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Spring trend report
Fashioning the Internet
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Last year we saw the revival SHEER FABRICS
of the '80s, and this.spring Christian Dior's Spring 2008
will recall a more bohe- Ready-to-Wear collection ranged
mian vibe from the '70s. Runway from menswear-inspired piec-
shows have displayed a mature es to ultra feminine dresses.
approach to the free and casual Regardless of the particular style,
style of the decade, with flowers sheer fabrics were used for but-
and fresh colors adorning almost ton-down shirts, tunics and sun-
every look. To convey the liber- dresses to soften each silhouette.
ated feel that's synonymous with Vivienne Westwood took this
the decade, sheer fabrics and trend to the extreme by draping
safari styles have been incorpo- her models in fishnet and tulle.
rated into designers' themes. But The combination resulted in mer-
variety remains key: classic pant- maid-esque models looking like
suits with high waists are as fash- they'd been caught in fishing nets.
ionable as neon mini-dresses. Sheer fabrics allow for an imagi-
native and playful tone that few
BRIGHT COLORS other textures can mimic.
The Spring 2008 runway
shows reflect the sunny outlook
of a "Candyland" of fashion, with
bright colors popping up every-
where you look. Designer Phillip
Lim (of 3.1 Phillip Lim) had mod-
els walking down the runway in
jackets and dresses in contrast-
ing tropical colors ranging from
melon to turquoise. Similarly,
designer Diane von Furstenberg
chose jewel tones, like sapphire
and emerald, to transform blous-
es and skirts paired with neutrals
to create balance. Design compa-
ny Etro's runway showed equilly
colorful inspiration: The standard
for achieving a bohemian look
- with layers upon layers - was
updated by pairing bright dresses
with even brighter jackets.
OFF THE SHOULDER
Think of this as a modernist
take on the toga: Whether tied at
the shoulder or held together with
stoned brooches - which were
the accessory on spring runways
- this trend is the epitome of
effortless style. Easy to capture on
the shoestring budget of any col-
lege student, mainstream.stores
(like Victoria Secret) have built
several pieces using this shape.
An off-the-shoulder look allows
for flexibility with the rest of an
outfit because it won't necessarily
overpower other style elements
like bold colors or patterns. And if
chosen carefully, the right shoul-
der cut can be paired with almost
any waist-down shape.
Designer Zac Posen's runway
show told the story of a young
woman who began her day on
the sidewalks of New York City
and was transported to a safari in
Africa. Posen included shirtdresses
in khaki tones along with button-
downs paired with cargo shorts.
For a slightly different take on the
casual safari look, Lanvin's Alber
Elbaz brought the spirit of ani-
mal life into his clothing. Feathers
adorned many of his dresses, with
one sporting a fully-feathered bod-
ice. The voluminous train of his
longer dresses gave models a fluid,
feline walk that translates to a sexy
stroll. Both designers accessorized
their looks with chunky beaded
necklaces constructed mostly from
wood and leather belts with promi-
HIGH WAIST/WIDE LEG
This style continues into the
spring and summer seasons and
can be worn either dressy or casual.
Several looks coming down Dior's
runway had pants in this style,
ranging in fabric and color, paired
with racer-back tanks and suspend-
ers (a combination that we'll most
likely see Fall 2008, too). Dolce &
Gabbana created pants in materials
like faux crocodile and denim with
the silhouette, shifting from the
heavier wool fabrics we usually see
during winter months.
From Page 3B
a collection and her comments. It
creates a forum for public discus-
sion where as many as 80 com-
ments provide discussion and
debate based on the merits of a
Horyn asks, however, what this
immediate accessibility does to the
fashion world and the luxury goods
industry. Is it luxury if everyone
can have it? Fashion is constantly
hovering between the public and
private spheres. In her writing,
Horyn tries to maintain a balance
between the two. She believes it's
most important in her line of work
to understand all aspects of the
industry - including the financial
and business sides - to gain a more
"(Fashion is a) bitchy, tough
business, full of smart people," she
said. And it's important to know
what you're talking about.
- such hints will surely ring famil-
iar for those interested in fashion
culture. And New York Times fash-
ion critic Cathy Horyn dropped the
names of these largely enigmatic designers
without the slightest bit of pretension at a
lecture last Friday hosted by the Museum
of Contemporary Art Detroit. Horyn spoke
about the fashion industry as a whole,
focusing on the work of Comme des Gar-
cons designer Rei Kawakubo, whose work is
currently on display at the museum.
These designers are the characters in the
narrative that this fashion insider weaves
into her Times critiques and runway blog.
To Horyn, though, they're more than just
characters - they're artists. They're real
people and her close acquaintances. None-
theless, neither friendship nor personal
admiration factor into Horyn's taste when it
comes to a particular collection.
"Inevitably, you become friends with
some designers and CEOs in the indus-
try, but if the friendship is solid and open,
I think criticism is less difficult for them.
it becomes a problem when the designer
perceives that a writer 'likes' them, based
on only a few meetings or casual conversa-
tions," Horyn said.
"In any case, I try to explain in the review
why a collection wasn'tstrong. I do the same
if I think it was great - sometimes those are
the more interesting reviews to write ... I
like to be square with people."
With an English degree from Barnard
College and a graduate degree in journal-
ism from Northwestern University, Horyn
entered the fashion realm with little experi-
ence. She got her start at The Detroit News
20 years ago when she answered an ad look-
ing for a fashion writer: "No experience
While Detroit might not seem like the
ideal place to start a career in fashion,
Horyn took on the challenge and sought to
not only write about global style in Detroit
but also to find fashion within the city itself.
In Birmingham, Mich., she came across
the avant-garde couture-clothing boutique
Linda Dresner - a minimalist, uncluttered
space that creates an "environment in which
one can truly appreciate the clothes." It was
also in Detroit that Horyn first met the late
American sportswear icon Bill Blass. The
two maintained a close friendship until his
death in 2002, and Horyn -even edited his
memoir Bare Blass.
Horyn later moved on to The Washington
Post and then Vanity Fair as a fashion and
Hollywood correspondent. But she's best
known for her work at the Times, where she's
worked since 1999. These 20 years have pro-
vided her with great insight and familiarity
with the industry as she watched the trends
change over time and can now better pre-
.dict what the future of fashion might hold.
She's seen first-hand how classic designers
like Karl Lagerfeld (who's been around since
the 1950s) have reinvented their designs and
image, while others fade into vintage obscu-
rity. She's seen the vision of young design-
ers like Marc Jacobs call out self-awareness
and spectacle, taking fashion into a world of
playful showmanship combined with a sexy,
stripped-down style - the true future of
fashion, according to Horyn.
Her frankness can be intimidating, but
there's something in Horyn's speech and
writing that commands your attention.
She's able to deconstruct the evasive world
of fashion to make it more accessible, with-
out minimizing the industry's elusive air of
Finding style: from
Detroit to NY
luxury. Her runway blog in particular cre-
ates a forum for immediate discussion and
interaction. Through her posts, she takes
readers backstage to intimate moments
between a designer and his models or repro-
duces the musings of a crowd. While Horyn
insists that blogging hasn't changed her
writing style, she does believe the blog has
broadened her audience to a younger, more
international readership. Just as regular
readers will become familiar with Horyn's
style and taste, Horyn has become familiar
with many of the habitual posters whom she
knows by username.
"I do read all the comments. Generally I
make notes of the points that interest me or
will be interesting for a bigger discussion,
and then I post on that. There's a definite
connection with the regulars," Horyn said.
Never catty, her blog has a dignity that
fits the sophistication of the fashion indus-
try. Whether quoting Emerson or admiring
Amy Winehouse's signature, Horyn fuses
high and low culture in her work.
And perhaps most importantly, the
blog provides immediate feedback. Fash-'
ion enthusiasts don't turn to newspapers
for their fashion news anymore. They go
directly to Style.com instead and look at the
imagesjust moments after a showhas ended.
Horyn's readers will begin commenting on
her blog two hdurs later, wanting to discuss
See HORYN, Page 6B
After atteniding Cathy Horyn's '
lecture last week at MOCAD, I
started giving the intersection
of fashion and the Internet some
thought - a topic Horyn, a fashion critic at
The New York Times, put at the forefront of
her discussion. And why
not, when nearly every
other creative field is
trying to find its niche in
newmedia? There's lit-
tle reason whythe fash-
ion industry shouldn't
be able to adapt, but its
presence online contin- CAROLINE
ues to remain limited at
The websites domi-
nating fashion coverage tend to be the same
publications that dominate in print - like
Vogue, Elle and New York Magazine - but
there's still plenty of room for competition.
But it's not easy, especially when emerging
sites are up against roomy budgets, teams of
professional photographers and paid staffs of
talented reporters elsewhere. The real obsta-
cle, though, is developing new subject matter
that only the Internet can provide.
Online content runs the gamut from run-
way photos and videos to model look-books
and ongoingtrend updates. Socialite gossip
slips in somewhere between behind-the-
scenes coverage and industry interviews.
Considering the small percentage of people
that actually find themselves intimately
involved with the industry, it only makes
sense that there's a sizeable market for what
goes on behind the velvet ropes.
But the market has divided into millions
of individual opinions, with everyone des-
perate to add his or her voice to the seeming-
ly exhausted stockpile of blog commentaries.
With so much input coming from countless
directions, how can anyone distinguish the
legitimate from celebrity-gossip-laden tripe?
Sure, it's a hurdle that any valid source of
online information struggles against, butit's
a particularly uphill battle for the fashion
The trick is findingthe holes that have yet
to be filled, and according to Horyn, those
opportunities rest firmly on the shoulders of
merchandisers and designers.
Net-a-Porter.com has a near monopoly on
the online sales of cutting-edge designers
(with Neiman Marcus, perhaps, coming in
close second). According to its website, Net-
a-Porter "combines the visual and authorita-
tive impact of a magazine with the shopping
simplicity of a catalogue," effectively merg-
ing the consumer's familiar and tangible
experiences with the possibilities of the
Internet. Horyn said the company slipped
into the market at just the right time, but -
even she's surprised by Net-a-Porter's lack of
substantial competition and seems to think
merchandisers could do more to keep pace.
Horyn also spoke about another venue
ripe with potential - designers' websites.
Hectic year-round schedules might not leave
designers with enough time or energy to
respond to online demand, but the opportu-
nity is too sweet to pass up. Most designers'
websites operate like an extended magazine
ad, but such an approach is wasted when
there's already plenty to go around in print.
People need to step away from the idea that
fashion is just something pretty to look at
- fashion requires interaction. The life of a
garment doesn't end at the foot of a runway.
For a product that intends to directly affect
its user in such a personal way, websites need
to reflect the need and desire for two-way
media outlets. (A Marxist might go so far
as to say the consumer is so alienated from
the garment's production that we absolutely
need to reintroduce ourselves to its assembly
somehow, but that's for another column.)
I completely agree when Horyn says the
Internet provides new alternatives that
aren't being cultivated, but there's a flip side
to this equation: What might the Internet
take away from the fashion industry? There
are few things more exhilaratingthan that
moment when the lights at a runway show
flash on, illuminating the room so intensely
that your heart has no choice but to skip a
beat as music and energy infiltrate the space.
Runwayis performance, whether or not
designers take full advantage of their stages.
Is the Internet good
or bad for fashion?
In photos, the bubbling environment is
reduced to an empty backwash, so dynamic
models become little more than static cut-
outs floating in cyberspace. The demand for
deadline reviews and instant online feedback
detract from the artful production, and
while videos might attempt to deliver this
experience to the masses, nothingcompares
to the real thing.
I don't mean to suggest that a fashion
show should either be seen in person or not
seen at all - hell, you'll probably get a better
view of the clothes on Style.com than you
would sitting in the second row - but I'm
disappointed that no one has created a viable
substitute to the interactive quality of a run-
The presence of a crowd, the tone of the
collection - these rich elements are lost (or
destroyed) by their inadequate representa-
tions in the media, especially online, where
the options for recreating a sense of involve-
ment seem boundless.
Instead of tryingto replace the first-hand
experience entirely, why not aim to compro-
mise both forms of participation? Don't just
tell the customer how a garment is made
- show them. Don't just snap a flash in the
Tent - build a virtual one. I want to feel the
mountingheat of a swarmingline in Milan,
waiting to get into a show; I want to stroll
around Bryant Park, stealing glances at what
the hot-shot editors are wearing - even if I
am glued to my computer screen.
Without an updated technological meth-
od, fashion enthusiasts and the general pub-
lic will only become more absently detached
from an industry that is spilling over with
smart, imaginative people and a ceaselessly
Hartmann hates blogs, loves fashion. Send
her your thoughts at email@example.com.
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