Thanks Ivania for reposting this The Business of Fashion article by Colin McDowell describing, though not really lamenting, the demise of the professional/academic fashion critic.
People seem surprised by his opinion, but I would think McDowell is almost uniquely qualified to comment on this given the slew of large, academic books on the history of fashion he has published while maintaining a journalistic career writing for, e.g. 10 Magazine or The Sunday Times.
And since everyone's a critic, it's time for my not-so-humble opinion.
Like the audiences of the Greek storytellers or the Vaudeville theatre-goers he mentions in his first paragraph, I think that the fate of designers now must be decided by their public, not so much by the show-going journalists in Paris nor the jaded academician in his/her office at Parsons. So many collections lauded by critics have flopped when it comes to sales, their designers quickly ditched by the companies which have almost inevitably bought them out. Conversely, we see many brands succeed which no reputable journalist would ever praise for their artistic merit – Juicy Couture, anyone?
Fashion, probably more so than any other field of applied Art & Design, is quite clearly a business first. If you can't generate the funds, you can't keep producing collections. While receiving praise from a well-known fashion critic might warm the heart of a young designer, if I were them, I'd prefer to hear from some from happy customers and see them looking beautiful in the clothes I design.
The internet is full of voices – the academic, the professional, the artist, the consumer, the fanatic and the wannabe. When it comes to the ones I want to read, I tend towards those of the people who actually wear the collections. After all, they are best positioned to tell me about cut, fit, fabric quality, and sizing. And with blogs, they can inspire you to wear an item in a totally different way (as with magazine photo-editorials). Not many of us are going to go for the full runway look, essentially the only message sent to us by the brand. Since I am not particularly interested in fashion from a historical perspective more so than I am any other field, I find a lot of published criticism at its best tedious and at its worst what McDowell calls “unreadable piffle”. Perhaps I'd find it more interesting if the authors shared their knowledge (!) about the design and craft behind a collection rather than regurgitating the press release we've all been emailed anyway. Negative opinions also wouldn't go amiss, otherwise the reader has no idea that critical faculties have been activated at all.
The wannabe in any case – that person who posts endless photos of disparate collections he/she never wears (presumably commenter 'Dan', who doesn't even have time to watch a 10 minute runway video and prefers a one-paragraph synopsis describing ~50 looks, falls into this category) – yours is the opinion most irrelevant. I'd defend your right to voice it, but I wouldn't encourage anyone to read it.
These are just a few thoughts jotted down in a rush this morning before I start work...apologies if they're a tad incoherent! I'd love to hear what you think about this, particularly from a designer's perspective.