Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The CFDA and the Bloggers: Why?

We all know that fashion is changing at an unprecedented pace. I don't mean fashion styles but fashion as an entity. Since Worth opened his salon in Paris 1858 and effectively created the modern dress designer, the mechanics and even the aesthetics of fashion - design, presentation and also clients - have changed little from his original concept. Throughout the twentieth century, clothes remained remarkably static. Hemlines rose or fell; some of the underpinnings loosened up; nylons, hairspray and synthetics made things easier and cheaper; but the only major change was that women began to wear trousers, not as a protest or as fancy dress but as a permanent and acceptable way of dressing. And that's about it, really.

But the secret snake was at work in the garden, ready to destroy it all, just biding its time … and gently hissing 'the world belongs to youth.' It was able to be ignored for a very long time because, although youth's power grew with every generation, it didn't become truly empowered as a fashion force until it began to have its own money. That changed everything. The age of fashion consent – or at least, understanding – began to slide dangerously low. And it has continued to do so until we have come to our present state: the reign of the know-nothings, where front rows at fashion shows are crammed with stars and celebs who are rarely over thirty and, if they are bloggers, are welcomed as young as thirteen. Is it a self-inflicted wound on the fashion body or merely an acknowledgement of the inevitable?

Let's look at some facts (as pointed out by the comment on a previous blog that in many ways prompted this post). The CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) has included two young bloggers in its invited list of judges (I've been one for years) who annually select the best designers in various categories of the U.S. fashion business. No prizes for guessing. Tavi and Bryanboy are both up there with the cream of the industry who have in the past been chosen with great care as people with expertise in the field, people whose judgement is trusted as being based on wide-ranging experience of the fashion world. People who know.

Doesn't matter any more. What counts now is who sells clothes and to whom. And that is all that fashion blogging and Twitter are for, as far as the fashion – and especially designer – business is about: capturing a new and ever younger market. Of course nobody at the CFDA respects or cares about the opinions of the likes of Tavi and Bryanboy. The designers who have crammed their front rows with footballers, movie stars and TV stars don't care either. All that fashion cares about now is enthusiasm and that can be as uninformed as you like. Everybody in fashion knows is that it is enthusiasm and excitement, not knowledge, that sells clothes. At least for a time. And that is why the very young are so important now.

One of the saddest aspects for me of all of this is a professional one. I worry about all those still-young fashion editors who started this movement and think they know the story but who are, in fact, already too old to feel the pulse at first hand. They are already obsolescent, no longer able to keep up with currents being driven by fifteen-year-olds. They will be old beyond their time and will probably have to end up selling jeans to ten-year-olds in order to scratch a living as they watch that coveted front-row seat being handed over to their younger sisters. Even Charles Worth knew that fashion was a tough world.



  1. I agree, the world of fashion seems to be marching to such a frantic beat, that ultimately, no one can keep up.

    The saddest part is- they are doing it to themselves, in the quest for ever greater profits and glory.

    Would the world really collapse if we didn't have so many fashion shows? i guess not , but a lot of people like to think so and thus the circus continues...

  2. Asking such young, inexperienced people to judge a competition for a designer of clothes for women who are older and more experienced is the same as having teenagers model the same clothes. Disrespectful and misogynist. The industry is self-imploding.

  3. I very much agree. I am a blogger myself but I see blogging as a way of expressing myself and learning on the way. I get upset when I see bloggers such as the ones you mention getting so much recognition. I'd like to believe that they will indeed become obsolete and that it will be the knowledgeable and talented people who have worked all their lives that will be a part of front rows and CFDA's votes. I hope too much. All I can do is do things the way I think I should and believe that it will work out that way.

    Thank you for always speaking your mind no matter how far your opinion is from everyone else's.

  4. Will they have longevity?

    Ones thing for sure they are a lot younger than you

  5. "I get upset when I see bloggers such as the ones you mention getting so much recognition."

    Will you have the SAME point of view that you have now if you were in Tavi or Bryanboy's shoes and got the same recognition as they did?

    How rich for you to make that comment when you name your blog "SOOOO VIP ZONE".

  6. Are designers seeking the youth market, or the mass market, which applies to all age groups? Designers make money not just selling clothes, but also fragrances, sunglasses, accessories, etc. It's basic Marketing 101: Bloggers help labels bring larger audiences to their brands, most of whom, regardless of their age, could not afford them. Calvin Klein aired their mens/womens Collection shows on Facebook and people watched it. Most viewers might not be able to actually buy the clothes they just saw, but they can go out and buy a pair of blue jeans, underwear, sunglasses, or cologne to own a piece of the brand.

    It's exactly the same as celebrities walking the Oscars' red carpet in borrowed dresses, a trend that dates back before the Rise of Bloggers. Most TV viewers could never afford a Chanel dress, or a Bvlgari necklace. But they can buy a bottle of No. 5 perfume. And that applies to both the teenager and her mom.

  7. Being very new to the world of blogging, I don't feel it's all 'youth' who are the true commentators...just those with a voice, a passion and an original opinion. I'm already so fed up of some famous fashion bloggers constantly asking, 'what do *you* think?'. My answer is, get your own (informed) opinion before asking others!

  8. These famous fashion bloggers (literally a handful) have earned their fame democratically, they are relatively independant and not pressured by the politics of fashion advertising. I haven't heard any of these bloggers claim to have any unique qualifications, and I think most will admit that they are professional consumers of fashion, this makes their opinion valid as it reflects a viewpoint not often expressed from fashion editors and that closer to a consumer.

    It seems that the Fashion Editors vs Fashion Bloggers debate is going round in circles. I think fashion editors have a platonic notion of what is right and are forgetting that fashion, like every creative industry, is often subjective and context sensitive, there is ultimately no right or wrong, only personal taste.

  9. "Asking such young, inexperienced people to judge a competition for a designer of clothes for women who are older and more experienced is the same as having teenagers model the same clothes."

    This argument doesn't really make sense, considering the majority of the "new" designers who are celebrated by the press and the fashion industry itself design clothes that only emaciated young women can get away with. The majority of high fashion designed is not suitable for the older more experienced women to wear. So why should they be the ones to judge it? Also, many of the people who buy these brands now are indeed the teenagers and people in their twenties, or should I say their wealthy parents. Even though their parents fund them, the parents do not decide which items of clothing to buy, the young do.

  10. "Will you have the SAME point of view that you have now if you were in Tavi or Bryanboy's shoes and got the same recognition as they did?"

    I don't think the question is whether or not Colin (or me, and anyone else) would accept the same good fortune that has fallen upon Tavi and the others like her. Of COURSE anyone with any ambition would accept the freebies, the opportunities, the paid travel, etc. that they are getting. The question is whether their growing status as informed fashion bellwethers is good for the industry or not (emphasis on "informed"). And the answer is, probably not, but we'll have to wait and see what happens.

    Useful information must come from, well, informed and educated opinions, otherwise it is merely entertainment—which is fine and good—but things get fuzzy when one (entertainment) is confused for the other (informed opinion). I enjoy reading blogs for entertainment, but I rely on journalists and scholars for useful information.

  11. Colin, the CFDA has been a sham for years now. Cathy Horyn recognizes that, half the designers recognize that, Helmut Lang recognizes that. It's a case of "who cares?"

    You're wrong to discount bloggers too- they're separate people, not some sort of group. Bryan Boy's a vapid idiot, yes- superficial to the extreme, but Tavi's worth reading- if you bothered to read her blog, rather than dismiss her because of her youth, I'm sure you'd agree.

  12. Please do correct me if I'm wrong, but I see that Mr. McDowell has a quote from a blogger on the homepage of his website, appluading his genius. So are all fashion bloggers the "know-nothings" or is it just BryanBoy, Tavi and the alike? Because the hate the blogger movement is so 2009. But I can get behind an honest debate over whether Tavi and Bryan qualify as thought-leaders or mere products (perhaps puppets McDowell might say) of the celebrity status the fashion industry has bestowed upon them.

  13. I just wrote a big fat comment in reply but deleted it. All I have to say is: is you write a comment have the courage to at least write your name on it.

  14. I'd like to know where you get off utterly dismissing "fashion bloggers" on your blog about fashion. On a BLOGSPOT blog, no less!

    I don't know BryanBoy's blog, but I've been following Tavi's for two years now, and she has discerning taste, a keen eye, a charming and lucid prose style and a deep and sophisticated interest in fashion. If you actually took the time to read any of her journalistic pieces (shocker-- she writes for Actual Magazines, and quite well) this would be clear to you. Your bio says you helped create "Fashion Fringe, a platform for young design talent." By young design talent do you mean 27? This is nonsense.

    To discriminate against Tavi based solely on her age is bigoted small-minded nonsense: it would be as cheap and shabby as writing your opinions off as those of a bitter old man. I recommend taking a deep breath, examining why you feel so threatened and defensive that someone younger than you actually has opinions that many people value and respect, and maybe reading some Jung.

  15. I guess there is no reason to get worked up and scratch one's head over BryanBoy's incredible talent or popularity.What exactly was the singular moment that catapulted BryanBoy into fame? He made a video showcasing himself as Marc Jacobs and had two douzen Louis Vuitton bags featured in it.The economy is receding, sales declining and you see someone buy two douzen bags of yours.So what does Marc Jacobs do? Robert Duffy himself has mentioned that customers are the ones that matter the most to him! So extend a hand to BryanBoy and make him "super" famous / name a bag after him.So what happens is that millions of gullible young people are encouraged to blog about high fashion brands encouraged by the fact that they could be the next BryanBoy!! The brand gets free advertisement, its products sell and MJ laughs his way to the bank and is seen with a douzen more Hermes bags relaxing on St.Barts! BB might be popular but respect is something that can be earned only by years of hardwork and dedication to the craft!!

    As for the 13 year old whom many claim that she writes too well to be ignored, well fashion review is not fiction that anyone with a fertile mind and a fanciful imagination can do a good job of it. Apart from making superficial comments based on her opinion of aesthetics, what else does she convey? As per her a model wearing John Galliano's Haute Couture Spring 2010 dress looks like an ass scientist? While the review might be perversely funny what does it really convey? Has she ever held a pair of scissors, cut , sewed, designed to understand the nitty gritties of the process/the trade? Unless you yourself have gone through the rigmarole of the whole design process, how can you differentiate good design/workmanship from bad? And unless you are well versed with the history of fashion, how do you know what you claim as good design is not something that has been rechurned from a past collection? Lets take the example of John Galliano.He has spent an year at art school, a further 4 years at design school mastering the art of fashion design, and spent another 25 years braving an industry as tough as the one fashion accords, being on top of his game consistently, spending significant time designing each of the 17 collections he produces per year and along comes a tiny 13 year old and says "Blah, this is all crap!" It's a grave insult to even try and compare Colin McDowell's background, design experience and years of knowledge with Tavi's.

    As along as bloggers know their place as ignorant observers of an art they respect and frank enough to admit that and act accordingly they would get the respect they deserve.But when they think and act like they are the game changers set to create new fashion boundaries and try and eclipse designers, that is when the real problem happens.There is obviously more to fashion than owning ten douzen shoes!

  16. Not every blogger is an uninformed cheerleader for whatever pretty pictures happen to have caught their fancy, and not all bloggers are kids looking for a way into the front rows (one of the best ones I knew was an electrical engineer, and planned to remain one). For that matter, not all bloggers are outsiders even. LibertyLondonGirl, whom you link to, is very much part of the establishment and by no means an enthusiastic spring chicken, and a CFDA ballot being sent to her would, I feel, not have gone amiss.
    This subject has been flogged almost to death, but I honestly feel that bloggers can't replace editors, and the digital world will never compare to the feel of holding an actual magazine. Why can't they just coexist?

  17. Lillet- in most of the developed world, 27 is in fact a young age. I know models are frequently considered 'old' at 25, but to apply the same standard to designers (especially those who've had to get a bit of formal training) is nothing short of daft.

  18. At the end of the day, I honestly hope that Tavi and Bryanboy will not be hurt by this moment, that being used for "the moment" will satisfy and that if their celebrity status wanes, they'll have had a good time.

    They're probably nice people.


  19. there are interesting blogs that have something interesting to say. In Denmark there's an excellent men's blog www.style.dk and a womans blog www.anywho.dk. These are both great! Best, Anna Karin

  20. "There is obviously more to fashion than owning ten douzen shoes!"


    Like learning how to spell.

  21. One cannot equate promoting fresh talent with "promoting" Tavi! The difference is that the former is qualified, talented, knows his/her subject but lacks the platform, which Colin wants to provide him/her with.They are not arm chair "fashionistas" who ornament fashion shows with fancy adjectives and stop there.They are the ones with the creativity, passion, knowledge and training to propel fashion forward.If Tavi was a young genius, whipping out new silhouettes by the minute and astonishing people with her design / sewing talent then am sure Colin won't have any problem in promoting her.Afterall Mozart composed music at the age of five to be proclaimed a prodigy! The whole debate is about people who have no clue about the industry using it as a tool for self promotion, there are the new fashion "quacks", the malise of the industry! That is the real problem. Trying on crazy combinations of clothes on your person doesn't make you qualified enough to comment on a designer's work! Who the hell is Tavi to even positively review a collection? Does she know any of the techniques employed by the likes of Galliano or Valli? She is not even qualified to say positive things let alone snarky comments.It just portrays her as a extremely STUPID girl, nothing more nothing less!

    As Alber Elbaz rightly pointed out nobody is willing to be a seamstress these days everyone wants a share in the glamour pie in the easiest possible way! Such a shame!!

    There is Mr.Valli who takes the Paris metro to attend his runway show and then there is Tavi, who has already created a wikipedia entry for herself advertising her stupidity to the whole world!!

    Tavi, go hold a scissor and then talk, till then SHUT UP for your own sake!

    Anyone with a computer at their disposal can label themselves as a reviewer, but who the hell cares about what you think of a particular collection? How many people's buying decision can you affect by your "artful" review of a collection? These are not people who are passionate about fashion but are rather passionate about their own vacuous worthless self and desperate for attention! As the saying goes, the higher you fly, the harder you fall!