Our talk with InStyle’s Fashion News Director ERIC WILSON
BY MARC KARIMZADEH
How did you become a fashion critic?
I consider myself more of a journalist who dabbles in criticism, or rather, one who masquerades as a critic, simply because fashion people tend to treat you better if they think you’re judging them. I first started writing reviews when I was hired as a reporter at The New York Times in 2005, after having covered fashion for eight years at WWD. That experience gave me enough practical knowledge about fashion history and the realities of business to have empathy for designers and their struggles through the creative process. My first and forever love is news reporting, which is supposed to be objective, but I found that the freedom to add a degree of subjectivity actually allowed me to tell stories more truthfully.
How, in your view, has fashion changed over the past decade?
Like everything in popular culture, fashion generally seems more freestyle today than it did during the empire-building years of LVMH, Prada Group and what is now the Kering Group, from the mid-1990s until the 2008 recession. In those years, designers were so focused on maintaining an almost militaristic control over every aspect of their brand imagery, from retail designs to advertisements to licensees, that they created a world in which every store in the world looked exactly the same. Now they are far more experimental, treating their labels in ways that might have once seemed sacrilegious – upending gender norms, unabashedly sampling from one another, collaborating with provocateurs, breaking down the traditional barriers between online and off. All of these changes, of course, have been driven by the digital revolution and the public’s ability not only to see behind the curtains of fashion, but also to play a part in its creation. We’re all critics today.
How, if at all, has the role of the critic evolved with the advent of social media and bloggers?
It hasn’t, not in the sense that the job of the critic remains not simply to say a collection is good or bad, but to provide perspective and analysis as to why fashion matters. The most successful critics are the ones who ignore the expectations of the industry and consider only the interests of readers. What has changed is the way we write in order to engage them. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Can you ever look at clothes and not, in some way, review them in your mind?
Please believe me when I say that I am always judging you.
What was the most memorable show you have ever seen?
Oh, so many, but I will choose this one: In the summer of 1998, just a year into my career in the fashion trenches, John Galliano came to New York to show a licensed fur collection. Mind you, I was still very, very green, and knew only of runway shows in which models walked back and forth on a runway, having not yet been exposed to the fantasies of the European shows. For this occasion, Galliano had taken over the stately Metropolitan Club, where men are normally required to wear jackets, and turned it into the scene of a bacchanal, with a naked male model lying about in a bathtub eating grapes, for example, and tables covered with heaps of decaying roses. The theme was Casanova, and the furs were practically couture, great Poiret-esque kimonos and sable on everything. I remember being utterly awed by the extravagance, and afterward, asking Joan Kaner, the legendary Neiman Marcus fashion director, for a comment. ‘This is nothing compared to what he does in Paris,’ she said. And I was hooked.