Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Cold, Chip-Ladden Shoulder of Carolina Herrera

In an industry fraught with young designers and big egos, one expects immature behavior every now and again. But when that behavior is displayed by one of the older, more established and well-respected designers, that's when I raise an eyebrow. During fashion week, The New York Times was not allowed to cover Carolina Herrera's show for the second season in a row after journalist Cathy Horyn wrote a bad review of Herrera's fall collection this time last year. In the article published on Feb. 7, 2006, Horyn wrote that the collection was "remarkably irrelevant...I can't imagine her wearing these clothes: print dresses in pool shades of aqua (with black tights, to boot) and rusty wool suits with fussy collars or ruched yokes and sleeves that looked trussed rather than finessed. With a ruched garment, do you really want to see the strings?"

Granted, this review was harsh. But in the cold, hard world of fashion, let the judgements fall where they may. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and more importantly, every journalist has the right to freedom of the press (otherwise known as the First Amendment). Of course you might say that our dear Carolina also has the right to invite or not invite whomever she pleases to her shows. This is correct. But when designers start blacklisting reporters who have ever written a bad review about them, that's when things start to get scary. It's called censorship of the press, and it's a slippery slope once you're on it.

You might not think that it's such a big deal that fashion goddess Carolina Herrera is holding some sort of grudge match with the NYT. But what if this was George W., and all of a sudden he stopped allowing Times reporters at his press conferences because they had said unflattering things about his leadership abilities in the past? We already know that government officials favor certain media outlets more than others (remember Condi's overheard whisperings about her special friends over at Fox News), but to outright ban a newspaper from covering a story, that is quite another thing.

Now, I understand that this is fashion, and we must keep things in perspective. Being kept in the dark about the horrors of "sleeves that looked trussed rather than finessed" is not the same as being kept from the fact that our country is sending thousands of more troops to Iraq. But I do believe that the principle is the same in both situations. The press needs to be able to do their job, and they need to be able to do it without the fear that they will be ostracized for telling it like it is. If reporters thought that they would be banned from shows after writing bad reviews, then we might all just end up running around town in hideous "rusty wool suits with fussy collars." And that would be such a shame.