from the desk of Seth Friedermann, Managing Editor
photos by Charles Beckwith
A few well-known fashion industry people who are also show-biz types once told a designer friend of mine that there was no place in the real world for her designs, and that they knew this because they were the experts on fashion, not her. Not only are they most certainly not, “experts on fashion,” the fact that they think such a position exists shows that they don’t even view fashion in the proper context. This incident importantly points out what is wrong with the way these “experts,” and the industry as a whole, see designers and designs.
A thinking person does not use the word “expert” when speaking of the subjective value of art, because we know it is a laughable concept. How can anyone be an expert judge of the aesthetic value of a sculpture? The variety of types of powerful and astonishingly skilled sculptors renders the idea of an expert impotent. Is there a system in place that allows objective judging between Rodin and Richard Serra? Is Renoir a more talented painter than Raphael? Isn’t that the same ludicrous presumptuousness of charting the value of a poem in the introduction to the poetry textbook the students were ordered to tear out in Dead Poets Society?
History measures artists, not game show hosts, writers, or stylists. There are only two yardsticks for objectively measuring the actual value of artists: permanence and influence. No other factors mean a damned thing. American Idol judges would not have allowed The Sex Pistols beyond the first round, and all they did was change music forever.
What this “judge” meant at best was, “I am an expert on current commercial fashion tastes.” Being able to tell what might sell at any given time is based on reading consumer markets, not on judging the quality of fashion design. Knowing what will sell now will mean nothing in twenty years. Experts know exactly what will happen next… until they don’t. Yet, in spite of all of the fluctuations and constant cultural change, quality survives and the work of talented people remains important forever. People only state they are experts on fashion when in their hearts they do not really believe that fashion is an art form… which is why they don’t get many of the artists working today to participate in “reality” television. There is no place for her art? Is that what you really meant to say? Tragic, absolutely tragic.