Monday, 27 February 2012
If power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, the same is true of fame. Whitney Houston is its latest victim - there have been countless others before her, and countless more to come. Its victims’ demise isn’t always as dramatic as Whitney’s - death is final and dramatic whether suicidal or accidental in celebrities, but the slow erosion and corruption of a character is in some ways just as sad.
Fashion has often crossed over with fame in the Venn diagram of entertainment and celebrity – more so than any other design form due to its relationship with glamour and the human form. And there is nothing wrong with recognition and achievement - or becoming a household name. As with any fame, the key to it is when fame and recognition has been earned. That makes it easier to live with - the inevitable symptom or by-product after years of coming up through the ranks, jumping through hoops, performing the endless monotonous rites of passage that others have done before to get to the top.
But what about when fame is not earned? What threats lurk within the psyche when fame has been bestowed instantly, in a heartbeat? There is no need to lament the victims of reality television during the last decade, as it is a given. But the rip-tide of instant fame is claiming new victims for itself: in the fashion world. The ‘bloggerazzi’ have turned fashion week into an ugly circus of attention seeking wannabes, feeding and fuelling egos of its subjects with flashbulbs for sustenance.
Out of nowhere in the last few years, an army of apparent nobodies has swelled in numbers, taking over the front line, making entering into a show like running the gauntlet. More often than not clad in outlandish and forced looking outfits, they have adopted the customs of the paparazzi but sadly they have none of the clout. Because outside of the microcosm of fashion, no one is interested in what Japanese Vogue’s Anna Della Russo (the bloggers’ favourite) is wearing.
Thanks to the bloggerazzi, a tragic parade now takes place in all the fashion weeks. Since the dawn of the international fashion collections, all of us in the industry have always seized the opportunity of fashion week to have a bit more fun with our outfits, but the presence of this battalion, emerging from their trenches with semi-professional cameras poised like shields, has generated a giant extra swathe of pretentious, attention seeking dressing up and poseur behaviour. Their incessant snapping away feeds straight into the ego and insecurity in each one of their subjects, giving them the illusion that somehow they are - well - famous.
Where is all of this imagery going? I wondered that when I got ‘papped’ for the first few seasons while the bloggerazzi was in its infancy. Did I play along with it? Sure I did, at first. But after a while, it becomes incredibly tedious. You go to fashion week, surprisingly enough, to work. The schedule is gruelling and the brain switches between overdrive and overload by the second, by the hour. And after wasting time posing for a group of self-important, self anointed pseudo opinion formers, you realise that so few of these images they shoot ever make it into a domain big enough to justify all the hype and chaos, that actually it is not really worth it after all.
It is not to decry fashion blogs per se. There are countless very successful fashion bloggers out there – Tommy Ton, Tavi, Bryan Boy, The Sartorialist, Susie Bubble, Liberty London Girl and so on. They are the democracy to fashion publishing’s autocracy. David takes on the publishing world’s Goliath and wins. But these pioneers are unwittingly thorough, they attend the shows and have a unique point of view that is worth hearing – and which is why Dolce and Gabbana made media history by putting them all front row several seasons back at their D&G show in Milan, next to super-snapper Mario Testino. And which is why some of them can earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in advertising and brand collaborations.
But it is the legions of street-style snappers, the bloggerazzi that ruin it for everyone else, that turn it into a cliché and a soap opera. Millions and millions of pictures of street style, filling up the world wide web’s vortex with junk and simultaneously creating the myth of fame for people who are otherwise regular people with full time jobs in the fashion industry. They are not performers or actors with immense talent that can reach out and affect the hearts and mind of the great public, they are actually store buyers, writers, editors and stylists. But all these people’s overnight status can escalate within the bubble of the fashion industry, giving them an illusion of disproportionate self-importance. The danger is that people could start believing their own hype and succeed above other more talented, less attention-seeking colleagues, purely because they gained a little fame in the fashion bubble – style over content, the book’s cover mattering more than its story inside. It feels as if Warhol is laughing all the way to the bank.
Mary Fellowes is a London-based fashion stylist. A former assistant to Isabella Blow at British Vogue, Fellowes currently works as a consultant to a number of fashion houses and her work is regularly featured in Vogue.
Tuesday, 7 February 2012
So if I told you you could obtain the skills that would enable you to develop better career opportunities, generate new business, develop a network of alliances, build partnerships and contacts, make departments talk to each other and be more effective, would you believe me ? If I said that you were able to tap into crossing-selling opportunities, gain market information, set up a business and make a success out of it, alongside improving your own self-marketing skills would you think I was mad? If I told you that all of this was at your fingertips, and all you needed to do was find a little bit of confidence and a small amount of time, would you think I was mad. The skill I am referring too is the ability to network – once you discover the benefits, you will soon find it is one of the most important tools in your business armory.
Networking is often something individuals find especially hard to do and worse still, people don’t realize the benefits it reaps. I hear all to often, so what’s the point, it's all about chewing the fat and having drinks with people you don’t really know – much better to get out there, be excellent at your job, invent a new product, work ridiculous hours and deliver stuff, right ? – well, let me challenge that.
Unfortunately, building a successful career or business is as much about who you know (and who knows you) as it is about doing a good job or selling a good product. If some of you are horrified by the thought of Networking, let’s park the actual word for a bit, and think of it more the “art of career/business development” or “developing key relationships”.
The “art” itself is nothing more than making the effort to go to event that’s right for you or your business and connecting with new people. It is also a fantastic way of keeping your future customers/colleagues or peers informed of what you do, what you are good at and above all how you can help them. It is the cheapest form of PR and bear in mind, no one will ever sell you or your business like you do.
A question I get asked frequently is is it OK to go to events and just hand out business cards to all and sundry. In the right context, handing out your business card is absolutely the right thing to do. What you need to consider is when NOT to do it. In short never hand out your card if you haven’t established a positive/good connection between you and the other people in the group (or the person you are speaking to). Otherwise you might be seen as superficial, pushy, sales-like etc. What you MUST avoid is leaving the wrong impression with people. If you haven’t connected with them we can almost guarantee where your card and brand and reputation will end up… in the bin.
People often ask if there is a case for business networking? My answer is if you want to open career doors, gain opportunities to develop personal skills, extend your personal resources, gain industry knowledge, monitor competitor activity, influence key people, bring in new business, find business partners or new employees, demonstrate abilities, test out ideas and skills, exchange best practice and above all raise your profile, then the answer is Yes. Alternatively, you could always just stay indoors and perhaps miss the opportunity to meet the exact person who will move you, your career or your business forward. As my grandmother always told me, boats come in for the lucky few, for the rest of us, we have to swim out to them !
Vanessa Vallely is a recognized expert in person-to-person business networking, online branding and a sought after motivational speaker. She is regarded as one of the most well networked women in and out of the City and is passionate about sharing her know-how and experiences with others.
There are hundreds of networking events across the London and the UK, we feature a number of these on www.wearethecity.com. If you wish to contact Vanessa, please email Enquries@wearethecity.com or visit www.vanessavallely.com