The Skirt: Who’s Selling Out Who At The Fashion Circus?

"The Skirt" is an ongoing series in which Four Pins' resident lady friend, Rachel Seville, becomes the most important woman in your life.

Suzy Menkes hates the circus. A circus phobia is a common one, but Menkes’s is of a very specific kind, because it involves The Fashion Industry. The Industry, as people you should hate say.

Our gal Suzy, who is a queen, by the way, a veritable monarch when it comes to taking all that glossy runway jazz and telling us in words what it all means, writes in Deborah Needleman’s inaugural issue of T that fashion week has become a circus. And the cause d’etre for Fashion Week’s steep and sad decline from a Comme des Garcons convention to a high school fashion fundraiser for the dance team with a balloon animal sideshow is—well, I almost don’t hate to say it—bloggers.

A lot of internet people are hurt or angry or confused or trying to set the record straight. They’d do well to read Robin Givhan’s "Don’t Take It Personal—It’s Just Fashion". Because chip away at Menkes’s individual points all you want, but if blogging is the future of fashion, it is absolutely imperative that we listen to her.

'Blog' can be a dirty word, but only because, in Suzy’s well-founded opinion, we’re doing it wrong.

Menkes’s piece has elicited some interesting and thoughtful responses, most notably from Susie Lau (who pens Style Bubble) and Leandra Medine (The Man Repeller). Lau is hurt that Menkes namechecks her as a peacocker, so Lau defends her zany style. It must be difficult to read anything about oneself on the Internet, but I do feel she misinterprets Menkes, who calls her “sharp” and says nothing of her style or the way she wears her clothing. In fact, Menkes takes issue with the fact that for Lau and many other of the best bloggers, “judging fashion has become all about me: Look at me wearing the dress! Look at these shoes I have found! Look at me loving this outfit in 15 different images!”

Medine takes a less solipsistic approach. “Blog is a dirty word,” she posits in the post’s title, and acknowledges that Menkes has many a good point. What she disagrees with is Menkes’s view of blogging, because, Medine argues, blogging is a revolutionary enterprise, our generationn’s entrepreneurial response to the paucity of traditional editor jobs. Smartly, she concludes, “the forebears of blogging are to blame” for the circus, in that they didn’t set the right standards to establish a blogging industry that has legs beyond hawking products they got for free from brands who absolutely want to give them products for free.

I sincerely doubt Menkes would disagree with that. She is careful to note she doesn’t hate the technology—she just hates the way it’s being used. She describes smartphones, digital images and bloggers’ ability to immediately start a viral conversation about fashion as “exhilarating,” and writes, “it is great to see the commentaries from smart bloggers.” "Blog" can be a dirty word, but only because, in Suzy’s well-founded opinion, we’re doing it wrong.

Too many bloggers are still sitting in the pocket of brands. They’ve perversely turned the table on themselves and the fashion editing, writing, buying (consuming) model: Whereas brands traditionally fight to get attention from the old guard, bloggers beg for attention from them.

I used to think menswear was a few years behind women’s, but now, I feel, they’re learning from our missteps and mishaps and moving forward more smartly.

What’s funny is that for all the business about blogging being “the future,” it’s actually Menkes and Cathy Horyn (who wrote nary a review this season without complaining about the same circus) who are writing about where fashion is going. Bloggers are stuck in a rut of posting images and describing them, often in terms that are uninteresting or unsophisticated. Part of this, perhaps, is that they’re too green to do otherwise. But if blogging really wants to take itself seriously (forget others taking it seriously), it needs to do something beyond serve as a mirror that’s too often pointed at the author. Menkes and Horyn have taste, but they also have a breadth of knowledge and sense of historicism that too many bloggers lack and don’t seem to have the curiosity to discover. Bloggers are doing the Industry a disservice by not developing those tools, particularly if they are going to carry that Industry forward.

This is where menswear blogging is getting it right. I used to think menswear was a few years behind women’s, but now, I feel, they’re learning from our missteps and mishaps and moving forward more smartly. Most of the menswear bloggers I’ve met are extraordinarily curious, read a lot and look at what seems like everything. Their pool of knowledge always delights—Eric Wilson points to this in his review of Mark McNairy's F/W 13 show. They can watch “Tupperware 13” come down the runway and get the joke. But the stakes are higher for womenswear, and I worry about a moment in which most Fashion Week arbiters will look at Marc Jacobs and not treat that big yellow sun as a passing curiosity, not do the work to figure out it was inspired by a Tate Modern installation, and not make the attempt to see how the designer connected the two. Or won’t be able to simply look at L’Wren Scott and see Klimt without having to read program notes.

The problem is that, for all the absurd and crazy outfits that bloggers put on, too many lack courage to really say something. To head in the right direction, I believe, means to think critically about what you’re seeing and not just say something is cool and squawk about it (even if it wasn’t free). Remember Joan Didion: “Writers are always selling somebody out.”

So there’s your answer. Whether you’re an aspiring amateur or a seasoned professional at an impasse, go sell somebody out. Just not yourself.

Rachel Seville is a writer living in New York who believes in miracles. Read her blog, Pizza Rulez, here and follow her on Twitter here.

  • http://sigtweedandcorduroy.tumblr.com/ Scott

    An excellent and thoughtful read. The internet, technology, and blogging has democratized fashion in a huge way, we can’t be surprised that when it is a free for all that people act like it is a free for all.

  • merlin

    whom

    • lawrences

      All hail Merlin, the grammar wizard!

  • sixfive

    Great post.

  • KGJ

    This is well-written, thoughtful, and concise.

    Can we see more articles of this depth and quality regarding menswear?

  • Shanté

    This was smart and insightful. Rachel strikes again!

  • http://www.vestitidacerimonia.org Francesco

    Blogging is not just the future of fashion but is fashion by itself. :)
    Fashion world needs to understand this to get further.