Dear Suzy Menkes,………Have A Seat (And Not In The Front Row)

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Seaki Ashe‘, noted international freelance fashion designer, joins the debate concerning the blog that was made by Suzy Menkes on the ‘circus’ outside the shows, personal branding and the politics of preening for the cameras.

Now before I began my diatribe of of angst’Suzy Menkes, you are a crown jewel of the international fashion industry. Unlike the delicate relationship often shared between fashion houses and designers, with the fashion media and journalists. Menkes has a reputation within the fashion industry for being much loved by all for both her personality and her reviews of fashion shows, considered to be fair and balanced. A designer once refused to invite her to his show due to taking offense at some negative comments she had made in a previous collection review (though she did give positive comments as well). Many people in the industry rallied behind her and boycotted the designer’s show as a result until the situation was resolved. She is responsible for launching several careers in fashion, including successful handbag designer Pauric Sweeney. As a designer I have followed for career with a almost zealous interest, as you are one of the MOST sought after opinions that ACTUALLY matter in our ever versatile, beautiful industry, basically, WE as designer HEART you Suzy, we simply adore you. THAT being said,….have a seat in the dunce chair, as you are now on a 30 minute time out for being ‘self inflated’ and forgetting your ‘roots’ in this industry.

Writing in The International Herald Tribune last week, in a piece entitled “The Circus of Fashion,” respected fashion critic Suzy Menkes laments “the celebrity circus of people who are famous for being famous. They are known mainly by their Facebook pages, their blogs and the fact that the street photographer Scott Schuman has immortalised them on his Sartorialist web site.”

Menkes goes on to criticise bloggers, many of whom, she charged, accept “trophy gifts and paid-for trips” from brands, ignoring established journalistic ethics, and court the spotlight of Internet celebrity, while styling themselves as fashion critics. “There is something ridiculous about the self-aggrandisement of some online arbiters who go against the mantra that I was taught in my earliest days as a fashion journalist: “It isn’t good because you like it; you like it because it’s good.”

I have been in this industry for over 20+ years, working hard, ‘burning the midnight oil’ while maintaining my career in corporate fashion america. I am a ‘worker bee’ and I am very proud to hold that title, as I was called many years ago at a parisian fashion show gathering, ( I think the young man  was trying to insult me, he clearly did not understand americans, and the pride that we have for our work ethic). I UNDERSTAND Suzy’s frustration, as she is watching young  fashion ‘movers and shakers’ gather authority and power in an industry that is infamous for making one pay their dues. I stopped going to New York Fashion Week some years ago, not because the invites were not abundant, or the drinks were watered down, or the fashions marching down the runway did not sometimes move me to  standing ovations,…….I stopped going because it became TOO MUCH to deal with! The media circus outside the tents, the preening celebs and their ever growing entourages, the fickle, shallow attitudes that had NOTHING to do with the product being presented, it just became very wrong, and I silently excused myself from this important aspect of fashion networking. I instead would gather at after-parties or small,intimate cocktail parties held by designers to show my support and love for their hard work. That was my attitude for some time, and I carried this ‘fashion is shallow’ chip on my shoulder for a while, daring ANYONE to knock it off, as I would issue my opinions courtesy of a blistering tongue-lashing that would make a drunken sailor blush. Until last year, I was under the impression that fashion was ‘drowning in its own self delusions’ and I became a bitter creative in the industry. I was invited to a london show, everything was paid for, my sponsor was a design client and I was obliged, as I felt this was an aspect of trend forecasting. I walked up to the studio, where the show was to take place, and who stood before me, preening ‘un-knowns’ and annoying photogs that seem to accelerate an all ready  disfunctional show of improvised styles, looks, accessories,etc. Then suddenly, I tucked in my Louis man bag, sat down near a fountain, and began to watch this ‘dance of intentional,hopeful notoriety’.

Slowly, gently, I smile crept to my lips, as I eyed these impromptu style mavens. And then magic happened, one tear fell from my eye. I did not know it, but my heart, my spirit, the reason why I love and adore fashion,..was right there in front of me. Images of a young scared teen in  New York City, struggling through Parsons and holding a full time job. Midnights up sewing and preparing for my senior show, pounding the pavement for my first job, it all came flowing back to me, like a dam that had been blocked because of bitterness, self indulgence and self importance. Right before me, these young kids were reminding me WHY the love affair that I have with fashion will be a lifelong courtship, fashion is my ONLY TRUE love, and will be for the rest of my days.

Those moments, siting there, by that fountain, witnessing the emergence of new ‘style stars’,  I was born anew from that moment forward. In a generation where Youtube can make instant celebs that garner millions of views a day, we all live in a day and age where one can be a true overnight success just by uploading a video, why would fashion not follow this trend concerning instant stardom? I understand the frustration, as I too once felt the same way, but these kids are making our industry more inclusive. These days you are likely to see top bloggers, hob-nobbing with celebs of screen and publication on the front row of these shows, and in my opinion, thats the way it should be. These bloggers, with their infectious bylines and angled trend directions based on their personal likes and dislikes, have made fashion what it should have been a long time ago.

Fashion does not just belong to the wealthy hedge-fund babies, or the uber rich,cosmopolitan divorcees with huge amounts of disposable income, nor the snotty, fickle fashion periodical maven with her pursed lips, and ice cold demeanor,…..fashion belongs to ALL of us. These kids, posing in front of photographers, hoping to become the next big ‘style maestro’, with their imaginative, wonderfully inspired looks are what this industry is all about. I, for one, are now glad to see them as they remind me how precious this career choice is to me. So instead of glaring at our future fashion stars, offer support, sweep one up and let them sit with you on the front row or attend a RSVP private cocktail party. Watch the amazement in their eyes as they ‘soak it all in’, and as fashion veterans, let us find our youthful enthusiasm once again through them. We were once who they are, young, beautiful and very hopeful, and they will one day be who we are, wise and seasoned, but let neither cynicism nor self entitlement find any of us, its just not a good look.         

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15 responses »

  1. This article was refreshing. I do not see what the trouble is. I have been reading a lot about this issue sense last week. I think your viewpoint a lot of people can relate to. Your work is very beautiful as well. Good Job

  2. Brilliant commentary and agree almost 100%.I realize that the points you bring up are specifically targeted at Suzy Menkes and her recent comments.However she is not the only reporter that feels this way as in reading reports globally the last few weeks in various blogs,publications etc several others share the same thoughts as Suzy.

    • Thank you for your response. I always live by a rule of thumb, during my years in the fashion industry ” Play nice with the talent, if you don’t meet them on the way down, YOU WILL meet them on the way up, lets hope your NOT behind them”. In these deliciously unpredictable times concerning the internet/ cyber age where trends and fashion ideas can be sent across this world thrice, before I can take a sip of my dark with a shot of skim in the morning, one needs to “roll with the punches’. Instead of complaining about the shenanigans going on outside the design shows, incorporate this aspect of fashion, see it AS A PART of the overall experience. Create a few bylines that speak on the wonderful trends that are taking place with these kids, (I offer Trend Forecasting as a service, and about 54% of my forecasting comes from the wonderful imaginations of these young people, and surprisingly, the trends are ALAYS SPOT ON!) This is apart of fashion now, she and the other ‘fashion herd’ simply must deal with it, learn from it, envelope it , then do what Suzy does BEST,make it EVEN MORE fabulous. Lastly, I guarantee you this, some enterprising fashionista is going to find a way to incorporate the “street presence” (looks, trends,etc. along with the more structured shows in SOME TYPE of format and is going to make a MINT because its entertaining and will envelope ANYONE into the wonderful,zany world of fashion, (the duality that is going on at these shows is simply breath-taking I want to know the stories and lives behind many of these ‘shutter-flies’ what inspires them, what are their fav designers, etc…THEN you go into the designer shows)…..this is a golden opportunity for fashion to grow into something BRAND NEW and EXCITING! I smell a reality show that would make “Fashion Star” and “Project Runway” look silly and mundane. Thats my opinion 🙂

  3. Your incontinent drivel is depressing and is far from the truth. I attend the shows religiously, as I have several shops in london. The absurd mess that takes place during the shows is outlandish and in plain poor taste. Suz is correct and I whole-heartedly support her and her views. Sweep the shows clean of this trash, and lets get on with the business of presenting REAL fashion. Your blog reeks of liberalism and I dare say one of the reasons why the fashion industry is loosing its je ne sais quoi. Designers beware,If this situation is not rectified I will not be attending any of the shows and will keep my money in my pocket, I am very sure I am not the only one that feels this way.

    • :::Taking off ‘kid skin gloves’:::::: Really?,….:::reading your response once again:::::: Out of all the issues that you and the rest of the herd could speak on, you instead pontificate about young designers,unknown stylist and other fashion creatives that are simply trying to get their place in the sun, to get that big break that will shape their young careers. You don’t speak about the lack of ethnic models walking in the shows, portraying an increasingly xenophobic, racist outlook concerning the international standard of beauty. Your ‘pack of well dressed wolves’ complain about order of seating at these shows, being photographed sitting next to the ‘right person’, but you don’t say ANYTHING when 16 year olds are STILL being exploited for their youth in an increasingly sexualized manners, and even gloated as one of your ‘darlings’ told industry watch dogs that he could care less if he used an underaged model, ” If her parents say its ok, then who am I to say no?” ( Marc Jacobs anyone). We all should be discussing that lack of ethnic talent at these shows, how its nearly impossible to find investors if your skin color is a shade darker then a creme brule’, as they simply feel that it is not a good investment. People are ACTUALLY still afraid to back minority based talent, unless you are chinese or korean, as they feel many of you ‘know’ about fashion as you work in their sweatshops and dry clean many of their goods everyday, ( this is the “THINKING PROCESS of the biased attitudes that are prevalent by many in the industry, and its SICK!) The fashion industry has a herd of pink elephants in the room, stampeding, but instead many of rise on your haunches and complain vehemently about a creative process that is wonderfully dynamic, staring many of you right in your red ruddy face. I support this ‘fashion takeover’, this style coup d’état, slowly taking away the power from many of you that are selfish, ignorant and undeniably self imposed, drowning in your own misgiven authority. The very young people you are demeaning, many of them are seriously talented an many facets, and they will one day change this fashion world from the stale, bleary existence that it is, to bright, wonderful statements of audacious creativity, the way fashion is supposed to be, before people like YOU got involved. Face it, the world is changing drastically, attitudes are changing, views based on creativity are changing, all because the world is now smaller via the internet boom and other sophisticated technologies making it easier to share information faster than you can blink. Suze basically gave a ‘let them eat cake’ like statement, inferring that the news ways of doing business between designers and bloggers, stylist and other aspects of creativity is some how wrong,…..its getting in her way, inconveniencing her and somehow compromising her readership and ‘ethics’. The last time an irrelevant statement like this was made,..well we all know what happen.

  4. I have to admit out of all the views that I have seen about this issue, your views are fiery with a blatant in your face attitude. I feel like I am reading something written by a young Jean-Michel Basquiat, if he would have had a blog. I agree with you 1000%. I attend the european shows and find the action outside the shows much more entertaining and valuable concerning my business. I have even found 5 new designers for my stores in Los Angeles, and their products are selling very well. Its almost as if I have tapped into a new young pulse, and my business has benefited from it. Carry on, job well done!

    • OMG, and I thought I was the only one that felt that way. I feel like I am reading something brilliant, but rebellious just like Basquiat, RIP. What a wonderful marketing angle. The Basquiat of fashion blogs, rebellious and in your face! I adore it!

      • Thank you to the BOTH of you for your support. I am really a freelance fashion designer, more than a blogger, I blog to get my work out to more potential freelance clients. Here is a link to my online portfolio :http://fashiondesignernyc.prosite.com/

        Thanks Again 🙂

      • Seaki we have spoken about marketing and branding over lunch many times. I think this is a good idea. Will be talking to you during the week. Very good article BTW full of teeth and grit as usual.

    • Hell No,..but thank you.
      I am a vegetarian, I think people who wear fur are silly and cruel, and I prefer coach when I travel, unless its a flight over 7 hours. Ostentatious displays of wealth are gross and disgusting to me. Don’t get me wrong I love a good watch, ( ROLEX Daytona Oyster Watch Perpetual White), a well tailored suit, and beautifully hand made loafers, all coupled with my hair wrapped in a turban of the finest silks. I love things of luxury as long as they are timeless, well crafted and beautiful. I am a designer but I am NOT Bryan Boy but I do find his blogs entertaining and informative. There is more than enough room for all that have a viewpoint about style and fashion.

  5. Bravo well and honestly written! I recall when shows happpened in Paris or Italy. One knew it was a show but the show really started when one was seated or standing (in the back) with very limited then rather classic celebs attending and arriving and leaving nearly “icognito”. Now anyone who has the right marketing and PR can attend and show off their wares for a fee. It’s sad as many don’t really fit the image of the old quality brands.
    I know how it feels to really work for credibility and I am one of the many bees Designers having worked for Brands across the globe from famous to not so famous.
    I liked your webpage. I happened to be one of the early PC loving (Commodore, then in the 80s) Designer. It printed in 256colours. Hey who needs more than 12 unless one is Hermes or Leonard 🙂 The majority can’t or won’t afford more anyway. Allow me to put a link to my work that strutted it stuff without much glamor on many streets around the world. http://smu.gs/TvhdPL
    Greetings from Vancouver Canada to you over there in New York.

  6. You are so cool! I don’t think I’ve truly read through something like that before.
    So good to find somebody with a few unique thoughts on this issue.
    Really.. thank you for starting this up. This site is something that’s needed on the web, someone with a bit of originality!

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