Once upon a time in a galaxy far away fashion was a very different kind of business: designers entertained relations with textile manufacturers and even showed them respect crediting them in their adverts; famous journalists and illustrators rarely appeared in glamorous clothes at the entrance of catwalk shows, but attended the events just to do their jobs; fashion photographers took pictures of models and clothes/accessories but didn't pretentiously pretend their pictures were so arty they deserved to be featured in grand photographic exhibitions.
Believe it or not there were even journalists who rebelled against certain fashion designers: in an attempt at controlling the publicity campaigns, in the early '80s Giorgio Armani used to have very large photographs printed and sent to the editors to show them what kind of image he wanted to give his clothes when they prepared their coverage. He also tried to make sure his combination of garments, colours and accessories were respected by journalists. At the time Nina Hyde from The Washington Post showed him she couldn't care less: before writing her articles she would walk through the streets to see how women would wear their Armani jackets, and kept their looks in mind when talking to photographers, dressing models and writing her comments. Lo and behold, she also used to send gifts back.
Now put your clocks forward and you will discover that in 2012 fashion is something completely different: very often fashion designers are icons, gods and goddesses on gold pedestals; new media changed habits and perspectives and what goes on outside the shows sometimes is more celebrated than what goes on inside them. Bloggers - some of them displaying very little knowledge of fashion history and therefore unable to distinguish an original design from a copy - have won the favours of most fashion houses; journalists rarely tell the truth about a collection as that may mean damaging the advertising revenue of the paper/magazine they're writing for. Appearing rather than being is everything and, even as a journalist, you shouldn't dare wearing the same garment twice in the same week as that would be utterly unstylish (but what kind of journalist with an average wage can afford Anna Dello Russo's lifestyle?).
There are also very few people left who do what Nina Hyde did: ignoring what a fashion designer suggests you to do and sending back gifts. Objectivity is more or less dead and buried in favour of a complacent writing style that allows you to get invitations to parties/catwalk shows, “collaborations” (i.e. designing an item, an entire collection, styling a campaign and so on, even though you don't have the skills to do so...), consultant stints and other financially rewarding jobs. Well, we live in a world in crisis, there is very little money in writing and you still have to pay the bills, eat and, in some cases, support a grand lifestyle that you don't deserve, so why not?.
In this immoral world some designers have learnt how to use journalists and bloggers as prostitutes: they invite them, give them some presents, they “collaborate” with them and they expect to obtain grand reviews peppered with magniloquent words of praise even when their collections have the consistency of a very noisy and smelly fart.
Yet we still hadn't got to the point where a relatively young designer started behaving like a crossover between Benito Mussolini and Silvio Berlusconi, at least until Hedi Slimane got his job at Yves Saint Laurent (oh, by the way, according to the instructions received from the Duce's office - pardon the YSL PR office - in a mass email: “The House is referred to as ‘Yves Saint Laurent.’ The ready-to-wear collection by Hedi Slimane is correctly referred to as ‘Saint Laurent’. ‘Saint Laurent Paris’ is used in the logo but not when spoken/written about the collection.” I wonder, is it legitimate to use Saint Laurent Paris in a mime game? The doubt remains...)
A few days ago The New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn wrote a piece about not being invited to the Saint Laurent show since in 2004 she had credited the skinny silhouette to Raf Simons rather than Slimane, who at the time had already written her to complain about her article. Having told her story she then proceeded to review the S/S13 collection reminding her readers that she was reviewing it by just looking at the photographs, as she hadn't been able to see the clothes in person. Horyn didn't sound too surprised about the collection (an opinion shared by many others, including myself) and detected in the new Saint Laurent designs a very literal interpretations of Yves' style but with shrunken proportions. Unhappy with what he read, Slimane retaliated on his Twitter page (from now on his "Tw@t-ter" page) calling Horyn “a schoolyard bully”, “a publicist in disguise” and “a stand-up comedian”, adding that "her agenda is seriously thick and perfectly predictable," and that “her sense of style is seriously challenged” (yes, I know, he sounds like a little boy...).
Maybe bullying and spoiled Slimane (because he sounds like a spoiled bully here) hasn't read the Business of Fashion criticising the YSL PR team (oh by the way, is it still possible to use YSL in connection with Yves Saint Laurent or should we use a different acronym?) and accusing them of being rude and of threatening of not collaborating with them in future (whatever they mean with “collaborating”) if they didn't change an article they had written or The Telegraph's critic expressing her doubts about his collection. I wonder if Slimane will be writing hate mail to everybody who says they didn't like his collection. If all the fashion designers would behave like him, having accused Miuccia Prada of various fashion crimes, she should have sent me a killer with a kalashnikov a long time ago, but she never did and I can assure you there is no hitman clad in a Prada suit outside my window as I'm writing this. And if Donatella Versace had to drag to court, write hate mail and tweet against all the people who call/called her a plastic doll vaguely resembling Iggy Pop, she wouldn't have any time to design her collections.
Wake up, Mr Slimane. Both good and bad reviews/features mean publicity, besides, criticism can only strengthen the person who receives it and people who usually praise you are the ones who damage you because they do not let you see your mistakes. Maybe if somebody has harsh comments about your work (think about it, Horyn didn't say that you just revomited Stevie Nicks's late '70s style, though she may have done so seeing what you came up with...) you should invite them to see your next collection, let them see the clothes and explain them how passionate you are about your work. Catwalk shows can be stressful events and journalists may lose some of the stories behind the clothes, so speaking to them is a way to change their perspectives.
If you don't fancy people who don't like your work, then ban them for life from your shows, but, remember, you can't stop them Mussolini-style from sharing their opinion with other people, on the Internet or on the publication they write for. Objectivity is one of the first things they teach you at journalism school, together with the dangers caused by censorship and with the importance of freedom of expression.
Mind you, though, this may be more serious as Slimane could be the sad product of a distorted fashion industry that expects us to go to a show and instantly post a photo of ourselves/somebody more famous than us sitting in the front row on Instagram/Twitter/Pinterest/whatever rather than paying attention to the clothes and accessories, he may be the result of an industry that has taught us all to appear rather than to be and to air kiss people rather than to sit down and speak to them.
Hopefully kids who want to study fashion will ignore Slimane's example and remember that, while staying humble in this business is extremely difficult, if you manage to do it, you'll be a true star on a professional and, above all, on a human level.
In the meantime, Horyn is maybe one of the most banned journalists around at the moment (she has collected bans from Armani, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta and now Saint Laurent' shows; mind you, I have been banned from a Valentino show and from a press conference without having said anything bad about Valentino...).
Who knows, maybe after fashion critic Robin Givhan won the Pulitzer Prize, Horyn will be the first fashion journalist to win the PEN award for fashion and the International PEN will have to establish a Committee to defend persecuted fashion writers who are the victims of fashion fascism. Jokes aside, let's hope this won't happen: there are more serious issues to write about than just a pile of luxury rags.
PS Mr Slimane, if you ever read this, please send some nasty replies to me on Twitter, free publicity is always good and I'm grown up enough to cry only when I live/see very serious tragedies.Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos
Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos