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The 25 Best Fashion Stories We Read in 2014

From a model's firsthand account of working in China to the essay that defined #normcore, these were the stories that changed how we thought about fashion this year.
From Valentino's Sala Bianca 945 couture show at the Whitney Museum on Dec. 10. Photo: Fernanda Calfat/Getty Images

From Valentino's Sala Bianca 945 couture show at the Whitney Museum on Dec. 10. Photo: Fernanda Calfat/Getty Images

2014 was a good year for fashion journalism, all told. There was a significant changing of the established guard: Cathy Horyn, the former chief fashion critic of the New York Times, announced her departure in January, but continued to write landmark pieces for T and Harper's Bazaar; Vanessa Friedman was hired from the Financial Times to replace her, bringing, for the first time, daily updates to the Times's fashion coverage, and offering smart analysis on the sartorial messages being broadcast by politicians and other public figures; Suzy Menkes left the International New York Times for Vogue and joined Instagram, where she now offers an exceptionally up close look at the world of fashion and its celebrities; and Robin Givhan returned to the Washington Post. Many of the best online outlets for news of the fashion and beauty industries -- Business of Fashion,,, Racked -- upped both the quantity and quality of their coverage this year.

And there were, of course, the stories. The many designer and CEO changeups. The controversial departures of the CEOs of American Apparel and Abercrombie & Fitch (and less controversially, Gap). The luxury slowdown and the collective ailing of teen retailers. The rise of fashionable athleticwear and wearable tech, and the ubiquity of celebrity offspring on runways and in fashion ads. Oscar de la Renta's passing. The Kimye Vogue cover and wedding.

To commemorate the conclusion of 2014, we rounded up the 25 best stories we read this year. These were big-picture pieces that articulated subliminal shifts in the industry and made us rethink what we thought we knew, investigative stories that effectively rewrote fashion history, and personal essays that altered our thinking about fashion, shopping and beauty, and often made us laugh to boot. You'll notice there are a lot of Fashionista stories on this list -- and that's because, yes, we're biased.

"Sign of the Times" by Cathy Horyn/T
"Straightforward, commercial clothes used to be the antithesis of high fashion. Now, they are the benchmark."

"The Secret World of Fast Fashion" by Christina Moon/Pacific Standard
"Popularly known as “fast fashion,” this trend has inspired a great deal of media attention, but not many satisfying explanations as to how this huge shift came about, especially in the United States, and why it happened when it did."

"The Key to Selling an $800 Sneaker" by Hannah Karp/Wall Street Journal
"The shoes are stamped on the tongue with Made in Italy. Golden padlocks dangle from the ankle strap of each shoe; tiny keys are included. And in the year since they first went on sale, they have been out of stock far more often than they have been on shelves."

"My Life Working as a Model in China" by Meredith Hattam/Fashionista
"We’re sitting at a table in our train’s dilapidated dining car, somewhere on the border of Inner Mongolia, en route from Beijing to Chengdu, China -- a 30-hour commute. Sixteen-year-old Lana is quietly salting a hard-boiled egg. Eggs -- and only eggs -- are all she’ll eat for the next 10 days."

"Normcore: Fashion for Those Who Realize They’re One in 7 Billion" by Fiona Duncan/The Cut
"Sometime last summer I realized that, from behind, I could no longer tell if my fellow Soho pedestrians were art kids or middle-aged, middle-American tourists."

"The Camera-Wielding Boyfriends Behind Fashion's Most Famous Bloggers" by David Yi/Fashionista
"Among the top bloggers today, it is almost impossible to find a successful blog that does not have a boyfriend attached to the business."

"What Does It Really Take to Launch a Fashion Brand?" by Lauren Sherman/Fashionista
"Talent, yes. Connections, most definitely. But more than anything: a lot of money."

"The Value of Luxury Poseurs" by Paul Hiebert/New Yorker
"It’s the perpetual dilemma of the luxury brand: How do you sell more stuff without desecrating your name?"

"Michael Kors's Locked-Up Luxury" by Gina Bellafante/New York Times
"Over the past year, I have noticed on the subway during rush hour, or in less precious quarters of Brooklyn or the Bronx, or around community colleges and public housing complexes, that women, both young and middle-age, are often carrying Michael Kors handbags -- those from the designer’s midpriced line, which typically cost no more than a few hundred dollars."

"Fashion's Love of Python Comes at a Price" by Christina M. Russo/Fashionista
"The $1 billion python trade raises concerns about sustainability, illegality and animal welfare issues. The fashion industry is finally starting to confront these concerns -- but is it enough?"

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"Why Students Aren't Fighting Forever21" by Amy Merrick/New Yorker
"Student activism over labor conditions is noticeably quieter than it used to be."

"How Celebrity Designer Tory Burch Created Her Hit Reva Ballet Flats" by Teri Agins/Wall Street Journal
"Tory Burch, one of Manhattan’s most stylish socialites, turned her patrician lifestyle into the aspirational brand of the moment. In less than a decade Ms. Burch has pole-vaulted ahead of the likes of Marc Jacobs and others to become a billion-dollar-a-year fashion empire of more than 136 boutiques world-wide."

"Why Are Women Still Paying Exorbitant Prices to Shave Their Legs?" by Cheryl Wischhover/Fashionista
"I am never buying name brand razors again."

"Lulule-men: The Activewear Giant Reveals Its Plan to Woo Dudes" by Chavie Lieber/Racked
Lululemon may have a solid footing in the women's fitness world, but gathering more dudes isn't so simple. They've got the product down pat, as many Lulule-men can attest, but when it comes to marketing, Lululemon is facing an identity crisis: While they sell apparel for both genders, the stores themselves are widely seen as just for the ladies."

"Girl Crush: Why the Lesbian and Queer Women Community Is Fashion's Major Blind Spot" by Tyler McCall/Fashionista
"Why aren't there more openly queer women in the fashion industry?"

"A True Gentleman" by Bridget Foley/WWD
One must cast a vast net to encompass all of the lives Oscar [de la Renta] has touched.

"Can Rebekka Bay Fix the Gap?" by Susan Berfield/Businessweek
"[Rebekka] Bay is a 44-year-old Danish fashion designer who had never worked in America until October 2012, when she joined Gap, the once-celebrated brand that had been disappointing Americans for years."

"Prince William and Kate Try to Seem Normal" by Vanessa Friedman/New York Times
"While it may seem paradoxical, the Windsors’ clothes, in their absolute boringness, made a serious statement."

"How 'It' Items Go In -- and Out -- of Fashion" by Stephanie Trong/Fashionista
"Outside of just generally being original and unique, there’s a strange alchemy that launches certain pieces -- Birkenstocks, Céline bags, Isabel Marant wedge sneakers -- into the trend stratosphere."

"Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries is Out, but How Bad Has it Gotten, Really?" by John Jannuzzi/GQ
"Not that long ago, wearing Abercrombie & Fitch felt like being a member of an exclusive club."

"How Mixing Data And Fashion Can Make Rent The Runway Tech's Next Billion Dollar Star" by Steven Bertoni/Forbes
"Rent The Runway’s Jennifer Hyman hooked millennials on catch-and-release couture, but the logistics platform she built is sophisticated enough to dominate the sharing economy."

"Are Fakes Back in Fashion?" by Lauren Sherman/Fashionista
"After years of counterfeit-shaming, some fashion followers are ignoring what’s politically correct and going for what’s affordable: the age-old knockoff."

"Makeup to Women: Apply Yourself" by Elizabeth Holmes/Wall Street Journal
"In the beauty world, the product is largely the packaging, and makeup applicators are now the most critical element. "

"How 'It' Girls Became the Fashion Industry's Biggest Moneymakers" by Alyssa Vingan/Fashionista
"Whether or not you know what they 'do,' it doesn't matter. They still sell clothes."

"Are Menswear Editors Having More Fun?" by Tyler McCall/Fashionista
"Sitting front row at Todd Snyder's first runway show in September, I couldn't help but notice that the mood was distinctly lighter than at the women's shows. People were chatting excitedly, laughing, even smiling as looks came down the runway — it was a refreshing change. "