Exposing the Mr. Hyde half of street style

I love street fashion, a fact illustrated by my street style image galleries and explicitly stated in my gushing description of the grandfather of street style, Bill Cunningham, a few weeks ago.

Not everyone’s on the same page, however, when it comes to the street style phenomenon that has exploded within the last few years. In “Take My Picture,” a mini-documentary released a few weeks ago by Garage Magazine, prominent figures in the industry—most notably fashion journalist Tim Blanks—commented on the way that a movement which initially seemed positive in its enthusiasm has increasingly come to represent a distasteful “hysteria.” The film short focuses especially on the mayhem outside of fashion shows as photographers bombard those entering and exiting the shows with camera flashes, and also highlights the subsequent show-offs who are rising to an odd new form of stardom by becoming bloggers’ pet subjects.

TAKE MY PICTURE from GARAGE Magazine on Vimeo.

“Take My Picture” touches on some of the positive aspects of the trend, with designer Vika Gazinskaya commenting that the prominence of street style blogging provides “a great opportunity for the young designers who have no budget for advertising.” Editor of Industrie Magazine Alexia Nieziedski noted that “the beauty of blogging is that it’s so democratic,” and explained that it also provides a direct way for designers to test the heartbeat of their own work and see how their looks are being interpreted off the runway.

Overall, however, the tone of the interviewees’ commentary was ominous. Street photographer Phil Oh, aka Mr. Streetpeeper, reminisced on the good ol’ days before shooting outside fashion shows began resembling “trench warfare,” and Imran Amed of The Business of Fashion lamented that “people are coming to stand outside the shows, or attend the shows, just to get photographed.” Tim Blanks’ comment that street photography has “coarsened,” turning into “a parody of itself” leads to his last statement in the video, closing his interview with a haunting “What happens next?”

Personally, I’m grateful to the folks at Garage for producing these thought-provoking 10 minutes of footage. “Take My Picture” provoked superb dialogue about some of the problems that are beginning to plague the street fashion phenomenon, without overlooking the benefits it represents for certain aspects of the industry. The interviews helped clarify for me aspects of street style that I think admirable and healthy (like the “democracy” it represents at its best), in contrast to its pitfalls (like the way it can create celebrity or branding no less elitist than the designers themselves). None of this, however, dislodged my appreciation for street fashion. I also thought it noteworthy that even the film’s loudest dissenter, Tim Blanks, refused to diss my beloved Bill Cunningham, noting that “he shot in a different way” than the hoards of bloggers that have come after him. To me, this points to something pure and worth emulating in Cunningham that seems to be lacking in the majority of today’s young fashion bloggers.

Regardless of whether one thinks of the phenomenon as curse or boon for the integrity of the industry, it’s not going away anytime in the near future—and hopefully, “Take My Picture” will come to represent just one of many attempts to grapple with street fashion critically.

For more information, read from another fashion journalist’s point of view about the influence of fashion bloggers on fashion week here.

Thanks to my friend Jack for tipping me off about “Take My Picture.”

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