NEW YORK — On Tuesday evening at Facebook and Instagram’s Manhattan headquarters in NoHo, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Friends of The Costume Institute hosted a panel discussion on the subject of street style, which has seen a meteoric rise over the last few years — all while stimulating business, creating communities and provoking controversy, especially during international fashion weeks. The discussion ultimately evolved into a larger talk on the state of the fashion business.
Moderated by Eva Chen, Instagram’s head of fashion partnerships, the panel featured lively commentary from fashion blogger Garance Doré, Man Repeller founder Leandra Medine and BFA’s Billy Farrell. Bryan Grey Yambao — aka Bryanboy — attended the panel as a guest and occasionally weighed in from the front row.
Below, some highlights from the hour-and-a-half-long chat:
On the definition of street style today and how it’s evolved:
Garance Doré: My passion in the beginning was to show a different way of wearing fashion. Things you wouldn’t see; just people going to work.…It shifted slowly, and it started becoming more crystallized around fashion shows. I would post photos of people wearing things that were more subtle, and people would be like, “What is this about?” Now I think we’re talking about something completely different [when we talk about street style]. But I accept what it’s become.
Leandra Medine: When street style initially launched, because of people like [Garance], it was verbatim — style from the street, people getting dressed for their lives, for work, for school.…Now it’s become a bit more of a corporate machine or mechanism. But one thing that remains the same — that separates street style from style we’re seeing in magazines and other digital media properties — is that it’s still quite democratic. It’s not manufactured by anyone other than who’s wearing the clothes. And for that reason alone, it’s special and important.
Billy Farrell: I think I’ll state the obvious, which is that street style, to me, is a venue. [Farrell then recalled his first-ever street style assignment for Style.com many years ago.] For a photographer, it was nice to use natural light, to turn my flash off and to feel like a real photographer for once, not just a party photographer. I like it because it’s an outdoor experience. We’ve seen the evolution of street style, and a lot of people that think that it’s a new thing, but they have to realize that it’s been happening since Bill [Cunningham]. It’s not a new thing…When we say it now, we think of all the photographers out there, the girls dressed to trot, and they’re aware of it.
On “fashion fatigue”:
G.D.: Fashion week fatigue; I’ve been feeling that for maybe four or five years.…Sometimes you go to a fashion show, and you’re like, why exactly did that brand put on a fashion show instead of doing things in a different way?
L.M.: We’ve reached this phase of comedown. We are so conditioned to feel delighted and excited by what’s new so regularly; it’s almost like the first time your feet hit the sand in the summer, or the first time you have a drink. Nothing beats that first high — and we’ve all become addicted…but we’re not getting high anymore. It’s just too much now…we’re so inundated.
On the last time they felt surprised, delighted and excited by fashion:
L.M.: I saw a pair of Marco de Vincenzo shoes at a press preview last week that made me feel like, “The press preview is coming back!”
G.D.: At The Row store here in New York. I’m having a lot of fun going to beautiful stores and taking in the whole experience…. Products have never really excited me; I was always more about the silhouette, the charm, the dream, the energy of fashion. To me, [it’s about] going into a world — and the Olsen twins are so amazing at creating that — where I am transported, overcome with emotion.
B.F.: What’s exciting to me is the energy of fashion, not necessarily the fashion itself.
On how they leverage working with brands:
L.M.: I’ve separated what Leandra Medine does from what Man Repeller does.…It’s very simple: do I like the brand? Do I feel like they represent the same values that I cherish and maintain? And would I wear the product if this were not a partnership?
G.D.: I do a lot of different projects with brands. Right now, I’m hosting these dinners for a watch brand — they have this very old museum collection of art watches — and I’m hosting dinners around the world for them. I love the product and I’m superexcited about it. And that’s not even something that’s for my readers.…I choose [partnerships] that I love.
On the questionable authenticity of some fashion bloggers — and in particular, a recent vogue.com story in which Vogue’s digital creative director, Sally Singer, asserted: “Note to bloggers who change head-to-toe, paid-to-wear outfits every hour: Please stop. Find another business. You are heralding the death of style.”:
L.M.: These people who are being paid to wear clothes are doing nothing so different from a magazine being paid by an advertiser to put clothes on their models. My perspective is just let them live. They’re not getting in your way, they’re not stopping you from getting your job done. They’re just trying to make a buck like you are.
Bryanboy: It’s 2016, it’s not 2008, where we’ve had this conversation multiple times….What is our position [as bloggers] in the industry? Do we actually have space for us? Are we part of the ecosystem? I feel like we are, and I feel like we should move on and not have these conversations anymore. Fashion created a system of inauthenticity. From the beginning, the industry is about creating characters and personas….Look at magazines: from the editors down to the models down to ad campaigns and celebrities, everyone is styled by someone, everyone is dressed by someone.
B.F.: There are those that follow the crowd and those that go after a more authentic [sense of] style. Look at a guy like [the blogger] Mister Mort: He goes up to your regular old Joe eating a hot dog and he’s like, “Cool hat, it works with your denim jacket,” and the guy is like, “Who the f–k are you?”