It's often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But what about fashion relevance and ultimately the commercial success of a collection? As you're probably aware, this past Milan Fashion Week marked the return of designer Jil Sander to her eponymous fashion brand after the departure of Raf Simons. The verdict: Polite applause or a "break-out-the-champagne" moment? It all seems to come down to who you read.
The WSJ's Christina Binkley loved it (a "break-out-the-champagne" moment) while The Daily Beast's Robin Givhan did not ("neither stunning nor disappointing"). Interestingly, their perspectives each seem to hinge on whether they were fans of Sander's predecessor and what he did with the brand during his tenure.
On this point, Robin Givhan wrote:
"And here, one cannot help but mention her immediate predecessor, Raf Simons, who made the brand into his own while retaining the fundamental essence of what Sander started. Where Sander was distant and unemotional, Simons brought a warmth and emotion to the brand."
Whereas Christina Binkley had this to say:
"This is a departure from the last two seasons of the Jil Sander brand, where Simons seemed to be using the runway as an open audition for the then-unfilled job at Christian Dior."
In addition, Givhan raised the issue of diversity (or lack thereof):
"He [Raf Simons] also made the brand seem more vibrant by moving away from a homogenous group of models, which Sander relentlessly favored, so that his runway shows did not look like a march of the cyborgs. (…) Sander, for her highly anticipated return to the runway, did what she most always has done and booked no brown-skinned models or Asian ones—a decision that, after the industry’s recent soul-searching on the subject of diversity—seemed especially out of touch."
I remain fascinated by what informs a professional fashion review. For instance, what exactly sets the review of a professional journalist like Binkley or Givhan apart from that of a fashion blogger? One of the most frequent criticisms of fashion bloggers is that their take on fashion is superficial and rarely amounts to anything more than the expression of a personal opinion. While I don't mean to suggest that either Binkley's or Givhan's review is superficial (although Binkley's comes close) or that fashion critics need to agree on a collection, it would be difficult to suggest that their respective reviews of the Jil Sander S/S 2013 collection was not informed at least in part by their own personal opinions not just about the actual clothing but also about the brand's previous creative director.
Personally, I don't adhere to the belief that bloggers will eventually supplant journalists and critics. There is ample room in the industry for both professional journalists and bloggers to coexist. Having said this, I would love to see the pros step up their game and offer more than descriptive accounts and opinion. Less cheerleading and more bone fides critique would be the best way to set themselves apart from bloggers.
The Luxe Chronicles