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susie lau whatsapped @diet_prada and youtuber haute le mode to talk fashion industry failings

Susie Lau

2017, the year fashion woke up. OG 1.0 blogger Susie Lau talks with new gen fashion commentators Diet Prada and Haute Le Mode, about maintaining their impartiality as they get big.

When I began blogging over ten years ago, self-publishing felt like a gateway to an alternative fashion media landscape, one untainted by advertising and unshackled by brand loyalties. What was once a bedroom-based hobby has become a multi-million dollar industry, as personal fashion documentation and its widespread appeal gave way to the legions of Instagram influencers of today. The OG 1.0 bloggers including yours truly can no longer say they are on the periphery of the fashion industry, we are very much a part of it and are often formally collaborating with brands.

As blogging has evolved, social media feeds have become the platforms for talking about fashion. They’ve also been fertile ground for growing a new kind of industry critic unafraid to call out wrongs, especially as fashion’s biggest and baddest sins are coming to light. Step forward Diet Prada, who may not have been the first to do so, but with their formidable fashion knowledge and bold critiques, are causing more than a little stir. Calling out fakes, copycats and allegations of abuse, the Instagram account has racked up over 150,000 followers and counting. No brand or designer is untouchable, and their forthright chutzpah has earned them a seat at the show of their hero brand Prada, as well as an Instagram takeover on Gucci. And along the way, a love-in from Naomi Campbell, a spat with Stefano Gabanna, and an interesting exchange with Jonathan Anderson regarding his designs for Loewe that may or may not have committed cultural appropriation.

Luke Meagher of YouTube channel HauteLeMode is another online presence currently disrupting the fashion industry. Meagher is a 23-year-old fashion student in New York who is currently studying at FIT, who has applied his fashion fanaticism to YouTube, the land of cat videos and hauler vlogs, by combining fashion fandom with cutting “roasts” of the latest catwalk shows. Luke is keen to apply his knowledge and opinions and address issues within the industry in a way that speaks to the masses. In a video entitled Why the Fashion Industry is F**ked, Meagher bluntly surmises that “fashion is no longer sustainable and lacks diversity of race, gender, size, sexual orientation. Why would anyone buy these clothes when they don’t make them feel good about themselves?” It’s an “A-ha” statement that is all too resonant in this #MeToo, woke-up world.

I WhatsApped (the true platform for fashion REAL talk) Luke and Diet Prada to discuss why they do what they do and where they hope it will take them.

Susie Lau: I began blogging because I wanted a hobby that was a respite from my boring day job. What were your primary motivations?
Diet Prada: We were already making the collages so Insta felt like a natural platform to share them beyond just our friends. It was a archive we could scroll through for the lols.
HauteLeMode: I was annoyed no one was talking about the fashion industry on YouTube!

Susie Lau: People think of vloggers as haulers or outfit sharers...
HauteLeMode: At first it was hauls and lookbooks. However, for Black History Month I celebrated and profiled the likes of Naomi, Edward and Pat and realised that there was so much more than needed to be discussed.

Susie Lau: You’re both obviously serious fans of fashion but aren’t afraid to critique it. Criticism has traditionally been something that that first generation of bloggers/influencers have shied away from. Why is it so important for both of you to call out the industry where necessary? And if there is a line, where do you draw it?
HauteLeMode: I think growing up in the first wave of blogging, you appreciate what they did and how they broke through the industry’s wall but I always felt like they were too friendly with brands.
Diet Prada: Fashion gets written off so often as something frivolous but it’s one of the biggest worldwide industries, so in this day of the almighty dollar it’s super important to be critical of it. We just try to not be a bully in any way. Our comments need to come from some point of valid criticism.
HauteLeMode: I don’t think there’s a line unless there is no constructive criticism. Also, I never hold a grudge with a designer or brand, I want the best for them all.

Susie Lau: What’s been the most powerful reaction or follow up so far to your content?
HauteLeMode: I want people -- who like me, didn’t grow up in the golden age of magazines and supermodels -- to love and appreciate the clothes and the industry. I really do love my subscribers and that’s who I do it for!
Diet Prada: We’ve already seen some designers and retailers pull or promise not to produce some ill-designed merch, I feel like that’s the biggest effect. Or the Terry Richardson drama...
HauteLeMode: Respect to you for that Terry call out, it was much needed and so happy the industry applied it!!
Diet Prada: Ultimately, we want the notice of the industry since it’s them we’re trying to hold the mirror to.

Susie Lau: As the industry increasingly acknowledges your work, what impact might this have on your objectivity?
HauteLeMode: I’ve been thinking about this since my channel has grown. but the objectivity is why people love it. Being able to attend the shows to really get a feel for the energy and how the clothes move would give the videos more quality though.

Susie Lau: DP, as you HAVE started to get invites this season, how does that affect the way you critique?
Diet Prada: If anything, going to the shows makes us more objective, you see the full scope of the designers idea so much better and their world. Prada is definitely not off limits but they really don’t seem to copy other designers often since their house codes are so strong. I mean they obviously look at vintage, but that’s not our focus.
HauteLeMode: Attending gives more of a chance to feel what the designers are trying to convey, but also if it’s shit, it’s shit and you can’t change that no matter how much money you spend on a set.

Susie Lau: My biggest bugbear about the print v. digital debate is the complaint that those that self-publish have no knowledge. You both have some haters below the line in your comments. How do you deal with that?
Diet Prada: Some of ours are valid, we’re not infallible and definitely have made some comparisons that didn’t land. But a lot of them are just haters and you have to ignore them. Or as Beyoncé taught us, love our haters.
HauteLeMode: I don’t know everything, but some are so funny they make me laugh, I show them to my friends all the time, because of how ridiculous some are.

Susie Lau: YouTube seems to breed a particular kind of hater...
Haute le Mode: YouTube is so weird. I’ll make videos about popular YouTuber’s style and even though I’m not nearly as harsh with them as I am with shows, people still despise me. It’s usually young kids that don’t know any better though.
Diet Prada: We keep getting comments of “Who cares if it’s fake?” And I wanna know who’s raising these kids without integrity lol.

Susie Lau: Well that’s worrying too... the lack of belief in design integrity is kind of what fuels this copycat culture.
HauteLeMode: I grew up in the school of The Fashion Law. Fake goods are sooooo unsustainable and cruel, it has to matter that things are fake.

Susie Lau: What do you guys identify yourselves as? Blogger sounds old fashioned and not relevant. Fashion commentators?
Diet Prada: We’ve been called new generation critics by a few people and I think that’s pretty accurate.
HauteLeMode: I would say fashion commentator about myself tho.

Susie Lau: Would you like to turn your platforms into full-time jobs?
HauteLeMode: I’m still at FIT, I want HauteLeMode to be able to sustain me financially! I want to continue to make videos that help people learn about the history of brands and hopefully that can be full-time!
Diet Prada: Same. We’d love to get to a point where it’s sustaining us. It’s hard to make money and stay seemingly impartial though!

Susie Lau: Or maybe there’s something organic about your platforms being side gigs. My feeling is that when you want to start making money, your impartiality is hard to sustain.
Haute le Mode: I think it’ll grow harder to have the channel as a side gig because my name is attached to it. I don’t think that I should have to lose impartiality in order to be financially rewarded. Critics aren’t there to ruin designers! They’re there to push them to be better and translate the shows to their audiences. It’s so strange that art, theatre, food critics are appreciated, why are fashion critics hated?
Susie Lau: It’s an industry full of egos that can’t be deflated.

Susie Lau: So given that you have both poured a fair amount of vitriol on brands, who are the good guys in your books? Who are the ones that really do impress you?
Diet Prada: Prada (obviously)... we still really love Jonathan Anderson, especially Loewe lately, even though we busted them on that Hermès bag. Really been enjoying seeing Jacquemus blossom but he needs to write YSL a big fat check for autumn/winter… lol.

Susie Lau: How did they react to that Hèrmes find?
Diet Prada: JW liked the Hermès post from his personal account, lol. That was it. Like the classy reaction rather than being a baby about it.

Susie Lau: Ahem, Stefano Gabanna... That was definitely an OTT reaction.
Haute le Mode: The shade of it all. Love Louis Vuitton this season, and happy that Natascha went to Chloé! And I live for Raf at Calvin!

Susie Lau: How do you think a new generation of fashion creators/enthusiasts will change the industry?
Diet Prada: I hope this new generation is more woke, they’ll question the industry and where their goods come from and hopefully care about design origins.
Haute le Mode: I hope that they’re less discriminatory and have the ability to speak up

Susie Lau: What advice would you give new voices who wish to follow in your footsteps?
Haute le Mode: Learn with every piece of work you put on the internet! it’s all about educating yourself and others!
Diet Prada: Never discount the power of research. Immerse yourself, look at everything. Fashion is a language you have to gain fluency in.