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August 23 2014

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The Future Of Fashion, Part Four: Olivier Zahm

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As we enter a new decade, the fashion business, like the rest of the world, is encountering significant economic and technological change. In this new series, Style.com’s editor in chief, Dirk Standen, talks to a number of leading industry figures about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Olivier Zahm’s love of women is well documented, not least by Zahm himself on his Web site, www.purple-diary.com. But the French editor and founder of the twice-yearly independent publication Purple Fashion has many other passions: art, fashion, his daily uniform of white or gray jeans and black Yves Saint Laurent leather jacket, parties, freedom. There may be an element of self-promotion behind some of this, but in an increasingly conformist world, Zahm offers an original, entertaining, and astute voice. During our conversation, conducted by phone last month between New York and Paris and somewhat condensed here, he discussed his conviction that magazines will exist as long as fashion exists, his suspicion that the financial crisis was just a pretext to scare people, and his fervent wish that the world in general—and Lindsay Lohan in particular—would stop spending so much money on clothes.

What was the original impulse behind Purple Diary?
[It happened] in a way by accident, because the Purple Diary was just a section of a bigger project I had, and because I started to take pictures every day of parties or pictures of my life, I needed an interesting way to use these pictures and not to let them go into digital archives and disappear. Because now everything disappears. It’s digital, but if you don’t copy your hard drive, pictures disappear after one or two years…So then I had this idea of having a personal diary, an intimate diary, mixing intimacy or privacy with my public life and creating a sort of contrast between what’s really intimate, like sex and love, and what’s really public, a party, a fashion show, an exhibition. What’s meant to be public and what’s meant to be private and make them, like, coexist. It was suddenly exciting because it was, in a way, breaking the barriers of something, which is actually what the medium itself, the Internet itself, does. For celebrities it’s a nightmare, but for me it’s a pleasure. It’s a decision. I would love to go further into intimacy, but my girlfriend and my lovers are sometimes a bit reluctant.

Have any of the reactions to the blog surprised you?
What surprised me is the number of people coming, because I print 60,000 copies of Purple [a season] and I have 100,000 [weekly Web site visitors], more visitors a week on the blog than I have readers in one season with the magazine…I can tell from the discussions I have that people know that I’ve been there, I’ve done this, I’ve seen that exhibition or this film, and then it comes into the discussion and it’s changing my life in a way and my interaction with the girls, with the friends. It hasn’t changed my interaction with the advertisers yet. [Laughs.]

Well, let’s talk about that.
I haven’t found the right way to make a little money off it because I don’t want regular advertising. I think it would be really bad. So I don’t want advertising [of that kind]. I’m looking for a way to involve brands, but I haven’t found it yet and it’s not my priority.

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The Future Of Fashion, Part Three: Hedi Slimane

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As we enter a new decade, the fashion business, like the rest of the world, is encountering significant economic and technological change. In this new series, Style.com’s editor in chief, Dirk Standen, talks to a number of leading industry figures about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
When I approached Hedi Slimane about doing this interview, his first in almost three years, he agreed on the condition that he could answer my questions by e-mail. Well, why not? This series is about the future of fashion, and—who knows?—perhaps this type of electronic exchange is the future of journalism. Besides, I thought that Slimane might bring a unique perspective to the subject at hand. He has been both an insider (as, among other things, the highly influential designer of Dior Homme from 2000 to 2007) and an outsider (since stepping away from Dior, he has pursued a more nomadic existence, focusing chiefly on his photographs for magazines and his Web site, www.hedislimane.com). Here, he discusses today’s “costly and overwhelming fashion avalanche,” whether or not he plans to return to design, and the enduring relevance of Pete Doherty. If this interview reads less like a conversation than a kind of manifesto for the future, I don’t think it’s any less interesting for that. Ultimately, though, it’s up to the reader to decide how well this format works.
How do you think technology—tweeting, blogging, social media, etc.—has affected fashion? For better or worse?
It has affected different aspects of fashion tremendously. From commentary to fashion design, communication, and distribution.
The fashion Internet community is like a global digital agora tweeting passions and opinions. Anyone knows better, and each one is a self-made critic.
This is a fascinating idea, as I always favored amateurism (“the one that loves”) over professionalism, attraction over experience. It obliges anyone in the industry to think in a fresher way.
Of course, it is hard to say if any “authority,” someone like Suzy Menkes, might one day come out and use digital means to lead with integrity, enough background, outside of any conflict of interest.
On a design perspective, it has allowed any young designer or indie brand to get an instant audience, if used with wit and invention.
I am not quite sure of the future of retail as we know it. This is a truly important thing, maybe the most important one, as it might already mean there is nothing standing between the design and an audience/consumer.
Finally, the better and the worse have always been part of fashion, with the Internet only magnifying it and creating a joyful and noisy digital chaos.
The bottom line is that any note can create music. It is only a matter of taste.
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The Future of Fashion, Part Two: Cathy Horyn

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As we enter a new decade, the fashion business, like the rest of the world, is encountering significant economic and technological change. In this new series, Style.com’s editor in chief, Dirk Standen, talks to a number of leading industry figures about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

On a recent midweek morning, I sat down with Cathy Horyn, the New York Times fashion critic, at the Dean & DeLuca coffee bar on the ground floor of the newspaper’s Renzo Piano-designed midtown office building. She said she was feeling the effects of a simmering cold, but it didn’t visibly affect her sharpness. Unlike many of her peers, Horyn has embraced the digital world, first through her blog, On the Runway, and more recently with her Twitter page. Her readers will know that she has been giving a great deal of thought to live streaming, shifts in manufacturing practices, and other contemporary developments. During our conversation, somewhat condensed here, she talked about the critic’s evolving role, her sense that leggings are the enemy of innovation, and her belief that, in design, technique matters now more than ever. (Note: This interview took place several days before we heard the awful news of Alexander McQueen’s death. Horyn clearly regarded the designer as a true innovator, and she said his Paris show was one of the only ones that you simply had to see each season. I have retained her references to him where I thought it made sense to do so.)

You tweeted for the first time from the Couture shows last month. Did you enjoy it?
I like the size of it. I like the limitation. I’m not sure I can really finesse or understand all the abbreviations that people use. By the time I’ve figured out the abbreviation, the event is finished. [Laughs.] But I think I can contribute something interesting.

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The Future Of Fashion, Part One: Robert Duffy

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As we enter a new decade, the fashion business, like the rest of the world, is encountering significant economic and technological changes. In this new series, Style.com’s editor in chief, Dirk Standen, talks to a number of leading industry figures about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

When I spoke to Robert Duffy, the president of Marc Jacobs, by phone last week, it was 12 days till showtime. “I don’t have one finished sample, one piece of clothing that’s finished, not one,” he said from the label’s Spring Street offices. “I don’t have one shoe or one handbag that’s going to be in the show that’s finished.” He did not, however, sound particularly concerned by this state of affairs. In fact, he sounded cheerful and energized. That unflappability has presumably served Duffy well over the last two and a half decades, as he and Jacobs have gone from being the self-described “rebels” of American fashion to becoming the leaders of a global mega-brand. During our conversation, somewhat condensed here, he talked about his experiences with tweeting and live streaming, the reason a $15 flip-flop could be the future of retail, and why having celebrities at your fashion show is boring.

You’ve just started tweeting. What’s surprised you so far?
What surprised me is how famous Marc is.

Really?
I’m just working with the same person for, it’ll be 26 years in May, so I have absolutely no idea. I mean, sometimes when we walk down the street and stuff, I hear people screaming at him. But I was floored…The best thing about [tweeting] has been listening to what people have to say, and these are real consumers. People were commenting about what they bought and how they long they’d kept it and when and where they’d bought it. That’s really been an eye-opener for me.

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