Posted by Bethan Holt, Junior Fashion Editor at Large

Dressing up at the shows. Image by Tommy Ton, via
Suzy Menkes is a fashion industry doyenne who has been attending shows and commenting astutely on fashion for decades. Her latest controversial writ came as a precursor to this fashion month and has set the tone for the season.  Just in case you haven't heard about it, it is called The Circus of Fashion and bemoans the fact that show venues are now populated by "peacocks", by which Menkes means all the boys and girls who dress up to the nines in bright, clashing outfits, often comprised of pieces loaned or gifted by designers.

The piece reads as a kind of eulogy to the past; a distant memory of a time when shows were attended by only a small number of editors (she calls this black-clad gang "crows") and nobody else really registered that they were going on, until the designs on the catwalk appeared in magazines and shops several months later. Those days are gone and it's hard, nay impossible, to see how fashion could ever retreat into such a crysallis again. While Menkes acknowledges the inevitability of the situation and recognises some of its merits. She says, "While fashion pros tend to have personal agendas related to their work, bloggers start a critical conversation that can spread virally." This is somewhat ironic given the viral responses which her piece has sparked.

So many bloggers have come out in their own defence of Menkes' piece. I've read so many eloquent and thought provoking responses that I thought FEAL's small contribution to the conversation could be to gather together some of the opinions which have been expressed since The Circus of Fashion was published. All we would add is that it is difficult and dangerous to plonk editors and bloggers in two completely different boxes. There's plenty of crossover. There are many editors who accept gifts and trips and who dress up for cameras. Menkes' article is accompanied by photos of French editors Virginie Mouzat and Emmanuelle Alt cast in the role of arbiters of the old school chic, but aren't they some of the most photographed street style subjects? And I know plenty of bloggers who attend fashion weeks and hardly have their picture taken or dress up too much for the occasion.

Anyway read on to get the lowdown on how bloggers really feel about being labelled "peacocks"....

N.B These are only excerpts, follow the links to read their whole posts.

Man Repeller- Blog Is a Dirty Word

Fashion week has become something of a circus. With a myriad of photographers moonlighting as paparazzi, waiting ambitiously to catch the familiar faces of the plethora of websites that have allegedly made them famous, it seems street style stars are our generation’s newest contribution to the phenomenon of reality star culture. The photos are inspiring, the clothes are magnificent and the conversation street style has incited is vital for the fashion dialogue–but this is only when authenticity bleeds through. In the current climate, I can understand why it might seem like “getting the shot” is less about the credibility factor and more about how far along the spectrum of crazy a subject can sway. But then again, style is also a function of personality. If the girl has got the proverbial balls to strap live vertebrae to her head and loves how she looks, well, good for her.

She is the rare fashion partisan who has subsisted long enough to observe and shrewdly, unapologetically comment on the evolution of fashion week and that which occurs outside the velvet ropes. Noting the previous formula as one that worked, how could she possibly accept the democratization of something so historically exclusive with overwhelming positivity? This is my generation, my vocation, my moment that she is reprimanding, and I, too, have a sincere problem with the notion that front row squatting may be based less on excellence in trade and more on social following density.

But what upset me most about the piece wasn’t even really her fault–it is the cynicism and skepticism that has made a home for itself in the field of blogging.

Last week, because of a comment on my favorite beauty product (which I have been purchasing–not being gifted–every two months for the last three years,) and the response to it, (“we get it, you’re sponsored by X,”), I found myself wondering if we, the bloggers, have entered an era where we can’t like anything without having our motives questioned.

Yes, I concluded. Unfortunately we have.

It has always been the subjectivity of fashion blogging that resonates so well. The raw portrayal of an unedited opinion will likely always command ample attention but there are only really a handful of bloggers who have been able to canon true influence and respect. It is at the point where readers can smell the sponsorship that integrity gets lost. And in this day and age, it seems that sprouting blogs are founded on principles of self-aggrandizement.

StyleBubble- The Sad Clown

A well-known PR recently said to me, “Oh we don’t even think of you as a blogger. You’re an online editor in chief.” Medine hit it in one when she titled her post “Blog is a dirty word.” When blogging is supposedly a full-time legitimate profession as my peers like Medine, Bryan Boy and Rumi Neely have proved, for me, it has never felt enough to say that it’s all that I do. Because the b word has been tarnished - asking us how much money do we make, suspicions that every blog post is sponsored, outfits that have been littered with gifts, accusations that we’re poseurs and not fashion critics, lack of journalistic standards - things, which, I along with others have been guilty of to some degree or another. If I was more positive, I could defend the content on my blog and say that 99.9% of is absolutely NOT sponsored/commercially related to anything except for my genuine love of what I’m writing about, but even then once you commit one instance of gift or trip accepting, how can I get all high and mighty and say that I’m something of an exception.

Then I think about all the outfits I’ve worn this week at London. A London Fashion Week designer featured in every instance - Jonathan Saunders, Meadham Kirchhoff, James Long, J.W. Anderson, Simone Rocha - things I’ve bought with my own money or someone was gracious enough to lend me knowing that I genuinely wanted to wear it. They’re badges of support for the people that we are writing about, exalting and celebrating. They’re the designers making and creating the feathers for the peacocks to don. Are the clothes supposed to stay confined within fashion editorials and PR press days? Who gets to make that judgement call as to who has “genuine” style or who is dressing up for the cameras? Who even cares when an outward celebration (and economic contribution, I might add) of fashion at its most creative is on display? The doubts that I carry, however strong they may be or however low I might feel during fashion weeks, aren’t enough to push me into a uniform of a sleek black blazer, a neat button-down shirt and some discreet but still insanely expensive Alaia shoes. I’m just sorry that convention, as dictated by the inner sanctum of the industry, weighs heavy on me. I could get all angry about it but what’s the point if I just grin and bear it, trudge along in my lilac marabou, neon trainers and pink pastel dresses - clothes that make me giddy most of the time, but inadvertedly drive my spirits down in a fashion week context.

DisneyRollerGirl- The Changing Landscape

Alas, Menkes does come across as slightly jaded in her disapproval. Flagging up the common practice of ‘bloggers’ (read: the Fashion Week style blogger elite) who get photographed in next season’s looks, often gifted by designers in exchange for coverage, she reminds us that real reporters don’t play the gifting game (or ‘bribery’ as she puts it). It’s a funny one I admit. On the one hand, why not help give young designers exposure by wearing their clothes, if it will give them a leg-up and boost your visual presence as well? On the other hand, when the pre- and post-show peacocking starts to get more attention than the shows themselves, then that clearly signals a change in how things are working. Is it dumbing down though? or is it just an evolution in how fashion is seen and consumed now?

Elle La Petite Anglaise- Take Me To The Circus

You don’t just start a blog and overnight find yourself showered with international fashion week invites and free designer bags. I can say from experience that it takes time and a hell of a lot of hard graft to prove your worth to PRs and brands who, with God knows how many thousands of fashion bloggers out there, have to be extremely selective in which ones they work with and invite to their shows.

Cliched though it is to say, it seems to me that since the dawn of blogging the fashion world has become a far more accessible and democratic place than it was during the days of Menkes’ “black crows”.

I’m not going to lie and say I don’t like seeing myself pop up on now and again, of course I do. Being papped for a street style site is also beneficial to me because ultimately, the more “out there” I am the more people are likely to come across my blog. While I do love blogging for its own sake, when you spend virtually every waking hour working on something you do want people other than your mum to see it.

The Very Simon G- Am I A Peacock, Suzy Menkes?

She knew what she was doing. She was probably told or asked to write the piece, ticking it off her 'feature check list'. Just like Liz Jones - though I daren't compare the two writers - they have to be seen commenting on certain topics. Getting a reaction is great journalism after all. What makes me laugh though is that just like Jones, Menkes is about, oooo, erm, six years too late to this particular party (Jones wrote a feature at the end of last year about how FANTASTIC eBay is, that she couldn't believe it existed. Laughably late). Sorry love, some of us have been tapping away at our keyboards and sometimes, yes, actually getting paid for it for years.

To bung all bloggers in the same knock-off Celine tote is totally unfair too. Some of us - me included - are trained journalists. I have an NCTJ diploma, as do other blogger friends. We've done our unpaid work experience time at publications and gone on to work at other high profile magazines or newspapers, freelance or full time. It just so happens that the online world exploded massively a few years ago, and like any normal human, you follow the money and try to carve a niche for yourself. Just like Suzy has.


Post a Comment