thriving more than ever. Many fashion blogs devote most of their space to high fashion, in fact, where it would have been ignored in the past. Before the Internet, who was talking this much about ad campaigns, and the models and photographers who make them? Before the Internet, who debated the design merits of a designer's latest show at dinner with friends? Before the Internet, how big of a fan base and how much name recognition could a designer like Tom Ford really acquire? The Internet facilitates all of that, and the luxury industry seems mostly pleased to be so admired and so talked about because the exposure helps them make money. Foley continues:
But to lovers of pure Fashion, other matters, too, deserve consideration. On pre-fall alone, why did the usually single-focused Nicolas Ghesquière do so eclectic a collection? Do the gorgeously high-glam lineups of Vuitton and Lanvin presage dressed-up days for fall? Do Phoebe Philo’s patchwork pants for Celine indicate a move away from her signature minimalism? Looking ahead two weeks, what wonders might the couturier set have in store?
More importantly, like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, if Karl Lagerfeld or John Galliano were to show a seminal couture collection — but most people were too wrapped up in the front-row celebrities to care — would it make a sound that lingers?
Yes. It would, because all of us bloggers would write about it! And the people who really want to read about Phoebe Philo's patchwork pants and what they mean for Celine, know that they can do so in a publication like WWD. Or maybe even here, because patchwork pants are amusing!
Foley's piece surely embodies the sentiments of many fashion people working in and out of the business. A longing for the industry's elitism of yore is surely what contributed to the incredibly exuberant reviews of Tom Ford's spring 2011 womenswear debut. However, even he can't — and didn't — fight the Internet-watching public's appetite for fashion and celebrity. He put a video of his show online, albeit at his own pace, but he still did it. Also, Beyoncé was in the show.
Elitism still thrives in fashion. Just not here.