The Great American (Fashion) Mouth-Off
Blah blah blah blah…or should I say, blog blog blog? The blog is an enabler, a leveler, and a wonderful provider of equal opportunity. It enables those with credentials, expertise, training, and intelligence, who actually have something to say, AND those with no (or few) credentials and NOTHING (or not very much) to say, equal opportunity to mouth off, share information, get things off their chest, or rant and rave (or all of the above).
The dictionary definition of a blog (short for Web Log) is “a website of your own where you enter information ordered by date. It can also be called an online diary or online journal that is shared with others online”. And because blogs can be easily, quickly, and inexpensively set up and maintained by almost anyone with an Internet connection, they have indeed become a true phenomenon in the last 5 or 6 years (although the first blog can be dated back to the early 90’s, they didn’t really take off until the late nineties reaching full steam in 2000). There are blogs covering every imaginable subject and appealing to every possible interest group, and yes of course, that includes fashion.
Some blogs have at their core the high minded purpose of disseminating information and being informative. Others are more frivolous, self-serving and self-indulgent. Many are a little of both. Fashion blogs can basically be divided into two groups - those that are sponsored by a reputable, well established magazine or newspaper, and written by the person who is also its well respected and well known fashion writer, and those that are the brainchild of style obsessed young fashion addicts and/or shopaholics who are not necessarily professional writers or fashion pros at all, and whose ‘day jobs’ may not even be fashion related. But they sure know their stuff however marginally, and appeal to be plugged in. This group pours over fashion magazines and websites, they keep abreast of what’s going on within the fashion world- and they know the players (the star fashion models, star fashion designers, star editors, and fashion obsessed celebs). They could probably tell you what Anna Wintour ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and they most probably have certain runway shows memorized.
It’s all about their youthful candor and enthusiasm. Blogs that fall into this category include iamfashion.blogspot.com, powered by two 20 somethings who go by the names Harrods Girl and Barneys Girl (their favorite stores within their respective cities). They so named their blog because as they put it, “We wanted the name of our site to actually mean something. Back then, we were in love with Chanel's classical elegance style and decided to name our site from a phase out of a quote Coco Chanel said: 'I don't do fashion, I am fashion.' Sweet! And how can one dislike a fashion blog that reminds you “You have a much better life if you wear impressive clothes” (a Vivienne Westwood quote that is written on their homepage).
They claim it all started because they felt frustrated “that there were no simple websites telling me what was going to be in fashion. I was trying to search for a site that was made for normal people by normal people, (by that we mean us of course.) I used to search on Yahoo, but that was completely useless of course. I know a lot of people probably had the same problem as I did, so I thought, why not set up a site for people to get fashion insight? Then Barneys Girl and I talked about it (for over a year,) and finally decided to do it”.
It is lighthearted, fun, and filled with examples and suggestions of how to look stylish and up to the minute (with the help of well selected visuals which they readily admit are not originals but were ‘lifted’ from other websites which they credit so that they are not sued). The duo may take fashion seriously, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. The two students, who share a similar addiction to shopping and reading about fashion in magazines and on websites, are very knowledgeable about the scene. Their spring summer 2006 ‘edition’ not only talks about the best summer dresses they’ve found in their shopping expeditions, but they also critique the fall/winter 2006 shows in London and Milan, using runway images to illustrate.
Another such blog which is still in its formative stages, is www.coutorture.net which bills itself as “an online fashion community” and was conceived by Julie Fredrickson, its editor-in-chief who also writes for fashionwiredaily.com, and Philip Leif Bjerknes. Their ambitious mission is to give “fashion lovers news, commentary, and community in one convenient location. Integrating old media, fashion blogs, online magazines, and exclusive new media rich content, all while promoting a live forum of feedback and active participation, Coutorture is the new destination for online fashion.” You can click on the following categories: ‘news, opinion, insight, products, advice, sales, podcasts and video, search, partners, help” and I was amused by the unselfconscious self mockery of Julie’s column “Before the Glamour” which chronicled her clothing choices for the Prada “Waist Down” party, which she video taped for the site.
Blogs that fall into the category of being hosted by established media include http://www.newyorkmetro.com/fashion/blog/ which successfully and regularly dishes the dirt, reports on trends, seasonal must haves, firings and hirings, comings and goings within the fashion world during the market week periods. And then there is the occasional blog written by The Washington Post staff writer Robin Givhan blog.washingtonpost.com/fashion/ who illustrates perfectly why not all writers or all blogs are created equal. The talented, smart, articulate, observant, and highly entertaining Givhan was in fact just awarded the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism (“distinguished criticism, in print or in print and online”). According to The New York Times, Tuesday, April 18, 2006, “Ms. Givhan, 41 was honored for her biting observations in essays that blend fashion criticism with political commentary. She has applied the same degree of stylistic scrutiny to officials from the Bush and Clinton administrations as she does to designers in Paris and Milan.” Perfect examples are the 5 columns that had been submitted for consideration for the award, which were subsequently posted on The Washington Post website, and worth reading if you did not have the opportunity. My favorite is “Dick Cheney, Dressing Down - Parka, Ski Cap at Odds with Solemnity of Auschwitz Ceremony”, January 27 (see article) which exemplifies her credentials and talent (and way with words).
It’s an honor to be sure, especially when you take into account that fashion journalism is oft considered to be an oxymoron, not to be taken truly seriously, and when you factor in that nobody within fashion has been bestowed this honor since the category was created in 1970, according to www.fashionweekdaily.com.
What sets Robin’s criticism apart from others is her highly identifiable signature style that is insightful, ‘right on the money’, witty, and often very funny (I constantly find myself chucking at her wonderful descriptions). That and the fact that she is obviously not going after the jugular with the purpose of being mean or nasty (or to just have something negative to talk about). There is always a far more high minded purpose and intent. And she writes exactly the way that she speaks - you can hear the perfect grammar and annunciation. Robin not only writes her columns for The Washington Post, but during the past fall/winter 2006 renway shows she began writing a fashion blog (more like a personal diary) which was consistent with the tone of her hard copy but which allowed her to be perhaps a bit more personal, gossipy, ‘cheeky’ and dare I say, frivolous. (Well, after all, this is the high minded and legendary Washington Post we’re talking about, not The New York Post. It’s the paper of record that first broke the Watergate affair). You go girl!