It shouldn’t be shocking when a designer, who pours his life into a collection, comes to its defense if poorly reviewed, and it should also not come as a surprise that every collection is not well received. This is just the give and take between those who design and those who write about the designs.The task of creating a collection that properly memorializes a period in time, a genre, a person, or whatever other inspiration a designer is working from seems impossible is certainly a grueling task. Adding to the difficulty of such a task are editors and bloggers who may or may not get the message being sent by the designer.
Enter the current and very public exchange between Jean Paul Gaultier and Tim Blanks, which stemmed from Blanks’ review of Gaultier’s Fall 2013 Couture Collection. In said review, Blanks, Editor-at-Large of Style.com, comments that “Gaultier's catwalk vedettes in his glory days included Madonna and Björk. Benattia seemed a bit down-market, but the show had a sheeny brashness that she suited.” He goes on to say, “there was a definite emphasis on exaggerated, almost cartoonish curves rather than elegant lines … A few outfits later, a ‘millefeuille de mousselines’ echoed Yves Saint Laurent's way with color, as a reminder that Gaultier was once considered the one true heir to the throne of French fashion. But that was once upon a time, and that time has, sad to say, well and truly passed.”
Gaultier wasted no time responding to Blanks via Twitter with the following message:
Once upon a time you liked my shows “but that time has truly passed” and I respect it. But the Tim I knew before would never have made the attacks that are more personal than professional. I always had girls in my shows from different social strata, treating someone as down-market is cheap.
In the future, rather than be bored at my shows, you can use that time to do something else, for example brush up on your fashion history so you’ll know that “mille feuille de mousseline” didn’t echo Saint Laurent, it was inspired by a Nina Ricci dress from 1967 in homage to Gérard Pipard, who recently passed away.
If you’re nostalgic for the time when I was considered the one true heir to the throne of French fashion please buy a ticket for my exhibition now in Stockholm and soon in Brooklyn and London. Good visit.
A former yours in fashion
Jean Paul Gaultier
This back-and-forth reminds us a similar exchange between Cathy Horyn and Oscar de la Renta in which Horyn may or may not have called Oscar a hotdogin her review of the designer’s Spring 2013 collection. And we think Oscar got in right with his one-page response in WWD:
I respect and accept criticism because in many ways it does help us develop; I try to make my work better each time. What I do not accept is when criticism is personal. If you have the right to call me a hot dog why do I not have the right to call you a stale 3-day old hamburger? My advice to you is to abstain from personal criticism. Professionals criticize the clothes, not the people.
It’s implausible to expect every collection to be perfect or that each editor will love all the collections that come down the runway. What we should expect, and can hope for, is that personal attacks stay out of it. Sure, it may be hard to criticize the collection without unintentionally stepping on a few toes, with that said, though, there is a severe difference, marked by a very fine line, between that and intentionally attacking someone.
Jennifer Williams is a law student, who writes about fashion, the legal avenues available for protecting it, and the ways in which the laws are falling short. For more from Jennifer, visit her blog, StartFashionPause, or follow her on Twitter.