cathy horyn's guide to getting ahead in fashion

Plus, what she thinks of branding, business and 80s Armani.

by Stuart Brumfitt
01 May 2015, 1:35pm

Cathy Horyn, the fashion critic par excellence is the latest insider to get a grilling in one of System magazine's exhaustive interviews. We pick out 10 of her most brilliant observations about the industry.

1) Don't go to every show:
"I only want to write about the newsmakers. I don't want to feel like I have to go, believe me I've done that. But when you're seeing these collections, season after season, you can sit at a show and know in a heartbeat what's new, what's striking, what's newsworthy."

2) Speak your mind:
"You've always got something influencing you, but you should work at keeping some distance from that. You just have to say what you think."

3) Don't be afraid to piss some people off:
"Tom Ford got so upset with me about something… but when I left the Times, a lot of these guys were like, 'You said things that were terrible, that really hurt me, but you were right!"

4) Amuse yourself:
"Amy [Spindler, former style editor for the New York Times] used to say to me all the time, 'Cathy, shut the fuck up, you're always sat in front of your screen, laughing at your own jokes.'"

5) Phoniness is fun:
"I find fashion people more appealing than most artists. Maybe because of the business side, which I really like, maybe because I love the phoniness of fashion. These days, the phoniness is not so much fun as it was in the 90s. Bill [Blass] was a big phoney, Oscar [de la Renta] was a huge phoney. They came and they charmed and they swaggered, they flirted with the customers, and yet they were great people behind that façade."

6) It's all about business:
"Today I think that the economics of fashion has affected everything in the industry. It's not about aesthetics, it's not about pleasure, it's certainly not about charming people…"

7) Dig into that Armani archive:
"I think about what his [Giorgio Armani] shows were like back in the late 80s and they were so beautifully done, as well as being great-looking clothes. I mean, you would kill to have some of those jackets and pants today. And the quality was insane. His presentations were just heaven."

8) Keep your distance:
"I think you can hang out and have an affinity for certain designers, but I think that if you believe you are truly friends then you are in for trouble. And it's not good for your professionalism nor good for your copy, if you believe that."

9) Come on new gen!
"Where is the Kawakubo of today? Or the Martin Margiela or the Helmut Lang: those people who really made a statement about their time? I don't think anyone is going to dispute what I'm saying; we just don't see those kind of people emerging now."

10) Branding sucks (and she socks it to Suzy Menkes): 
"She [Suzy Menkes] was going on about branding this and branding that; of course, she was absolutely right, that did happen, and the importance of branding has become key. But then it started becoming a part of her writing, there was just too much of an embrace of that language and the methodology that those companies were using. And I thought, 'Wait a minute, Suzy, why are you working for these people? You work for a newspaper and you're a critic, please try and stay somewhat independent of that thinking.'"

The new issue of System magazine is out this week, available at Dover Street Market, Colette and 10 Corso.


new york times
cathy horyn
system magazine