8 Insights From NY Times’ Chief Fashion Critic, Vanessa Friedman

by

Meet the accidental fashion journalist.

vanessa-friedman (1)

In an industry focused on appearance, Vanessa Friedman – fashion director and chief fashion critic of The New York Times – brings intelligence, pragmatism and many years of experience to her roles. We collate her recent insights on being a critic, what fashion weeks are really like, and how the best designers convey a point of view.

ON HER ACCIDENTAL START

“I never meant to write about fashion,” says Vanessa. “Don’t get me wrong, I like clothes, I read Vogue and magazines growing up, but it was not a career goal of mine. I am a fashion journalist by mistake.”

ON BEING A CRITIC

“I go to all the fashion shows and review catwalk collections. I do a column, which is more like ‘image criticism’ – thinking about how public figures use image in everyday life to communicate. As a critic, I always have to think, ‘What’s a designer trying to say about women with their collection?’ Is a collection coherent or responsive or silly? And I think about where it sits in the continuum of their own work and the brand’s heritage.”

ON HER TIME AT THE NEW YORKER

The New Yorker teaches you how to report – how to just write a story about pretty much anything. Beauty is actually good training ground [for any writer], because it’s a fairly standardised subject. It matters much more how you write your stories, as opposed to reporting about something that has huge amounts of action in it. If you can write well about beauty, you can write pretty much about anything.”

ON HER FIRST NEWSPAPER JOB

“[Fashion editor at the Financial Times] was my first newspaper job. It taught me a lot about news, to transitioning from being a print paper to digital, to being multi-platform. I mostly realised how great it was to work with really great, smart and involved people. It was fun being part of the news cycle.”

ON DESIGNERS

“For me, designers really need to have a point of view, a sensitivity to women in the world, and create clothes that make me think. When I see Azzedine Alaïa’s work, it changes [my] understanding of what can be done with material.”

ON THE FRENETIC PACE OF FASHION

“It’s the pace of life! It’s everything to do with digital, the 24-hour news cycle. You have a 24-hour news cycle, therefore you have a 24-hour fashion cycle. Everything just churns over really fast. I do think there’s too much stuff. I think consumers think there’s too much stuff. And, you know, that will stop. That kind of flow of [numerous] collections, no-one wants it.”

ON FASHION WEEK

“I never get to see the cities where I visit during collection time. The Paris metro is my cultural experience. Fashion Weeks are never really fun because they’re just too much work and no-one is ever sympathetic, because everyone just feels like you’re having a glamorous life!”

ON MAINTAINING BALANCE

“I feel like I’m this person standing in the doorway, trying to block the doorway with their body, and there’s a flood behind me and there’s water leaking out in between my fingers and toes. That’s pretty much how I feel all the time. Fashion has a tendency to have events at 6.30 at night and, as far as I’m concerned, that is my time. I’m happy to meet people for coffee or during the day for lunch but [for me], my nights and my mornings are my family’s. You have to set your terms.”

This is an edited extract from Collective Hub Issue 45. Buy it here.

Read More: How Do Your Favourite Fashion Brands Rate Ethically?

We would love to hear your thoughts:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *