When I read Suzy Menkes’ “The Circus of Fashion” last week in T Magazine, my initial response was mild outrage. Mild because there was a deluge of factual evidence that I couldn’t argue–fashion week is becoming a circus and street-style elicited outfits may have something to do with that. Outrage, however, because reducing an entire generation of sprouting professionals (the bloggers) to the perpetual black (well, actually neon) sheep of fashion just doesn’t seem very open minded.
On the one hand, Menkes is right. Fashion is changing and it is doing so quickly. The indusry no longer belongs to the upper echelon dwellers exclusively and has made room for the amateur groupies to carve their own gold stud-laden paths. Sometimes these paths lead to interesting, innovative movements but sometimes too, they don’t.
On the other hand, Menkes is right again. With a myriad of photographers moonlighting as paparazzi, waiting ambitiously to catch the familiar faces of the plethora of websites that have allegedly made them famous, it seems street style is our generation’s newest contribution to the phenomenon of reality star culture. The photos are inspiring, the clothes are magnificent and the conversation street style has incited is vital for the fashion dialogue–but this is only when authenticity bleeds through. In the current climate, it might seem like “getting the shot” is less about the credibility factor and more about how far along the spectrum of crazy a subject can sway. But then again, style is also a function of personality. If the girl has got the proverbial balls to strap live vertebrae to her head and loves how she looks, well, good for her.
Where my opinion differs from Menkes’ rests in her perception of bloggers, both of the personal and street style variety. She writes that “the celebrity circus of people who are famous just for being famous” are most prevalently known for their blogs. It doesn’t seem quite fair to peg the bloggers that have actually become “famous” as such just for being famous. When I think Tavi Gevinson or Susie Bubble or Emily Weiss or on the street spectrum, Tommy Ton, I think recognition based on the merit of astounding work.
Lincoln Center and The Tuilerie Gardens are also mentioned–in the context, as infested zones depriving whatever might be left of the true spirit of fashion week. Most of the supremely sought after shows and hot tickets in town don’t really take place at the allotted Fashion Week Zones, though. And the denizens of those off-site shows are presumably there with a seat assignment for good reason, aren’t they? Lincoln Center has become something of a haven for aspiring bloggers who spend their fashion weeks ardently hustling (which is too, notable and worthy of respect) through the fountains in the name of recognition. But like all writers do not write with the same pen (how would Hemingway have felt if he were shepherded into a group among the likes of, say, E.L. James?), all bloggers do not type with the same keyboard.
And even if we did, it’s impossible to deny that the world is changing. Traditional fashion jobs are few and far between. Maybe Menkes just doesn’t get it, which is fine. She doesn’t have to. But the hunger and supply for editorship hasn’t dwindled in spite of more unfortunate circumstances for the demand. There is a reason, after all, that Gen. Y–which is only becoming more important as we get older and begin pushing and stimulating our economy–has been dubbed the entrepreneurial generation. Many of us couldn’t land the jobs we wanted, so we just made our own. Sure, the training isn’t traditional but my generation is brilliant; we are over-educated and often over-qualified for the jobs that we do take. Tradition and innovation have little to do with one another and in the battle of success and relevance between the former and latter, the latter has proven itself quite victorious.
Maybe too, we should gear the flack more closely toward our environment. The consequences of living in 2013 are vastly different than they were in the 80s or 90s and even early aughts because of the hyper-speed at which we consume information. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and now Vine (which has made watching runway shows from the comfort of wherever 4G functions through the vantage point of showgoers possible) are not going to disappear. They’re just going to grow, and advance, and continue obstructing the boundaries of privacy until the residual backlash starts and we’re forced to recoil, hungry for the same brand of nostalgia that Menkes recalls.
And I really do understand where she is coming from. She is the rare fashion partisan who has subsisted long enough to observe and shrewdly, unapologetically comment on the evolution of fashion week and that which occurs outside the velvet ropes. Noting the previous formula as one that worked, how could she possibly accept the democratization of something so historically exclusive with overwhelming positivity? This is my generation, my vocation, my moment that she is reprimanding, and I, too, have a sincere problem with the notion that front row squatting may be based less on excellence in trade and more on social following density.
But what upset me most about the piece wasn’t even really her fault–it is the cynicism and skepticism that has made a home for itself in the field of blogging.
Last week, because of a comment on my favorite beauty product (which I have been purchasing–not being gifted–every two months for the last three years,) and the response to it, (“we get it, you’re sponsored by X,”), I found myself wondering if we, the bloggers, have entered an era where we can’t like anything without having our motives questioned.
Yes, I concluded. Unfortunately we have.
It has always been the subjectivity of fashion blogging that resonates so well. The raw portrayal of an unedited opinion will likely always command ample attention but there are only really a handful of bloggers who have been able to canon true influence and respect. It is at the point where readers can smell the sponsorship that integrity gets lost. And in this day and age, it seems that sprouting blogs are founded on principles of self-aggrandizement.
I think that the forebears of blogging are to blame.
It’s a standard that we set. In a profession so new, where the thick is run by fresh indwellers trying to figure it out themselves, it is only the trial and error formula that can set real rules. We never should have accepted gifts in the first place. We shouldn’t have bragged about the free trips, and cool events and recognition from our industry heroes. We’ve painted a picture portraying the circumstances of blogging that is inaccurate.
But like in everything else, Darwinism will always prevail. The strong will continue to survive and the weak will eventually begin to wean off. The question is, what will make us strong? It seems like the blogging landscape must tackle some serious change. We as a collective elicit the mockery (no matter how arguable it might be) that we garner and the puddle of cynicism and skepticism that has manifested around us exists reactively.
It’s not fair to abate our influence, but the question of respect should be canvassed. How can we really assume that we will cull the respect we think we deserve if we don’t even respect our own brands?
Photo by Ashley Rowe