Along with celebrity scandals, fashion scandals are also the rage du jour.
Is the integrity of fashion at stake?
On the lips of just about every fashion-devoted Torontonian during L’Oreal Fashion Week was the drunken speech given by Robin Kay, head of the Fashion Design Council of Canada. Kay, under the influence of one too many cocktails, floundered her way through a speech thanking sponsors and guests prior to the Mango show. The fashion industry was mortified, and Kay apologized for her behaviour, claiming that she was exhausted. David Graham of The Toronto Star reported that Kay went on to say that she hoped her speech would be ignored, and that the clothing would take their place centre stage. Despite her less than stellar performance, Kay was absolutely right. Ideally, Fashion Week should focus solely on the clothing and not on the mishaps of models, designers and fashionistas. This time around though, it was not about the clothing-it was about Robin Kay and her drunken shenanigans.
Taking a look at the fashion flip side, it is important for any person in the public eye (celebrity or not) to uphold a certain high standard. In Robin Kay’s case, the ideal standard would be to act as the professional voice of the Fashion Design Council of Canada. Not every woman in fashion can be as dignified and poised as Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel once was, but some effort should be put into being at the very least coherent. Barbara Atkin, vice-president of fashion direction at Holt Renfrew, cleverly compared Kay’s behaviour to wearing a bad accessory with a beautiful outfit. It’s like Robin Kay kicked off fashion week wearing a couture gown with socks and sandals. Hideously embarrassing! You could be the most talented person in fashion, but one small faux pas and your reputation is tarnished.
Sadly, a tarnished reputation is exactly what everyone lives to read about. Society has become scandal hungry, with a penchant for a quick fix. Tabloid media is taking over to the point where no one really wants to hear “real” news. We are all dying to read about Donatella Versace and her speculated one-too-many Botox injections, as well as Sarah Palin and her recent $150,000 shopping spree. Therefore it does not come as a surprise that the media would blow Robin Kay’s two minute speech into epic proportions. If that is what people want to read, then that is exactly what the media is going to churn out. Scandal and sensationalism are what seems to sell these days, even more so than in previous years. This can be attributed in part to tabloid websites like Perez Hilton and the over-abundance of magazines that mimic the look and subject-matter of US Weekly. Tabloid culture peaks our interest and fuels our obsession with celebrities. It also succeeds in bringing those in the public eye down to a more human level. For example, one can look at Kate Moss’ cocaine scandal with empathy and say, “girlfriend has some problems, but at least she’s human and makes mistakes!” The same can be said about Robin Kay. Everyone has their fabulously sloppy nights once in awhile.
In our tabloid culture, when scandal and fashion collide, a little bit of artistic integrity is lost. The garments that a designer has a created or an individual’s contribution to fashion week should not be obscured by their vices or those of anyone else. Otherwise, the private life of the individual becomes the sole focus, rather than the clothing. This goes hand in hand with celebrities becoming fashion designers. Celebrities are the talk of the town; therefore they feel that they can delve into any realm that sparks their interest. No longer is it about the art of designing clothes, it becomes about the individual behind the clothing as a celebrity brand name. For example, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have two fashion labels, Elizabeth and James and The Row. Does their talent as designers thrust their clothing into the spotlight, or their status as celebrities? It seems as though we want our celebrities to become fashion designers and our fashion designers to become celebrities, if only to watch them fail. Karl Lagerfeld is such an alluring and interesting character, it doesn’t even matter that he also happens to design clothing. That may be a scandalous statement to the devotee of high-fashion, but hey, everyone loves a good scandal!