Fashion Hostility – The Systematic Flaw of Fashion Reporting

What’s with the grumpy mood lately?

Firstly Nicolas Ghesquiere got lairy with Carine Roitfeld with no apparent reason – even the legendary editor is a bit clueless as to why Balenciaga has pulled all advertisements from the french edition of Vogue as well as not lending any clothes for shoots in the near future.

An aide of Anna Wintour... Carine Roitfeld... not so much? Fashion packs are siding with Carine, but most of us want to see the feud ends asap.

WWD had Carine to elaborate on the matter, “We’re blacklisted. It’s too bad, it’s a beautiful house and it’s French. I hope that it’s not forever.”

The true reason behind the banning of the Vogue Paris team is beyond many, especially when the house declined to comment. The fact that Vogue French does not run review-type editorials nor commentary columns, the root of the problem could be down to business.

The lovely Carine Roitfeld. Who is a styling genius, also very friendly and down to earth. She has no clue why Nicolas picked a fight.

One plausible speculation, according to the fashion community, is that Vogue Paris has been giving excessive exposure to Balenciaga’s rival – Balmain – and not enough photo editorials were dedicated to Balenciaga outfits. It is notable that Balenciaga was not featured at all in the Feburary issue.

I remember Jo Elvin, the editor of Conde Nast’s British Glamour, mildly resented the fact that she spends most of her time negotiating with advertisers and listening to complaints about the magazine not having featured enough of their advertisers’ products.

The furious house of Balenciaga is extending its blockade to Vogue Paris personnels. David Sims, a long term photographer for Balenciaga’s campaign, has been replaced by Steven Meisel who is traditionally associated with Vogue Italia.

David Sims, a photographer for Balenciaga's campaign up to S/S 09, has been replaced with Steven Meisel.

Vendetta like this is not a first in the fashion industry. In 2008, Cathy Horyn of the New York Times was banned from Armani as a consequence of her unnecessary sarcastic comments against the designer Giorgio Armani and his family, as well as writing a ‘less than satisfactory’ review for his previous show.

Robert Triefus emailed Cathy Horyn in 2008 to say that Armani has sent a letter to request her absence at their A/W 2008 show.

And today WWD reports that Stefano Pilati is suing the Guardian for printing a comment he made to the Washington Post: ‘You can’t find [black models] that are beautiful and with the right proportions’.

Stefano also told Washington post that ‘To me, it is a matter of proportions and the bodies I choose. My fit model was a black model. When I wanted to translate what I put on her, it was a disaster. It would need 13 times more work in the atelier to modify it to put on a more Caucasian anatomy’.

Is Naomi too black to do fittings for your collections, Stefano? Or is this a comment encouraged by the Guardian article and hence you'll sue me too? (Please don't, I'm penniless.)

Stefano’s comment sent ripples through the blogosphere and has since been branded as a ‘modern eugeneticist’. Nonetheless, house of Yves Saint Laurent and its creative directors filed a lawsuit against the Guardian of ‘criminal and civil defamation’, seeking damages of 150,000Euros each.

The Observer, where the article was originally printed, has already removed the controversial piece from its website. Leaving behind a readers’ response:

‘Paul Harris’s article (“America’s new vogue for black fashion is all due to Michelle, Focus, last week) was wonderful. I am only 30, but all my life, black women have been portrayed as the ugliest things on earth in the media, particularly the fashion media. Your article was a breath of fresh air and it was all the more refreshing to read such common-sense writing from someone who is so obviously not a black woman!
Miranda Grell
London E10′

I might have always been a fan of the centre-left newspaper, and therefore my stance sways towards them. But Stefano Pilati has never denied having said those words. The comments were already printed word for word in the Washington Post. And why single out the Guardian this time? He claims that the Guardian has taken his comment out of context…

Oh well, all will be revealed when the case hits the court in June.

***

The ramifications of all of these is: journalists often tread a fine line between being objective and being disrepectful to the brands that advertise in their publication.

So when a collection is unfavourable, like the one that Nicolas Ghesquiere produced a season ago (and debatably this one too) that could potentially make Cristobal Balenciaga himself turns in his grave, how do fashion journalists express their disappointment with the designs without ‘picking a fight’? And this is suspiciously the exact line that Carine Roitfeld has managed to cross.

It is this conflict of interest that makes the fashion world a ‘yes’ world. ‘Yes your designs look great’ even if the fur trims pop up at the wrong place and for the wrong reason.

And so there, journalists are forced to rave about something they themselves don’t even believe in. How do they live with their conscience. Ok, it is all just ‘show business’ – that it is how fashion publishing works. Is this necessary? And by doing so, are they dumbing down their readers?

How do we solve this problem? It’s indeed a good question. Without advertising revenue a publication cannot survive. But what other ways can a magazine fund itself?

The Guardian’s subsidiary Soulmate site reportedly generates millions of pounds each year. They are also the proprietor of AutoTrader, another branch that brings in all the zeros every year.

To be free from the garters and restrains from your advertisers, maybe we have to revolutionalise how fashion publishing works. Start with being less interlocked to the brands we write about?

It is always a long and hard battle to rebel against the deeply-ingrained system. This is not unlike trying to shake up the financial system that has caused us so much grieve lately. Until the systematic flaw has been eradicated, we still risk making opinions that could be as corrupt as Mugabe’s aides’ positive comments about the totalitarian dictator.

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