When blogs go bad
It's inevitable that the bigger a blog gets, at some point it's going to start to suck. Case in point: Gawker. Another blog I loved when it first came out was Fashionista, which had a fun mix of DIY tips, insider scoops, and profiles of indie designers. Ever since founding editor Faran Krentcil left, however, it's started to go downhill. The post that really annoyed me was this one announcing the death of Yves Saint Laurent, particularly the part about his shoes. Really, the shoes? Of all the wonderful things we can thank YSL for--pants, leopard print, taking women out of 1950s prissy looks--they chose to talk about the shoes? Which, if we want to get technical (and I do), were not designed by YSL himself but by current designer Stefano Pilati who is, in fact, alive. And while I'm at it, the rest of the offending sentence--"We never met him"--is perhaps just as bad. Of course you've never met him; even Alicia Drake, who wrote the wonderful book The Beautiful Fall, about YSL's rivalry with Karl Lagerfeld, couldn't get an interview with him. After five years of trying. But I digress.

One of Fashionista's more controversial series of posts is the "Adventures in Copyright" series; what started out as legitimate--Diane von Furstenberg and Anna Sui have both sued Forever 21 over prints which, like logos, are legally protected in the United States--eventually devolved into calling out high-street stores (Forever 21, Topshop, and Baker's Shoes are frequent targets) for knocking off designer goods. Fashionista's official stance is that we shoppers shouldn't buy knockoffs, because they don't protect designers' ingenuity; instead, they think we should support innovation by buying original designs. This credo, while noble (and in line with the CFDA), is, if you ask me a bit idealistic. Clothing and shoe designs cannot be copyrighted in the U.S. because they are functional, utilitarian items (essential to life, if you will). True, the CFDA is working to change this law, but I think considering the current economic climate, they don't have a prayer. Also, aside from opening a Pandora's Box of lawsuits, challenging the law would, in a way, be challenging our Capitalist system. Now, there are many aspects of Capitalism that drive me crazy (the exorbitant amount of money I pay for my health insurance comes to mind; the Bush administration invoking it for justifying their cronyism is another), but, really, where do you draw the line? Can Levi's claim ownership of blue jeans? What about Chanel and the little black dress? See what I mean?

So, along those lines, came today's post written by a intern, called Would you wear a knock-off? I suggest reading the post itself for the full effect, but, basically, the writer had a drink with a friend and called out the friend on her knockoff YSL tribute shoes and knockoff YSL Mondrian dress (the former from Baker's shoes, the latter from Forever 21). The friend--gasp!--not only admitted they were knockoffs but showed no remorse in buying them; after all, it's not like she could afford the originals (especially since a true YSL Mondrian dress like this one would most likely be found only in a museum or, if you could possibly find one at auction, would probably cost upwards of $100,000. The Tribute sandals are $760). The writer was appalled.

Now, first things first. If a friend wrote a trite, judgmental post like this about me--especially in a public forum like a widely-read fashion blog--I would probably never talk to them again. That said, the writer is clearly stuck in a fashion-world bubble. Yes, many people buy knockoffs without realizing they're a cheaper version of something a higher-end designer created first, but many other people--myself included--buy knockoffs knowing full well that they are what they are. (Note: I am talking about derivatives, not counterfeits, which are illegal--as I said earlier, logos and prints are copyright-protected--not to mention tacky.) First of all, most people who can afford $800 shoes aren't going to be buying the $80 version, and, likewise, those who are buying the $80 version probably cannot even begin to dream of affording the $800 version (and if they can, so what? They can choose to spend their money however they want). Just because people choose to spend less on fashion doesn't mean they should be excluded from wearing the season's trends. And as I noted earlier, we are a capitalist society; the same principles that allow Bakers to create a lookalike (but most likely inferior) product for a tenth of the price also allow big designers to be compensated accordingly. Take, for example, the often-ripped-off Marc Jacobs; you can read about his multimillion-dollar art collection and his Left Bank apartment here. And while we're on the topic of Marc Jacobs, yes, he's truly an innovative designer (and one of my most admired), but, by god, he's a knockoff artist himself--everyone from Claude Montana to Halston has shown up as an influence on his runway, which leads me to my final point. There's no way that fashion-copyright protection laws can be enacted, because not only do mass-market retailers knock off high-end designers, but high-end designers knock off each other. And vintage! And street fashion! Pot calling the kettle black, people!

So, back to the original point of my post, which is that Fashionista has gone downhill, and now they've managed to alienate a large percentage of their readers with today's post (if you don't believe me, read the 150-odd comments--a Fashionista record). I will probably keep reading it, just so that I don't miss something important, but, ugh, begrudgingly so.


eeps. said...

i totally agree. fashionista used to be fun but since faran left (and even towards the end of her tenure) i thought it got elitist, esp. with the incessant name dropping and event dropping. i still read it everyday but i do it out of habit, not because it's a pleasure.

Anonymous said...

cheers to this!

the sad part – today's traffic will help them... ugh is right.

Sara said...

Thank you for this post. Fashionista was my "gateway drug" into the world of fashion blogs and I really enjoyed it for a time. It decreased markedly in quality after Faran left. The posts became increasingly vacuous, lacking insight and perspective. I gave it up.