Sartorially Satanic: The Politics Of Fashion Week

An interesting fact: there are only 6 months of the year that aren’t decorated with an ‘official Fashion Week’.  Another interesting fact: Norwich (home of both Delia Smith and Alan Partridge) hosts a fashion week.

My point – besides the fact that this blogpost may not be as unseasonable as it sounds – is that the term ‘Fashion Week’ is one that is banded around ruthlessly, from the highest offices of the Big Apple to the sleepy towns of rural England. Why? It is a clear publicity spinner. We are living in a time when anyone with a WordPress account can call themselves a fashion blogger, just as anyone with a Twitter account can call themselves a political commentator. And if you are a fashion blogger, then a local Fashion Week is probably the one event on your calendar which permits you to blog about something of substance. (That’s right, your £40 H&M-based haul vlog does not count as substance, neither does your blog about what you wore to your Grandad’s 80th birthday party). Here, the intrepid blogger gains a ‘press pass’ via an online form, and can be spotted a few rows back, iPhone/SLR in hand, taking photos of everything that comes down the runway. Only mental notes are taken, and no true criticism prevails.

So much for the local Fashion Week, but what of the Big 4? Well in this instance, the bloggers have not created a PR storm as much as they have created a monster, or a joke. London Fashion Week is a 3-4 day long event that revolves around a big gazebo erected in the middle of Somerset House, where the shows take place. Of course, the whole of London cannot get a seat, so the real ‘action’ takes place on the cobbles outside. Here, in an extraordinary display of symbiosis, Bloggers take pictures of other Bloggers, and blog about how great all the other Bloggers look. This anthropological phenomena is aided and abetted by the Models: those who aren’t really models but art students and attention-seekers who wear something outrageous, smoke, and look edgy. They provide sartorial food for the Bloggers, who more often than not cannot blag tickets to a fashion show.

And so the Bloggers head home to blog about their ‘amazing time’ at Fashion Week. Of course, having seen a grand total of zero shows, their blogposts should really be entitled ‘My Time at The Circus Surrounding Fashion Week.’ But the circus is really now the main event. All the glossies send photographers to capture street style – which is just about as ‘street’ as Princess Michael of Kent’s parlour.

Notwithstanding the clear PR-ingenuity of said street style photographers, I suppose the politics of Fashion Week is one of democracy, of people power. It is the young, innovative spectators making the front page, not necessarily the millionaire designers. But what’s missing is substance in the form of criticism. Adjusting the process of ticketing for shows could mean that bloggers, free from unbreakable corporate relationships, will also be free to criticise the collections. Bloggers themselves need to become more analytical. The people need to ransack the palace; the bloggers need enter the tent.

Alas, many bloggers these days are tied to commercial contracts just as much as the magazines. But that’s for another blogpost.


They Said What? Rihanna on Diana

“You know who is the best who ever did it? Princess Diana. She was like – she killed it. Every look was right. She was gangsta with her clothes. She had these crazy hats. She got oversize jackets. I loved everything she wore!”

So said RiRi in an interview with Glamour magazine this month.  When Vogue’s Facebook page reported the news, Diana fans amassed and spat in disgust in the comments section (interestingly, despite Vogue’s relatively intelligent content and reputable name, commentators on their Facebook are often akin to those who grace the bottom of the MailOnline Showbiz pages) with insightful views such as:  “Dianna made her mistakes yes, but she didn’t sell herself out like Rhianna who grabs her crotch every thirty seconds….”; “Shes just a complete mess really all that money an she looks old an done in diana was a beautiful person an this pic does not resemble her one bit [sic]”; and my favourite: “Rihanna is a disgrace !!! Does she even know who Princess Diana is ?”

Yes ‘Daniela Likoska’, of course she knows who Princess Diana is. Indeed, quotes such as this are pure testimony to how intelligent Rihanna – and her PR team – really are.  Through all her stunts and shenanigans, risque Instagrams and bad boyfriends, she is demonstrably characterizing herself as someone who is paid for shock value. This ain’t new: Madonna did it, Betty Page did it, Mozart did it.

The hilarious part is that what she actually said in this particular interview is so not outrageous that the backlash from Diana fans can only be put down to their already heightened tension this week: Naomi Watts has assumedly taken a big shit all over their idol and they are now baying for blood. Rihanna never drew a comparison between herself and old Di. She didn’t even infer that they dressed similarly, or that she takes inspiration from her wardrobe.  She merely said that she liked what she wore, because she always looked good. So for some bizarre reason, it must have been the mere mention of Diana’s name from Rihanna’s dirty, nasty lips that had an entire fanbase up in arms. WWP, however, thinks it shows a brilliant amount of fashion-consciousness – God knows how difficult it is to appreciate wardrobe collections that you yourself would rather die than wear.

Diana fans, you’ve fallen right into Ri-Ri’s PR trap. Perhaps it is a lesson to all of us present in the user-generated-content universe: read carefully before you hit that ‘comment’ button.