Jason Dike's recent piece in Business Of Fashion on the current state of the fashion press asks, is there a place for honesty to be published?
I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Dike's conclusion that the problem with the current commentary on fashion is not a lack of honesty which would often result in dissent about what designer is doing great work and should be championed and worn. But rather that independent platforms that could offer stern critiques have ceased to be. The fashion press is utterly for sale to the highest bidder and as a result brilliant talents without funds are being ignored. To sink us further into the mire let me add that we have an overwhelmingly undereducated fashion press at the moment that does not, in the main, understand anything about the history of fashion, fashion as an industry, or fashion design as a creative process.
In fashion there's been a lot of tossing around of the term, "democratization". I don't always know what is meant by it but it must be accurate because what we in fashion are currently seeing on our stage is another act in the age old democratic drama of two clashing truths; vox populi vox Dei, (the voice of the people is the voice of God), vs the unassailable fact that the people often need to be lead to that which we don't know we need or want. The framers of the Constitution knew that the only way for our democracy to navigate that was to be sure we had freedom of the press and an educated populace.
This is how the absence of both of those currently plays out for us in the fashion industry. The owner of a motherboard company in Rainier Beach, Washington is looking for a new wool coat. She has about $1200 to spend and what she wants that coat to do for her is not just keep her warm but express her values which are that she is sophisticated and yet down to earth as well as being environmentally conscious. This is her dream coat:
Gary Graham Fall 2013-14
The boutique Les Amis in Seattle has the coat in her size at $900. She could easily find out that he's stocked there via Gary's website. The problem is that she doesn't know that Gary Graham exists. He doesn't advertise much, give clothes to celebrities, and doesn't throw fabulous downtown parties. You have to be educated on American fashion to know why he's amazing. So she ends up buying something that's not what she wanted but is from a brand she knew about via their ads.
That is the role of the fashion press, to educate and explain why Gary Graham is as good if not a better choice for our customer. The reason why they should do that is simple, it's their job. The press exists to help people make educated decisions. If they return to those values they will not become rich and they will not be fabulous but they'll be helping the entire industry and the designers who are the entire reason we have an industry. If they wanted to be rich and fabulous becoming a member of the press was not a good choice and can they please leave now and go do something else.