This season, as ever, most of the reviews for the major fashion shows were glowing. Gotta keep those advertisers happy! Sigh. But in a handful of cases, the clothes were so egregiously, almost stupefyingly bad that putting a positive spin on things wasn't really an option — or the circumstances of the show itself allowed for critics to really let rip. Herewith, the three fashion shows from this past fashion season that attracted the most vicious and/or hilarious hate.
Jeremy Scott's fall collection mostly got a warm reception from fashion critics — at first. Style.com praised the collection's "cohesion" and "controlled fantasy." Fashionista noted Scott showed fun "signature styles." Mary H.K. Choi called it "endlessly clever without being too literal." And everyone liked the prints: "The prints and graphics Scott referenced this season freshened things up," as Fashionista put it. "What were they?" mused Style.com of the gross-out monster faces and veiny eyeballs that covered the clothes. "Some saw Spongebob, melting into a 'roid-induced rage. Others thought the Garbage Pail Kids. Scott mentioned the posters and skate decks West Coast surfers, skaters, and punks used to tack on their walls."
Oh, he mentioned that, did he? That's interesting. Because the criticism of the collection took a very different turn when the skateboarding brand Santa Cruz and artist Jim Phillips drew attention to undeniable similarities between his original graphic designs and Scott's fall collection:
"[F]ashion ripping off cool kids is absolutely nothing new: Marc Jacobs has built a career off reselling youth culture to fashionistas at an astronomical mark-up. But it's a huge bummer when someone who ostensibly identifies with that culture ends up coming off like a mere culture vulture." — Spin
"Jeremy Scott showed not one, but nine prints that looked awfully familiar to anyone who might be from his native California with a penchant for skate culture. His gruesome cartoons looked almost exactly like the designs of beloved skateboard company Santa Cruz. Jim Phillips and his son, Jimbo Phillips, were (and continue to be) instrumental in the skateboarding community, creating some of the aggressive surf-cum-skate imagery that defined '70s, '80s, and '90s skate culture. From punk posters to classic decks, the Santa Cruz artists are, within a particular community, incredibly well-known." — Refinery29
"I know Jeremy Scott is known for being "breaking the rules," but some rules exist for a reason. Like the one that says you are not allowed to copy and paste someone's pre-existing art onto your own overpriced sweatshirts without that person's permission." — The Gloss
Rihanna's debut effort for the U.K. fast-fashion retailer River Island came in for predictable disdain. Predictable for two reasons: one, that the clothes were not good, and two, because the fashion establishment tends to reflexively dislike anyone who tries to shoehorn their way into their bailiwick without paying the right dues and kissing the right rings. (C.f. all the hate directed at Kanye West's abortive fashion line — yes, his clothes were sometimes ugly and almost always ill-fitting, but much of the criticism and mockery of his efforts was of the unexamined, classist variety.) Kanye West was criticized for, among other things, having the temerity to debut on-schedule at Paris Fashion Week; though the difference between an on- and off-schedule show is minuscule to anyone outside of fashion, several critics held that the rapper hadn't "earned" that kind of a platform. Rihanna, on the other hand, was criticized for taking the lower-profile route and showing off-schedule in London, where the "edgier," untested designers tend to congregate. You can't win.
The Rihanna-branded River Island collection was, if you want to be precise about it, actually designed by a guy called Adam Selman who went to the right kind of fashion school (Pratt) and fostered the right kind of industry connections — which might have ensured his efforts, in another context, would have garnered a positive response. Instead, the criticism had this kind of tone:
"Rihanna's collection for River Island as brought forth in London tonight was a horror show...if you were a guy hoping for a one night stand and a girl started chatting to you in a bar wearing anything from the Rihanna for River Island collection, you could feel fair confident you'd be getting lucky. The only lingering uncertainty in your mind would be whether or not she would take a credit card." — The Daily Beast
"A revealing, black polyester dungaree-style dress, silky hooded jumpsuit and a red Baywatch-style swimsuit ensured there was no room to mistake who was behind this collaboration." — The Telegraph
"None of it looked expensive." — Women's Wear Daily
"[T]he venue — a cavernous old post office — was very dark and smelled like a malfunctioning smoke machine...In neons, florals, and washed-out tie dye prints, the skimpy separates were a little more tropical than the average British summertime, but hey, we'll take any sunshine we can get." — New York Magazine
But the worst disdain of all was reserved for Hedi Slimane's second women's collection for Saint Laurent. Last season, Slimane and his team fostered such an antagonistic relationship with the press, wielding bannings and disinvitations and attempting to prohibit certain reporting, that many reviewers expressed fears that they wouldn't be invited back. This season, Slimane's collection was a bedraggled mess heavily inspired by — practically carbon-copied from — grunge, a cultural movement that last had currency over 20 years ago. Ripped tights, wrinkled baby-doll dresses, and droopy cardigans looked intentionally cheap, an insult to the audience and to the customer. The critics, like the rest of us, are having a hard time getting their heads around what Slimane is trying to do with this brand, but they all have some strong ideas about which fast-fashion chain he's trying to imitate:
"In terms of design, the clothes held considerably less value than a box of Saint Laurent labels. Without the label attached to them, Mr. Slimane's grunge dresses wouldn't attract interest — because they're not special." — New York Times
"A gazillion girls who love Urban Outfitters' signature homage to Seattle Grunge will adore this luxed-up version." — The Telegraph
"The collection Slimane showed on Monday night didn't shout, whisper or even mouth the words Saint Laurent." — Women's Wear Daily
"'It's like bad Topshop!' hissed one retailer as the audience filed out." — Financial Times
"it basically looks like a jazzed up rail of Morgan from the 1990s." — The Guardian
"'I feel like he's playing a huge joke on the entire fashion industry,' one more [editor] said." — New York Times
I think the question we are all asking is Y SL?— Courtney Forrest (@CommuniquePRNYC) March 4, 2013