Crossing The Line: @dietprada and the State of Fashion Criticism

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 09.22.51With the mission to give credit where credit’s due, fashion’s very own vigilante, the anonymous someone behind the account @dietprada, continues to unceremoniously reveal copycats in the industry – this season with even sharper claws. With an active community of 28k followers and some of the best hashtags the Internet has ever seen, (#justchangeitalittle, #pushthesleevesupabit #gotthosemargieladiscoballsleevestoo), this account has become one of the most important voices in fashion. By placing one current runway look next to a suspiciously similar predecessor, they highlight the fact that copying both other designers and artist is not at all unusual. Quite the opposite: ripping off is common procedure for renowned fashion houses and newbies alike. Not only that, but the speed of which things get knocked off is increasing rapid: sometimes a piece is not more than a season old before you see it in another brand’s runway show. “I don’t care if someone copies a Balenciaga jacket from the 50s,” @dietprada told i-D in an interview this July. “It’s like, so what? That’s fair game. But when you copy Balenciaga’s men’s suits from last season… There’s just this trend, trend, trend thing that’s making everything really homogenous.”

Since its birth in 2014 the account has been showered in fashion clichés, being labeled everything from a ”must follow”, to “sassy” and of course a “treasure chest for fashion nerds”. Corny as it will, one has to agree that @dietprada is both entertaining and educational. Trying to keep up with the speed of production and the sheer mass of everything that’s being pumped out in the industry is almost impossible. It’s easy for things to get lost in the constant chatter, and reading review after review on Vogue Runway seams a daunting task. Maybe that’s why the short, snappy way of Instagram feels so relatable and manageable? Checking @dietprada’s commentaries on Instagram stories just seem like a more current and effective way of keeping up with fashion reviews.

“Everything now is so highly documented and the speed of transmission is insane,
so it’s easy to be subconsciously influenced without even knowing it.”

– @dietprada, Vice, September 2017

This account is crossing the line, daring to go further than fashion journalism typically does, giving an unedited dimension to each new runway show, and providing a breath of fresh air to a business that is built almost as much on back scratching as on pure talent.

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 09.23.19

The lack of honest, competent criticism in the fashion industry is a subject that pops up every now and then (the latest hubbub was around the candid interview with Lucinda Chambers, former fashion director at British Vogue). There are many clever critical voices, The Cut’s Cathy Horyn and BoF’s Tim Blanks to name two, but few platforms for them to be heard.

Fashion has a history of not airing its dirty laundry in public; controversial opinions have always been there but in a more “read between the lines” kind of way. For those who dare to openly criticise, there have often been unpleasant consequences. It’s not unheard of that a fashion writer is banned from shows after bad reviews, something that in other creative industries, such as art, literature, and music would seem a rather juvenile retort.

”Being part of a community means that you’re not so likely to write critically about someone you really like
or will bump into at the next social event. How do I write professionally about someone who’s also a friend?”

– Anja Aronowsky Cronberg, Vestoj Talk, August 2017

This old problem, seemingly unique to the fashion world, is perhaps stemming from the “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”-dilemma, as most magazines rely on fashion advertisement for the majority of their income. Then the issue is further propelled by the importance of being kiss-on-the-cheek-friends with the right industry people.

Even if both Instagram and Twitter are safe havens for fashion critics—places that allow anonymity, uncensored opinions and a huge following—it’s still often unpaid work. So even if there are communities built by passionate people who share their knowledge for our entertainment, they are mainly hobbies. Lately, there has been very little money in honest and frank fashion critique.

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 09.23.43

Surprisingly enough the fashion world’s response to @dietprada’s schooling is somewhat positive. This season the feisty critic was front row at Prada, and even took over Gucci’s Instagram account to report all copies live during their show. One can, of course, argue that this was as much a sell out as an innovative collaboration, how can we trust a critic who is being compensated for their review?

Fashion writing has a long history of being more commercial than critical, and economics is a big part of that. By purchasing a critic’s services, whether just inviting them to a show, offering clothes or financial compensation, Gucci is proving that this is still very much the question today.  But still, this was a very refreshing addition to the runway live stream, and can perhaps be the onset of a power struggle.  Social media and influencers are an essential part of every major brands’ marketing strategy. How a campaign is received and perceived on Instagram can make or break that collection. And as influencers are starting to use their voices and reach to analyze and critique fashion brands, instead of just talking mirror selfies, they become both more important for customers and more dangerous for the designers.

If @dietprada’s invite to the hallowed halls of fashion where only the designers’ attempts to “silence the beast” or a way of showing appreciation is hard to say, but it does raise one hopeful question: Can this perhaps mean the beginning of the end for the cordial fashion review?

Words by Maria Kowalska Elleberg

Comments are closed.