Thoughts on the weird expectation you must be fashionable to work in the fashion industry

Image and words by Bianca O’Neill

The world of fashion is a strange place.

I’ve always found the fashion world to be a strange place. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes brutal, and always inspiring – but definitely strange. And the expectation that a fashion writer be ‘fashionable’ is one of such confusion for me.

In a world where being a writer requires a fair amount of social media courting in order to grow a dedicated audience, I’ve recently discovered that being seen as a writer in the fashion industry is a fairly odd experience to navigate.

Especially when it comes to writing articles that criticise it.

I started my journalistic career as a music journalist; and as such, most of my public life was as a faceless pre-Instagram blogger, or a random body in the crowd at the back of a dark band room.

Nobody ever told me that to be a music journalist I had to prove myself as a professional musician. Or that I should perform a song for the board in my interview. There was no expectation that in order to be critical of music, I should myself be a top-rate pop star.

Study music, yes – and I did, for many years – but my fairly average performances on stage playing piano or singing over the years were never seen as a hindrance to my ability to be a great music writer.

The same could be said of all journalists; you don’t have to be in the Olympics to be a great sports writer, nor have won a local seat to investigate political scandals. And yet, fashion has a particularly strong obsession with the idea that to be a successful person in the fashion industry, you must curate an inspiring and expensive wardrobe.

But I’m here to say that it’s just not true.

The quality of my wardrobe has no connection to the quality of my understanding of fashion and style. In fact, some of the best writers, stylists, designers and photographers in the game pay no mind to trends or dressing for likes on the ‘gram.

The quality of fashion journalism, on the other hand (and in fact, most journalism at the moment), is fairly short of inspiring – and perhaps some of that has to do with hiring policies like this Vogue writer shed light on last year.

It’s a sad fact that your worth as a fashion commentator is inextricably linked to the fashion industry’s perception of how you dress – not how you think. I can’t tell you how many times social comments on my articles descend into a discussion over whether my wearing a Zara top in my latest Instagram post somehow exempts me from commenting on couture.

I love Margiela. Yamamoto. Comme des Garçons. But I also love UNIQLO, because I can actually afford to shop there. Get over it.

That’s not to say that I think clothing choices are trivial. In fact, I take the expression of self through fashion very seriously. Personal style is one of the most important ways to project yourself to the world – to explain who you are.

Personally, I enjoy plain clothing, because attention about how I dress makes me feel uncomfortable, like they can’t see beyond it.  Personally, I’m not that big on trends, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see them, or that I’m not aware of them. I just choose not to wear them.

Having the disposable income to purchase several Chanel bags and replicate the latest Gucci advertisement does not a good writer make. (Or stylist, or editor, or photographer for that matter.) If we truly want good fashion journalism, we need to start asking for much more than that.

We deserve it.

Follow Bianca’s fairly #normcore fashion life over at @_thesecondrow. She can’t promise you’ll see much Chloe, but she can promise you’ll hear a lot of opinions.

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