A Word About Reviewing Fashion Shows

everything is fabulous

For the next week, I’ll write nothing but reviews of haute couture shows. I’ll praise some, criticize others, and even give them star ratings.

Who am I to dare even think of questioning the megnificence of Dior or the genius of Karl Lagerfeld? Why, a young girl who tackled putting words into sentences and managing a simple WordPress site. In a word, a blogger.

There are bloggers who review films and no one denies them their right to do so. Anonymous people rate books on Goodreads, and no one has a problem with that, either. But as soon as a no-name dares to critique a runway show, you can count on someone to pop the who are you question.

A notable exception: Suzy Menkes, a true fashion critic

A notable exception: Suzy Menkes, a true fashion critic

Perhaps it’s true that fashion bloggers are too influential. Yes, I’m a bit annoyed when big players in the industry discuss the opinions of a teen or 20-something who’s famous for wearing weird clothes. I would much rather read what an expert has to say. The problem is, when it comes to particular shows, they don’t say much.

Most reviewers of fashion shows limit themselves to describing shapes, colours and fabrics, and finding synonyms to wonderful (a particular favourite being fabulous.) If Grumpy Cat has a polar opposite, it’s the fashion journalist, always loving everything they see. This state of affairs has something to do with advertisers having influence over the content of magazines: if Vogue gives, say, Dolce & Gabbana a lukewarm review, they brand won’t buy a two-page spread in next month’s issue. And Anna Wintour will lose money.

Cathy Horyn is banned from Saint Laurent shows, because not all of her reviews are favourable.

Cathy Horyn is banned from Saint Laurent shows, because not all of her reviews are favourable.

There are a few notable exceptions, of course. Those are easy to list; they’re called Cathy Horyn, Suzy Menkes and the editors of Style.com. In their articles you can sometimes find traces of a personal opinion. Traces, mind you.

Bill Gaytten’s first show for Dior couture was “savaged” by critics, which meant Style.com’s Tim Blanks calling it a “misjudged effort to impress,” Suzy Menkes using the word “crude” and Cathy Horyn claiming that Galliano’s successor was “a sweetheart, but not a designer.” That’s as harsh as fashion criticism gets, and it doesn’t happen often.

Who needs fashion criticism, anyway? Shouldn’t it be up to clients to decide what’s pretty and vote with their money?

Dior Fall 2011 Couture: one of the very few shows that got panned by critics

Dior Fall 2011 Couture: one of the very few shows that got panned by critics.

Well, the same could be said about any art form, and yet professional critics persist. Fashion, just like films, books or music, can be interpreted, influences can be pointed out, tastes can be formed. It can be innovative or repetitive, and well or poorly executed. Wouldn’t it be nice if qualified journalists evaluated these points and started to actually discuss designers’ work, instead of blindly worshipping them?

I’m far from calling for negativity for negativity’s sake. The existence of honest fashion criticism would give value to positive reviews, thus distinguishing a genuinely brilliant collection from a merely decent one. Today, both would be called fabulous (or fabulous! If the brand advertises regularly.) In my perfect world, only the first one would, but the praise would mean something. Talent and hard work would be honoured.

But we’re not living in a perfect world, and the only people on whom you can count to write their true opinions of fashion shows are independent bloggers, like myself. At least until they get world-famous and sell their souls for swag, that is.

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One thought on “A Word About Reviewing Fashion Shows

  1. Pingback: Chanel Couture Fall 2013 | Coverrated

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