Obsolete or Elite?: Does the Work of a Fashion Critic Even Matter Anymore?

RIP to another fashion tradition?~

Fashion is always changing, this much we know is true. Lately, the most major trend in fashion is a total makeover of the industry. This includes revamping show models, hiring magazine editors in place of designers and replacing models with influencers. It seems age-old fashion traditions are getting the boot and could the fashion critic be next?

A fashion critic’s job is to communicate an assessment and an opinion on the industry, or, as well-known critic Robin Givhan puts it, “to report the news of the industry and look at it with a critical eye.” New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman has said her job also includes “helping” designers “see objectively”—but, let’s face it, designers are going to do what designers are going to do.

For example, Cathy Hyron’s review on the new Dior — under Maria Chiuri — stated that it “does not surprise at a level you expect” yet her debut collection has been sweeping Spring 2017 editorials as well as red carpets. Designer offerings happen, and are going to continue to happen, no matter what a critic says. Then, of course, there’s the rise of the digital age. In a time so overrun by social media—where everyone has an opinion and a platform to give said opinion globally—does the fashion critic even matter anymore?

Once upon a time, when fashion shows were exclusively shown to press and buyers, the fashion critic’s role made a lot of sense. Today, everyone has access to front row coverage even if they’re not in the same country the show is located in. However, social media isn’t the only platform to credit for the easy access. What about sites like NowFashion giving us real time images? Or brands providing their own livestream fashion shows? And don’t forget bloggers. Bloggers—the sore in every fashion journalists side—are caught in the best pieces of every collection via street style photos while curating their own looks posted on their influential websites. These style shots and digital offerings generate much more for a brand than runway reviews do. Fashion’s latest generation of fans are more visual.

People are reading less and going out more.

So where does the traditional fashion critic fit in in this new era of fashion? I mean, they can’t be completely irrelevant, a lot of them are still hired. Well, they do generate a lot of buzz for newcomers. I, for one, paid close attention to the word of critics when young designer Rosie Assoulin made an incredible breakout during the Resort 2014 season. When it comes to newbies, the word of fashion critics are strong though not entirely relevant. 

With bloggers, social media and general digital inclusiveness, who knows if the fashion critic will be around much longer. At this point aren’t we all fashion critics anyway?

Renée Bu, Managing Editor


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