I am always surprised how differently reporters see the same NYFW collections. One person will notice the shoes, while another can’t stop praising the silhouettes. However, if you look at the cultural and fashion references provided by the reviewers, you would think that there are a lot of writing copycats in the fashion world. How is it possible that everyone seems to write the same type of articles? Let me help you to crack the fashion writers’ code.
If you were invited to the show as media, you will receive a post-release with the photos from the collection. The document usually lists who attended the show, what inspired the designer to create this season’s collection, and some of the makeup and hairstyle inspirations. Since writers need to cover a dozen of shows per day (which seem like a blur at the end of the day), post-releases are used to refresh their memories and somewhat shape their opinions to what the designer and the PR agency wants to highlight. Many of smaller publications simply copy and paste information that they received after the show…
I remember one of the first journalist lectures that I attended while studying at Moscow State University. My professor said that the unfortunate future of journalism is in republishing press releases. Media companies have less and less money to hire professional writers, while the public wants to know the news as soon as it is happening, so online publications have no other choice than to take the easy road and reprint information they were provided with. At the end of the day, one could argue, most people check out fashion reviews for the photos only…
In other words, the institution created to analyze and deliver information is giving a left-handed compliment to its readers by providing it with pre-packaged news. Yes, many fashion reviewers deliver the news for free, but is it really a good journalism if you are rewriting the ideas provided to you by the PR agency?
I would be a hypocrite if I say that I have never looked at post releases. I do and I am reading all of the other journalist reviews that I could find online. However, I limit myself to accessing those sources after I am done with writing my first draft. Since I am a blogger that doesn’t have a crazy boss pressing to submit my text on a tight deadline, I do take a slow journalism approach to covering the shows. In my opinion, that way my review sounds more authentic and presents my readers with my subjective opinion as opposed to the ‘official party strategy’ dictated by the brands.
Here is how exactly I write a collection review:
1. If I am covering backstage, I make sure to see every detail of how models’ makeup and hair are getting done. While I do not usually write a separate post on beauty trends, this information would be helpful when I am creating my own makeup tutorials or answer readers’ questions on ‘what’s next in beauty.’
2. The best thing you could hope for as a reporter is to interview a designer. Usually, you have just a few moments to ask two or three questions so you better be prepared. Many young designers receive training by their publicist on which topics to avoid so it’s often very hard to get anything exclusive from the designer except their inspirations and the importance of the show for their careers. Using my old-school journalism upbringing (hey, I might be the last US based reporter who learned how to print photos in a darkroom!), I usually ask an expected question first so the designer feels more comfortable with me and then shoot a question that I was really hoping to get answered. Usually, I record those interviews on Periscope so I can share with my viewers some behind the scenes experiences and also save some storage on my phone (all of my scopes are automatically saved on Katch.me).
3. Many people that I see attending the shows are trying to take photos during the runway shows, and I do not agree with this practice. First of all, since the lighting is designed in a way that only photographers standing at the teaser can get the best shots, most of the photos that you can take on your phone come out blurry and pixelated. Second of all, trying to shoot exclusive images, people forgot to pay attention to what’s important: getting an overall feel of the collection and notice all of the little details that make the collection unique. Finally, you do not impress anyone by posting blurry images on your social media. Major media companies post hi-resolution images of the collections minutes after the show is over so in my humble opinion it’s better to retweet quality images and supply them with your comments as opposed to spending the entire show on mastering your DIY photo taking skills.
4. I noticed that many people working in the fashion industry do not take notes. They rely on their memory and on what’s coming up in the post release instead of jotting down a few sentences that come on mind during the show. I am not talking about an old school notebook and a pen (does anyone use those archaic devices anyways?), but about taking notes on your phone. Usually, I open my phone’s Notes and blind write whatever comes on my mind during the show. I send so many text messages that I don’t really need to look on my phone while typing so I just put together everything I think of at the moment: details, materials, cultural references, observations about the front row reactions, etc. When the show is over, I have a list of things that will help me to recall all of the important thoughts that crossed my mind during the presentation. The best part about this technique is some awesome autocorrect typos and incomprehensible mix of Russian and English that I am somehow still able to decode.
5. Prior to writing a review, I try to find a video of the show so I can observe how the clothing moves from another angle (seating places are usually located on the sides of the catwalk, while photographers are able to shoot directly facing the models). When I am done, I write my first draft, take a coffee break, and then start reading about what other people have to say about the collection. Sometimes I catch in those reviews some details that I never thought about so I go back to the photos of the collection and, if needed, add a few sentences into my draft. I also check out the post release as those often contain information about who attended the show. Then, I google those celebrity names together with the name of the show and try to find what they were wearing. Finally, I proofread my draft again and email it to my editor Yolande so she can find any grammatical and punctuation errors in my draft (English is not my native language so I prefer not to rely exclusively on my linguistic proficiency).
I know, such an approach to writing might not work for everyone. It takes too much time and effort to write a single post, not to mention photo cropping. Again, if you are working for a magazine or a news portal, such an approach is simply impossible. However, being my blog’s Editor-in-Chief, I can afford posting a few days after the show if my review does not blindly repeat what other people have to say about the collection. It also gives me a pleasure to know that I am providing my readers with a well-thought material and don’t jump on the opportunity of a ‘fast journalism.’