A Close-up with Cathy Horyn

A Close-up with Cathy Horyn


                                        —By Ami Wang



“The purpose of my writing is to clarify. I just want to understand. I just want my readers to understand the matter, the truth.”

                                                                                                                                                                       —Cathy Horyn



I never thought that one day I would meet Cathy Horyn in person. Among many of my dreams, one was that I wanted to be a journalist. But it faded with my lack of confidence to make it in America with English as a second language. I surrendered to being practical, still I’m looking for a voice that could represent and lead my inner world. The first time I read Cathy Horyn’s critiques in The New York Times Fashion Blog, I knew I had found a voice that I could identify with. I admire Horyn’s writing tone as it is emotional and rational. Emotionality is when she is direct, honest, humorous and sarcastic; Rationality is when she is brave, clear, sharp and sincere. Most importantly, she’s very knowledgeable and intelligent. Cathy Horyn knows what she’s talking about. On May 4th, 2011, attending the event with Cathy Horyn was an honor of my life. There are many thoughtful conversation points worth reviewing. Horyn mentioned that she felt uncomfortable about how media and fashion had blended too closely. She relayed that she is constantly having to readjust her understanding of media in the fast paced society of fashion, trying to adapt to new things, to learn and to catch up. When writing for Twitter, NY Times Fashion Blog or print journalism, she chooses a different approachs for each. She likes to challenge herself with a more casual Twitter voice. Though the blog started out more like a diary, today she consciously authors more formal blog posts. Even though Newspaper has gone online; she still believes that paper is a paper, for serious matters and records that the next generations can hold in their hands. When asking about the recent John Galliano scandal, Horyn frankly said that to criticize people in the public eye was very complicated. The story could never be told in a few words or captured in a few interviews. It consisted of layers of what the public knew, what the reporters knew, what the media knew and what made to the news. She just wished that some day the truth would be reported. It is one of the most sincere comments I’ve ever heard. She also discussed Alexander McQueen, who she first interviewed in 1996. Horyn emotionally related to us her regret at having missed the opportunity to ask McQueen some questions that she never got a chance to ask. She felt that she should have pushed herself further in their interviews. Why? There wasn’t a clear explanation. Maybe she had a pause at the privacy line? “The designers are creative, sensitive; the ways to talk to them and get criticism is very different and their emotion is very unstable, there’s a boundary.” When asked by some audience members, “Is fashion art?” Horyn said that Fashion is wonderful but not necessarily art. She also gave an example of Alexander Mcqueen’s Asylum collection Spring/Summer 2001, in which the models were trapped inside a glass cube, showing catwalks and displaying the garments. It was breath-taking. She mentioned that Alexander perceived things very differently than other designers and that his interpretations of fashion were unique. The idea of unique perception is precious and the ability to recreate the imagination in a theatrical way is undoubtedly artistic. Regarding the matter, Nathalie Rykiel had also given some thoughtful insights, “you may need artists to do fashion, but fashion will not always be art.” She mentioned that fast modern fashion requires 6 capsule collections each year. Art is created under the pure joy from inside and it could never be rushed. Fashion is about enhancing the message of the garments and the designs and presenting them for a few fleeting moments. The purpose decided the nature. When asked if Fashion’s Night Out should be ended? It was a yes without hesitations. She said that the first and the second time the event was put on was great and managed to bring out some important political issues. But it has become a strange priority to emphasize, as human value and basic practices are taken for grated during these nights and they have become too commercial. When did the goal of fashion culture become exclusively about buying things? Horyn also covered her brief journalism experience. What inspired me most was that she had applied for 75 positions and got 2 offers at the very end. Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I admired her “Never stop trying.” Courage defines the path to success. In the end, Horyn brought up the “elephant in the room”. With the prosperity of blogs and social media tools, the elements of journalism don’t change. If one really wants to dig into a field of knowledge in a blog, the reports Don’t need to be known, you don’t have to be a slave the buzz of fame. It is important to write well and have a proper foundation basic journalism.  Good reporters will always be the same. In response to the audience questions on what it takes to be a successful professional in the field of fashion, Patrick McDonald and Cathy Horyn both emphasized the importance of continuing your education and that you should “never stop learning”; and that it is essential to have wide and far reaching knowledge in your field before one can succeed. One shouldn’t take anything for granted if you wish to gain real fame and respect. The bubble of fame we have created around the current bloggers, such as Braynboy, are just skin-deep. Fashion is not just an outfit, but part of the character. Even someone like a NJ housewife on BRAVO, though she can afford the most expensive designer clothes, as soon as she opens her mouth, it is clear there’s no taste level. I have been watching “All on the Line”; a new fashion reality show on Sundance Channel hosted by Elle Magazine’s creative director, Joe Zee and it best illustrates the above case. Each episode features a struggling designer who is facing the crisis of losing their business. Joe Zee visits their showroom to see their strongest pieces first, giving them sharp critiques about where the designs stand and what they need to change in order to make the business work. Giving them new direction, he also assigns the designers a new collection to work on. Later he uses his connections to help the designers set up appointments with powerful buyers from Bergman Dorf, Barneys and Nordstrom…affording these struggling designers a make or break opportunity. However, I felt so surprised that many of these “designers” don’t sew and don’t know how to sew by themselves. Their job is only to draw rough croquets, hiring old Asian tailors to deliver the whole production. Some of them even failed to explain the construction details to the tailors, so that the tailors had to figure out themselves by their experiences. I was shocked by how much they are relying on the work shop and lack of the training. Come on, you are not Karl Lagerfeld! Here, I couldn’t agree more on Cathy Horyn’s “Louis Wilson: Listen Up” on the importance of the basic fashion skills. Louis Wilson always says to students, “You’are never going to have all the skills but you have to have a skill…That’s another thing I’ve noticed today-everything is farmed out. Someone else is going to cut it, and someone else is going to supply the fabrics. The hands-on gets more and more removed. If Lee McQueen or Christopher Kane had nothing, they could still make their garments. They have the skills.” Fashion is a double edged sword. Using it appropriately on a humble and knowledge person in any field, it could become a powerful weapon, raising our respect towards him. Otherwise, we laugh at it.


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