31st Jul2017

Fashion’s Great Robin

by admin

Whenever you think of superstar journalists, we often think of the ones who cover current affair and international politics. Anderson Cooper, Christiane Amanpour, and others of their ilk are often who we think of whenever we think of great journalists who continuously break ground with their controversial insights into all that is happening in our information-heavy age. But what about fashion journalists? Why would I ask such an insidious question? These are the (mostly) womxn who write about shoes, clothes, fashion shows, and everything else about fashion. In an age where there is increasing geopolitical insecurity and further evidence that we are on the brink of experiencing (man-made) environmental calamities that we are not ready for, it seems incredibly vacuous to write an article praising the craft of fashion journalism.

One womxn has changed that perception for me. Robin Givhan. Born in 11 September 1964 in Detroit, Michigan, Ms. Givhan is a celebrated fashion journalism who is currently the fashion editor for The Washington Post. She is the first fashion journalist to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2006. A self-admitted non-fashion insider, she uses fashion as the lens through which she critiques the political game, race, gender, and societal power relations. As an outsider, Robin Givhan has been able to direct some pointed and poignant criticism at the lack of diversity within the fashion industry. Having 10 models of colour out of 200 models may not seem like a big deal but Ms. Givhan does point out that because the fashion industry does determine ideal versions of masculinity and femininity, a lack of representation leaves out a large portion of the world’s population.

Writing for The Washington Post means that her fashion critiques have a pronounced political bent in them. During Barack Obama’s two-term stint as the President of the United States, Givhan did spend a considerable amount of time analyzing former First Lady, Michelle Obama’s fashion choices. In 2009, she criticized Michelle Obama for wearing shorts during a family vacation. Her critical stance has not been permanent as she has spoken about how Michelle Obama, as FLOTUS, was good for fashion as she was “adventurous in her choices and willing to embrace Hollywood glamour” and used fashion in order to tell a complex story about her role in history as the first African-American FLOTUS. In addition to her articles, Robin Givhan has written the book The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History, a volume that chronicles how the famous Battle of Versailles fashion show made America a global fashion superpower and yet, did nothing for the industry’s dismal record in fostering greater diversity.

Robin Givhan’s great journalism lies in her not being afraid of using fashion as the means through which she may speak truth to power. Earlier this year, Givhan wrote an article explaining why she was in favour of certain fashion designers’ decision to refuse to dress the current FLOTUS, Melania Trump. Robin Givhan is the best ambassador for her particular brand of journalism as she explains that her duty is to make her readers less skeptical about fashion. Thus, what she hopes to achieve is to get her readers to understand how fashion is about more than clothing; fashion is a great reflection of how people regard themselves vis-à-vis others in our increasingly globalized world.

Robin Givhan Interview Magazine

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