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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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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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?

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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?”
 
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Imran Amed and Tim Blanks on a Most Unusual Fashion Month

Imran Amed and Tim Blanks on a Most Unusual Fashion Month

October 15, 2020

Amed and Blanks reflect on this season’s collections, the shift to digital and the limitless potential power of creative collaboration.

 

 

LONDON, United Kingdom — This last fashion month has been unlike any other. After much of the year working under lockdowns, brands largely shifted to digital channels to showcase their newest collections. In the latest episode of the BoF podcast, BoF Founder and CEO Imran Amed and BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks reflect on the season's most compelling moments and lasting impact.

  • Virtual presentations haven’t always landed, but this season felt different, said Blanks. “There was so much thought and creativity and ingenuity applied to new ways of doing business and new ways [of showing work]... It was a very different ball game.”
  • In London, Blanks was struck by female designers like Bianca Saunders, Ahluwalia and Supriya Lele who “did these super strong presentations that were provocative and affirmative and positive,” he said. Overall, London Fashion Week was defined by a joyful defiance during a time of crisis. In Milan and Paris, Blanks and Amed referenced Prada and Rick Owens as two of many shows that stood out to them.
  • This season also made clear the power of strong partnerships. Through creative collaborations between designers and filmmakers, brands have managed to bring their collections to life to audiences the world over. “It changes the fundamental conception of fashion being about the designer, now we have a much more collaborative thing happening,” said Blanks. “That’s a shift, I think.”

Related Articles:

How Impactful Were the Digital Fashion Week Shows, Really?

Who Will Win the Digital Fashion Week Battle?

How to Make Digital Fashion Weeks Work

 

Watch and listen to more #BoFLIVE conversations here. To contact The Business of Fashion with comments, questions, or speaker ideas please e-mail podcast@businessoffashion.com.

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Welcome to Retail Reborn from The Business of Fashion | Trailer

Welcome to Retail Reborn from The Business of Fashion | Trailer

September 14, 2020

In an exclusive new series from The Business of Fashion in partnership with Brookfield Properties, Doug Stephens and BoF investigate the seismic shifts transforming the retail ecosystem. From the post-pandemic consumer psyches to increased risk and growing calls for responsibility, BoF identifies the forces transforming the retail market and what they mean for the global industry.

The Retail Reborn Podcast launches on Tuesday 15 September. Subscribe now to never miss an episode.

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Cathy Horyn on Why Fashion Media Must Evolve

Cathy Horyn on Why Fashion Media Must Evolve

September 3, 2020

The industry veteran and renowned Critic-at-Large at New York Magazine and The Cut discusses how the pandemic has shifted the way journalists cover fashion, signalling an editorial transformation.

 

LONDON, United Kingdom — For fashion critic Cathy Horyn, the pandemic has ushered in yet another transformation of fashion media. Just like the brands and designers who pivoted and adopted new digital tools to reach buyers and consumers amid show cancellations, publications maximised their online presence to guide the industry at large through a period of upheaval.

In the latest episode of The BoF Podcast, Horyn sat down with BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks to discuss reviewing the upcoming shows this month (a mixture of both physical and live events) and her outlook for a post-Covid-19 fashion industry.

  • For Horyn, the media reflects and adapts to the needs of its time. “There’s been incredible [fashion] writers all the way back to the 1830s at least… and they all did something different. Journalists adapted to whatever was going on at that time,” she said. With the advent of the internet and social media, the industry saw the emergence of new voices and new talent. Amid this current period of uncertainty, Horyn remains optimistic that the industry will emerge stronger and transformed. “We’ve seen a lot of experimentation in the last… two months… I think going forward...it’s going to be an adjustment for everybody covering fashion, [but] I certainly think it should be covered.”
  • Will the show go on? This has been one of the questions on the minds of designers across the globe, but with New York Fashion Week given the go ahead (sort of) industry insiders and consumers are in for a fashion week unlike anything ever seen before: a mixture of in-person shows, livestreams, films and virtual panel discussions. What does this mean for journalists, like Horyn, that usually review the collections gracing the runway? “We don’t even know if we’re going to be covering shows like we did till possibly next fall,” she said. “My long-term feelings for the industry are really strong… [fashion] will transform itself but we just don’t know what that’s going to [look like].”
  • For Horyn and other critics, it would be remiss to ignore the allure of the physical runway show. A collection “doesn’t [always] translate so well on television or on a video screen,” Horyn said. But one thing that remains, whether via a screen or in real time, is the “sense of discovery and [realisation] that some of that stuff ... moves the historical needle of fashion and we get to see that,” she said.

 

Related Articles:

The Best-Case, Worst-Case for Fashion Media

For Fashion Magazines, It's Crunch Time

At Condé Nast and Hearst, It’s About More Than the Current Crisis

 

Watch and listen to more #BoFLIVE conversations here. To contact The Business of Fashion with comments, questions, or speaker ideas please e-mail podcast@businessoffashion.com.

 

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LOVE Magazine’s Editors on the Fashion Magazine’s New Role in Culture

LOVE Magazine’s Editors on the Fashion Magazine’s New Role in Culture

July 30, 2020

Ben Cobb and Pierre A. M’Pelé discuss the creative process behind LOVE’s latest two-volume issue and how they responded to the unprecedented events of the last six months.

 

LONDON, United Kingdom — What is the role of a fashion magazine at this moment in time? For Ben Cobb, editor-in-chief, men’s, of LOVE Magazine, and Pierre A. M’Pelé, the title’s senior editor, community and collaboration is key.
Launching August 4, the latest iteration of the biannual magazine is two volumes of hardback books, titled “LOVE ‘Diaries 3 March - 4 July’ Volumes 1 and 2” featuring a total of four covers. “I hesitate to even call it a magazine,” said BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks in conversation with Cobb and M’Pelé. “[It’s] a remarkable time capsule of this remarkable time.”
  • Despite its triumphant final form, the process behind creating the magazine has not been without its challenges. “There were three senior members very ill with Covid,” said Cobb, describing how the team stepped in to carry out work depending on how healthy they were feeling each day, ahead of M’Pelé joining the team in late June. “We were exhausted and suffering from fatigue, [but] Pierre came in with so much energy.” As a highly collaborative process, it also dissolved the traditional hierarchy of the masthead — “a new way of putting together a magazine,” said Blanks, reminiscent of “the idealistic height of the ’60s.”
  • Producing a fashion magazine — particularly one as extensive as LOVE’s two-tome edition — typically takes a long period of planning and forethought, but the seismic and fast-developing events of the last six months required quickfire changes. The Black Lives Matter protests of May and June “changed the course of action,” said M’Pelé, who himself attended protests in Paris. “The team was very reactive because it was a matter of ‘let’s speak now, let’s take a stance now and let’s be clear of our intentions now...’ If we hadn’t added these Black Lives Matter and systemic racism conversations into the magazine, it would have been too late.” In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, M’Pelé’s “manifesto,” a portable pamphlet-like insert in the book, “became a lot more about new voices, bringing people of colour into the picture,” he said. “I want someone to be able to take it out and give it to their racist aunt.”
  • This period has also called into question the formats and fundamental role that fashion magazines assume. “Editorial perspective…[typically] crystallises a moment and it’s about dictating what that moment means,” said Cobb. “I think what’s been really incredible and transformative about this is that … that dynamic has been completely reversed and the moment tells you what it needs to be.” As for what the next issue of LOVE will look like, “Who knows?” said Cobb. “Maybe a magazine can just be a film.”
 
 

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Fabien Baron Says, ‘The Way We Communicate Is Going to Change’

Fabien Baron Says, ‘The Way We Communicate Is Going to Change’

July 28, 2020

The celebrated art director Fabien Baron talks to BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks about the future of image-making.

 

LONDON, United Kingdom —  For famed art director Fabien Baron, the chaos and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic presents an opportunity for the fashion industry to go “back to basics.”

“When there’s doubt like this there’s not really an answer… so there’s opportunities to take more risks and be more creative,” Baron told BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks in the latest episode of The BoF Podcast. “It’s going to bring a lot of changes… but there’s something very optimistic about change. To be forced to change allows one to really [reflect] on the issues we are all facing.”

  • This period of uncertainty has unlocked conversations that were rippling below the surface, said Baron. Both the pandemic and the recent political unrest has highlighted an opportunity for the fashion industry at large to reshape “old formats” that feel at odds with the world’s new normal. For Baron, that means “a new way of looking things… which may lead you to a new path… it’s going to be an evolution [for the industry].”
  • According to Baron, creativity is the key to unlocking change and as the world adjusts to a new set of challenges, industries must do the same. From this health crisis a new way of approaching magazines, photography, styling and the buying and selling of merchandise will emerge where storytelling must supersede superficiality, said Baron. Brands and publications must hone an authentic voice which reflects the time and inspires “people with new ideas and new ways of looking at things. You need freshness and you need a lot of positiveness.”
  • Simplicity could be the antidote to the incessant pace at which the industry has been operating. The months of travelling it took to view runway shows or presentations, whether it was buyers or editors, hopping from “this city to that city just to see a show… After a while it [didn’t] make sense.” However, the outbreak of the coronavirus brought the fashion calendar to a standstill and designers turned towards digital tools in order to showcase their collections. This new way of using technology means “the way we communicate is going to change because the tools are changing and they’re opening new doors,” he said.They allow us to do different things and view things [from] different angles.”

Related Articles:

A Year Without Fashion Shows

Who Will Win the Digital Fashion Week Battle?

Fashion’s New Outlook on 2020

Fabien Baron Is Not Nostalgic

 

Watch and listen to more #BoFLIVE conversations here. To contact The Business of Fashion with comments, questions, or speaker ideas please e-mail podcast@businessoffashion.com.

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