Cathy Horyn, the New York Times style critic, is one of the fashion industry's most respected (and, it must be said, feared) writers. Many have felt the lash of her sharp tongue, and her more negative reviews have resulted in a ban from more than one designer's show, including Georgio Armani. Not everyone can take the heat, including Lady Gaga, who directed her third installment of "From The Desk Of Lady Gaga," published on V Magazine's website this morning, at Horyn's acerbic pen in what she calls an address of "Extreme Critic Fundamentalism."
Gaga addresses the "insult vs. insight" of fashion criticism. She asks, "Doesn’t the integrity of the critic become compromised when their writings are consistently plagued with negativity? When the public is no longer surprised or excited by the unpredictability of the writer, but rather has grown to expect the same cynicism from the same cynic?" It's a fair question, especially in this hyper-scrutinized industry where millions publish their own blogs and lob criticism at designers' work from a relatively inexperienced standpoint. So while Gaga's question is certainly valid, taking aim at Horyn, a journalist with years of experience covering the fashion industry for one of the world's best newspapers, is not.
Why do so many notable critics seem so impervious to the emotion of the work? Why such indifference? Does intellectualism replace feeling? It’s so easy to say something is bad. It’s so easy to write, “One star, hated it, worst show of the season.” It’s much more challenging to reckon with and analyze a work. It requires research, but maybe no one does their research anymore.
and later on, closes the article with these questions:
To be fair, Ms. Horyn, the more critical question to ask is: when did the pretense of fashion become more important than its influence on a generation? Why have we decided that one person’s opinion matters more than anyone else’s?
Now consider this: The New York Times is one of the world's most widely-read newspapers and earning a lasting position there is no small feat (not to mention they favorably introduced Gaga's V column to the blogosphere). They've only ever had two style critics; Horyn is the second. She was awarded the CFDA's Eugenia Sheppard Award for journalism in 2002 after revealing some of the inner workings of Anna Wintour's many deals and has, to say the least, earned her reputation for outstanding, if sometimes negative, work.
Lady Gaga charges that "journalists today" (read: Horyn) criticize without taking all aspects of a collection into account. Questioning a journalist's research is a bold claim, especially if, as in this case, it's unsupported. Read one of Horyn's posts from her blog, On The Runway, and you'll find an intelligent assessment that shows a familiarity with industry history and a great ability to discuss clothing without falling too hard into industry jargon. The second quote is off-base as well, for anyone who has ever noted Horyn's subdued all-black wardrobe knows she's hardly one to let a "pretense of fashion" get in the way of her writing. And while she is condescending and harsh at times, she's hardly claimed her opinion to be better than everyone else's.
Gaga champions the rise of social media and blogging as the new forefront of fashion criticism, another truthful point that she lobbies in the wrong way. "The public is certainly not stupid," she says. "and as Twitter queen, I can testify that the range of artistic and brilliant intellectuals I hear from on a daily basis is staggering and inspiring." Ignorning the Twitter queen comment, blogs are great if they are well written, but Gaga seems to say that a fan with a witty Twitter is equal to an esteemed writer (she calls Tavi's StyleRookie "a prodigious and well-written blog" and "the future of journalism"). And doesn't it seem like she's charging Horyn, in a roundabout way, with thinking the public is stupid? Those are big words, ones Gaga should chew carefully before spitting out.
That's not to say Horyn is always fair; she's made enemies for a reason. Diving into her past posts, Horyn was at first a fan of the singer but began to change her tune in June, when she remarked in a post on the resort shows:
"In a week, I told myself, Lady Gaga’s vintage Versace studs (seen in her new “Edge of Glory” video) will be history. If that. 'Never be afraid to dream,' she tweeted to her followers, but I had already unfollowed, like a skiff breaking from its moorings. Goodbye!... As funny and as fresh as Gaga was in her speech at the recent CFDA awards, she looked embalmed in the black Versace harness (apparently from Gianni Versace’s final collection), and I don’t know why Donatella Versace said she was honored by Gaga’s selection, unless, of course, she thought she had to say something nice about the superstar. But a D.O.A. video doesn’t help the House of Versace. Be choosier, Ms. Versace."
Ouch. It was out of the blue on Horyn's part--her previous review of the CFDA awards was fairly neutral, and she's praised Gaga in the past--but she is entitled to change her mind. This apparently did not sit well with the very proud singer, and one wonders if this V post is a response to that not-so-nice commentary. Ms. Horyn's words, though acidic, are the result of careful thought and years in the industry, and those who may find themselves a subject of hers know to develop a thick skin. It would be a shame if Gaga allowed this to get to her, and it's disappointing that she directed this criticism at Horyn. Her thoughts are not wildly random; almost everyone in the fashion media industry is looking ahead to the future of writing. Gaga could have written a worthy article if only she directed it elsewhere and grounded her lofty claims.
What do you think? Is Gaga better off sticking to the music and leaving the writing to the pros? Or did Horyn deserve it?