31 March 2008

blog.mode feat. Cathy Horyn, The Sartorialist, and Diane Pernet


On (lazy) Sunday I took myself up to the Met to see Diane Pernet, one of my favorite fashion people ever, The Times' fashion critic Cathy Horyn, Sartorialist Scott Schuman, and Costume Institute curator Harold Koda give a panel talk on fashion blogging in conjunction with the current Costume Institute Exhibit blog.mode.

They're each from different professional/publishing backgrounds -- Diane was formerly a designer, the fashion editor of Joyce magazine, a videographer, and currently also the co-editor-in-chief of Zoo Magazine; Cathy is the fashion critic at the New York Times, probably one of the most widely read English language fashion critics; and Scott formerly worked in the fashion industry. Each of them are tastemakers. Each of them have a loyal fan following (though, before the show, Diane received the most cheek-kisses and visitors).

They raised some interesting points about the business (and art) of fashion blogging.

Notes on Diane Pernet: She remarked that her blog is "not about me, but what I like and what I find interesting." She has an army of about 15 contributors scattered all over the world, including locations like Mumbai and Kuwait. She pays a lot of attention to designers when they're still in school, and is especially interested in work coming out the Royal Academy in Antwerp. Her latest film project You Wear it Well screens tonight at the Tribeca Grand.

Notes on Cathy Horyn: Idea of the blog came to her while watching the Emmys in 2006 -- she saw the original Charlies' Angels on stage and thought that there was something she could say about them, but not for a full print article. While the Times is an enormous corporation, broadsheet writers are, by and large, autonomous. Her blog began in Jauary 2007 after a Paris fashion week cafe argument where she asserted that, "A blog can be anything today." The blog allows her to expand on a show -- to engage in a dialogue where it's possible to return to the subject of a show. There's not as much freedom in print. "It's better to do certain things on the blog because of the way journalism has shifted." It's a challenge to let the blog be what it will be. She reads every post that comes in. She has "different voices" for the magazine, the broadsheet, and the blog. She perceives that the blog is a way to address the challenges of contemporary journalism -- to engage readers and adapt to new media. She likes that, on her blog, it's just accepted fact that fashion is important.

The panelists all agreed that one of the most important factors contributing to the success of a blog is the singular voice. I guess it's not so different than a magazine -- good magazines are good magazines mostly because they have a point of view.

Cathy talked about how the world of journalism is changing, and, more specifically, the newspaper world is changing. What the fashion news world needs is "not a more assertive fashion critic," Horyn says, but someone who is a journalist -- "Learn how to be an investigative reporter," she says. "Learn how to read a balance sheet." Horyn discussed the need for a different type of information about clothes. She admires Kennedy Fraser's work at the New Yorker. Speaking of the work of designers such as Alaia or Nicolas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga, Horyn says, "Shouldn't the caliber of crtiticism beat that level?"

An audience asks whether blogging in an exercise in self-indulgence / self-importance. Harold Koda remarks that "by nature of the blog, bloggers are opening themselves up for critique."