The Power and Politics of High Fashion Twitter - Fashionista

High Fashion Twitter would like to inform you that it is stylized as 'hf twitter,' because lowercase is chic.

As a whole, this online subculture of fashion fanatics is easily identifiable: mood boards of "It" girls, threads on threads of niche fashion knowledge, endless commentary about the inner workings of the industry. No one loves — or hates — fashion as much as hf twitter. 

This often overzealous community freely and frequently discusses the ins and outs of the industry. The emphasis here is on "freely," as hf twitter speaks openly, candidly about what they like and what they dislike (heavy emphasis on dislike). Not that they're asking for permission, but hf twitter has been vocal about issues like body diversity and runway representation in ways you don't always see from the actual industry. 

While it may be easy to conflate hf twitter with a collective that only values aesthetic, Orion Carloto's Instagrams and "The Devil Wears Prada," what this community is actually doing is cultivating a virtual space that is both honest and progressive: A viral post from hf twitter can bring attention to white-washing, theft, sexual abuse, greenwashing and more issues in a digestible, shareable form — like what Diet Prada has done on Instagram, leveraging its online position as an industry watchdog IRL. Think, a designer selling "ethically-sourced" spine purses, or fast-fashion sites ripping off brands

But who's behind hf twitter? Some of the most vocal members of the community aren't strictly fashion-industry people. That's what allows them to speak so freely online. hf twitter operates with the understanding that when you love something, you must hold it accountable. That applies not only to the fashion itself but to the people and policies behind it. 

"There's a lack of an impartial, genuine critique of what goes on in the fashion industry," says Samantha Haran, the law school student behind @DECOUTURIZE, citing how a publication reviewing a collection might be swayed by a brand's advertiser status or by a desire to maintain a positive relationship with a house. "It's usually just a valueless commentary on references or a regurgitation of the show notes" 

Haran explains the role of hf twitter, in classic hf twitter speak: "None of us are being paid, so we are free to talk as much shit as we'd like to. You serve a bad collection, we will serve you the critique it deserves." 

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hf twitter is not for the faint of heart. Some of the issues most often discussed — and for which brands are called out — are representation, sustainability and accountability. What industry decision-makers are willing to overlook or fail to address, hf twitter is not. And like any good avenger (granted, one wearing the avatar of early-'90s Kate Moss), they come with receipts. And no one, no matter how popular or widely beloved, is exempt. 

Ryan Michael, known as @lovvverboyyy on twitter, brings up how, out of a collection with over 100 looks, Hedi Slimane's latest runway had only six models of color; or how Guo Pei's most recent couture showing featured an all-white cast; or how in its "Black is Back" issue ("name is problematic in itself," he notes), Vogue Germany still managed to mix up Naomi Chin Wing with Janaye Furman. "All of these are a result of a lack of diversity behind the scenes and a lack of diversity in the board rooms," he says. 

But navigating hf twitter can be complicated. Like any online space, it mirrors practices from the real world. hf twitter has been criticized for promoting eating disorders and glorifying eurocentrism in its posts. And, in some instances, it's been guilty of the very behaviors it calls out. 

Ray Lani, @margielawhore on Twitter, says that "[hf twitter] definitely could be described as a microcosm of the wider fashion industry: namely, building on the work laid by black creatives," citing how many of the vintage runway photos that are circulated among the community can be traced back evilrashida on Tumblr, without credit. "The fashion industry does the same and has excluded black creatives or labels them 'urban', only to steal their designs and make them digestible for white audiences." 

Scrolling through hf twitter can, at times, feel alienating (or exclusionary, as one recent debate on the timeline showed). But among the big players in this space, there's also a genuine earnestness in wanting to educate their peers about fashion and its impact. 

Chalukya Samarawickrama — AKA @balenciogre — explains how, "ever since joining hf twitter, I have learned so much about the industry, the histories and stories of designers, photographers and stylists that I had not known before. I have met so many lovely people who have also inspired and motivated me to work harder in my studies at university, where I study BA Menswear at UAL London College of Fashion. They have helped me explore alternative ways to create garments with reusing and recycling and using vintage fabrics, [for example.] They have also helped me grow as a person and are some of the most honest people I have come to know." 

Like fashion itself, hf twitter is not perfect. There is, however, a willingness to adapt and grow among the community, which is more than can be said for some of the other corners of the internet. 

"It's strange because there's an underlying sensation of 'stan culture' — all of us, talking about the brands that we love and love to hate, having favorites, having beef, etc. But at the same time, a lot of the people I talk to on hf twitter are really, genuinely making huge strides of their own in the industry. So in a way, it is nothing like stan twitter at all," says Haran. 

What is perhaps the most exciting about the cultivation of hf twitter is how many of them are ready to enter the fashion forces in due time (many are still in school), bringing with them a fearlessness to rock the boat that's long overdue. But in the meantime, sure as Blair Waldorf loves headbands, hf twitter will continue to prove itself as a staple of the fashion world, one that is leading the way for a new, more honest chapter. 

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