Thursday, March 21, 2013

How to tell if the person who is telling you about fashion actually knows anything about fashion...

Magazines & sites that write good things about people who pay them and bad things or nothing about those that don't. Bloggers who don't know the difference between silk & satin. Bitter, scowling ex-kings & queens with closed minds who hate everybody except those that they rose to prominence with. Angry young writers who carry multiple axes they wield any time they get refused entry to a show or event. Know nothing dilettantes who got the job because they're privileged & pretty. It seems that there are many layers of crud between designers, their designs, and the public these days. How does a fashion passionista who thinks the clothes are beautiful and wants to know more about the designer & the brand dig through the muck to find out what's really at the beating heart of the matter? How do you know who's worth listening to in the fashion press and who's links you should never bother clicking on? Below I've assembled seven clues that I've discovered I use sub-consciously to make this decision, and believe me as a branding & marketing rep I have to make it daily.

Clue#1 Can they actually write? The easiest way to determine that is to ask yourself one question. Do I find myself compelled to continue reading their work once I start? If a writer can't create that they should do something else for a living. Of almost equal weight is, do they let spelling, punctuation, and grammatical mistakes get published? If they do they're lazy and don't care about their craft and neither should you.

The next thing to do is recognize that a lot of what is written/shot is context dependent. It is not appropriate for a fashion journalist to ask "tough" questions backstage prior to a show. The designer and everyone else in a 50 foot radius is on the very edge of nerves. Asking a potentially controversial question then means you're either insensitive or stupid. That doesn't mean you can't ask a good question though and that's Clue #2. Does the person I'm reading ask smart questions? Does it sound like they did some homework about the designer and their body of work? 

An in depth piece is where the tougher or more probing questions belong and that's Clue #3. When appropriate does the person ask questions about topics that the subject might not want to answer? 

Clue #4 is one that has always mystified me about the fashion press. Does the reporter actually know how fashion is made? Do they talk about fabric & techniques? Do they understand the business at all? Fashion has to be one of the only industries I've ever seen where if the writer assigned has no knowledge about the topic at hand nobody bats an eye. Imagine a football announcer who doesn't know why gaining an average of 4 yards a play is significant and you'll understand the current state of the fashion press. 

Clue #5 is one of my old rules for my writers at Does the writer back up their opinions with facts or logical arguments? A good opinion is an educated opinion. You can write whatever you honestly feel but you need to justify it.

One of favorite lessons from my high school teaching days was on how to spot bias in writing. This is Clue #6 in how to tell if the person you're reading is a hack. How do they say what they say? The easiest way to tell is if there is an over abundance of adjectives & verbs. If a writer goes out of their way to be clever that's a tip off for sure. Another hint is how they structure their information. If the first paragraph has nothing to do with the designer and their work then no matter what the writer goes on to say about the fashion they are likely burying info and don't like the designer. Equally if they gush endlessly with lofty abandon that likely means bias. 

The final clue, Clue #7 is about the writer's character. Is the person I'm reading lazy? Do they reference research they did? Did they just copy PR releases and text? Do they reference fashion history at all? The only way to find this out is for you yourself not to be lazy. Look up what others are saying about the designer Look up with the brand and their representatives say about themselves. 

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