Our talk with WWD’s Senior Fashion’s Features Editor JESSICA IREDALE
BY MARC KARIMZADEH
How did you become a fashion critic?
Through a lot of luck and timing, I started working at WWD and W magazine as Bridget Foley’s assistant in 2005 and was promoted about a year later to fashion writer. If you’re working in the fashion department at WWD, writing reviews is part of the job. We cover so many collections, the whole team has to field some reviews. But I would not say that I was a proper critic the first few seasons I was writing reviews; thankfully, there’s a lot of editorial guidance for the junior writers at WWD and everyone needs it. There is definitely a learning curve. It takes time before you know what you’re looking at and can assess it in a fair context. I was lucky enough to train under Bridget and the amazing Etta Froio, who taught me everything and, for the most part, kept me in check until they felt I had earned it and they trusted me. That said, I still need an editor.
How, in your view, has fashion changed over the past decade?
Everything is faster and there’s so much more of it. Obviously the internet and digital culture has rocked the planet, not just fashion, and it’s made accessibility a priority. It’s really opened fashion up to who can participate – and how! That’s affected the way we consume and produce — you know, the rise of contemporary and ‘buy now, wear now’ and fast fashion, ecommerce, all of that big picture stuff.
But just as a quaint example, on a personal level, I first started going to Europe ten years ago. Back then— how old do I sound? – it was not even a question, after the 8 pm show, the night was yours. You could go out to dinner, you had some time to yourself, if you were tired and struggling, you could sleep on the review because it was too late to meet the print deadline for WWD in New York and posting online wasn’t a priority. That is over with a capital O. The pace is pretty relentless. You are at shows from 9 am to 9 pm, and then your deadline is within an hour or two. The pressure to keep up is real. The internet does not sleep.
How, if at all, has the role of the critic evolved with the advent of social media and bloggers?
It’s completely changed the barrier to entry. Now everyone has many platforms to publish an opinion. There’s the rise of the cult of personality, where it’s become a tool to fuel your individual ‘brand.’ But that applies to newcomers and old school industry people. A lot of people have taken that and run. What I like about social media is the casual, amusing nature of it. I’ll speak for myself, when I’m reviewing a show, as long as I’m there as a professional who is employed by WWD, that’s where my obligation lies. I’m reporting for them, not for me. Ideally, I can multitask and write a smart, insightful review that reflects the tone of my publication and also produce something that’s fast and witty and lighter on Instagram and Snapchat, etc. It’s a lot more work.
Can you ever look at clothes and not, in some way, review them in your mind?
You can’t forget what you know and clothes do tell a story. When I see someone wearing an Altuzarra pencil skirt or a Celine bag, that tells me something about them. But when I’m shopping for myself, I’m not thinking, ‘Oh, this jacket references 80s Yohji Yamamoto with an infusion of current street style.’ I’m a human civilian. It’s, ‘Does this make me look fat? Can I afford it?’ When it’s just you and the mirror in the dressing room, it’s a different story.
What was the most memorable show you have ever seen?
I had the privilege of seeing several Alexander McQueen shows when he was still alive and they were all unforgettable. Then, there are two Comme des Garçons shows that made me cry for different reasons. One in 2007, which was my first season in Paris. At the last minute, someone more senior couldn’t go to the show and I had to write it. I’m telling you, I needed a Rosetta Stone. This was so far above my critical punching weight at the time. The review came back to me about 10 times. I could not get it right and I was tortured, in tears, like, ‘Give me something I understand! Basics with a twist!’ Then a couple years later, Fall 2009, the Comme show was so beautiful, it took my breath away. It was the collection with the tulle veils with kisses on them and blanket coats and the soundtrack was Tears for Fears from Donnie Darko. Kanye was there. He sat second row.