just a thought – all the rage

just-a-thought

It is traditional at fashion weeks around the world – bitching. Whether its the Tuileries dust in your Louboutins (to add insult to injury the shoes are also hurting your feet) or the supreme injustices of seating charts, nothing seems to go with a fashion week better than a fine, over-privileged whine.

You can tell who the newbies are at fashion week.  They are the ones who are gobsmacked at the outrageous corruption, the rank amateurism, the pointless pecking orders, and most of all, the reluctance among the “media establishment” to shine light on all of the rotten mess.  Ah, yes, we were all newbies once.

You can tell who the total pros are at fashion week.  They are the ones who swiftly do their jobs before heading to the exit, all the time with a stony expression hiding their true feelings, and when pressed they will only divulge the most diplomatic of non-statements, the careful choice of wording is like a code that only their fellow veterans can decipher.  Its not that they are colluding when they won’t broach the same old fashion week gripes – they’re just bored by them because it is the same every season.

In between, there are all of the various attendees who may or may not be performing useful work – the stylists and accessory designers, public relations teams, proud parents, party animals, favourite clients, local TV personalities, under-appreciated volunteers, bloggerel and doggerel.  All lined up cheek to cheek like sardines inside a tiny tent.  No wonder wearing love wears thin so quickly.  Its enough to send even the most socially sophisticated into ill-fitting rage.

If a fashion week attendee is smart, they will stuff all the rage into a gift baggie, take it home ASAP, shred it into tiny pieces, roll it up snugly and burn it in a purifying ceremony.  After all, its just fashion.  Chill out.

If a fashion week attendee spends too long at too many fashion weeks, and takes it all too seriously, they will be tempted to start raging online – where rather than purifying, flames have a tendency to spread out of control.

These thoughts are all a preamble to my reaction to this article – one of the worst posts written by a good writer that I’ve ever seen. In the spirit of dispelling the silence we usually hold about these things, I feel compelled to share a few candid thoughts:

  1. Even good writers can write very badly, but especially so if the assignment is to post reactions and reviews very quickly.  There is this idea that blogging’s great advantage is speed.  I disagree – but that’s another post.
  2. If the editors are approving, it may not always be in the blogger’s best interest.  Nothing draws traffic like flames – negativity sucks in clicks like oxygen on the internet and it seems like most online news editors don’t distinguish between quantity and quality of traffic for obvious economic incentives.  SNP had two right instincts in the first part of the article – “I thought I might feel bad about it” and “I’d rather ignore … their ilk entirely”. Its a shame she didn’t trust her gut on either of these, because the post might have been a good one minus the first half.
  3. “The unwritten rule of Toronto fashion show reviewing is this: if you can’t say something positive, sssshh.” This is actually the unwritten rule everywhere in fashion reviewing.  Its not so much that expressing negativity should never be done – its just that when it is done inexpertly it damages both the subject and the reviewer.  A well done negative review should encourage the subject to strive towards improvement – this demonstrates the reviewer is a caring, genuine, intelligent person. A crap negative review angers the subject and reveals the worst character traits of the reviewer.  I have learned this the hard way.
  4. I’m also pretty secure in knowing that those who matter (editors, peers) approve privately, so those who don’t (anonymous commenters) can screech all they want.” I’m not anonymous and I have no idea if I matter, but I don’t approve, for what its worth. If “former gifted student” is uncalled for, calling someone’s mother a “battleship” should merit an apology, seriously.  Listen for the deafening silence – if those who matter don’t approve of your work, they won’t tell you.

Its incredibly difficult to express a negative opinion, and this post just proved that to me all over again.  There is nothing wrong about media demanding a higher caliber of work from our designers and fashion show producers, but its far more credible to do it when our own work is beyond reproach.  Lets all strive to do better next season.

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16 thoughts on “just a thought – all the rage”

  1. Very well put. There are always things to criticize at Fashion Week and in life, lets all focus on the constructive way to do so! Glad you weighed in.

  2. I absolutely agree with you, and thank you for talking about this. I was rather disappointed at the post also. Bashing people, their efforts and their mothers, in my opinion — and of course I don’t matter -, is very distasteful and unprofessional. And defending herself by saying the readers/commenters don’t matter and they can ‘screech all they want” b/c they disagree with her? What makes her comments/blog posts any more valid to designers than her readers to her? If she approached it differently, there could have been a great discussion on what’s missing in Canadian fashion, instead of comments about her.

    There is a better way of reviewing a designer’s work/decisions that you don’t like: be objective, be constructive and focus on the work (not the show). Saying things like ‘it’s short of a national embarrassment” is counter-productive and frankly, embarrassing in itself. We can demand excellence from Canadian designers by encouraging them to do better, not saying they shouldn’t show b/c they’re not original. It’s bad enough that a lot of them have a hard time selling. We don’t have to support their design decisions, but being mean about it is not going to push them in the right direction.

    It’s like you said, “It’s fashion. Chill out.”. And that, we should do. It’s fashion. It’s art. We stumble. We fall. If anyone knows fashion history (or any history for that matter), they know that a lot of it is recycled and upgraded. We create, recreate and make things better.

  3. Danielle, this was so well put. You captured the sentiment many feel. I ultimately believe that what you put out there, whether it be in an established publication or a blog, matters. Yes, not everyone in fashion is nice, not everyone is talented, not every one relevant, but true journalists go to the story. They ignore the rest of it and don’t abuse their craft just because they feel like venting. They sift through the sub-par with diligence and highlight the superior with grace. These are the people I admire. Maliciousness is never in fashion.

  4. Great post, Danielle. I found this exchange fascinating, mostly because it demonstrates the trap you can fall into as a young, inexperienced writer when you’ve been told you’re very talented (which I’m sure SNP is). I’m sure the backlash won’t be career-limiting for her, but these things — like learning how to express negativity the right way so as not to tick off present/future sources — come with experience and good mentors.

  5. so glad you wrote this post. i will never read her ever again. it’s so easy to be a bitch, as rupaul once said.

  6. You know, everyone can be a bitch sometimes and everybody makes mistakes sometimes. The thing that separates the good people from the real bitches is a sense of conscience. If you feel bad about your mistakes – its a very good thing. A sincere apology goes a long way. I wouldn’t have been able to write this post if I hadn’t made the same mistake myself. I apologized for it, I learned something from it, I gained a sense of empathy and I even got another chance to do a better job.

    Its all part of the process of learning how to be a better human being. I think whether we are designers, journalists, bloggers, and simply colleagues and peers, that’s what we’re all striving for, right? (Except for real bitches who I guess believe they’re already perfect.) We can help eachother improve by being forgiving and mindful of eachother’s weaknesses and strengths.

  7. holy frick’n crap…you have every right to be livid about that post, I sure am. Before the internet that would have been a career killer but I doubt she will even get a slap on the wrist by her editor. Obviously when you are writing reviews you are supposed to put opinions in it, but calling a designer arrogant (” The arrogance in presuming that we will all skip drinks with our real-life friends to watch a parade of purple lace take place — at a supper club — is appalling.”) is really extremely unprofessional. You don’t like it, don’t go. She’s not arrogant, you have no idea what led to that decision.

    Plus the title of the article “Saint Lucian” and then she goes on for almost two full computer screens bitching makes you begin to believe it is going to cumulate into a derogatory post about Lucian Matis with the title only being sarcastic. If I were him I would be extremely embarrassed to have had her childish wailings attached to my name.

  8. Annie, I’m not livid and I don’t think we should exercise our right to be livid over such inanities as fashion week. The whole point about this post is defusing the rage, not spreading it around. Getting livid just results in screeching (which was mentioned in the comments of the other post.)

    I’m really thrilled with the level of comments on this post (and so far I haven’t had to exercise my right to moderate – and none of them are anonymous) which I think proves something – that a negative opinion can be expressed without provoking flames. I have a theory about why crap comments are tolerated on news sites. Its because flamewars drive traffic. Rotten traffic, but for an online editor there’s no metric to measure the quality of readers. I think this has the tendency to encourage writers to go “flamewhore” and for editors to reward writers for making people angry. The effect is that the online content for news sites begins to reflect the quality of the comments.

    Just a theory. In Toronto, blogTO.com is being sued by a local business for a reader comment. I’m hopeful that this will set a precedent for news sites to figure out a way to raise the level of discourse on their websites.

  9. Also, I don’t believe SNP is a “real bitch”. She’s got mixed feelings about her rant which indicates a working heart.
    http://s-nicole.blogspot.com/2009/11/they-made-me-do-it.html

    Fashion week pisses everone off, you just have to deal with it.

    Bonus Photo, after the storm – just two incredibly beautiful girls:
    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=331871&id=681955323&ref=share#/photo.php?pid=9423241&id=681955323
    by Jason Howlett

    When it comes down to it, we’re all just players in a very tiny scene. We may not always agree with each other but since we’ve got to be around each other we might as well get along and get on with it.

  10. “I don’t think we should exercise our right to be livid over such inanities as fashion week” Touché!

    btw I think you did a really good job of making a post expressing a negative opinion without using emotional language or being unprofessional. I’m glad I don’t do reviews 😉

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