Yesterday, I attended an ‘open discussion’ with Cathy Horyn. I’m not one for attending speaking events. Yesterday reminded me I’m a dope. These things can be very, very valuable.
1. Revealed details bring the picture to life. The fashion industry is in upheaval at the moment, the role of a fashion writer changing. In the past, reportage of breaking news from exclusive foreign runways was funded by department store advertising. Then the Internet appeared, in all its image-laden glory. The advertising, well, it disappeared. Fashion writers now have to report either at a more complex and more opinionated level or as celebrity gossip. Horyn is not the fashion reporter any more. She’s the Fashion Critic. Critics need some sinew.
2. You will be reminded that the human side has universal import. Horyn told tales. Tales of John Fairchild, editor of Women’s Wear Daily, and his luncheon cabal in New York. Bill Blass feeling worried because, “John doesn’t seem to be talking to me. ” Tales of Tom Ford, who doesn’t worry what anyone thinks of him, and Yves St. Laurent, who did. The impact those personalities had on the clothes they made. Giorgio Armani and his inner competition with Miuccia Prada and Gianni Versace. Raf Simons, declaring himself to be innovative, and forever to be judged as such. Tales of Horyn herself, backstage at Chanel, watching Madonna and Lady Gaga together, before Gaga was, well, Gaga.
3. People who are successful usually got that way for a reason. Horyn is articulate, focused, and attractive. Not to be peculiar, with that last descriptor, but in an industry where looks are part of the marketplace one way or another, it seems fair game to comment. Horyn also appears to have set aside fear, or, if she still feels any, puts on a hell of a show. She also thanked me the next day via Twitter, and mentioned my father. Thereby setting off all High WASP indicators that either someone’s parents did a very good job, or she figured out the well-behaved thing on her own.
4. You might get to meet the person you admire. This event, held in a smallish conference room turned out to be the intimate coda following a previous lecture and discussion. So 12 people sat around the table listening, with another 5 or so of us on chairs at the edge of the room. Horyn answered our questions. Like a seminar where your professor speaks very well-formed English and wears interesting clothes.
5. If you bring someone close to you, you may broaden your relationship. I asked a question, but first I said to my father in a whisper, “I want to ask a question. Is that OK?” And then Dad asked the final question of the day, comparing sports writing to fashion writing, and Cathy Horyn said she had been told by Grace Mirabella that she wrote like a sportswriter. In fact, she said, “My greatest fear was always that I’d have to write about the clothes.” It would have been difficult to plan a more suitable concluding line.
6. Going to hear an expert in your field is good incentive to practice your own skills. In addition to a peanut Prada sweater (I believe Imogen of Inside Out Style would call the color ‘rose beige camel’) and black Varinas, I wore the Claudia Kussano earrings my brother gave me. Remember, I was trying to look like I wasn’t trying. Also the salesperson in the Prada store told me Miuccia is all about the crafty, vintage jewelry look. I decided to trust him. Diamonds would have been wrong, wrong, wrong.
I even paid attention to my makeup. Sponged on Armani foundation #5, then Cle de Peau concealer in Beige on age spots and the reddened areas around my nose. I never use concealer under my eyes, it hurts to apply and Sturdy Gals don’t think pristine undereyes are worth pain. I added peach YSL Cream Blush, then MAC Multiple in Riviera over that so as not to be too orange. One never wants to be too orange. I outlined my lips in MAC Spice lip pencil, added NARS lip gloss in Giza, wiped everything off a bit, and added a layer of NARS Lipstick in Cruising on top. For a smudgy, artisanal nude-ish mouth. Or so I told myself.
Whether or not my ministrations mattered, I felt good. In fact, the entire experience made me feel good. A cool day, a university campus, an expert. As my father said, standing outside the Humanities Center in the shade of an oak, “That was a very pleasant event.”
*You can find Ms. Horyn on Twitter, @CathyHorynNYT, or here on her blog, On The Runway. The links I’ve included here provide a glimpse at her writings as well as the impression she’s made on her industry.
*Note that I did not take notes, and therefore I may not have reported Ms. Horyn’s words completely. I believe the sense is correct.