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A Word from DIANE PERNET, the Godmother of Fashion Bloggers

Left to right: Alan Miki, Diane Pernet and Jean Paul Gaultier before ASVOFF 8 at Centre Pompidou

The Fashion Blog has long-evolved past texts, and now encompasses videos, images, it’s own metaverse, and even film. To dissect the rich history of online fashion criticism with its fascinating triumphs and tribulations, GAHSP looks back at how it all started. With darkness. A shadow. A shade. A Shaded View on Fashion (ASVOF) – the trailblazer of fashion blogging and the cultural authority of generations, founded by the enigmatic fashion reporter, designer and creative director – Diane Pernet.

Diane Pernet has been an inspiration and a mentor for generations of fashion bloggers, including the likes of Bryan Boy and Susie Bubble. Her iconic look with tall hair and black veil still haunts the mind of this author. The online phenomenon that is ASVOF soon expanded way beyond a blog and made way for ASVOFF – A Shaded View On Fashion Film – a revolutionary film festival that champions, above all, diversity, young talent and, of course, Fashion.

Diane Pernet Rome ASVOFF 10 - Alejandro Otero

What’s your creative process like and how did you discover it?

I don’t have much of a creative process with writing, I’m a very spontaneous writer. I never intended to be a journalist, it happened by accident.

NuBoyana Film Studio group

Launched in 2008, ASVOFF has become a cultural hub that shed the spotlight on the exciting new genre: The Fashion Film. ASVOFF changes its Presidents every year, and in a little over a decade, the festival had the likes of Rick Owens, Michelle Lamy, Heron Preston and Rossy De Palma spearhead the film selection process. This year, ASVOFF celebrates its thirteenth anniversary and now includes three brand new categories: Conscious Fashion, Digital Never Physical and Black Spectrum.

My festival is more cultural than anything else.

ASVOFF 6 x Dom Perignon. Tokyo

Do you curate the features for ASVOFF yourself?

Well, I do the first cut, because I have a great jury and I don’t want to give them hundreds and hundreds of films to look at, they’ll murder me. This edition, I added three themed competitions. And I chose three wonderful people to curate them. One is called Conscious Fashion, and the curator is Bandana Tewari, she was the EIC of Vogue India for years. She got into sustainability after learning more about conscious fashion through the words of Ghandi. She’s great. I love her. Another category is Digital Never Physical, and I asked Amber Jae Slooten, the co-founder of The Fabricant, to be the curator. The Fabricant created the first ever NFT that was sold in 2019, the dissolving dress. Melissa Alibo will curate Black Spectrum, a program sublimating the creative vision, narrative and perspective of Black filmmakers. Melissa and her sister are also working on this Ghana skate park – a new sports ecosystem supporting creativity and entrepreneurship. This time I have a very radical president, Bruce Labruce, film director, who is a gay icon. He’s made some of the most controversial films. Somebody in the Hollywood Reporter reviewed one of his works (Saint-Narcisse). And Hollywood Reporter is known for their scathing reviews. Sometimes, when I’m in Cannes and I see the film, I read their reviews and wonder “were we at the same film?” So, I was happy to read what the Hollywood Reporter gave as their review “The filmmaking isn’t only ravishing to look at, the writing and narrative construction have become a little more sophisticated too. Overall, Saint-Narcisse is a wild ride that’s enjoyable in all its B-movie glory — the production design that’s just a little too kitschy, the dialogue that’s just a tad too ripe — while also titillating the intellect,” He (Bruce Labruce) also considers himself a pornographer. They are great voices to be heard.

Cuba Tornado Scott, Diane Pernet, Eric Daman, Marc Happel

What’s the difference between art house cinema and fashion films?

Not much really. My festival is more cultural than anything else. It incorporates all different aspects of creativity. The only thing is, there can’t be bad clothes. You can’t have bad clothes and call it a fashion film.

MYTH(O)MANIAC by Gianluca Matarrese

What’s the criteria of a fashion film?

Well, we all wear clothes. Whatever we do is fashion. How we eat, how we live, how we walk. Everything you do is fashion. I have always been into storytelling and I’ve never been into ‘here’s the bag’, you know? It’s not an ad, it’s a film. Just because something is moving across the screen doesn’t make it a film. That’s just a fashion shoot in motion. Some things work better as frozen images in magazines, of course. When you go into a film, there has to be a structure to it. You have to incorporate the sound, and the editors are the true geniuses of film. That’s really the unsung heroes, you know, the cinematographers and editors, they are gold.

ASVOFF jury meeting with Diane Pernet, Patrice Haddad, Roger AVARY, Eric Daman, Pamela Golbin

Alessandro Roja, Clara Tosi, Farronato, Pierre Bismuth, Diane Pernet, Alessio de' Navasques, Cuba tornado Scott, Rila Fukushima, Alessandra Capodiferro, Marco Giusti

What did you think of French water by YSL?

I liked it. It’s Jim Jarmusch, come on. It’s really funny because I met Anthony Vacarello when I used to help with talent scouting for Festival of Hyeres. I remember when he was part of it, he was just about to graduate, and the minute I saw his work, I said ‘This guy is the winner,’ and it’s funny because nobody really talked to him at the event, but he was the winner. Look what he’s built.

We can never get rid of content.

ASVOFF 4 at Centre Pompidou

What do you think comes after content? What will be the next big thing?

We can never get rid of content. It’s like an empty shell if we have no content. You can’t remove content from anything, because then you will just have a surface veneer. The metaverse is what’s coming next. It’s funny because I was invited to participate in a conference on metaverse, and it’s really fun. You pick out your little avatar and you choose your clothes, and then you move around and you can attend a conference, have a private chat, go to a concert.... I don’t know how to incorporate it, but I do think it could be something fun to do for the satellite event of the festival, which will be digital only this time. We have all these exciting things planned for the event, there’s one that I call Industry Tea Talks, and I’m very excited for all of them. You know, the challenge is to make something digital as exciting as something physical. I acknowledge that you miss the networking aspect, that is where the metaverse could come into it. So this time, for the 13th edition, it’s going to be a new experience. And even if we go back to having physical events, I still will maintain the digital aspect. Because, say, when you’re physical, over a period of three days you could potentially receive three thousand people, and when you’re digital, you could have three hundred thousand people.

Left to right: Diane Pernet, Adan Jodorowsky, Brontis Jodorowsky and Alejandro Jodorowsky

We are witnessing the evolution of fashion criticism. Readers don’t expect The Gloss to offer frank criticism from the personal points of view of the editors – a more objective approach has long been adopted for this type of media, for better or for worse. What is in fact for the worse, perhaps, is that the people who offer educated, though sometimes harsh, opinions on fashion don’t have the access to the physical shows (no matter how archaic the concept of physical runways may sound).

Diane Pernet and Jerry Schatzberg at ASVOFF New York, FIAF

What happened to fashion criticism?

I think there are very few real fashion critics these days. One of them is Angelo Flaccavento, Eugene Rapkin. For the most part, I think people are afraid to say what they think because they are getting paid by the advertisers. Unless you work in a newspaper. It’s funny, take somebody like Suzy Menkes, when she was at International Herald Tribune, she said what she thought, and sometimes she wasn’t admitted into shows. When she moved to Vogue Runway, suddenly I stopped reading her. It’s funny, because, in the beginning, going back fifteen years, when fashion blogs started, people said whatever they thought because they weren’t getting invited to the shows anyway. Youtubers, for example, Odunayo Ojo, Bliss Foster, Haute Le Mode, are the new direction in fashion criticism, they do their research and propose educated commentary. For the most part they are not getting tickets to the shows, so they just say what they think. It’s once you start becoming an ambassador for Céline or whatever, then your opinions are basically paid for. You are no different than an editor at Vogue. And because I worked at both Vogue and Elle, I know how it works. When I worked at CBC, I would have to be the one to ask for the tickets, and if they did not like what you said in the emission they would say: ‘but in your last review you said this and that, so you’re not getting a ticket,’ and that’s how it went.

What the fuck is happening with PR people?

ASVOFF audience at Centre Pompidou

I remember a long time ago I was at a show, sitting next to Imran Amed, I knew him from before his BOF days. We were sitting together, and that was when Hedi Slimane was still at Saint Laurent. Imran had tweeted something and the PR from Saint Laurent said that they didn’t like the tone of his tweet, and asked him to change it. [Tone] of a tweet? Are you kidding me? And I remember him asking me, “should I write about this?”, and I said “do it,” and it was great. I mean, what the fuck is happening with PR people? And that’s what is interesting now, because PR people are losing their power, because with the Internet and everything digital, their power is being diminished. I think that is a good thing, because shows a long time ago were much more fun. One time I had to interview Jun Takahashi, someone I really like and with whom I get along with very well, but the interview was awful. I did this interview and the PR was sitting there and he (Jun) couldn’t answer anything. I was talking to Suzy Menkes about it and I told her that I just had the worst interview with someone that I really admire, it was horrible. Pointless. Nothing in it. No content. She said “that’s what it’s come to now”, she was talking about an interview she did with Galliano, that was before his fall. She said “you know, I knew him since he was at school, we talked a million times, and now with the gatekeepers suddenly I can’t see him by himself. They insist on three PR people present,” and that’s what it comes to. Nobody talks. It’s just painful.

Fashion criticism is no longer a part of magazines, yet print somehow still manages to cling to the ghosts of its past glory of the fashion authority. No judgement. A fact. This, however, does not mean that fashion criticism has succumbed to the oblivion – on the contrary – the critique now is so much more than a scathing article. It is its own subculture almost – a fluid expression of one’s beliefs that flourishes in the highly individualised environment of modernity. Sadly, free expression with virtually no boundaries comes with desperate gatekeepers who assumed the faces of publicists in the story above.

This following interview contributes to a new media format, where Creatives are in full control of their narratives. By exploring alternatives to narrative journalism, GAHSP starts unconventional conversations, emphasizing values and problems that shape our lives collectively.

Written and Edited by Gennady Oreshkin

Creative Concept by Julia Horvath

Images Courtesy of Diane Pernet

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