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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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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How Does the World Feel About Covid-19?

How Does the World Feel About Covid-19?

January 5, 2021

Leading health experts Sarah Jones and Noel Brewer discuss how successfully controlling the pandemic is a question of culture as well as science at BoF VOICES 2020.

 

The development of working Covid-19 vaccines in a matter of months is a remarkable feat of the pandemic. The biggest challenge in successfully bringing them to market may be cultural rather than scientific.Whether populations trust public health officials and accept widespread vaccination programmes will determine how the world emerges from the pandemic, said Noel Brewer, professor of health behaviour at the University of North Carolina in conversation at BoF VOICES.Already substantial differences in cultural norms have had a significant influence on how successfully countries have responded to the health crisis, as Sarah Jones, creator of the corporate mental health programme Mental Health Intelligence, explained. Jones has contributed to the largest open-access study that has been conducted on behaviour related to Covid-19 health.Among its findings: There is no global consensus about the value of social distancing measures. Nordic countries like Denmark and Finland have few people who report always wearing a mask, while other countries report a high percentage of people who say they always wear masks. In Asia, social norms around mask-wearing mean that citizens are more likely to voluntarily wear them, while in Europe, people are less likely to wear a mask unless they are legally obligated to do so. The diverging mask-wearing behaviour has led to lopsided progress in tackling the Covid-19 crisis, and extends to how people feel about taking the vaccine. Brewer said that this is where public health officials and government leaders have a responsibility to encourage their citizens to practice social distancing and receive a vaccination. The goal: To emerge from the crisis together.

 

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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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The Fashion Industry Unpacks the US Election

The Fashion Industry Unpacks the US Election

November 5, 2020

The BoF team and industry experts Sharifa Murdock and Stephen Lamar discuss what the close vote means for the future of fashion.

 

LONDON, United Kingdom — Election night ended in the US without a clear answer as to who will lead the country for the next four years. And though former Vice President Joe Biden appeared to have established a small lead over President Donald Trump in several key states as of Thursday afternoon, many questions remain about what will happen next. 

Sharifa Murdock, co-owner of Liberty Fashion & Lifestyle Fairs, and Stephen Lamar, president and CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association joined BoF’s Lauren Sherman, Brian Baskin and Imran Amed to discuss what’s at stake for tariffs, trade agreements and corporate activism whatever the outcome. 

Trade policies have changed under the current administration. Trump renegotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement and levied tariffs on goods imported from China and some European countries. Biden may not have implemented these polices given the choice, but his administration will be cautious about retreating from Trump’s trade positions, Lamar said. “They don’t want to be seen as the new government immediately going soft on China,” he said.  Trump campaigned in 2016 on bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US, but in the fashion industry at least, American factories cannot compete directly with overseas rivals on price, said Murdock of Liberty Fashion & Lifestyle Fairs. “News flash, stuff that left isn’t coming back,” said Lamar, who added that a Trump or Biden administration should focus instead on creating new kinds of apparel production jobs in the US.  Sales of luxury goods are holding up relatively well in the US as the wealthy redirect money that normally would be used on trips and hotels toward handbags and apparel. Trump’s tax cut has also played a role, giving wealthy consumers more disposable income. Biden campaigned on raising corporate taxes and reversing some of Trump’s tax policies. However, his ability to implement his vision depends on Democratic control of the Senate, which appeared unlikely as of Wednesday afternoon.  Corporate activism has flourished under the Trump presidency, as brands and retailers that previously remained neutral on political issues came under increased pressure by consumers to take a stance. The panelists predicted that activism was likely to continue, no matter who wins the election. “One thing that Trump did do was bring out… views that haven’t been looked at previously,” said Murdock. “No matter who wins [diversity and inclusion] is going to be on people’s minds.” Related Articles:
The US Election: What’s at Stake for Fashion?
American Fashion Executives on What Happens Now



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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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Lulu Kennedy on London’s Young Creatives

Lulu Kennedy on London’s Young Creatives

September 24, 2020

BoF’s Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks speaks with the Fashion East Founder about the future of London’s emerging designers.

 

LONDON, United Kingdom — For twenty years, London's Fashion East has helped incubate and support emerging designers hoping to establish themselves as the industry’s next big thing. The imperative to nurture emerging talent is even more urgent now, as young designers enter an increasingly uncertain industry. In the latest episode of the BoF Podcast, BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks speaks with Fashion East Founder Lulu Kennedy about what the future of fashion might look like for emerging creatives and independent designers.

  • One major change in the last twenty years is the decline in funding available to stage grandiose fashion shows. “Sponsorship was very good [20 years ago],” Kennedy said. “It’s not as easy now; you have to work harder with the budgets you have.” While strict financial limitations can help foster creativity, it also adds pressure on young designers hoping to compete with more established players.
  • When asked why London remains a central hub of exciting new design talent, Kennedy points to its stellar colleges and powerful and pervasive youth culture. But London-based designers also face specific challenges. “There is a lot of frustration with designers trying to get stuff made on time, in budget and that’s good quality,” Kennedy said. “Going forward with Fashion East, I would love to secure some manufacturing partnership.”
  • Lookbooks and short films have become crucial for designers during the pandemic, when real-life shows are restricted. But standing out amid the social media noise is no easy feat. In fact, the best advice Kennedy has to offer is authenticity: “Be true to yourself. Don’t be second guessing and looking at what other people are doing over your shoulder. Just do you.”

 

Related Articles:

In London, Emerging Designers Face a Critical Season

Where Do Independent Fashion Brands Go From Here?

How to Break Into Fashion When You Don’t Already Have Money

 

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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The Fate of the Physical Runway Show

The Fate of the Physical Runway Show

September 10, 2020

BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks, The Washington Post’s fashion critic Robin Givhan and GQ’s Rachel Tashjian explore the past, present and the future of the event that makes the industry go round — the fashion show.

 

LONDON, United Kingdom — Do fashion shows still matter? In the latest episode of The BoF Podcast, BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks, The Washington Post’s fashion critic Robin Givhan and GQ Magazine writer Rachel Tashjian join BoF Executive Editor Lauren Sherman in a virtual panel discussion on how the pandemic tested designers’ ability to captivate buyers, media and consumers through creativity and the use of digital tool. What happens next?
  • For Blanks, in order to look forward, you must look back. Fashion shows have always “[meant] almost everything in fashion to an enormous degree… They challenge, they provoke, they’re disturbing, they’re overwhelming,” he said. However, over the years, people have looked at the shows of the past as “a world that’s gone in a way… it has that kind of poignant tug.”
  • As industry commentators, Blanks, Givhan and Tashjian have taken note of how designers pivoted their strategies following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and what set them apart. For Givhan, JW Anderson’s “show in a box” tapped into “the desire for something tactile, the desire for something that felt personal… that you could hold, that wasn’t a digital... distant thing.” Although livestreams have a way of broadening a brand’s reach, as a critic, Givhan finds being “forced to look in one particular direction” hinders the experience. “Sometimes I find the most interesting element to be something that’s over in a corner, but that’s not the main thing that’s walking down the runway towards me,” she said.
  • In the future, Givhan hopes designers will use technology to “tell a story about their clothing, to weave a narrative in some way… to evoke emotion,” instead of carbon-copying a traditional runway in a digital way. “It [just] feels… like something that… doesn’t really quite fit,” she said. For Blanks, what has come out of this period of uncertainty — and the modes of communication adopted — shouldn’t be forgotten. “I hope that there will be this immediate contact, this sort of intimacy,” he said. “I find that more interesting than maybe the way that we used to deal with things. I don’t want a press release, I want to talk to people.”

 

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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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Rebuilding Lebanon’s Fashion Industry

Rebuilding Lebanon’s Fashion Industry

August 20, 2020

Elie Saab Jr, chief executive of Elie Saab Group, and Lebanese designers Roni Helou and Amine Jreissati speak about the urgent need for global solidarity in the face of crisis.

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