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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Licentiate Column 23/09/10

It’s commonly thought that the world of fashion is a closed shop. Or at least it was up until 2007 or so, when blogging started to gain a foothold in the hearts and minds of fashion PRs. Fashion houses started to realise that they could get reams of free publicity and add to their cachet of cool by sending off new items to bloggers, who would style, shoot and publicise their wares, totally gratis and with a minimum of effort for said fashion house.
Blogging has been a phenomenon that has shaped and democratised the world of fashion beyond all expectations. Now, fashion shows can be streamed online, literally bringing New York to your home (and you don’t even have to change out of your PJs, let alone try to figure out the complicated subway system).
One of the happier effects of the trickle-down effect of blog influence is the willingness to offer bloggers a coveted media pass to various events, the Big Daddy being a Fashion Week. There are four main fashion weeks, which take place consecutively, twice a year, in New York, London, Milan and Paris. Yours truly was lucky enough to snag a pass to London Fashion Week.
Five years ago, you would have had to wait until next March to see pictures taken the year before. Now it’s instant. The media is saturated. And yet, fashion is still a closed shop. By that I don’t mean that it’s elitist, or populated by superficial and shallow people (even though it is, to an extent). I mean that Fashion Week is literally like wandering around a shop where the tills are closed. You can touch, but you can’t buy.
A bit more explaining is necessary. London Fashion Week is a double-edged blade. The first blow is dealt by an endless litany of fashion shows that drug the mind with images of so many beautiful girls wearing beautiful clothes, all strutting through the mind’s eye (or conversely, if they fall over in eleven-inch heels, on the cover of The Sun).
The second blade, the fatal blow is the Exhibition. Stalls, manned in some cases by the designers themselves, are weighed down with luxury goods, which you are encouraged to poke, prod and take pictures of. Everything is beautiful and there are no distasteful things such as price tags to distract you from your aesthetic overload.  And yet, I felt as if I was window shopping. Every time a PR came over and asked if they could help, I would nervously trill, “Just looking!”, as if they were trying to foist a massive, unwise, financially crippling sale upon me and then scuttle away like a crab with a bad credit rating.
This would inevitably result in odd looks. After hearing too many of my protestations, one woman said to me, “We know you’re just looking. We’re all looking”.
It was humiliating at the time, but on reflection it makes sense. The Exhibition is a great leveller. From Vogue editor to blogger alike; in the closed shop of fashion, at least all of us are window shopping.