Dearest Third Cousin,
Street Style has created more than a little bit of debate within the fashion industry over the past month. Suzy Menkes, fashion reporter and editor of the International Herald tribune, sparked this debate by calling out many bloggers and street style ‘stars’ in her article ‘The Circus of Fashion’. She rather rightfully suggests that the parade of people ‘peacocking’ outside the shows has become as important as the shows themselves and asserts that:
‘You can hardly get up the steps at Lincoln Centre, in New York, or walk along the Tuileries Garden path in Paris because of all the photographers snapping at the poseurs.’
This statement is warranted and many commenters believe that street style is at capacity. Street style has peeked and I believe the phenomenon will undergo quite a bit of change over the next few seasons. I don’t believe it will dissipate but rather evolve, into what? Nobody knows, but this is the beauty of the rapid pace of change within the industry, perhaps the most striking aspect of industry at the moment. Fashion will keep us guessing and keep us on our toes. This momentum of change is a catalyst that has led to our current attitudes towards fashion and style. We consume and dispose of fashion and style at a rate that is unprecedented. This could lead to ambiguity, there may not be a definitive style trait associated with our present era and if this comes to be true, this rapid rate of change could be the defining feature of the 2010’s.
Paradoxically, style and fashion have never been more prevalent within our culture; a culture which also honours celebrity and more specifically the reality star. Menkes and fellow critic Tim Blanks associate the street style phenomenon with reality stardom. Blanks is less harsh than Menkes on this issue and in general, however I believe they are both on-point to a certain degree .Have a look at the mini-documentary ‘Take my Picture’ made by Garage magazine to hear his commentary which pre-dates Menkes’ article. At each fashion week there are many people looking to be noticed by Tommy Ton, Phil Oh, Tamu McPherson etc. In the Garage documentary, Blanks recounts, with a grimaced face, his experiences of watching people do outrageous things to be noticed by photographers. The reason for this behaviour has to do with exposure, often these people are walking product placement or trying to gain exposure for their work. This is not necessarily a negative. There are many street style ‘stars’ that create amazing work. I’m thinking of Susie Lau and Leandra Medine specifically who were cited in Menkes’ article and have responded thoughtfully and inquisitively to her.
Another incredibly positive aspect of product placement within street style is the exposure it gives to emerging designers. The Garage documentary mentioned above brilliantly highlights this. One of the commentators is Vika Gazinskaya who states that getting her designs photographed on the street is part of her marketing strategy. This strategy is as smart as it is advantageous and is adopted by a multitude of well established brands as well. Gifts and sponsorship are part of the blogging world, bloggers are regularly courted by brands and many accept the gifts offered, another fact that Menkes has issue with. While street style can promote great bloggers, up-coming designers and established brands, the situation as I mentioned before, has reached critical mass and has led to this backlash.
We, as viewers, exasperate the situation. We have contributed to this phenomenon too by creating the demand. If there was no demand, there would be no street style blogs, photographers or ‘stars’. We covet the images of the beautifully dressed. This is part of our fascination with celebrity; we all have our favourites, the ‘stars’ we look out for. Personally, I love Juila Sarr-Jamois and Leigh Lezark. Street style is a fun and frivolous way to interact with fashion, at least with the protective barrier of a laptop screen. I have never been outside the shows when the ‘fash paps’ are hounding their prey but from the footage I’ve seen it seems a bit insane. Phil Oh goes as far as to call it ‘trench war-fare’. I can see how many of the more experienced, traditional, ‘fashion crows’ Menkes refers to, would pine for the days when there were more restrictions in the industry. When fashion was for the elite and yes, there is still massive snobbery within the industry. A telling quote from Tommy Ton in ‘Take my Picture’ brings this to the fore. He states that ‘People who dress up to get photographed will not get photographed by the right people’. In the next scene Susie Lau replies ‘Well that’s rather an elitist view; who are the “right” people?’ While I adore Tommy’s images this elitist statement stands in opposition to the essence of street style. Is this indicative of the mind-set of the majority of street style ‘stars’ or should I say street style elite? I hope not.
Watch Take My Picture Here