Fashion Bytes — Fashion Criticism

Robin Givhan‘s insightful — if critical — January article about Karl Lagerfeld’s solo collections not only cost her front row seats at the Chanel shows (and more than likely future shows), but caused Lagerfeld to lash out at Newsweek for publishing the piece. He is quoted as having called the magazine “a shitty little paper”. However, a general feeling of being completely underwhelmed by his most recent eponymous ready to wear collection only seemed to be proving Givhan correct in her critique.

I addressed the issue of a designer’s role and importance in commercial fashion in a February Fashion Byte. Lagerfeld’s reaction though, highlights a pattern in the fashion world of not being able to handle criticism: Holly Brubach was banned from Yves Saint Laurent’s shows for daring to critique, among others. There are film critics, literary critics, art critics, and theatre critics. But fashion critics frequently find themselves locked out of the party. Fashion magazines, as a rule, tend to promote, rather than analyse. There exists only one journal dedicated to fashion criticism that I am aware of, Address, for which Worn Through’s own Ashley Palmer has written.

Why is fashion so reluctant to be criticised? How could fashion benefit from informed criticism and what role could fashion academics play? Could this reluctance to be critiqued be part of the reason fashion has become somewhat banal and boring, as Vivienne Westwood has said? Are there any designers who have learned from critiques that you know of? What is your opinion of Robin Givhan’s article? Were her assessments accurate? Are there other fashion criticism vehicles available? How could you teach students to handle criticism and grow from it?

Please share your thoughts.

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1 Comment

  • Joy D. May 22, 2012 10.07 pm

    Givhan’s article was spot on and I guess that is apart of the problems. I always thought that was the role of the fashion blogger: to critique AND highlight fashion at all stages. However you get more glamorous shoes and ad sales by playing nice. It is just the way it is.


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