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Why a Newspaper Columnist Goes to Fashion Week

The Wall Street Journal's Christina Binkley on staying active on Twitter and second-guessing herself.
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Christina Binkley. Photo: Wall Street Journal

Christina Binkley. Photo: Wall Street Journal

Thousands of people attend fashion week every season, but why do they go? Does their job require them to be there? What are they looking for? We seek to answer these questions in a series of short profiles leading into New York Fashion Week. Next up: Author and Wall Street Journal fashion columnist Christina Binkley.

What does your job entail day-to-day and how does fashion week factor into that?

It’s a lot depending on the time of year so during collections -- the fall and spring shows and haute couture -- I sort of put on my more of a reviewer hat; I don’t review everything I see but I travel to the shows and kind of do that 24/7 for the duration and writing about trends and whatnot. During the rest of the year I sort of follow my nose and I try to be very consumer-friendly, so I’m looking for concepts to write about that are new and fresh but also very much directed at the regular populous, not the trade, but the regular person on the street who needs to get dressed every day.

How does being a fashion writer at a non-fashion publication influence how you approach fashion week coverage?

I think it keeps me grounded; I haven’t always been a fashion journalist, I’ve been a journalist and I [wrote] about other things before I came to fashion. Both the fact that I don’t live in New York, I live in Los Angeles, and that I write for a publication that is not full of fashion experts yanks me back. If I start talking about how influential Nicolas Ghesquiere’s belts last collection were, I’m going to be be met with some glazed stares by my editors and I may even have to tell them who Nicolas Ghesquiere is, so it keeps it real for me.

How do you decide what shows to go to? What are you looking for while you're out and about?

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I wish I could attend more actually; New York Fashion Week makes me especially crazy because I can’t see enough. We’d all have to clone ourselves six times. It’s a little bit different in New York; the decision-making is a little easier in Europe because there aren’t as many shows, but I’ve got three radars out. One, the really big important labels -- I want to know what they’re doing and I’m going to go just because it’s really important to know what’s on their runways, but I’m also looking for some consistency, so I don’t want to just flit around and see different designers every season, I want to get to know them, so often I’ll go and see something several seasons in a row just to see the flow of what’s going on with that label. And there are people I use whose guidance I can rely on to sort of inform me about new, upcoming designers and that’s always fun for me. Sometimes they’ll be tiny little labels that are struggling to show, but there’s a designer that’s really got a unique perspective and I just love to go out and find those gems.

How much do you write during fashion month? Is it more than other times of the year?

I still have my weekly column and during the rest of the year I write about arts and culture and for WSJ magazine when I have time, but during fashion week, I feel like I’m a writing factory. So I have the column, I may have other stories that come up, producing stuff for online and even the Twitter and Instagramming I’m doing, I take that very seriously as part of my coverage.

Yeah I've noticed you're very active on Twitter.

I really enjoy Twitter, I get impatient with people who start getting panicky about how all people write about is what they had for breakfast, I find it really lively conversation. I meet all kinds of really cool people and I couldn’t imagine going back to pre-Twitter days.

Back to your coverage for the Journal, how do you decide if something is a story and worth writing about?

That’s kind of a gut feeling. If I'm really excited about something I’ve seen or somebody’s told me something that really surprised me, that’s a signal that I want to be writing about it. The truth is that one of the most frustrating things I do, possibly the most frustrating thing that I do every season, is sit down with a column where I want to sort of wrap up what happened in a particular fashion week and there’s never enough space to write about everything, so it’s editing and culling through what’s most important. It’s painful, I do a lot of second-guessing of myself.