LONDON, United Kingdom — On Friday, the collective hearts of fashion fans around the world sank on hearing the surprise news that Cathy Horyn, one of our last true fashion critics, was leaving her post at The New York Times for personal reasons.
Indeed, with the start of a new cycle of womenswear shows only days away, for many of us, it is almost unfathomable to imagine fashion week without seeing it through Cathy’s sharp and honest eyes. Scores of comments and reactions from the BoF community around the world underlined just how unique — and respected — her voice is.
On the BoF Facebook page, Paulo Guimarães of Lisbon, Portugal wrote: “The moments I looked forward to the most during fashion week were reading Cathy Horyn’s take on the proceedings… huge, huge, *huge* loss.”
Eddie Frantz of Australia, one of the original commenters on Ms Horyn’s much-loved New York Times blog, “On The Runway,” posted a comment on BoF, writing: “It is an understatement on my part to say that she will surely be missed. She was one of the few pure, unadulterated voices of fashion criticism.” Another regular commenter, agreed: “I will now have to hang up my NYT blog handle La Genevoise!”
“She added balance and truth to her reviews,” added Michelle Fix from New York. “Rarely do you see anything critical of a collection in WWD or on Style.com. The reviews are always filled with accolades — deserved or not.”
In a memo to the New York Times newsroom announcing Horyn’s departure, executive editor Jill Abramson and styles editor Stuart Emmrich called her “the pre-eminent fashion critic of her generation… who has set an almost impossible standard for those who may follow.”
But the question on my mind is this: Is there anyone who can actually follow someone like Cathy? Have we, the fashion industry, nurtured and nourished truly independent, informed voices who say what they really think? I think not. Too much fashion writing is fluffy drivel concerned with front-row attendees and the “hottest new trends.” And too often, it describes the clothes in only an elementary, superficial way that lacks an understanding of how garments are designed and constructed, and how they fit into a wider cultural and economic context.
What’s more, too many of the honest comments that experienced show-goers make to each other on the way out of a show never make it into print. Too many journalists have told me that their opinions are neutered by the powers that be for fear of pissing off advertisers or jeopardising relationships.
And, while Suzy Menkes continues to cover the shows with seemingly indefatigable energy, Robin Givhan pens honest pieces for New York magazine’s “The Cut,” and Tim Blanks stays up late at night for weeks on end to pen his beautifully crafted reviews for the Style.com, I’m hard-pressed to think of who the next generation of critics to write with an equally informed and honest voice will be.
After all, the entire fashion industry benefits from honest, informed criticism, not least the designers themselves, who need real feedback to evolve and progress their work.
I wish Cathy the very best in this next chapter of her life, and lament the now sorrier state of fashion criticism.