It was good to get away from the keyboard for a couple days. I enjoyed everything about my trip to Ottawa, with the major highlight being a terrific brunch with one of my all time favourite readers, Wendy of Of(f) the Deep End. Despite sadly having to say goodbye to her animal friends very recently, she granted me the pleasure of meeting up to chat about all the many things we are both interested in. I felt like we found a certain harmony when sharing our perspectives. Thank you Wendy!
Even the long, pastoral bus ride there and back was enjoyable. My reading matter over those trips is currently percolating in my brain, as all of it caused me to reflect on Final Fashion the blog, what it is, what it is not, and the way it changes.
All this thinking has resulted in a fat two-part post which you can read after the jump…
- one. the good review.
On the way to catch my bus to Ottawa, I passed through my old school. Outside the journalism school offices, there are stacks of The Ryerson Review of Journalism for the taking, so I took some. These are excellent magazines, in the genre of media analysis, a genre I have been really getting into since CBC Radio One started airing shows like O’Reilly on Advertising and Spin Cycles.
Reading the perspective of students writing about their industry seemed to reflect what I do on finalfashion.ca in a more autodidactive, unguided way. The articles are very well written, exhaustively researched, fascinating examples of the best work of bright young things. Reading about all the different things affecting the profession of journalists, from paper and presses to the uncomfortable technological transition that is transforming the fifth estate, was enlightening. I have more admiration and sympathy for the journalists that I read now, as well as better appreciation for the heritage of their profession, the elements of great journalism, and the structure of the industry. It seems that there are a great many overlaps with the fashion industry.
Sometimes I feel that as a blogger I am juxtaposed next to journalists, but I don’t think that is a fair comparison. I do think I belong under that catch-all umbrella of “media” but the work I do is exhaustively researched but not documented, my audience is made up of individuals I know and not a demographic. I wear my amateur status on my sleeve.
Still, I am borrowing some values from journalism, more so the longer I blog. The act of writing out my thoughts is a constant process of seeking to articulate my ideas and communicate to effect. More and more I find myself thinking about writing, what makes a post a good or not. I pay attention to who is reading, what kind of response happens, whether what I am writing is of service, or not. As a blogger I get used to being lumped into a category of people who post indiscriminately without thinking. In actual practice, I think about my posts more than I want to admit.
Sometimes this gets me into trouble, because I post about what I think. Most notorious in recent memory was this post, where I took it upon myself to review a fashion show and competition, and disagreed with the judges about the choice of the winning collection. For this post, I’ll call the winners QF because I think they are probably sick of seeing my site on their Google search results. Looking back, I do not disagree with anything I wrote, but then I was a bit ignorant about the ramifications of writing a really honest review. At the time, it never occurred to me that unlike Marc Jacobs, QF would certainly become aware of my impressions of their work. The scene is pretty tiny here. I got away with only one snarky comment but I thought I should have deserved a bit more challenging in the comment section – those who disagreed, for the most part, seemed to hesitate to own up to their own opinions even though I would have welcomed it. Certainly where all the real comment action happened at TorontoStreetFashion.com, the majority of the comments were anonymous.
“Those girls worked really hard,” I was told and I believe it! Heck, they won the competition didn’t they? Why would the opinion of an admitted amateur mean anything to anyone? The backlash I did receive was an interesting surprise to me and gave far more weight to my opinions and influence as a blogger than I think I really have. Because the ideas I offered for disagreeing with the choice of the winner was based on the designs themselves, of course it was subjective. I was asked who I thought I was to offer up my opinion. I was cautioned that I had to be careful about reviews, somehow. In the interest of improving, I have been thinking about how I could better approach reviews ever since the QF post.
This brings me back to my recent interest in collecting information about how great journalists and reviewers do their jobs. It seems that the rules are not clear cut. Which brings me back to that fascinating, fuzzy crux where fashion meets journalism. Some differences are so apparent. In hard journalism, accepting gifts is considered traitorous. In fashion journalism, not accepting gifts is considered to be foolish. In food reviews and book reviews, the best reviews seem to be considered to be the honest ones that communicate the reasons for the reviewer’s conclusions. In fashion, it seems like the best reviews are simplistically considered the positive ones.
The perennial hue and cry of the Canadian fashion designer is that they are not sufficiently covered in the media. Somehow, Canadian designers think they deserve press even if they are not doing anything remarkable either in terms of great design or provocative ideas. When the fashion media obliges, far too often it is the kind of toothless, perfunctory boosterism that I have come to expect from fashion journalism in this country. No one knows about Canadian fashion designers or Canadian fashion journalism because we are timid. We are afraid to hurt feelings, take risks, or admit failure. This attitude makes us invisible to the world, and does not even catch the imagination of our own nation.
Far from feeling the responsibility to keep my big amateur mouth shut, the time spent reflecting on all these things makes me want to be more contrary, more provoking. Just as I am trying to constantly improve my own work, I would very much like to see the Canadian fashion industry in general improve. Canadians are notorious for being complacent. I may have to set a few fires.
- two. ready to publish.
While in Ottawa I went to Mags and Fags and I bought Worn fashion journal to read on the way home. I first heard of it recommended in a positive review by Nathalie Atkinson at the National Post. For the first time in a long time I found myself happy to spend money on a magazine. The girl at the store and I chatted about the launch party Worn had in Ottawa, and how the publisher drops off her magazines to the store in person.
Worn is published by Serah-Marie McMahon out of Montreal. When I first heard of it I was already impressed because creating an indie mag in Canada is a heroic endeavor for anyone. The challenge is so great it generally kills off the mediocre efforts in an issue or less. Worn is now on its fourth issue and is still being… worn.
Like many, I have daydreamed for a moment and imagined the impossible – a fashion magazine that would actually reflect what I want to read. I may even have considered making one at that point but succumbed to inertia on that count when I discovered blogging. Here I can aggregate the content I like readers-digest style, socially network, as well as indulge in some writing and image making, which I find pretty satisfying even though it is a voluntary, amateur pursuit.
So the other thought I had when I heard about Worn, was a kind of incredulity at launching a wood pulp publication for young people in this day and age. In an era where fashion mags for people 15-25 are on death row (RIP Jane and Fashion18), magazines are flailing to catch eyeballs of young people who get all the information nuggets they want off the internet for free. The barrier to entry for an paper publication is so high compared to starting a website that I couldn’t help but wonder why smart young things are still launching such things.
Reading Worn reminded me why. There are things you can do in magazines that the internet does not replace. Large scale, beautiful images. The inventive page layouts reminded me of the famous British ‘zines of the eighties, like i-D. Plus you can read it without wires, wireless, clicking, or expensive equipment. Worn makes it clear they understand and exploit all the great things about the medium.
The articles are all smart, personal, intriguing and curious. The writing in this magazine is top notch compared to most contemporary lifestyle journalism for people my age. Oddly enough, it suits my own quirky taste in articles very closely. It is almost like the magazine was made for me! There is a lot of illustration and some interesting collaborations between the magazine and various designers. The dialogue that emerges, a kind of call and response between the editor and the subject, rocks my world. Being somewhat peripheral, it is apparent to me that this magazine really truly reflects the downtown fashion scenes of both Montreal and Toronto without being narrow. It also manages to balance a bit of boosterism with a sense of creative challenge, which I think is a good angle.
Of course I had a few subjective reactions. The font snob in me hates the typewriter font. The Sonia Delauney article’s layout was so… exhuberant… even though it was a good article, it was almost impossible to read, and didn’t include any visuals of Delauney’s work. That the communication is a little mixed is to be expected while the magazine finds its voice. Personally I love really creative layouts but I also believe a well designed magazine should be readable. As for the content, I love the historical articles and enjoyed the first persons. The book review and interview was terrific. I would also like to see more industry analysis specific to Canada as well as street style. I am really looking forward to checking out other issues.
This is the kind of thing I that is remarkable and ought to be brought to everyone’s attention. When I read Worn, I get excited for all the awesome things that are possible.