There’s no doubt about it: With the advent of street style blogs like The Sartorialist, Tommy Ton for Style.com, the Street Peeper and Altamira NYC, the landscape of Fashion Week has changed. With fashion editors’ and stylists’ outfits now being meticulously covered, what goes on off the runway has nearly eclipsed the collections.
Anyone who’s recently attended fashion week–or hell, anyone who’s been on the internet in the past year–will notice that the frenzy surrounding street style during fashion week has reached a fever pitch. Swarms of photographers crowd around the latest street style It-girl, angling (and sometimes shoving each other) to get the best picture. Unknowing tourists stop in their tracks, staring agape at the spectacle–some even start taking their own photos, thinking it must be a celebrity. Industry wannabes, dressed in over-the-top fashions, walk by “casually,” desperately hoping to catch the eye of a photographer.
Fashion week used to be a civilized industry event. Now it’s become a media circus, with both established editors, actresses and unknowns going to crazy lengths to get their fifteen minutes.Teen Vogue‘s Mary-Kate Steinmiller, who is street style fodder herself, told us, “I think everyone (yes, myself included) is guilty of what I like to call ‘peacocking’ and ‘baiting the razzi.’” Other editors have admitted to us that they’ve spent weeks prepping for the event, meticulously planning each outfit. One told us that she would change mid-day if she felt her outfit wasn’t up to snuff.
This deliberateness has surely had an effect on the authenticity of street style photography. Will Welsh lamented on GQ.com, “When the street-style trend went nuclear, all the accidental “Who, me?” unselfconsciousness that once made it so fresh was tainted.” The Cut took a similar stance, saying, “One could argue that ‘original style’ isn’t what attracts photographers anymore; rather, it has evolved into street style stars wearing different versions of their signature looks, perpetuating their own fame.”
One thing is for sure: Street style is more studied than ever. And along with models and actresses, it seems that some editors–sporting expensive designer duds, model good looks and a jet set lifestyle–have become just another impossible ideal for regular women to look up to. “Unless you’re in the industry, you probably don’t know that that super glam editor is (more often than not) borrowing that piece from a showroom to wear once, and that they’re surviving fashion month on champagne and espresso to fit into it,” said Elle.com Fashion News Editor Britt Aboutaleb.
Indeed with the ubiquity of street style photography, personal style has become a vehicle for many editors to advance their career. Craig Arend of Altamira NYC said, “I think it’s smart self-publicizing [for editors to wear multiple outfits in one day] since new outfits create more opportunities to be photographed and increase press exposure.” And we can all think of several editors who are better known for their outrageous off-the-runway looks than for their actual work.
But if this is creating an unrealistic standard for women outside the industry, then it’s certainly having the same effect within the industry. Many editors and stylists feel that the pressure to look or dress a certain way has become overwhelming. One very successful editor told us, “I hate fashion week. It’s the only time I ever feel really insecure about my looks.”
“There’s definitely more of a feeling of wanting to look as cute as possible,” Teen Vogue‘s Laurel Pantin told us. “If your photo is circulating the internet you definitely want it to be a good shot!”
Steinmiller adds that on top of a crazy work load, worrying about being perfectly dressed all the time can be taxing. “My main complaint during fashion week is that all of us [editors] are there to do a job, observe and report on the collections,” she said. “It’s exhausting enough running from 9 am to 10 pm for the week…but the added pressure of feeling like you need to look your very best just adds to the stress.”
The truth is, an editor’s appearance has, for some, really become an important tool in their career, and it’s also caused a strange feeling of competition amongst the industry’s players. “I’ve always said that in this industry you have to accept that there is always, always going to be someone ahead of you on the masthead, prettier, better dressed, skinnier, with more money, more respected, invited to more parties and smarter than you,” Steinmiller said. “So really you just have to do you and do you the best you can.”
Aboutaleb adds, “though street style is so fun to click through, I think now that it’s become more about wearing the hot new thing, or the head-to-toe runway look, it perpetuates this cycle of thinness and richness that fashion’s always accused of promoting and always [denying it's part in].”
While every editor we spoke with reiterated that they thought street style can be a fun and healthy outlet, it does seem to be promoting an unrealistic aspirational example for young women. And more and more, women who work in the industry are judged not for their work, but by what kind of shoe they’re wearing.