The Lack of Honest Critiques in Fashion
Jason Dike’s op-ed today in Business of Fashion is interesting. It’s about designer fashion mostly, but the idea here applies much more broadly. I wouldn’t consider myself a fashion writer, but I’ve written for a number of style sections in newspapers and magazines, as well as a couple of dedicated fashion publications. It’s amazing how the influence of advertisers can sneakily make its way into editorial content. I’ll save those horror stories for another day, but suffice to say, I’m rather proud to write for Put This On, where I can genuinely say this sort of thing doesn’t happen. 
Anyway, an excerpt:

Cathy Horyn’s retirement has reignited the debate about the state of fashion criticism. It’s been asked whether her departure from her post at The New York Times spells the end of honest critique. But this has always been a rather simplistic argument. The issue isn’t what Cathy Horyn’s departure means for fashion, but whether the current media environment can produce another critic of Horyn’s ilk.
Several of fashion’s most independent, well-versed, fearless and knowledgeable critics got their start working at local and regional newspapers. Horyn worked at Detroit News for four years. Robin Givhan started at the Detroit Free Press, where she worked for seven years. Lynn Yaeger worked at The Village Voice for three decades.
[…]
Why is this important?
Because young writers working at these kinds of papers were able to learn their trade from experienced journalists and, critically, write in the context of a business that wasn’t totally reliant on fashion advertising for income. But with these kinds of outlets either shrinking, disappearing or slashing budgets, there is a chasm where this important stepping stone once was.
That doesn’t mean that the world is devoid of media outlets for fashion coverage. Quite the opposite. But most fashion outlets are visually driven and depend on fashion advertising for their survival. Thus, it’s bad business to publish anything negative about an advertiser or potential advertiser, leaving very little room for honest critique.
As the interconnectedness of the web brings content and commerce closer together, online stores have begun investing significant sums of money in creating well-written editorial. But a shop is essentially there to sell product, so real critique is out of the question.

You can read the whole article here. 
So much of what passes for fashion media these days is little more than a thinly masked advertorials. That includes many blogs, where affiliate links, referral links, free products, and cozy relationships between bloggers and brands have ruined the ability to produce independent, honest critiques. On many blogs, I can tell you a couple of days beforehand what’s going to be published, because I get the same press releases with the same bullet points. Many are just recycling press releases with little to no personal input. And we’re not just talking about the kind of sites that announce products (where such a thing can probably be expected), but bloggers who are considered “independent voices.” #Influencers, as I think Twitter users call them. 
Menswear blogging used to hold so much promise as a form of independent media, but as the influence of blogs has grown, many have been co-opted by brands. These days, some blogs have lower ethical standards than print publications, as there are no editors to oversee the operation. If anyone has critiques about fashion magazines, know that things can be doubly worse in the blogosphere. 

The Lack of Honest Critiques in Fashion

Jason Dike’s op-ed today in Business of Fashion is interesting. It’s about designer fashion mostly, but the idea here applies much more broadly. I wouldn’t consider myself a fashion writer, but I’ve written for a number of style sections in newspapers and magazines, as well as a couple of dedicated fashion publications. It’s amazing how the influence of advertisers can sneakily make its way into editorial content. I’ll save those horror stories for another day, but suffice to say, I’m rather proud to write for Put This On, where I can genuinely say this sort of thing doesn’t happen. 

Anyway, an excerpt:

Cathy Horyn’s retirement has reignited the debate about the state of fashion criticism. It’s been asked whether her departure from her post at The New York Times spells the end of honest critique. But this has always been a rather simplistic argument. The issue isn’t what Cathy Horyn’s departure means for fashion, but whether the current media environment can produce another critic of Horyn’s ilk.

Several of fashion’s most independent, well-versed, fearless and knowledgeable critics got their start working at local and regional newspapers. Horyn worked at Detroit News for four years. Robin Givhan started at the Detroit Free Press, where she worked for seven years. Lynn Yaeger worked at The Village Voice for three decades.

[…]

Why is this important?

Because young writers working at these kinds of papers were able to learn their trade from experienced journalists and, critically, write in the context of a business that wasn’t totally reliant on fashion advertising for income. But with these kinds of outlets either shrinking, disappearing or slashing budgets, there is a chasm where this important stepping stone once was.

That doesn’t mean that the world is devoid of media outlets for fashion coverage. Quite the opposite. But most fashion outlets are visually driven and depend on fashion advertising for their survival. Thus, it’s bad business to publish anything negative about an advertiser or potential advertiser, leaving very little room for honest critique.

As the interconnectedness of the web brings content and commerce closer together, online stores have begun investing significant sums of money in creating well-written editorial. But a shop is essentially there to sell product, so real critique is out of the question.

You can read the whole article here

So much of what passes for fashion media these days is little more than a thinly masked advertorials. That includes many blogs, where affiliate links, referral links, free products, and cozy relationships between bloggers and brands have ruined the ability to produce independent, honest critiques. On many blogs, I can tell you a couple of days beforehand what’s going to be published, because I get the same press releases with the same bullet points. Many are just recycling press releases with little to no personal input. And we’re not just talking about the kind of sites that announce products (where such a thing can probably be expected), but bloggers who are considered “independent voices.” #Influencers, as I think Twitter users call them. 

Menswear blogging used to hold so much promise as a form of independent media, but as the influence of blogs has grown, many have been co-opted by brands. These days, some blogs have lower ethical standards than print publications, as there are no editors to oversee the operation. If anyone has critiques about fashion magazines, know that things can be doubly worse in the blogosphere. 


“But the question on my mind is this: Is there anyone who can actually follow someone like Cathy? Have we, the fashion industry, nurtured and nourished truly independent, informed voices who say what they really think? I think not. Too much fashion writing is fluffy drivel concerned with front-row attendees and the “hottest new trends.” And too often, it describes the clothes in only an elementary, superficial way that lacks an understanding of how garments are designed and constructed, and how they fit into a wider cultural and economic context.
What’s more, too many of the honest comments that experienced show-goers make to each other on the way out of a show never make it into print. Too many journalists have told me that their opinions are neutered by the powers that be for fear of pissing off advertisers or jeopardising relationships.”

- Imran Amed on the sorrier state of fashion criticism, following news that Cathy Horyn, the New York Times’ chief fashion critic, has resigned.

But the question on my mind is this: Is there anyone who can actually follow someone like Cathy? Have we, the fashion industry, nurtured and nourished truly independent, informed voices who say what they really think? I think not. Too much fashion writing is fluffy drivel concerned with front-row attendees and the “hottest new trends.” And too often, it describes the clothes in only an elementary, superficial way that lacks an understanding of how garments are designed and constructed, and how they fit into a wider cultural and economic context.

What’s more, too many of the honest comments that experienced show-goers make to each other on the way out of a show never make it into print. Too many journalists have told me that their opinions are neutered by the powers that be for fear of pissing off advertisers or jeopardising relationships.”

- Imran Amed on the sorrier state of fashion criticism, following news that Cathy Horyn, the New York Times’ chief fashion critic, has resigned.

Technology and Fashion
One of the things that interest me about men’s clothing is not just the clothes themselves, but also the business of fashion - how things are produced, marketed, and even sold. In 2013, there were a couple of interesting stories about how developments in technology might affect the way we interact with and buy clothes.
Online Fitting: Our friend Jeffery Diduch had a post last year about developments that could improve our online shopping experience. The biggest difficulty with online shopping, obviously, is the inability to try things on before you buy, which is why it’s helpful to do business with stores with generous return policies. Companies are coming up with innovative ways to reduce that return-rate, however. True Fit, for example, is creating a database of garment measurements across companies, so that if you’re shopping at, say, Ralph Lauren, you can get a suggestion on which suit you should buy if you already know that the Brooks Brothers suit you have in your closet fits you well. You can already see how this works at places such as Nordstrom. 
The Store is Everywhere: There were a couple of stories last year about potential smart phone developments that would allow people to take pictures of others on the street, and then be able to identify exactly where they can buy the clothes and accessories they saw. This would essentially make the entire world a store where you can instantly purchase almost anything you see. Business of Fashion - a fashion industry trade publication - had some interesting thoughts on what this could mean for traditional retail.
Science Fiction: There were also some more futuristic predictions. Ray Kurzweil predicted that we’ll start to see 3D printing for clothes by 2020 (surprisingly not that far away) and Business of Fashion wrote about how the emerging field of “digital biology” - which enables biologists to not just read, but also write genetic code - could allow companies to design “synthetic life” materials. This could allow us to “grow” things such as self-repairing, self-cleaning garments, or create garments that can reproduce themselves and receive “updates” (new colors, patterns, etc), much like how software updates on our computers. 
Of course, many of the advancements in technology will affect fashion in ways we won’t immediately see or realize. Increasing computing power and the digitization of data has allowed companies such as Zara to react faster to consumer trends, and as companies grow in their ability to marshal "big data," we’ll likely see fast fashion get even faster (a speeding up of trends and a continuing drop in prices). For better or worse, the idea that men’s style moves at a glacial pace might not always hold true. 
(Pictured above: an early prototype of "body scanning" pods used for custom tailoring. This contraption was made in the 1940s)

Technology and Fashion

One of the things that interest me about men’s clothing is not just the clothes themselves, but also the business of fashion - how things are produced, marketed, and even sold. In 2013, there were a couple of interesting stories about how developments in technology might affect the way we interact with and buy clothes.

  • Online Fitting: Our friend Jeffery Diduch had a post last year about developments that could improve our online shopping experience. The biggest difficulty with online shopping, obviously, is the inability to try things on before you buy, which is why it’s helpful to do business with stores with generous return policies. Companies are coming up with innovative ways to reduce that return-rate, however. True Fit, for example, is creating a database of garment measurements across companies, so that if you’re shopping at, say, Ralph Lauren, you can get a suggestion on which suit you should buy if you already know that the Brooks Brothers suit you have in your closet fits you well. You can already see how this works at places such as Nordstrom
  • The Store is Everywhere: There were a couple of stories last year about potential smart phone developments that would allow people to take pictures of others on the street, and then be able to identify exactly where they can buy the clothes and accessories they saw. This would essentially make the entire world a store where you can instantly purchase almost anything you see. Business of Fashion - a fashion industry trade publication - had some interesting thoughts on what this could mean for traditional retail.
  • Science Fiction: There were also some more futuristic predictions. Ray Kurzweil predicted that we’ll start to see 3D printing for clothes by 2020 (surprisingly not that far away) and Business of Fashion wrote about how the emerging field of “digital biology” - which enables biologists to not just read, but also write genetic code - could allow companies to design “synthetic life” materials. This could allow us to “grow” things such as self-repairing, self-cleaning garments, or create garments that can reproduce themselves and receive “updates” (new colors, patterns, etc), much like how software updates on our computers. 

Of course, many of the advancements in technology will affect fashion in ways we won’t immediately see or realize. Increasing computing power and the digitization of data has allowed companies such as Zara to react faster to consumer trends, and as companies grow in their ability to marshal "big data," we’ll likely see fast fashion get even faster (a speeding up of trends and a continuing drop in prices). For better or worse, the idea that men’s style moves at a glacial pace might not always hold true. 

(Pictured above: an early prototype of "body scanning" pods used for custom tailoring. This contraption was made in the 1940s)