As a whole, International Herald Tribune fashion editor Suzy Menkes' latest piece--on why Milan Fashion Week is often overlooked by the fashion industry--really struck me. "Italy—like any other host country—deserves more from the fashion world than a cursory glance at the shows. The audience needs time to savor the city," says Menkes, referring to the fact that unlike New York or Paris' shows, which go on for a week and a half, Milan's run is just five days.
Part of the reason this piece hit a nerve: On the plane ride over here, I read the first half of John Fairchild's Chic Savages--a memoir of the WWD publisher's life working at the newspaper. It was originally published in 1989. While the brunt of the book focuses on how society gossip played a major role in the development of both the trade rag and its companion magazine W, he also happens to talk quite a bit about Milan in the late '80s. In Fairchild's world, Milan is the new Paris. The fabrics are best, the craftsmanship is best and many of the designers are best.
Much of this is still true--my Chanel bag, for example, was not made in France, but Italy--and much is not. Today, fewer people show up for Milan's shows. I'm curious as to why, since Milan arguably has the strongest mix of commercial and editorial fashion. Of the three shows I took in today--D&G, Prada, and Versace's dress rehearsal--each boasted several incredibly memorable looks that I'm sure will grace the pages of Vogue, V and everywhere in between this autumn. Yet they were all wearable, too. You can't really say that about most of the ultra-directional looks walking through the other three cities.
Menkes modernized Fairchild's thesis for the piece, talking about Milan's cultural significance and why it was important for the editors and buyers who take in the shows to also take in the food, architecture and history.
Where Menkes lost me, however, is the moment that she broadens her thesis and delves into the general state of fashion publishing:
Then there are newspapers, facing economic turmoil and prepared to take desperate measures—like abandoning the first amendment of journalism that says a reporter must be there. Now it is supposedly acceptable to review collections, blogger-style, via the Internet. (Meanwhile, in an ironic switch, bloggers are sitting front row, filling spaces left by journalists with zero travel budgets.)
Two big things that bothered me about this statement. 1. That Menkes felt the need to separate bloggers from journalists. This is a tired idea. While not all bloggers are journalists, some journalists are indeed bloggers. (Yes, I write for a blog, but I'm a journalist who writes a news blog. Therefore I--nor anyone on our staff--would report on a show without seeing it.) 2. The idea that bloggers are sitting front row because "real journalists" can't afford the trip is preposterous. Many online-only journalists possess an increasing amount of influence over the consumer. That's why they're sitting in the front row.
Menkes is my favorite fashion critic, and if there was a throne where the most important fashion writer in the world would sit at every runway show, I would want her in it. But what she's not realizing is that the people who will follow in her footsteps probably won't work at the IHT (which, by the way, doesn't really even exist anymore--it's subtitle calls it "The Global Edition of The New York Times"). Instead, they'll work at blogs.
I truly hope that next time around, Menkes doesn't ruin yet another superb think-piece with nostalgia.