Friday, September 29, 2006

Editorial - Six Rows of Separation:



Another New York fashion week has ended. The well oiled 7thonSixth machine cranked out yet another season of smoothly produced shows with cookie cutter precision. After 12 years "Fern & Company" finally got it down to a science. Of course, where the shows will be held next season is still up in the air, but that is the way the cookie crumbles - cookie wise!

Meanwhile, NY fashion week becomes an ever growing spectacle, a circus of sorts, promoted by IMG in much the same ways as the Oscars, US Open, Emmy Awards and the Superbowl. What was once a trade event for the buyers, retailers and fashion press has more and more been taken over by paying sponsors and national celebrity press as a mass entertainment/marketing vehicle. NY fashion week is now part of the annual circuit of entertainment events that are heralded, promoted, cosponsored, hawked and branded. Fashion week is bigger than any one fashion designer's show. Is it any wonder that many of the biggest designers choose no longer to show at the Tents?

There was a lot of talk among editors and retailers this past fashion week about who all is actually attending these shows. Several thousand people during fashion week get a seat or stand at one or more of the shows. Who are they and what do they all do?

OK, I think we all know who are in the front rows - any F.I.T. student can come up with that list. And, for the next two or three rows up at the main "Tent", those seats are surely filled with other "A" and "B" list assitant editors, minor celebrities, freelance writers, sponsors' clients, stylists, minor retailers, retired ex-VIPs, important and unimportant out-of-town press, psychiatrists, favored friends and relatives, boy friends of the models, hairdressers, fashion bloggers -- but what about the rest?

By the time you get to those beyond the sixth row, who are they? Are we all in the industry connected somehow by only six rows of separation? From one show to the next a never ending stream of people walk in through the main entrance. As a casual observer watching this parade, we are hard pressed to find many clues as to who these fashion groupies are? How many of them have anything to do with the fashion industry at all? Our guess is many of them are brought in by the PR firm or publicist who is handling the front of house for each designer. Each publicist has his or her own group of people -- call them "fashion extras" who can be relied on to fill the house with friendly, attractive and eager faces.

We know many legitimate writers and stylists who cannot get into the major shows. People who contribute and participate in our industry and make a valid contribution to it. It is no secret that much of the traditional out-of-town press no longer come to the New York shows because they cannot get enough invitations to make the trip cost effective. In fact, it has been suggested that some designers do not even want informed editors reviewing the collections. Why subject the collection to the scrutiny of an experienced eye who cares for how the dress was made, and whether the seams were sewn on straight? Better just have the likes of a Full Frontal Fashion program run a 30 second clip of highlights while Judy Licht wide-eyed gushes over how wonderful the collection is?

And speaking of fashion "journalists," What is going on with Cathy Horyn? Are we the only ones who wonder if she thinks fashion is beneath her? Her reviews of the recent NY designers' collections reads more and more like a public exercise in creative writing. It is not so much what she says, but how she says it. She can really turn a phrase, no question about it! Ms. Horyn is a great writer, but her reviews seem written more to entertain and impress the reader with their cleverness, and less to inform them with clear and at least some attempt at objective reporting and coherent reasoning.

No one can accuse Ms. Horyn of not expressing her personal opinion in her columns, or of pushing her personal favorites, year in and year out. But backing her opinion up with why she constantly raves about one designer and gives short caustic comments about others seems many times to be beyond her scope of interest.

There are quite a number of informed "others" in our industry who feel when it comes to fashion, she really does not 'get it" and never did. Is she in the right job? We wonder. Maybe Ms. Horyn should consider switching jobs and become a political analyst or something more befitting her obvious talents?

Just a thought...

-Ernest Schmatolla

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