For me, this was a dream team: four writers and one designer all truly at the top of their respective games. I’m glad to report they didn’t disappoint. The panel’s fascinating discussion covered everything from the early days of fashion online up to the current state of the catwalk show. Oh, and Tina Turner as well. Here are ten things I learned.
1. The internet has opened up the archives of fashion journalism in a huge way since the beginning of the panel’s careers.
Melanie Rickey: When I first started out at the Independent in 1997 if you wanted to research something you called down to the Library where they had actual pieces of paper in folders and they sent it up to you.
2. It’s not just journalists who’ve plundered those archives, fashion designers have too.
Alexander Fury: In the nineties during the shows you had to buy five newspapers a day to see those pictures…I’ve talked to different fashion designers and they all say that one of the first things they did when they got the internet was to look up the catwalk pictures from McQueen and Galliano, which is what I did. Straight away you’d see that you’d seen five images from a collection and there were actually 50 looks.
3. But that accessibility is detrimental in a way, because you don’t need to retain a lot of knowledge when it’s all just a few clicks away.
Sasha Wilkins: Everything’s just there. You don’t have to have that depth of knowledge anymore, which is a real shame.
4. The internet has changed the role of the fashion editor.
AF: You can’t really edit fashion anymore. In the past they could ruin designers careers if they wanted, or make designers careers, by editing it very concisely. You can’t do that anymore because everyone has access to everything.
MR: There’s a difference between having an opinion on something and knowing if it’s good or not. Critics and fashion editors exist to tell you if something is good or bad, because there’s a lot of shit out there.
5. But fashion editor’s opinions still matter to designers.
MR: I think Mary will agree there are only about five people whose reviews you’ll read.
Mary Katrantzou: Absolutely. I categorise them by what day you read the review. If you haven’t slept for a month while you’re waiting for their review that means it’s really, really important, but if you wait a week [after the catwalk show] it means their opinion won’t have a direct influence on how you view your work.
6. The great expanse of the internet means bad reviews are more likely to go unnoticed nowadays.
SW: Around 2000, I reviewed a designer and it was a really terrible show and I got a call from the PR, I got a call from the designer, this is when there were only about three people reviewing online, because they thought it really mattered that I’d written a bad review. I can’t imagine someone going to that effort now, why would they bother?
AF: They’d just ban you – I get banned a lot!
7. Advertising is undeniably influential on journalists.
MR: There are probably one or two journalists in the whole world, they work in New York, who are not bothered by advertising. Everyone else is, everyone else has to tow a certain line.
8. Nothing can replace the catwalk show as a vehicle for delivering a designer’s total vision, as well as the detail of a collection
MK: When we did really intricate embroideries, people were asking ‘really, did you have real pencils? I didn’t see that.’ For someone who’s not there they can’t capture the depth of the work, the intricacy of the work, so they don’t see the collective of a designers vision.
MR: It’s not just a dress on a hanger, it’s a complete 360 thing, it’s an artistic expression.
9. The power of Style.com, the site which puts catwalk photos six to a row, shouldn’t be underestimated.
AF: I’ve been very struck going through a few Prada shows, looking at the pictures afterwards where I’ve thought ‘oh, she’s done six outfits the same’…she [Miuccia Prada] has done six looks because she knows that’s going to a line on Style.com.
MK: We look at Style.com rows and we get really annoyed if a model doesn’t come out at the show and destroys our row on Style.com!
10. These journalists don’t welcome celebrities at the shows.
SW: The thing that bugs me most about celebrities at shows is when their minders push you out of the way when they’re trying to get them out, or you’re waiting for an hour because some pop star is late.
AF: Unless it’s Tina Turner, and then it’s fine.
SW: I personally hate celebrities at fashion shows, unless I’m bored and need something to look at. But, obviously, commercially there’s a reason why they’re there.