The grizzled gatekeepers of fashion should lay off style-bloggers whose crime is being younger and more popular than them
There seems to be a crisis in the fashion industry. No, no, don’t go away. This is a funny crisis, not a tragic one. It hasn’t anything to do with young women being driven to the edge of death by anorexia thanks to the proliferation of unattainable female body images, or indentured child labourers dying in Bangladesh because there is only so much women will pay for knickers.
It isn’t about the sexualisation of children by an industry determined to make little prostitutes of our pre-teen daughters, nor the planet-threatening culture of disposability on which fashion houses depend to keep their business cycle moving.
It’s not about the suicide of yet another big designer whose life wasn’t as great as it looked from the outside, or one who, for the same reason, has got drunk in a public place and loudly blamed it all on the Jews.
It isn’t even because some fat, bald, leather-skinned old Fagin has been papped guzzling Dom Pérignon out of Kate Moss’s bra on the yacht he paid for with money he literally went into the houses of old people and stole (legal note: he didn’t).
No, the crisis, reported on Thursday on page three of this very newspaper, has come about because Vogue magazine — brightly coloured monthly style bible for posh old women in Holland Park who are far too busy having their Botox replenished to waste time reading anything with words in — has had a massive great hissy-fit meltdown about style bloggers (essentially girls who wear a lot of new clothes and post pictures of themselves in them on Instagram) who, its staff claim, are ruining everything by being “pathetic” and “desperate”.
If you stripped the fashion bloggers naked, they would look like normal women, not giant Brazilian transvestites after a year in the gulag
Yes, yes, I know. Without people who are pathetic and desperate there wouldn’t even be a fashion industry for Vogue to be a bible for. But you can hardly expect them to see that, can you? So let’s have a more detailed look at the Vogue women’s complaints about a bunch of young ladies who serve essentially the same function they do, for a younger and (in many cases) much bigger audience, without being paid nearly as much. They come out of experiences at Milan Fashion Week and were expressed on Vogue’s very own . . . blog:
Sally Singer,Vogue’s creative digital director: “Note to bloggers who change head-to-toe paid-to-wear outfits every hour: please stop. Find another business. You are heralding the death of style.” (I like to read “you are heralding the death of style!” out loud in a Gestapo accent. Though it also sounds good in a Dalek voice).
Sarah Mower, vogue.com chief critic: “The professional blogger bit . . . is horrible but most of all pathetic for these girls, when you watch how many times the desperate troll up and down outside shows . . . in hopes of being snapped.”
Nicole Phelps, director of Vogue runway app: “It’s not just sad for the women who preen for the cameras in borrowed clothes, it’s distressing . . . to watch so many brands participate.”
Alessandra Codinha, vogue.com fashion news editor: “The whole practice of paid appearances and borrowed outfits [was] gross.”
It is an extraordinary collective onslaught from the grizzled gate-keepers of an exploitative and parasitic industry on the young girls who are democratising it before their very eyes. The hypocrisy is mind-boggling. For what are Vogue’s own models if not people who “change head-to-toe paid-to-wear outfits every hour”? What do they do if not “troll up and down . . . hoping to be snapped”? Are they not paid to appear? Are their outfits not borrowed? If you pap them, do they not preen?
The only difference I can see is that if you stripped the fashion bloggers naked, they would look like normal women, not giant Brazilian transvestites after a year in the gulag. So they are in that sense far less “pathetic” and “desperate” than middle-aged women who hire younger, thinner women to make other women feel worse about themselves in the hope that they will self-medicate by spending money on clothes.
The opinion of fashion magazines is anyway wholly owned by the brands that advertise in them. The salaries of the anti-bloggers are to all intents and purposes paid by the people who provide the bloggers with free clothes. The whole thing is just women who like clothes getting free clothes in return for talking about clothes.
They are all total idiots, of course, and should turn their heads to less vacuous things (fashion, as someone once said, possibly me, “is just art for thick people”), but at least the bloggers are coming from the ground up. They have come to their position of prominence by the will of the people they serve, not because they know someone who knows someone who was at school with the editor, or sold her a country house or whatever.
The old media are dying. The ancient concept of “authority” (Chaucer’s “auctoritee”) lies in ruins. The notion of an opinion on fashion having currency simply because it is expressed in Vogue is unlikely to last much into the next decade. They can screech and scratch and hiss and fart, these women, but as drivers of business they are over. I know, because I am over, too.
When I became restaurant critic of this paper in 2002, I could make or break a restaurant with a nod or a tut because I was the restaurant critic of The Times. Chefs wept at my feet because I had enabled them to put their kids through school or sometimes because I had put them out on the street. But I have no power to do that any more. It is the bloggers and tweeters, the daft-arse snappers of their platefuls for social media, who put the bums on seats now.
No critic on earth makes a difference. We are there to entertain you, to mock and scorn, or to say “yum, yum, yum”, but we’re tap-dancing in the margins, not directing the herd. You can see that because of the way restaurants have gone in the past five years: away from high prices and celebrity chefs and tablecloths towards low price, no reservations, squat-and-gobble. It is a direction that the critics implored them not to take. We screamed and shouted and eventually begged. With no effect whatsoever. The people spoke. And they did it online. With photos.
It is only happening more slowly in fashion because there is so much more money involved. And of course the fashion houses want to hang on to the fully corrupted fashion commentariat they have had in their pockets for centuries. But the internet has spoken. You can see from Vogue’s hysterical protestations that the bloggers have won. The coveted baton of the “desperate” and “pathetic” is finally being passed on.