Change is a’comin’. In the last six months, The New York Times’ key fashion critics and journalists—Eric Wilson, Cathy Horyn, and, most recently, Suzy Menkes—have departed the publication. (Wilson decamped to InStyle, Menkes is headed to International Vogue, and Horyn left for personal reasons.) But that’s not to say that the paper—which, thanks to Wilson’s wit, Horyn’s rapier pen, and Menkes’ learned insights, has offered up some of the most entertaining and informed fashion reporting of the last two decades—is losing its clout. Yesterday, the Times confirmed industry suspicions when it appointed Vanessa Friedman, formerly of the Financial Times, as its chief fashion critic and fashion director. Like her NYT predecessors, Friedman, who became the FT‘s first fashion editor in 2002, has a knack for not only critiquing fashion, but for helping us to understand it in a broader historical and cultural context. All one needs to do is read her recent takedown of Jeremy Scott’s first Moschino outing—which opened with the line, “Kiev was burning and in Milan, Jeremy Scott made his debut at Moschino with a series of bad jokes”—to understand what I’m talking about.
Friedman insists, however, that she is her own journalist—not Cathy Horyn, not Suzy Menkes—and when she dives into her new post next month, she plans to stick to her guns and honor her own voice, rather than focus on living up to the reputations of those who came before her. Here, Friedman speaks to Style.com about her new gig; the state of fashion criticism; and why, despite all the Internet’s white noise, readers still crave an expert opinion.
You were just hired for one of fashion journalism’s most prestigious positions. But why, in this day and age, is fashion criticism so important?
I think any kind of criticism is important, whether it’s fashion or another form of cultural analysis. And I think it always has been. There is a lot of talk about the rise of the blogger and social media and how everyone’s ability to become a critic has made formal critics less important. But I think what everyone is finding is that there is room for all sorts of opinions, some of them educated and some of them just literal. And I think the Times is an incredible platform to bring an educated, contextual, impersonal, analytical, historical, multicultural analysis to a forum, whether that’s books or music or movies or fashion.
Some say fashion critics aren’t always treated with the same respect as other reporters. Have you found that to be the case? Does fashion criticism deserve the same amount of respect as other forms of reporting?
Honestly, I haven’t found that to be the case. You know, I currently work at a highly financial-oriented newspaper, and I feel as legitimate and respected here as anybody. I think that if you treat your subject with seriousness and respect, other people tend to treat it the same way. The Times has a history of treating it that way, and I think that’s terrific. What’s interesting about fashion at the moment is that it has become a pervasive element in the general pop cultural conversation because of social media and the rise of visuals as a primary communication device. The first thing everyone talks about, whether they’re talking about film or music or presidents, is what they’re wearing. And that makes fashion a really interesting subject to look at, and one that’s relevant in a very broad context.
Given the power of advertisers these days, do you think it’s possible to be an unfettered critic? Do you feel you’re able to say what you want to say?
I’ve never, ever had an issue with this. It’s never crossed my mind and it’s never been something that’s been brought up to me. My feeling is that if you are a critic, what’s important is to be fair, and people respect that. They may not like it, but they are fine with it. And if you’re not willing to say when something is bad or a mistake, then when you say it’s good it means nothing.
What is your vision for the Times? Are you planning on changing anything?
I think it’s too early to say. I’m really excited to get to the newspaper—which isn’t going to happen for a couple of weeks—and meet everyone. Clearly, I’m a different person, a different writer than Cathy or Suzie or anyone else, so whatever I bring to the table is a specific point of view. But I think I’ll see when I get there.
In that same vein, how do you see yourself fitting into the team and the history of the New York Times in respect to Cathy? She had a reputation for being a spectacular—but often ruthless—critic. Do you aim to be the same?
No. I aim to be me. I would never aim to be the same as Cathy. She was terrific, and I have enormous respect for her and read everything she wrote. I loved sitting next to her at shows, I loved talking to her about lots of things—fashion and beyond. But we’re different people and we’re different writers. What I do will be different.
Your Moschino review was pretty sharp-tongued. What kind of response did you get to that piece?
Some people liked it, people agreed or disagreed. It was mostly via Twitter. I think Jeremy [Scott] tweeted his Facebook likes. But no one said anything, no one called me from Moschino and said, “How could you do that?” There was a reason I said what I said, it wasn’t just gratuitous, and hopefully I expressed that. I really look forward to seeing what he does next. Continue Reading “A Sign of the Times: Vanessa Friedman on the State of Fashion Criticism and Her New Gig” »
Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez are a notoriously private pair. However, this season, they allowed directing duo Harrys to accompany them behind the scenes, and document the making of their Fall ’14 collection. Created in collaboration with Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, the experimental film, dubbed Proenza Schouler IS, debuts here, and it reveals not only the creative process behind McCollough and Hernandez’s latest outing, but a bit of insight into, well, what, who, and why Proenza Schouler is. While the short offers an artful and informative look at the designers’ lives, our favorite part may or may not have been watching passersby try (and fail) to pronounce the brand’s moniker, which is actually a hybrid of McCollough’s and Hernandez’s mothers’ maiden names. Watch the film here, exclusively on Style.com.
The panel of experts has spoken, the votes are in, and today we can announce the twelve talents who will move on to the final round of the heated LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers competition. Atto by Julien Dossena, CG by Chris Gelinas, Gabriele Colangelo, Shayne Oliver’s Hood by Air, Jacquemus by Simon Porte Jacquemus, Miuniku by Nikita and Tina Sutradhar, Thomas Tait, Tillmann Lauterbach, Tim Coppens, Simone Rocha, Suno by Max Osterweis and Erin Beatty, and Vika Gazinskaya will go head-to-head for the award’s 300,000 euro grant. A slideshow of the designers’ looks is available here.
But wait, you might be thinking. Weren’t there only supposed to be ten finalists? Yes, but LVMH’s team of forty industry insiders simply could not decide after surveying the work of the competition’s thirty semifinalists during an event at Paris fashion week. “It’s so hard,” offered Louis Vuitton’s executive vice president Delphine Arnault, who has been spearheading the initiative. “When we compiled the votes, four designers all had the same amount, so we let twelve in. I think it’s good.” We’re sure the finalists would agree.
The dozen men’s and womenswear designers, who hail from round the globe, will each have fifteen minutes to present their Fall ’14 collections at the LVMH headquarters in May. Judges including Karl Lagerfeld, Raf Simons, Nicolas Ghesquière, Marc Jacobs, Riccardo Tisci, and others will consider their efforts, and later choose a winner. “All the [LVMH Prize] designers are really enthusiastic,” offered Arnault. “I’m sure the contestants are nervous, but at the same time, it’s an amazing opportunity to meet all these people.” In a room filled with powerhouses like that, we’d be nervous, too, but the final twelve can take solace in the fact that at least one prestigious juror has been in their shoes. “Karl [Lagerfeld] started his career after winning a prize, but he told me there were 200,000 applicants, not 1,200 as we’ve had,” relayed Arnault. “Karl even had to sit and draw in front of the judges to prove that someone else hadn’t done his sketches for him.” As for the eighteen semifinalists who didn’t make the cut, they can take solace in the fact that they’re eligible to apply again next year. “I’m sure they must be very disappointed, but I hope they see it as an opportunity. And I hope we helped them to make some key connections in the industry.”
It takes a lot of balls to leave a gig at Calvin Klein Collection to start your own brand—especially when you’re a 25-year-old fresh out of grad school. But that’s precisely what Beckett Fogg, one half of new line Area, did. And if the innovative first collection that she and design partner Piotrek Panszczyk whipped up is any indication, she made the right move.
Fogg, a Kentucky native, and Panszczyk, a Polish-born 28-year-old who previously worked at Chloé, met at Parsons the New School for Design while pursuing their MFAs in fashion. “We started talking about teaming up a year before I graduated, but it was really just for LOLs,” offered Panszczyk. However, a pair of ribbon-trimmed shorts he stitched up, which, worn by Fogg, got rave reviews in the Hamptons, pushed the designers to make their pipe dream a reality. “Every single person was like, ‘I have to have them!’ So we thought, Maybe this is something we should actually consider doing,” recalled Fogg.
While their backgrounds differ drastically (Panszczyk is a die-hard fashion head, while Fogg studied architecture before heading to Parsons), the talents share a unique, unified vision. Inspired by fragments, transformation, and mind-boggling experiments with texture, their debut lineup expands upon unexpected techniques we saw in each of their graduate collections. For instance, while at Parsons, Fogg used a method of embossing that’s usually reserved for car interiors. Area employed it to bring new dimension to the sleeves of a metallic silver velvet tunic, the body of a handsome steel coat, and the skirt of a burgundy silk lamé slipdress. Meanwhile, the studied pleating Panszczyk featured in his graduate outing provided a sculptural edge to creased trousers and elegant coats.
Most interesting, however, is the pair’s obsession with textiles. The designers worked a heavy mohair—typically reserved for luxury upholstery—into an easy gray shift (above), which was made all the more special via organic patterns created by shaving. Another standout was their stonewashed velvet denim. “It didn’t exist,” said Panszczyk, pulling at a shearling-lined jacket, “so we just made it up!”
Walking me through their sundrenched, whitewashed Canal Street studio, Panszczyk in a frayed Jil Sander suit, Fogg in her own designs, the duo discussed their simultaneously cerebral, sexy, and commercial aesthetic. “We want to see people actually wearing our clothes,” said Fogg. “So I don’t think commercial needs to be a dirty word.” Panszczyk elaborated, explaining how a second-skin velvet jumpsuit (shown with leather chaps) or fluid shift could be sultry one moment and sophisticated the next. “Our work specifically focuses on manipulation. We like to take something and change it.”
As for why they named the brand Area, Fogg told me, “It’s clean, simple, and inclusive.” Never mind that the iconic nightclub was once housed mere blocks from their studio—a fact they didn’t learn until a few friends of a certain age clued them in. “It’s all about serendipity,” mused Panszczyk.