Two Part Review: Fashion Writing, Part Two

… Continued from previous post

I love reading fashion show reviews. Even if everything you’re looking at is too expensive to wear, you’re watching clothing—so, in essence, people—and the ways they are described—so, communication—change before your very eyes. Look at the review of Acne Studio’s womens wear Spring ’11 line:

“…[stylish women] would have latched onto the languor of a lo-o-o-ong red sweater over a floor-length tube. If they fancied layering up in blue, there was a navy knit over a floating chiffon shirt and leggings. If they wanted something up-to-the minute, there was a look that echoed the vintage bathing suit-cum-playsuit that is popping up all over for Spring” (Tim Blanks,

I just learned a bunch of new terms:

“…the Japanese fetishization of packaging” (Hussein Chalayan), “…strapless bubble of Japanese techno taffeta” (Jil Sander), and “…the sheen of lacquer in the dark [as…] an abstract take on Japan” (Chalayan again).

And here, it’s obvious that the writer knows more about what the fashion is actually doing for the culture around it than the designer does, at least in words, which are weighed against fabric only because they have always been taken more seriously historically.

“… Jonny Johansson sent a mixed message with today’s show… ‘Nothing retro, no references,’ he said of the clothes, after a presentation that had taken place in Apartment 1A, Princess Margaret‘s old digs at Kensington Palace, about as retro a location as the Establishment allows. Photographs of old-school glamour-puss Margaret by then-husband Lord Snowdon covered the walls, and the distant thumping was surely the sound of her flipping in her grave as a parade of serious teens filed by in Acne’s casually diffident clothing. You could imagine the old girl snarling, ‘Damn hippies.’ That was, after all, partly the reaction Johansson was courting” (Tim Blanks)

Jil Sander’s head designer seems to understand his own meaning a little more cohesively:

The way Raf Simons tells it, he was sitting around with his team discussing the new minimalism and that got him thinking about its inverse, maximalism, which led him instantly to haute couture… but where traditional couturiers have been paying lip service to the modernizing possibilities of the T-shirt-and-ball-gown combo for a dog’s age, he made it a walking, talking proposition with his opening passage of major skirts and minor tops…” (Tim Blanks,

What’s interesting is that these writers are doing for language what designers do to their own brands: they make tiny shifts in the form, and create an entirely new line. Every answer lies in the context, and every piece of the text and its context has only as much value as the viewer assigns to it.

Fashion and fashion writers are given so little credit because they are equated to the most extreme and ridiculous parts of our culture—excess, wealth, liberal change within a highly policed standardization—and yet they represent the best parts of being human.

Talking about clothes at all is a double-edged sword. The only way to talk about fashion is to intellectualize it (because otherwise you sound like a Californian), and intellectuals hate talking about fashion. Plus, you have to make up new words to describe new fashions, and old people don’t respect that and young people don’t want to over analyze.

I don’t care. I love talking about clothes, and I love shopping, and I love being a girl. Probably my favorite quote from this season so far shows exactly what I mean by making a language work as a means, not an end:

“Why is United Bamboo cool? The look is fetishistically clean-cut, the vibe demure. The clothes convey the kind of detail-driven precision that is usually associated with model-train enthusiasts… [their] best collections always have a pervy quality, as though the designers were persistently distracted by their curiosity about what ‘nice’ girls might do in the backs of cars” (Maya Singer,

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