We wanted to share an excerpt from the Tom Ford profile in the most recent issue of Interview Magazine regarding the famed designer’s return to women’s fashion. Below are our respective thoughts on the article.
“Tom Ford’s Spring 2011 womenswear collection, presented at Ford’s Manhattan store to a select few journalist, editors, and fashion world heavies, was the biggest show of the season that you never saw, partly because Ford decided to mark his return to dressing the female form as a way of protesting the current state of the industry: fashion as impersonal, aggressive, and aloof; fashion as playing to the critics instead of the customers; fashion as instantly accessible via the internet to a global audience that obsesses over trends without ever experiencing the quality, the complexity, and the refinement of the clothes themselves.”
-John Currin – Interview Magazine – Feb. 2011
As a pseudo fashion blogger and advocate of nearly everything that this little Web 2.0 thing claims to be about, I find Ford’s argument about the internet’s role in the current state of fashion absurd.
The advent of blogging and people’s ability to access anything digital with the click of a button has democratized just about every modern industry in some way. Fashion is no exception. Instead of haughty designers pushing their ideas to the masses, the masses are pulling what they want out of brands thanks to, in no small part, blogs and social media. What Mr. Ford fails to realize is that in his short absence from fashion, the consumer has undergone a metamorphosis and become the critic. They’re now one and the same thanks to the power that the internet has in giving everyone a voice, and a loud one at that. Trends are no longer inspired by brand directed advertising, but by a person’s favorite fashion blog or the Facebook photo album of a friend they find particularly sartorially inclined. I simply can’t help but think that Ford closing off his collection to the blogosphere because he’s pissed that anyone on the internet can judge his pieces without experiencing them first is illogical. Does he not plan to show images of his collection on his website? Well, so much for the shenanigans over at http://www.TomFord.com.
Am I writing this out of some deep seeded resentment towards Ford for initially hiding his Spring women’s collection from me via self inflicted internet censorship? No. Frankly, I don’t care enough about womenswear to be genuinely upset about these circumstances. However, I felt it necessary to highlight a gaping hole in this designer’s theory of online behavior and practice.
I wonder what blogger and “Fashion Industry Heavy” Scott Schuman thinks about this.
As an artist, I view the internet as being a bit of a double-edged sword. As a musician, I am now able to have my music available for sale in one of the biggest stores in the world, iTunes, within a week of recording it. There is no longer the need to rely on a record company for the distribution aspect of being a working musician. Additionally, clever musicians can even use the internet as a tool to market themselves, further diminishing the need for a major recording contract. Still, I cannot help but think that in many ways the internet has cheapened art. Who needs to buy a song when you can listen to it on YouTube repeatedly? Why buy art for your walls when you spend more time staring at your computer’s background image? People are investing less and less in all aspects of art, because by making everything so readily available online, we’ve made it so readily disposable offline.
This is troubling not just in the music and film industries, but in fashion as well. Tom Ford seems to be struggling with the notion that bloggers and hipsters have a loud voice online when it comes to critiquing the latest trends and offerings. These voices were always there and they were always criticizing poor design, the criticisms were just isolated and well out of Tom Ford’s earshot. This isn’t unique to fashion, but literally every aspect of our culture. Instead of following a favorite food reviewer’s column, we now follow our Yelp friends that have similar tastes to our own. Popular film website Rotten Tomatoes offers two scores, that of the critics and that of the everyday viewers. So what is the difference, then, and why is Tom Ford so upset? Because it seems people aren’t truly experiencing fashion, at least not in the manner he sees best.
Someone writing a film review for a movie they have seen is appropriate, but why would we trust the opinion of someone who hasn’t even seen the picture? Often fashion journalists are critiquing garments they haven’t touched, felt or even seen in person. We’re guilty of that here at Rum Cake as well. I’ve positively reviewed garments that I thought looked sharp from promotional images, and criticized pieces that I thought looked awful. Truth be told, maybe the image of the Opening Ceremony desert boots in Nylon was a poor representation of the shoe, and if I had the chance to see them in person I might become a fan. Online journalism, particularly in the context of fashion, seems to be almost entirely about visuals, and why not? We’re dressing more and more for how an outfit will look in our Facebook pictures and less and less for the people we actually see in real life.
Ford seems to trust that journalists, when given the opportunity to see his work in person, will become powerful brand ambassadors and spread the good word to the rest of us. In Ford’s eyes, the further disconnected from the physical product, the less worthy the review. As an artist I can see some truth to this, but the reality is that the internet is not going to disappear, and there are a lot of wonderful things that have come out of fashion blogging. Making your clothing line even further disconnected from fashion enthusiasts just seems like a really backwards solution to the problem.