Our five-pronged approach focuses on your individual strengths to develop your unique qualities towards making you an exemplary pi- designer.
Fashion writing has been evolving over a period of time, now it has reached a stage, where everyone from an influencer to an editor can’t function without observing how style is not restricted by geographical boundaries and has gone phenomenally global.
That’s why you see a revolution in the way we view the world of silhouettes. The Indian designer is not looking at dressing just the girl from Mumbai, but also the one who is settled in the US, or someone, who is planning a beach wedding in Mykonos! The customer is diverse, and so is the offering; consequently, this affects the writing too.
I would say, in my experience, if you are aspiring to be a fashion writer, there are some editorial rules that should be followed. You must know what is the difference between “active” and “passive” voice and when to use what, as grammar changes everything!
Generally speaking, we never write a story using “I” or “me”, we always use “they”. The first-person references must be restricted to when you are sharing your own experience —- this happens, if you are penning a fervent review, where the attempt is to explain, for example, a dish or a place to your readers, encouraging them to learn what to expect from your “tasting”. This is quintessentially called “food reviews”, which you will see in magazines, tabloids and now food blogs with descriptive pictures. The medium of communication has now changed. It is more pictorial, less verbose, and long-form writing like New Yorker is slowly making way for crisper snippets.
The second example of how we can use this form of “impersonal writing” is travelogues, and want to share our memories. Travel writing is an art, and highly individualistic in its appeal, it also helps the reader give a non-management view of a destination. It is more candid, upfront and displays vividly, what are the dos and don’ts, which an official blog of the hotel for example, may not give you, as it is excessively sanitised.
Interestingly, even seasoned columnists, who have over three or four decades of experience can use first person, as they are a master of their field and over time have understood the dynamics of each historic brand. Fashion gurus Cathy Horyn (The Cut), Suzy Menkes (Vogue) and even Tim Blanks (Business of Fashion) are veterans who have watched, reviewed and seen the tectonic changes in the fashion space. They know how Prada thought 30 years ago and what makes Miuccia Prada, a tour de force even today bridging the past with the present and inextricably the future.
Look at how Balenciaga is making trash can cover fashionable or the latest shoe lace earrings, poking fun at our obsession with what we consider luxury, in turn redefining the template. Fashion is a social language, how you dress is reflective of not just your status, but most importantly thinking and belief system. It also mirrors what you wear —- are you dressing more for yourself or buying a bag so that everyone around you knows and admires you for your belonging, catapulting you to be a part of their secret elitist circle. There is a subtle difference in how you choose labels—- Comme des Garçons or a Louis Vuitton, one mass, one pure class! You tell me which one is what!
There are many formats in which you can write and express content. The most engaging part is when you learn how to weave in different perspectives. You speak to various “sources'' and amalgamate their thoughts giving the story a third dimension. The key here is not to take sides, be unbiased and unprejudiced, even though you may support any side of the argument. This writing style is titled is “passive voice” —- let’s take an example; how the sari has been metamorphosed into an ensemble that intermingles the traditional with modern. Where you have sari-gowns, sari- jumpsuits, sari-dhotis and sari-pants suits, making the ubiquitous sari appear in a younger woman’s wardrobe in the most unexpected avatars.
How we approach the story is by speaking to various designers, who have used the sari as an inspiration and created an approachable and young ensemble out of it, as well as traditionalists, who feel the woven wonders must not be tampered with! As well as weavers of both the new and old version of the six-yard drape. This is called a “balanced story”, where you are able to get two opposing points of view, in a single piece of writing.
Fashion writing is mostly about observing, as we enthusiasts as most may believe, are not divorced from reality, in fact, we are rooted in it. If you see the great eras gone by — Chanel introducing tweed for women; adding a sling to a clutch for comfort; slingbacks to slip on shoes or abandoning the corset, each of these defining trends was to add ease to a woman’s life, as she became more than a caregiver —- a bread earner.
Fashion mirrors social change, how we dress is according to the need of our jobs and the times we live in! Fashion is not an island in itself, it speaks the language of the invisible changes taking place in the world. Recently Russian labels and designers have emerged after the disintegration of the former Soviet Union. Whether it is Demna Gvasalia, his brother Guram or the most-sought after stylist Lotta Volkova, the way they view fashion is a lot different from the Capitalist sphere, minus the rose-tinted glasses — more real, less fantasy.
As a fashion writer, you must be able to view these alterations in the thought process and wonder why Demna’s alternative label Vetements, launched in 2014 was more disruptive than avant-garde. He revived the “dad sneaker”, IKEA frakta bag or the DHL shirt, he never wanted celebrity endorsements, but Kanye West loved it! That’s the beauty of intellectual thinking, creating a space for yourself in a crowd and sticking to your beliefs, despite brickbats.
As a fashion writer, you must be aware of these trends that are offering a well-aware customer a chance to show, what she thinks before she buys and why she wants to endorse a brand —- is it because it’s expensive and her best friend has or because the brand has a distinct ideology, she believes in and it aligns with her personality.
Another example of effective writing is when you scratch beneath the surface and unearth a meaningful story that helps lives. It is a known fact, that India has been a sourcing ground for embroideries, everyone knows this and talks about it, but no one has the courage to write about it. The New York Times did an insightful and investigative piece, which spoke about no healthcare facilities, caged windows and even how workers were sleeping on the floor in the expose titled “Luxury’s hidden supply chain”. These artisans crafted stunning embroideries for the biggest and most cheered luxe fashion houses. “Alessandro Michele’s exuberant collections for Gucci, emblazoned with tigers and butterflies; Dior’s embellished saddlebags; and red carpet looks for Lady Gaga, Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lopez, whose 2019 jungle print Versace dress was embroidered in Mumbai,” wrote Kai Schultz, Elizabeth Paton and Phyllida Jay.
The most moving aspect of the story was not that they exposed something new, but the groundwork they did for the story titled “Luxury’s Hidden Supply Chain ''. They chased multiple sources from artisans, LVMH heads and even designers and NGO workers to expose weak labour laws and the exploitation by subcontractors of mostly women artisans.
This story was one of the most talked about two years ago, and remains relevant even today. That’s the power of writing, it transcends time and space. Every age group, gender and job profile read and appreciated the NYT piece, and it wasn’t just from the fashion world.
A story is a story when it is remembered and many years ago, I read a memorable piece by my favourite fashion writer, who I have been following for the last 30 years — Suzy Menkes, who earlier wrote for a niche and extremely respected publication, The International Herald Tribune. Titled “Circus of Fashion” was a cutting-edge narrative in NYT of how “influencers” have in some ways “corrupted” the delicate ecosystem of fashion. Written in the year 2013 Menkes’, tongue-in-cheek language explains how “peacocking '' is the new cool as social media takes over our lives. And further elucidates how this wave has taken away from the “gravitas” that fashion was once known for.
There is a wonderfully humorous quote from the story which says, “Ah, fame! Or, more accurately in the fashion world, the celebrity circus of people, who are famous for being famous. They are known mainly by their Facebook pages, their blogs and the fact that the street photographer Scott Schuman has immortalized them on his Sartorialist Website. This photographer of “real people” has spawned legions of imitators, just as the editors who dress for attention are now challenged by bloggers who dress for attention.”
What social media craziness has really done is created media stars known to dress for others than themselves. She also talks about how smartphones have in some ways disintegrated “slow fashion” where pics couldn’t be digitally edited and sent around the world in a nanosecond.
“Many bloggers are — or were — perceptive and succinct in their comments. But with the aim now to receive trophy gifts and paid-for trips to the next round of shows, only the rarest bloggers could be seen as a critic in its original meaning of a visual and cultural justice,” Suzy Menkes wrote, creating a huge controversy in the blogger world.
Leandra Medine of the former blog “Man Repeller” was up and arms as the “online community”, and felt it was unfair to term them as “free loaders”! Fast forward to 2022 this debate is still on —- traditional versus new media. Should media coverage be based on merit or will surrogate advertising be the new order? Only time will tell. Though naysayers say the former is taking precedence.
Asmita Aggarwal has been a journalist for the last 30 years having edited publications like– HT City, Cosmopolitan, L’Officiel, Patriot and Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle. She recently won an award from the FDCI for her contribution to fas ...
hion journalism and also put together a book titled “Chrysalis” for Anand and Anand, a law firm released by designer Manish Malhotra at the Jaipur Literature Festival.
Did you know that we spend about 90% of our time indoors! We use the built environment, especially interior spaces,…
We live in a hyperlinked, hyper-connected world! Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Youtube, Google, have become verbs that represent “things we…
The moment one hears the word fashion, one immediately visualises, beautiful clothes, bags, accessories, interesting prints, embroidery and colours, glamour,…
In the first of our series of interactions with you, the aspiring Communication Design student, I think it is important…
The digital age has allowed photography to boom like never before. It’s a massive, commercial industry which is growing explosively…