I do not know how relevant fashion is to you. Do you know that this season the fuzzy stuff is in? You know, the fluffy white element which leaves white residue on your car seat, and, when you put it on, makes you look like an unshaved mutton version of LMFAO? No, perhaps you do not know what I am talking about, and the images of last spring’s runways are not floating through your brain like a Style.com slide show. Then you might not care to read the rest of this column, which is too bad because the point I’d like to make matters, even if the last designer purchase you made was when Ralph Lauren still went by Ralph Lifshitz.
Fashion, as Oscar Wilde defined it with great authority, “is usually a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” Over a century later we still stick to this calendar, though for the stars and the insanely wealthy we also have couture and cruise collections (not to mention pre-fall) to make life more bearable in between the sacred four weeks of spring and fall runways.
As the fashion editors jet between New York, Milan, London and Paris, there’s a lot of excitement and a desperate search for new words to describe something no one involved really needs – new clothes. The editors still live under the impression that it is their duty to tell a woman what to wear. They do so by ingesting hundreds of catwalk parades and regurgitating a succinct version of what’s in this season – kind of like my fuzzy white thing (which I have bought, by the way, and that’s how I know about the car seat).
Yet what the editors do not know, as they jetset in IRL (“in real life” – e-speak), is that their world is being slowly eroded by the new media geeks they have hired to run the online pages of their magazines.
To their credit, fashion webmasters face a monumental task. The print editions are safe and get top ad dollars, for we still buy VOGUE over some unknown new magazine. Online fashion pages however are in a permanent competition with the ever-growing army of social media upstarts — the bloggers, the diggers, the tumblers, the twitters and the gawkers – who all have something to say on the subject of fashion. They are agile, they are hungry, and they found an angle that magazines can’t afford: they can’t care less about the actual art of fashion. They aim their cameras at the glamour of the street, and get the best of the fashion week without bothering to go into the actual shows.
When the street-style phenomenon exploded, about three years ago, the bloggers were fashion outsiders. Wanna-be photographers and fashionistas, they stalked their prey outside of the runway tents. They would get snapshots of stylish editors and models, faces perfectly lit up from texting on their Blackberries and iPhones, oblivious to these amateur paparazzis, but not avoiding them either. Noone could have predicted that by the year 2012, fashion bloggers would actually become more important then fashion editors – at least where online community is concerned. The fact is: their images are more accessible, the clothes they capture are actually wearable – and if not exactly affordable, you can always count on the online community to suggest cheaper take offs on the same outfits.
In the spirit of Coco Chanel – who welcomed knock-offs as a sign of success – the fashion elite was quick to embrace the bloggers. Suzy Menkes, the New York Times fashion eminence, declared that finally fashion became “a conversation” as opposed to a monologue. By 2011, street style bloggers like Sartorialist and Tommy Ton are actually courted by fashion media, invited to the shows and published on the websites of top magazines. Yet by trying to embrace amateur blogs, the fashion world might be shooting itself in its Jimmy Choos, for the digital generation is likely to assume that fashion equals street style. What will happen then to the high budget extravaganzas which most important fashion artists are still allowed to mount? Once the giant acronyms that own most of the top brands figure out that a blogger who costs a camera and a plane ticket can get them as much buzz as some crazy designer mounting a multi-million dollar campaign, where will the fashion wheel turn? Be careful, devils who wear Prada, for you might soon be replaced by devils who carry Canon, and your wonderful fairy tale world will become too much of a “dialogue” for the actual art in it to endure. And once we have fashion without art, it might truly become a form of ugliness, as the great dandy predicted.