Designers vs Critics; It’s a Bloody Business Really.

Fashion is a lot of things to a lot of people, but for the most part, fashion is PERSONAL to everyone. The interpretation often differs as will points of view, but that is what makes the industry what it is. And with ever increasing receding barriers, opinions are a dime a dozen.

Arguably, the last few years in fashion have been some of the most dramatic; abrupt firing and hirings of designers, Decarnin’s sudden exit from Balmain, Galliano’s gracelessness, those damn nipple pasties, and not to forget, the sharp sting of a critic’s words. None of this is new, but of late it’s all been a bit much and in the melee of things the human aspect is often forgotten. Designers, as have been argued by too many to count, are some of the most sensitive beings and each and every collection, for the designer, is a personal reflection on their ability. Its not the easiest of talents, every few months each year, designers have to prove themselves. They live in constant anxiety of how their work will be received; from the retailers perspective, the consumer interest and of course the words of the critics. Not to forget the profit margins for the money men…that’s a whole different ball game. As with any creative talent, or in any work of life, you are only as good as your last work and if you cannot uphold the standards your audience has come to expect of you, it is to your detriment.

Its a bloody business quite frankly, and no surprise that more designers are biting back at critics who have had less than glowing reviews of their work.


Cathy Horyn is one critic that has incurred her fair share of designer clad wrath having been banned from several shows following her reviews. Hedi Slimane is still beefing Ms Horyn for a 2004 review, he not only wrote a rather pathetic open letter which he posted and later deleted on his twitter page, but he also banned her for like forever from all his shows, she wasn’t invited to his debut for YSL or SL or SLP or H x SLP or whatever the hell its called. As if that would stop her from writing a review. Oscar De La Renta took a page in WWD with his open letter to Horyn, following her review of his SS’13 collection which he took as a personal affront. In 2008 Giorgio Armani banned Horyn from his shows because of what he felt was an incomplete review, so to speak, of his show. Some critics don’t just stop at the designers, Suzy Menkes’ piece on the circus of fashion and its peacocks targeted specific bloggers and personalities that traipse the fashion weeks and cause a cacophonous series of events which can be a distraction from the shows themselves, resulted in responses and retorts from all and sundry. The latest critic to have incurred a designer clad wrath and received a dressing down and a pulling up from said designer is Tim Blanks, who happens to be one of my all time favourite critics. Jean Paul Gaultier was not impressed with Blank’s caustic review of his couture show and he took it personal.

letterAny minute I expect hair pulling and name calling…

Gaultier called out Blanks on his false facts and misrepresentation and acknowledged that he has moved on from the Gaultier of old which Blank was still nostalgic for. Snaps for Gaultier for taking the man to task. I love Mr Blanks, but its a cardinal rule in journalism; FACT CHECK your references. There is no excuse for failure to do so. Check your facts, double check, triple check and before you hit publish, do it all over again. It’ll save the face-palm. Double snaps for “buy a ticket” that’s an all round plus for attitude.

Gaultier couture

CRITICS HAVE A JOB TO DO. So for goodness sake don’t take it personal. Giving their full, unbiased view is the job at hand. Designers ought to respect and appreciate that. At times it can get personal because fashion is personal but critics need to err with caution along these lines because it is so easily blurred. Make it about the collection because anything else, is just unprofessional.

Gaultier is like marmite, you either love his collections or you loathe it. They have always been fraught with too much of everything and he lays it on thick with the reference, right on the nose and then some more. This was no different, save for a few pieces this was a hot mess. It was hyper and it left one feeling exhausted. Gaultier’s strengths lies in his ability to serve up something completely different and out there from the rest but he can stretch a thin rope thinner at times and this was just one time too many.

This is a digital age and thanks to technology and innovation, almost everything is immediately accessible and there are way too many opinions out there that one cannot throw a tantrum every time an opinion is unfavourable. The song and dance between critics and designers, especially of recent, has become rather unrhythmic and there needs to be a refresh on both ends. Just like designers don’t seek opinions of critics in the designing process, critics must be able to do their jobs without expectation of reprimand neither should they feel like they have to massage the designer’s ego. Take it like a big boy and move on.

If we all had to write an open letter to everyone who ever criticised us, we’d probably still be engaged in a World War. And I’ll have a few choice words for my math teacher in boarding school who criticised my abject refusal to learn bloody simultaneous equations.

The bottom line; critics will always have something to say and designers will always have clothes to make. There will always be customers who want to buy what designers make irrespective of what a critic has to say about it. The alternative to all this is far worse; imagine if no one ever talked about your work…Silence.

Can something exist without being perceived?”- Pamela Jackson.

Image here