Fashion newsmakers of the year? Step aside, Tom and Dom. Undergraduates are too busy lamenting the end of that other era, the one commanded by a Chanel-clad Carrie and her three Cosmo-swilling comrades, to focus on their split from Gucci Group. In a survey of more than 30 university newspapers, only a few made mention of the Ford-De Sole departure; instead, coverage of trends, the metrosexual phenomenon, TV shows such as “Sex and the City” and Uggs — yes, Uggs — were the most popular fashion-driven stories with student journalists this past year.
“For so many people here, Tom Ford is such a peripheral thing that they would ask, ‘Why is this in our paper?’” Whitney Beckett, fashion editor of Duke University’s Chronicle, explains. “If you were really interested, you could just read the big spread that was in Vogue two months ago about him, you know?” To that end, Whitney writes about what the Durham, N.C., reader needs most: the best manicurists in town, “what not to wear this winter,” what to wear come spring, her weekly column, “Sex & the Chapel” and, of course, the requisite goodbye homage to her column’s namesake, in which she quipped, “I have faith we will Carrie on.”
The college appetite for fashionista TV isn’t dying, however, with the end of “Sex and the City.” Judging by the number of articles written, campus fashion lovers have indeed carried on, with “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” taking over their affections. Carrie and crew may have taught the collegiate crowd the value of a good Manolo, but the accessory du semestre, according to student journalists, is a fashionable, groomed man. “Lately, it seems like many ladies’ favorite thing to have on their arm is a metrosexual,” writes Dartmouth junior Sarah Stein. Yalie Ting Ting Yan wrote a piece this February titled “Forget Yahoo! Do you GQ?” and Harvard ran an article, “Queer Eye for the Queer Guy,” which transformed one gay student from plaid and drab to, well, Fab Five-worthy. (Yale, not one to sit on the sidelines, is producing a YTV show next year called “Queer Eye for the Yale Guy.”)
Of course, having the “Queer Eye” guys — not to mention Candace Bushnell — make the rounds at college campuses doesn’t hurt in getting that added exposure in the student dailies. In fact, much university fashion coverage is actually campus-based. Student-run fashion shows, university exhibits on costumes and textiles, new boutiques around campus and the occasional designer making an appearance at a lecture or panel are all standard fare for a college paper.
Still, a lineup of recent stories indicates that today’s college students appreciate a healthy dose of trend-casting with their news. In November, Duke’s The Chronicle offered its “Ode to Uggs;” a report titled “Vintage Shirts Making a Comeback” ran in the University of Kansas’ Daily Kansan, and Scott Wacholtz of the University of Miami’s The Hurricane dared to challenge the sneaker of the South with his rallying cry, “Death to Flip-Flops — and Long Live the Closed-Toe.”
“If schools are broaching the topic of fashion and trying to find a good way of integrating it into their newspapers, then campus coverage and trends are the easiest way for them to incorporate it into the publication,” says senior Vanessa Lawrence, co-founder of the 7th on Yale speaker series and fashion critic for The Yale Daily News.
Fashion is, after all, best served when you know what you’re reading. Raquel Laneri, fashion writer for the University of Michigan’s The Michigan Daily, remembers the criticism that followed an article she wrote on Marc Jacobs’ introduction of skateboards. “They said it was too specific, that a lot of people don’t know who Marc Jacobs is, and that I was alienating the majority of the university population,” she says. Perhaps that explains why Abercrombie & Fitch’s court battles last year made headlines more often than LVMH’s; for the average student, the woes of a khaki and polo retailer — who happened to publish a famously racy catalogue — are far easier to digest than those of the world’s biggest luxury player.
But that doesn’t stop budding Annas, Glendas and Cathys from covering the collections for their school papers. New York University even had one writer, a then-junior Derek Blasberg, reporting back from the London and Milan shows for fall 2003. In the end, however, Blasberg quit over arguments with his lifestyle editor who “wanted to keep the focus more academic.” The point of contention? Blasberg’s idea for an Oscar fashion special that was ultimately nixed.
Are higher learning and high fashion mutually exclusive? Laneri admits that when she started writing about fashion, she often questioned her subject matter. “I asked myself, ‘Is this really something that’s worthwhile?’ But I really do think it’s a great art form, and the thing that separates it from other art forms is that it’s so participatory. Paintings or songs are something that you can interpret, but not things in which you can have an active role.”
And besides, even the Harvard Crimson ran a Rivers-worthy piece on Oscar’s red carpet.