The fashion world can be a bit of a bitch. Its well-heeled citizens are prone to outbursts and blow-outs and don’t hold back from slagging off their fellow rag-traders. Earlier this year, things got ugly when some designers reacted badly to negative press. It was personal and it was bitchy and the gloves most certainly came off. Who’s to blame? You decide… Here are our three absolute favourite fashion cat fights of the year. Mee-ow.
Respected fashion journalist Cathy Horyn writes for the just-as-respected New York Times and everyone who’s anyone knows she doesn’t mince her words. That said, most industry figures know well enough to value her judgement. She was in top form earlier in 2012 when she reviewed Oscar de la Renta‘s latest fashion show in New York, saying he was “far more a hot dog than an éminence grise of American fashion.” It was enough to put a dent in the designer’s ego, who took out a one-page ad in Women’s Wear Daily the next day to condone her. In his open letter to Horyn, he came up with a lovely comparison: “I respect and accept criticism because in many ways it does help us develop; I try to make my work better each time. What I do not accept is when criticism is personal. If you have the right to call me a hot dog why do I not have the right to call you a stale 3-day old hamburger? My advice to you is to abstain from personal criticism. Professionals criticize the clothes, not the people.” So what will it be today, dahhling? A juicy hot dog or stale burger? And who said fashion folks never eat? Horyn was not impressed with de la Renta‘s letter, and told Fashionologie she thought the ad was “a little over-the-top”.
One designer who clearly doesn’t appreciate Horyn‘s war of words is Hedi Slimane, the newly appointed artistic director of Saint Laurent Paris. He took exception to the runway pundit’s review of his first show for the French house and slapped a scathing letter up on Twitter, calling her “a schoolyard bully and also a little bit of a stand-up comedian”, adding he reckoned the critic’s sense of style was “seriously challenged”. In fact, Horyn had not been invited to the Saint Laurent show, thanks to a grudge that went way back: “I was not invited. Despite positive reviews of his early YSL and Dior collections, as well as a profile, Mr. Slimane objected bitterly to a review I wrote in 2004 – not about him but Raf Simons. Essentially I wrote that without Mr. Simons’s template of slim tailoring and street casting, there would not have been a Hedi Slimane – just as there would never have been a Raf Simons without Helmut Lang. Fashion develops a bit like a genetic line.” Slimane‘s attack went further, denouncing Horyn‘s seemingly biased support of Raf Simons at Dior and refusing to invite her to any of his next shows “In conclusion, and as far as I’m concerned, she will never get a seat at Saint Laurent, but might get 2 for 1 at Dior. She should rejoice. I don’t mind critics (sic) but they have to come from a fashion critic, not a publicist in disguise. I am quite mesmerized she did get away with it for so many years.” Horyn replied to Slimane‘s tweet in a few words, describing it as “silly nonsense.”
The fashion business is all about inflated egos and insecurities to match. Apart from the Horyn episode, Saint Laurent was busy upsetting others this year by withholding invitations, trying to control reviews and basically not giving respect were respect was (felt to be) due. Still trying to figure out who I’m on about? Imran Amed, who runs the successful Business of Fashion, decided to publish an email sent by Saint Laurent‘s PR team in which he was asked to edit one of his tweets because they were not happy with his “tone of voice”. When Amed refused to comply, he was met with a nastier email stating that the company would no longer “collaborate on any kind of project in the future.” His feature, aptly named “A Wake-up Call for YSL’s PR Team” created a major buzz, with more than 1,400 tweets and 4,000 Facebook likes. Such reactions raise interesting questions about transparency and the inner workings of a high-pressure industry like this one. Could it be the end of brand dictatorship as we know it? Let’s see how we all get on in 2013…