So, when one half of the world's best dressed twin sister design team (that'd be Ashley Olsen), the world's only Pulitizer Prize-winning fashion writer (The Washington Post's Robin Givhan), and the--dare I say it!--pioneer who was the first-ever designer to do a line for Target (none other than Isaac Mizrahi) all get together on a random Wednesday night in New York City, what do you they talk about? Football, fetishes, and cheesecake, of course! Oh and...FASHION. Read all about it, after the jump.
Earlier this evening at the 92nd Street Y, our own Editor-in-Chief, Cindi Leive, moderated a panel discussion on the future of women's fashion, with Olsen, Mizrahi, and Givhan all lending their serious expertise to such topics as why models are so skinny, who women are really dressing for, and the Michelle Obama effect. You can get the play-by-play from our Twitter feed now, but we've got even more juicy scoop straight from the event right here.
I was lucky enough to snag a few minutes backstage with the esteemed panel before the event began, and I asked Ashley (effortlessly chic as ever in a dress from The Row--"It's a production sample!" she told me--a black Chanel boucle jacket, and insane burgundy suede platform heels) how she wound up on this stage tonight, talking shop with these industry bigwigs. "I'm actually not very comfortable with public speaking, and that was something I told myself I'd work on--getting out more and doing some public speaking. And given who was involved with this and everything, I decided this was just a great opportunity. I'm honored," she told me, as Mary-Kate Olsen, who came to show her support to her twin sister and business partner, sat just a few feet away.
The panelists took to the stage in the 92nd Street Y's sold-out auditorium a few minutes later, and they touched on everything from why models are so skinny (Robin Givhan said that while American women are getting bigger, models are getting smaller because fashion wants to maintain its "rarefied air" and serve as the opposition to what's going on in the rest of the world) to the Michelle Obama effect (it's major, according to Mizrahi) to just who we women are dressing for (one theory: each other). My favorite moment of the night came when Cindi posed this question to the panelists: "Why do people love to hate fashion?"
And that's when Robin said something completely genius that will prevent me from ever looking at a football field in precisely the same way. "It's just really easy to hate," she said. "In the U.S. we don't think of fashion in the same category with other visual arts. People condescend to fashion because it's a woman's industry. Nobody would really ever say that spending thousands of dollars a year on football season tickets is ridiculous!" Isaac jumped right in a second later with, "Misogyny rears its ugly head again!" As a card-carrying feminist, I must admit...I'm afraid they're totally right.
As for the future of fashion...Isaac admitted that there are practically no taboos left on the planet, and a designer who makes great things can now sell them just about anywhere. He was one of the first designers to plunge into the cheap-chic thing with his line for Target way back in 2001, and he'll be heading to QVC this winter to sell everything from handbags to cheesecakes. "You just kind of ask yourself, 'What is perverted? What is something I could never, ever do?' And then you do that!" Ashley, who reminded the audience that she and her sister's very first clothing line was at Wal-Mart, completely agreed. "We were able to bring something to the consumers that didn't exist before, which was really quality affordable clothes for young girls."
Cindi asked the panel to "fill in the blank" and sum up the evening by finishing this sentence: "In the future, fashion will be more ____ ." "More democratic," Robin, who just moved to Washington, D.C. to become a one-woman Mrs. O reporting machine, said. "Less obnoxious, more fetishistic," Isaac answered. And Ashley, who is already a style mogul at just 23 years of age, said the best was yet to come: "More exciting!" was her answer.
After getting a serious education over the course of the hour-long discussion (Ashley Olsen's numero uno reason for her wardrobe decisions: "I just wear what's comfortable.") I asked Cindi what surprised her most about what she heard from our panelists. "That Isaac wishes celebs would disappear from magazine covers, that Ashley loves the low-heeled shoe trend, and that Robin believes that fashion advertising is actually more racially diverse than the runway is."
So rest assured, my dear Slaves to Fashion--things may seem bleak for the future of fashion, but there's also a heck of a lot to look forward to. "For a long time, the fashion industry was coasting on trendy handbags and trendy shoes and tons of sales," Robin said. And with the economy forcing designers to re-examine women's priorities, we're getting more innovation, less luxury excess. "It's a total rebirth!" Isaac declared. We couldn't agree more.
The Future Of Fashion, As Isaac Mizrahi, Ashley Olsen, And Robin Givhan See It: Slaves to Fashion: Fashion: glamour.com