The Business of Fashion Podcast
Robin Givhan on the US Capitol Siege and Vogue’s Kamala Harris Cover

Robin Givhan on the US Capitol Siege and Vogue’s Kamala Harris Cover

January 14, 2021

Speaking with Imran Amed, the Washington Post’s senior critic-at-large shares her thoughts on the controversially ‘familiar’ image of the vice president-elect, and explains where it sits within the wider political climate of the United States as it is due to enter a new chapter.

When the cover of American Vogue’s February issue leaked on Saturday, January 9, a flurry of controversy ensued. Many took to social media to deride the image of vice president-elect Kamala Harris, lensed by Tyler Mitchell, for its casual styling, unflattering lighting and lack of gravitas. The criticism focused on the argument that the portrait lacked the stately deference they believed such a political figure — not least the first Black, South Asian female vice-president — should command.Among those to share their thoughts was Robin Givhan, The Washington Post’s senior critic-at-large who penned a column on January 11 in which she said “the cover did not give Kamala D. Harris due respect… It was a cover image that, in effect, called Harris by her first name without invitation.” Givhan, who became the first fashion writer to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2006, sat down with Imran Amed in the latest episode of The BoF Podcast, to further discuss the cover’s significance and the wider tumultuous landscape of US politics. 
  • Debating Harris’ portrait is about more than just a critique of the technicalities and production value of a fashion glossy. Its release comes at a time of political division and fraught race relations, just days after a violent right-wing mob stormed Washington D.C.’s Capitol building, an event incited by President Trump, who now faces a second impeachment for his involvement in the incident. “The last few years have been an exhausting, emotionally draining time,” said Givhan. “I was very surprised that [the cover] became such an issue. I was really stunned that people were so exercised about it. When you think about it, it’s [like] pain from a thousand papercuts, and this was the 1001st papercut.”
  • The informality of the image chosen for the print cover carries greater historical significance and weight. Vogue and Anna Wintour defended it as an extension of the Biden-Harris campaign’s platform of accessibility, which Givhan described as a “legitimate” point of view. But, she said, “I think that the upset is rooted not so much in the current moment but its history. Throughout history, Black women in particular were not given the kind of respect that white women were. People had this familiarity with Black women that was not about friendship and equality but was condescending. Understanding the complicated nature of that would give one pause in presenting the first female vice president — a Black woman — in that way.”
  • While the alternative digital cover image, which depicts Harris in a more presidential light and formal style, offers some reprieve, this print issue has significance as a cultural souvenir (“you can’t give a screengrab to your grandchildren,” said Givhan), and there is no real opportunity for a do-over. “There’s no way to make people happy,” said Givhan, adding that it’s important to instead listen to criticism and “recognise where things went astray” in allowing this misstep to happen. “You just have to do better the next time, and the time after that and the time after that.”

External clips courtesy of Good Morning America and ABC7 News

 

Related Articles:
Anna Wintour Speaks on VP Cover Controversy, Amazon and Diversity Efforts
The Risks and Rewards of Dressing American Politicians 

 
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Big Tech’s Threat to Fashion

Big Tech’s Threat to Fashion

January 12, 2021
It’s hard to imagine running a successful brand in 2021 without advertising on Instagram, buying search ads on Google or selling on Amazon. At BoF VOICES, H&M’s Christopher Wylie and venture capitalist Roger McNamee talked about why that’s probably not a good thing — and how the industry can reduce its reliance on tech giants.
 
Before the pandemic, social media and e-commerce giants like Facebook and Amazon were ascendant. The physical isolation caused by the ongoing global health crisis has only consolidated their power. Nevertheless, fashion brands can’t rely on a handful of Silicon Valley firms to run their businesses, venture capitalist Roger McNamee said at BoF’s VOICES.
 
In an interview with Christopher Wylie, who blew the whistle on Cambridge Analytica’s improper use of Facebook user data during the 2016 election, McNamee outlined how big tech has touched off a “cascading series of catastrophes going from the online world into the real world.”
In fashion, Facebook, Amazon and Google have inserted themselves between brands and their customers. Though they offer unparalleled marketing and commerce capabilities, McNamee noted their clients pay a steep price in the long run by ceding control of such crucial elements of their businesses. But all is not lost.
 
“The fashion industry has a superpower,” he said. “You’re actually connected to culture, so people care what you have to say. You have to recognise as an industry that these guys are changing the rules and you have to fight back.”
 
 
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Who Will Win De-Globalisation?

Who Will Win De-Globalisation?

January 7, 2021

At BoF VOICES, Axios journalist Felix Salmon, economist Dr Dambisa Moyo and Sinovation Ventures chief executive Kai-Fu Lee discussed how fashion can navigate challenging economic times.

The current global outlook of mounting debt levels, contracting global trade and rising nationalism bear more than a passing resemblance to conditions in 1929, at the onset of the Great Depression. But that alarming trajectory is not set in stone, panelists at BoF VOICES, BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers, said. Dr Dambisa Moyo, an economist and author who drew the comparison, said she was “optimistic in many respects,” and sees technological innovation as one way out of the global economy’s current troubles. That’s not to downplay the challenges. Journalist Felix Salmon described an economic “balkanisation” that was making it more difficult for cross-border business, while noting that China’s rapid rebound from Covid-19 could power global markets.

Related Articles:


Hans Ulrich Obrist: The Antidote to Globalisation
VOICES 2020: Finding Opportunity in a Global Crisis

 

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Rashad Robinson on Addressing Racial Inequality in Fashion

Rashad Robinson on Addressing Racial Inequality in Fashion

December 17, 2020

This summer’s protests forced fashion to examine its longstanding issues with racial discrimination at every level. At BoF VOICES, Color Of Change president Rashad Robinson laid out how to turn the industry’s new awareness into meaningful action.

In 2020, the fashion industry reckoned with its history — and present — of racial discrimination. Companies promised to address the lack of Black voices on their creative teams and in the C-suite, as well as toxic internal cultures.But visibility is only the first step. Now is the time to “translate caring into action,” Color Of Change president Rashad Robinson said at BoF’s VOICES.The most important change the industry can make, he said, is to stop talking about race in a passive voice. It’s not that Black people are less likely to get hired in the fashion industry — rather, the fashion industry excludes Black people.Inclusivity measures such as mentorship and creating career pipelines for Black employees are inadequate, he went on to say. Too much effort is focused on “fixing” individuals, without addressing the system that created barriers to advancement in the first place.“When we talk about vulnerable communities, we spend our time trying to fix those people,” Robinson said. “When we talk about systems and structures, we spend our time trying to fix those systems and those structures.”

 

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A Covid Survivor’s Story

A Covid Survivor’s Story

December 15, 2020

When Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou, editor-in-chief of 10, returned home after a whirlwind month zipping between shows in fashion’s capitals last March, she thought she’d come down with a case of the “fashion month flu.” What came next changed her perspective on both the industry and her life. 

 

Beating Covid-19 was a battle as draining mentally as it was physically, 10 magazine editor Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou told BoF editor-at-large Tim Blanks during BoF VOICES 2020. “It’s not just a physical assault on your body, it’s a mental assault as well,” she said. Neophitou-Apostolou contracted the disease and was admitted to hospital just after fashion month in March. She’s still recovering. The experience had made her  reconsider both how she lives her own life (being “COVID-safe,” she said, is her top priority) and the way the fashion industry operates. “It was a big wake-up call… we have to all of us contribute to things to change them.”

 

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‘Change Isn’t Good Enough if It’s Just Change for Me’

‘Change Isn’t Good Enough if It’s Just Change for Me’

December 10, 2020

Can fashion avoid tokenism and make sincere inclusivity a reality? At BoF VOICES, Sinéad Burke and Samira Nasr talk about how to be an inclusive leader in 2020.

 

After a year when awareness of the need for greater racial, physical and socioeconomic inclusion surged, can the fashion industry learn to avoid tokenism and turn that momentum into enduring change?In a conversation with activist, educator and writer Sinéad Burke at BoF VOICES, Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Samira Nasr spoke about how and why she is working to build an inclusive team in her new role.“The best dinner parties are the ones with more difference. You don’t want to be sitting there with someone with the same ideas,” said Nasr, who was appointed to lead the magazine’s US edition in June.In many parts of the fashion industry, the status quo is only just beginning to shift.
“I’m thinking about how to measure and put a process in place so that there’s systemic change,” Burke said. “Change isn’t good enough if it’s just change for me.”

 

Related Articles:
VOICES 2020: Fixing the Fashion System

 

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The Future of Moncler’s ‘Genius’

The Future of Moncler’s ‘Genius’

December 8, 2020

At BoF VOICES, Remo Ruffini speaks to Imran Amed about adapting his brand’s programme of designer collaborations to a post-pandemic reality where Chinese customers and online activations are paramount.

 

After global fashion sales fell by 27 percent to 30 percent this year, according to estimates in BoF and McKinsey’s State of Fashion 2021 report (released Wednesday), the industry is bracing for a difficult and (likely incomplete) recovery next year. The important thing is to adapt.
“This crisis could be an opportunity,” Moncler chief executive Remo Ruffini said at VOICES last week, predicting the fashion market is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic norms before 2023. “You cannot stay sitting in your chair for two or three years. We need to find new projects and new ways to work.”

With an eye on the rising importance of both digital and China, he’s planning to stage the launch for his next round of “Genius” collaborations in the country this September, with an event mixing physical and online elements. Since 2018, the Italian outerwear label’s “Genius” programme — a series of ultra-hyped, one-off collections from guest designers — has helped the brand reach untapped consumer niches, been a focal point for parties and store activations, and, perhaps most importantly, fuelled visibility on social media.

“The collection will be more customer-centric,” Ruffini said. “We’ll still have people there, but with a different approach.”

Elsewhere, the executive is planning bolder moves. Our conversation took place shortly before Moncler announced it would acquire Stone Island in a transformational move — opening the door to becoming a multi-brand group after nearly two decades of rapid expansion under the banner of a single brand.

 

Related Articles:
Moncler Buys Stone Island in Transformative Move
VOICES 2020: Fixing the Fashion System
Moncler to Stage Genius Show in China in Pandemic Pivot

 

Find out more about #BoFVOICES  here.
 
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Tory Burch on Finding Purpose in Female Empowerment

Tory Burch on Finding Purpose in Female Empowerment

November 26, 2020

The American designer discusses the power of many businesses to be advocates for change.

 

The last few years have offered Tory Burch, founder of her namesake womenswear label, time to focus less on business and more on design, particularly since her husband Pierre-Yves Roussel took on the role of chief executive in 2018. Now, the pandemic is giving her even more time to focus on perfecting product, a rare silver lining of an otherwise challenging situation.
 
In the latest episode of the BoF Podcast, BoF editor-at-large Tim Blanks speaks with Burch about her activist-focused approach to business and how the last 10 months have shaped her fashion label.
 
  • Restriction is a crucial component of creativity. To Burch, the travel restrictions and social distancing measures have opened new avenues of creativity, fostering agility and resourcefulness. “One thing that’s happened because of lockdown is it makes you stand still,” said Burch. “To be able to be in one place has been really transformative on many levels.”
  • Burch emphasises that what constitutes luxury needs to be reconsidered. “I really believe luxury isn’t about a price point, and I think that’s relatable particularly today,” she said. “How do you design beautiful things that are timeless and that will last? That’s what I’ve been thinking about,” she said, adding that having time to spend is the ultimate luxury.
  • Through the Tory Burch Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to advancing women’s empowerment, Burch is finding new avenues through which to support women and help them weather the coronavirus crisis. “Its horrendous for women right now,” said Burch. “They are taking care of children at a much higher rate than men. We have had to help many women figure out how to take out PPP loans… We had to pivot to really be a resource for women.”

 

Related Articles:
Tory Burch Names Pierre-Yves Roussel CEO
Independent Women Brought Hope to Fashion’s Virtual Spring
Visual Metaphors at Tory Burch

 
 
Watch and listen to more #BoFLIVE conversations here.
 
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David Bailey on a Life of ‘Looking Again’

David Bailey on a Life of ‘Looking Again’

November 19, 2020

The acclaimed photographer talks to Tim Blanks about his new autobiography and extraordinary career.

 

LONDON, United Kingdom — David Bailey has authored dozens of books, but “Look Again” is his first autobiography. As the title suggests, the photographer is less interested in reminiscing about the past, and more keen on pushing himself and others to look beyond first impressions. 

 

The memoir delves into Bailey’s past and includes sometimes-scathing accounts of his relationships with heavyweights in the world of fashion, media, show business and politics — though he maintains he told the stories “in the nicest possible way.” 

 

“Being a photographer, you have to know how to deal with anyone, from the bloke on the [street] corner to the Queen, so you have to behave,” he said.

 

Speaking in conversation with BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks, the famed photographer shares anecdotes from his storied and colourful past. 

 

  • Since he first burst onto the scene in 1960, photography has drastically changed alongside technology. “iPhones killed photography in a way, because everyone can take a picture,” he said, adding, “it’s made it into a kind of folk art,” which has its merits.  
  • As Blanks notes, Bailey lost interest in fashion photography for a while in the 1970s, a period  Bailey blames on  his dislike of some editors and the grind of the fashion cycle. It was “another frock and another frock and another girl and another girl.” It took the emergence of Kate Moss alongside ‘60s supermodel Jean Shrimpton one of Bailey’s top muses — to excite him again. “They’re both exceptional,… important people, much more important than people think.”
  • While Bailey is not one for nostalgia, he can pinpoint one photograph that defines an era — and himself as a photographer. “I’ve got one picture that I feel sums up everything: [British actor] Michael Caine with an unlit cigarette,” he said. “I feel it sums up the ‘60s for me. Not a miniskirt but a close-up of Michael Caine.”

 

Related Articles:

David Bailey Turns Editor for Citizens of Humanity

100 Years of British Vogue

Will Covid-19 Change Fashion Photography?

Watch and listen to more #BoFLIVE conversations here.
 
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Tremaine Emory on Mixing Politics and Fashion

Tremaine Emory on Mixing Politics and Fashion

November 12, 2020
Imran Amed talks to the designer, also known as Denim Tears, about the US election and putting conditions on his collaboration with Converse.
 
This is just the beginning for designer Tremaine Emory. Following the US election, the designer, who is also known as Denim Tears, spoke to BoF’s Imran Amed about negotiating with big brands, leading with purpose and the work still ahead. “It’s been an incredible week and there’s a lot more work to do,” said Emory. “I hope this is the start.”
 
  • For Emory, principles come first when it comes to working with big brands, especially if they are using corporate activism in their marketing. The designer notably withheld the release of a collaboration with Converse earlier this year, posting a set of conditions for parent company Nike on Instagram that ranged from disclosing the number of Black employees in leadership roles to stopping all support for the Republican party. “I can’t put these sneakers out if all the company is doing is donating money,” said Emory. “I need to know specifically what they’re doing to combat police brutality in Black neighbourhoods… Who are we protecting with this money?” In negotiations with brands, Emory delineated the tango that comes with corporate partnerships: “Their number one thing is making money... how can I dance their bottom line with my bottom line?”
  • Reflecting on the results of the election, Emory emphasised the importance of registering young voters and getting them excited about the upcoming senate elections, particularly in his home state of Georgia. “We’re going to work to get people to vote and get Democrats in those seats,” he said.
  • Emory also hopes to introduce young consumers to new ideas and ways of thinking about American history and civil rights. “That’s probably my favourite part of my practice is being a bridge of knowledge between generations,” he said. “How can I condense... a James Baldwin book [or] a Black Panther book into a T-shirt?”
 
Watch and listen to more #BoFLIVE conversations here.
 
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