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August 22 2014

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4 posts tagged "Joan Rivers"

Are Celebrities the New Fashion Critics? No, Not Really

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86th Annual Academy Awards - Red Carpet

Unfortunately, The Hills‘ opinionated but not terribly enlightened Kristin Cavallari launches her new fashion show, The Fabulist, on E! tonight. This morning, Fashionista tapped into an interesting conversation: What on earth gives celebrities such as Cavallari the gall to knight themselves fashion experts? The story’s headline asked, “Are Celebrities the New Fashion Critics?” Although the article went on to defend reputable, old-school journalists, like Style.com’s own Tim Blanks, it seemed to imply that the public may be inclined to turn to celebrities as their go-to fashion reviewers rather than, well, actual critics.

Celebrities’ fashion thoughts are often (but, of course, not always) molded by their skilled stylists and sponsors. And while Fashionista did not suggest that stars are the educated voice of fashion reason, it did refer to them as fashion critics. This caused me to raise an eyebrow, and it leads us to the question: What is a fashion critic? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe a fashion critic is an informed, hopefully unbiased individual who can discuss a collection’s or garment’s merits and/or downfalls in both a broader fashion context and, more important, a broader cultural context. It takes a certain knowledge base to do that.

During a 2010 interview with Style.com’s editor in chief Dirk Standen, Cathy Horyn noted, “Right now we have a lot of people who are coming at [fashion journalism] from left field, and they can have some really wonderful insights into fashion and they can see it from their generation, which is fantastic…But then there’s also just the question of the knowledge about it, the span of time, so you can make judgments and conclusions that reflect the sense of history.” I hardly think that Kerry Washington can do that while judging Project Runway. Kelly Osbourne certainly doesn’t do it on Fashion Police, and even the savvy Rihanna doesn’t bring that kind of expertise to the table on her show, Styled to Rock. Celebrities’ commentary about the sartorial coups or disasters we see on the red carpet or reality TV are indeed entertaining, but criticism isn’t merely about cutting takedowns and gushing praise—it’s about the bigger picture.

“Traditional criticism set standards, so traditional critics wielded enormous amounts of power,” Tim Blanks once told me. “But the role of fashion criticism now is to express an opinion as lucidly, as graphically, and as entertainingly as you can.”

Stars are undoubtedly fashion influencers—just look at how Rihanna’s choice to wear Melitta Baumeister and Hyein Seo in Paris raised the up-and-comers’ profiles. But critics? Hardly. Now, I’m not saying that celebrity, or general, opinions are invalid or unimportant. I’m just saying that they’re not criticism. There is room for all sorts of musings—and all are welcome. The viewpoints of celebrities, consumers, style obsessives, critics, and beyond all work together to create a narrative, however, looking back thirty years from now, Cavallari’s comment during E!’s Oscars preshow that “Lupita has been killing it this season” won’t really tell us anything.

Will the general public gravitate toward celebrities rather than journalists for criticism? Sure, they’ll tune in to TV shows and celeb Twitter accounts to be amused (it is funny watching Joan Rivers rip apart red-carpet looks), but if they want the facts, they’ll come to the critics. As Vanessa Friedman told me in an interview last week, “There will always be a need for some sort of analysis and an informed opinion, and despite all the white noise and opinions we see on social media, people still want real information and facts.” I have to believe that this hunger for knowledge isn’t in spite of fashion’s increasing presence and importance in popular and celebrity culture, it’s because of it.

We need to be careful how we throw around the phrase “fashion critic.” Let’s not do to it what fashion writing has done to “iconic” or “chic”—that is to say, make it meaningless. Because what critics write does have meaning, and purpose, and I’d like to keep it that way.

Photo: Getty Images

Giorgio Armani Reveals Revamped Flagship, Miranda Kerr On The Aussie Runways, Jenna Lyons’ Look-Alike, And More…

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Giorgio Armani has just unveiled his newly renovated Madison Avenue flagship store. The facelift of the 17-year-old store, which took three months of work, is part of his new vision for capturing market share in North America. [WWD]

Miranda Kerr is skipping New York fashion week, opting instead to walk the runway in Sydney. The supermodel showed off designs by Dion Lee, Josh Goot, and Kirrily Johnston at retailer David Jones’ show. [Huff Po]

Editors at the J.Crew presentation did a double take yesterday when they spotted Jenna Lyons’ doppelgänger. Lyons, who has appeared in the J.Crew campaigns before, says it wasn’t intentional, however. [Page Six]

Although the E network pulled its rebroadcast of the Fashion Police episode in which Joan Rivers makes snarky comments about Whitney Houston (the episode originally aired the day before Houston died), the fashion critic says she has no regrets about what she said. “When she’s alive, she’s fair game. It’s part of being a celebrity,” Rivers tells WWD. [WWD]

Photo: Stephen Sullivan

Blasblog: Four Peas, Two Pods

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The ladies I spent Wednesday night with, Fabiola Beracasa and Joan Rivers, might not seem to have much in common. But they do: a love of wigs, great senses of humor, and even greater taste in jewelry. My night started at Beracasa’s West Village penthouse, where she was hosting a trunk show for Eddie Borgo. “It’s the shape of a triangle! How perfect is that?” Borgo said of her modernist, all-glass dining room with stunning views of downtown Manhattan (his line is inspired by such geometric shapes). Recession or not, his wares were selling like hotcakes, which made Beracasa curious: “Does the management get a cut of the profits?” She noted that the centerpieces—votive candles arranged with stuffed birds and moss—were bought the day before on a budget. “All that for only $20! I’m getting very business-savvy over here.”

At the West Bank Café in midtown, the conversation also turned to gems and cost-cutting. “What? You don’t like this Chanel knockoff?” Joan Rivers screamed at an audience member about her QVC jewelry collection. “Well, you should: I’m giving people jobs over here. Underage kids do the setting—little fingers set little stones—and then all my old friends with the shakes polish ‘em up.” Her references to style—she kills her own furs, she streaks her own hair—were of particular interest to the rest of my group: Interview‘s Christopher Bollen, Lazaro Hernandez, and Jen Brill, the last of whom we brought for her birthday. For her present, she got a little gift from Rivers herself: a heckling. “Did you get a good one?” Rivers snapped in the middle of her act, when Jen made the mistake of taking a camera-phone picture. She added a touching smile—and a racial slur.

Photo: Courtesy of Derek Blasberg

Blasblog: Sweet Scents And Sweeter Charity

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My Tuesday morning was, to steal a term from the contemporary fashion scene, very high/low. It started uptown at the Plaza Hotel, where Marjorie Gubelmann hosted a breakfast for Sardinia, the newest scent in her luxury candle line Vie Luxe. Why Sardinia? “Because that place is heaven on earth,” said Gubelmann. “It’s luxe!” After scarfing a croissant and orange juice, I headed downtown to the God’s Love We Deliver headquarters in the David Geffen building on Spring Street and Sixth Avenue, where Joan Rivers, Blaine Trump, and Estée Lauder’s John Demsey were helping the organization prepare for its ten millionth meal for people living with HIV/AIDS. Down in the kitchen, Rivers was on packing duty, scooping pork chops, carrots, and brussels sprouts into containers. There was a countdown to number 10,000,000, followed by cheers and a little dance to “I Am What I Am,” and then the troop hightailed it to MacDougal Street to deliver the landmark meal. “This charity means so much to me,” Rivers explained in transit. “Look at me, I’m in a hairnet. You know I’m serious if I would wear one of these—every hair is important.” For more information on the charity, go to www.godslovewedeliver.org.

Photo: Derek Blasberg