In my opinion it was the sixties when the critical equation was permanently reversed. That decade changed the old mantra of the educated classes (as they were rather quaintly called then) from 'This is good, therefore I like it' to 'I like this, therefore it is good'.
Predictably, the new approach caught on. It opened the floodgates. Who was being let in? The young of course, who not having much education at that time and generally having far too much fun to be arsed with actually learning anything that might back up their view, took things into their own hands. Their parents and teachers stood aside, awed by the sheer energy and cheek of the new culture their children were forging with no reference to anybody, or thing, least of all from the past.
It's possible to see this (plenty of people do) as the end both of a long civilization and of the meaning of criticism. If everybody's critical voice is different but equal, regardless of their degree of expertise, how can there any longer be the sort of consensus achieved by a critical structure based on agreed rules, as in the past?
So, did the sixties herald the end of a creative world? In many ways, yes. But even though at this point much of what is being produced - certainly in fashion - is seen by many as inferior to what went before, we are living in fabulously vibrant creative times when everything is possible. A few amazing ideas are beginning to emerge. If that means we have to temporarily put up with ignorance and arrogance, it is a price we can pay. We may be walking through a blizzard – but that doesn't mean that we're walking off the edge of a cliff.
It is hard to see our way, clearly. It is uncomfortable and even dangerous. Many take comfort in inertia, while others make a great show of throwing a lot of intellectual snowballs around … and we all know how brief and insubstantial their lifespan is. Far too few creators and commentators in fashion, as in any other field, have the intellectual energy and creative rigour of a snowman or as much capacity for thought as the cheeky little robin perched on his head. But there is always a thaw. All periods of artistic unrest eventually clear, leaving the way ahead open.
We probably have another generation or two before all the dross is cleared away, but I am sure that when it is we will no longer need to look back for guidance to critical tenets that are already tired and irrelevant. Just because so much of the new is at this stage so bad doesn't mean that it will stay that way.