At 18, I was studying abroad in London, and I saw that Alexander Wang show in New York where it went from Manhattan to Brooklyn and Kaia Gerber was getting out of a bus, and I said “I want to make a review of this collection, this is something that needs to be discussed”. That’s how it all started to become more of a professional job prospect for me.
M.K.: So, let’s say a big fashion event takes place, be it a runway show, an exhibition, a red carpet – maybe now on a smaller scale due to Covid-19, even though we’ve already seen some socially distant runway and award shows; what’s your process in terms of research when you’re preparing for a review video?
L.M.: It’s weird because a lot of times I’m down on myself. I’m actually putting out a video about Harry’s Vogue cover today and I’m thinking it’s a month late and then I have to rethink the whole thing. I mean, I’m not just writing an article which I’m then able to publish right away, I have to then record it, make sure it sounds good, make sure that all the images correlate to the things that we’re talking about [in the video], so it depends on the video. I think a lot of the red carpet reviews is something that has to come out a lot quicker.
For instance, when I saw Doja Cat wearing Vivienne Westwood at the AMAs I was like “I don’t understand this so let me make a quick little moment on Westwood” so that night I was googling everything about Westwood and the asymmetry [in her designs] etc, and that is sort of how those kinds of moments are born where I’m like “oh okay we’re referencing a Watteau collection from Westwood”. But, for the most part, it just flows out of me and it’s important that it just flows out of me because if I can mention that something is a 1970s reference, it makes it easier for the everyday person to understand that, whereas the really long diatribe about each individual piece makes it a lot harder for people to maybe see those references – unless you’re really spelling it out.
When it comes to fashion I like to just spew because I think it’s harder to keep all of the knowledge and all of the references on each brand. The critique isn’t always as detailed, but I think for show review people a lot of work is put into that so I think it deserves an ample amount of time to be discussed and analyzed.
M.K.: On the topic of research, on the latest episode of the podcast that you co-host with Darnell Jamal, The Fashion Victims Podcast, you mentioned how hard it actually is to find books about fashion and specific designers that are neither photo books / coffee table books, nor created by the brand itself – which in turn means that they offer a very controlled and maybe biased perspective. So, how demanding is it to do that type of research? Is it important to you to approach fashion in a more academic and analytical way?
L.M.: In a weird way, years ago, when I was saying whatever about every brand it was probably easier to do the research, exactly because there wasn’t a lot of research. Now, however, I don’t want to say something that doesn’t make any sense because I’m at the point where I have an audience that depends on me to give good feedback, a good opinion on things.
I’d say it’s taken three-ish years to really build up a sustainable knowledge of brands, little tidbits of what is referenced whenever. For instance, I’m currently on a real Miuccia Prada kick that I can’t get myself out of at this point. I wouldn’t say that it takes an ample amount of time, but making sure that you’re crosschecking the information and making sure that you’re not just saying things that don’t have actual value in and of themselves [does take time].
M.K.: I understand that giving an informed and honest opinion in your reviews is important to you. In conjunction with the reference you made on your podcast to what Loïc Prigent said, that essentially a lot of the time he debates if it’s worth adding in his documentaries and videos something that will get him “blacklisted” by a fashion house for a certain amount of years, would you say that your honesty has cost you, in regards to a good relationship with a brand, connections or even more exposure?
L.M.: I think early on [in my career], yes. Well, I still think I’m very early on in what I do, but yes, it is very difficult to be honest. And then everybody is getting invited to a certain show and you’re not even considered for it. So, I’d say it definitely has affected that aspect of HauteLeMode, but at the same time maybe that isolation has always been a good thing, because, well, I don’t have time to go sit front row and get photographed by such-and-such photographer, but I do have time to actually sit down and do research. And I think that’s what is so important with the honesty; is that it’s coupled with actual information that’s important, intelligent and I think that there’s a sort of longevity in that. I don’t think fashion at this point is really about the clothing anymore as much as it is about the brand bags or the celebrities, so I think that’s what really lost in fashion right now.
So, if me really breaking down the clothing and being really harsh about it is upsetting for a brand, I get it, I understand it, but it’s just as upsetting for me to watch the rest of the show and have to deal with looking at this sort of stuff. But yes, I’d say it’s definitely hard [being honest], but at the same time I’m so used to it now that the moment I get a little shout out from a brand or something like that I’m like “oh, that was cute”. Also, I’m at a point where if all that goes away again, I think that that’s how I started so I don’t feel I’m ever going to lose out on anything in that way.
M.K.: You mentioned that fashion has changed and that it’s no longer just about the clothes. This year, especially, with the Black Lives Matter movement, the american election and the surrounding atmosphere, we saw fashion play a very important role in all this. Would you say that our generation, since you are a part of the so called Gen Z too, pushes for accountability from different brands wether it’s about their stance on social justice issues and not just performative activism, or when it comes to sustainability issues relating to fast fashion? Are we different in that regard, compared with previous generations?
L.M.: I want to say we are the “rah rah, sis, boom bah” Gen Z, the “go get ’em” generation and I think there are a lot of people that definitely put in real work to ensure that they are [doing that]. I’m not saying I’m perfect in any way, shape, or form, but I do think that the fact that our generation is so much more understanding of vintage shopping, for example, and that there is a lot of discussion about who can buy from what stores and how you should be buying and all these sorts of things is a conversation that 20-30 years ago would be about “Oh you’re wearing vintage clothing? Ew that’s gross”. So, in a way, [what’s happening now] is really great.
I think people seem to be loving sustainability and upcycling and really understanding that it’s very important. For instance, I wouldn’t say that Chopova Lowena is Gen Z, at least not from my understanding of their age, but it’s a brand that is so heavily into upcycling and making sure that they’re utilising fabric and, at least from what I see on Twitter and Instagram – Gen Z people love them, they’re obsessed with them and I think that it’s such a great brand. Do I think there is a lot of performative activism – absolutely, especially with the whole Black Lives Matter movement and just in general with a multitude of social justice issues.
However, conversations are being had, maybe not to the level that people want it to be, but I think that it’s definitely starting to become more mainstream to talk about those things, whereas even ten years ago, that would not have been a conversation that anybody would have wanted to have. So, while I wouldn’t say we are the generation of perfecting all these things – ’cause I don’t think anything could ever be perfect – I do think that the fact we are constantly having these conversations and calling each other out and mentioning, discussing, debating all of these things is really important. What is so great about this generation, is that there isn’t anything that is holy, and in some way, that allows us to be so multidimensional about everything, each in our own way.
M.K.: In regards to accountability, a lot of times we see some fashion houses that sort of hide, on the one hand, parts of their history, like Louis Vuitton’s relationship with Vichy France, or, on the other hand, the exploitative conditions under which some of their products are manufactured. Do you think that this “calling out” culture, that’s sustained by watchdog accounts like Diet Prada or by consumers that are simply commenting on different things, has brought about a change?
L.M.: I wouldn’t say we’re at the place where brands are actually doing the work to change these things, but I think that more and more people are informed about the brands and their history and how they’ve sort of covered it up or sort of swooped it under the rug. I believe that in the next 10, 15, 20 years it will be interesting to see how the commerciality of these brands will be affected, when the young people of today have buying power.
Because, yes, it is important that people are discussing in tweets or on Instagram these brands and what they’ve done and how they’ve gone about these issues, but at the same time, at least from what I’ve seen throughout history, I think the financial aspect is oftentimes what really pushes brands, people, or governments to actually listen to the people. So, it will actually be interesting to see how Gen Z and our generation utilises those aspects to confront all these brands over the next decades.
M.K.: You define yourself as a fashion critic. Now more than ever, influencer culture is only getting bigger. Does that term define you or do you find it derogatory? Would you say that you too are an influencer?
L.M.: Obviously, being an influencer is not a monolith and influencer culture has all these different pockets of cultures within that gigantic culture. I’m not ashamed to be an influencer because, at the end of the day, that’s genuinely what I am and, at least in fashion, if you’ve really built a following through social media and that’s how your work has come about, then I would say you probably are an influencer. So, I’m not ashamed of that because I believe that what I’ve done, while it’s not always perfect, it’s pretty good, it can stand on its own two feet in its own way.
Do I think there are some other aspects of it that are shallow or people selling things just to sell things? Absolutely. But at the same time, is that not what fashion models have done since the late 1800s or on the covers and pages of Vogue? That’s what fashion has always done, so I’m not going to attack people for doing things that have been done for forever just because now it’s digital. Nobody was dragging Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell when they were wearing Chanel on Vogue. I think it’s a weird thing to be mad at people for doing things that are part of the industry but have just taken a different form because they’re done through a different medium than what is considered normal.
M.K.: What’s the next step for you career-wise? Is there a long-term goal you want to achieve or are you exactly where you want to be?
L.M.: I think 2020 has been such a weird year, because this was supposed to be the year I was really going to push it and when March happened, it threw a wrench in my plans. I’m not going to say that 2021 is going to be the year to do it either, but I would say that right now I’m at the point where I’m comfortable with HauteLeMode; I like what it is, I like what it will become, but at the same time, I think that in our industry, when you’re comfortable with something, it’s probably time to step it up. It’s like one of those graphs of fashion trends that show that in the early stages something is really niche, then it reaches the mainstream and once the trend seems familiar and comfortable it reaches the end of its life cycle. I don’t ever want HauteLeMode to reach the end of its life cycle.
So now, the plan is to really invest in our archive, because I think that, even though looking at photos of celebrities and designers and looking at videos of runway shows is great, to physically touch, and feel, and showcase items and what they mean in a way that doesn’t always have to be a critique but an investigation is really fun. Building up the HauteLeMode archive has been our baby for the year, and it’s been fun, because I actually really do enjoy bidding against people at auction houses. It’s like a whole different world that seems almost separate from fashion; it’s what Darnell [Jamal] and I talked about on the podcast – we’re somewhere outside of fashion, in a world that definitely runs parallel to the industry but that doesn’t always meet.
In the future, I’d like to build up a database for people to easily be able to access this sort of “these were the real histories of these brands”. It’s not just “Louis Vuitton invented the Alma bag in 1934”. Why did they invent it, what was the reason? Besides the fact that Coco Chanel used to buy it etc. Or, for example, why is Marc Jacob’s S/S 2008 collection for Louis Vuitton that important, why does it matter? Has that [collection] brought about the idea of artist collaborations today? Is that why we see them so often? And so that’s how you build up all of these references for these brands and who’s worked for who.
I think Kim Jones is a great example of that, because when he was at Louis Vuitton he was working with Marc [Jacobs]. Is that why now for every season for Dior Men we’ve seen an artist collaboration, is it because that’s what he learned when he was working with Marc [Jacobs]? Thus, being able to build up all of these different references only allows you to have a wider thought process on the entirety of the industry and so if I’m getting to do that I hope that, as time goes on, I can share that with the audience and then, who knows, the next great fashion critic of the world might be born out of watching a few HauteLeMode videos.
M.K.: With your eye for all things fashion, what do you see as being the next big thing, be it a trend, a brand, or maybe even a celebrity as a brand ambassador?
L.M.: I would say that the thing to look out for is the young brands, like we talked already about Chopova Lowena, but I think Mowalola [Ogunlesi], Robert Wun, Peter Do and a plethora of other brands will evolve, in the same way that Yves Saint Laurent, for instance, became a designer who is still, 40-50 years later, so integral to the idea of fashion. So, it will be interesting to see – and I’d personally like to know – if the trend of brands not only sustaining themselves now but in the future is something that our generation can do. Like, for example, Mowalola becoming a brand that in 60 years, Mowalola will still be running around, but there might be one or two creative directors that have come and gone at the brand.
In other words, I’d like to see if our generation can build these brands into something that has its own importance and becomes something that is time-honored – and I’m hoping to see that with the designers that are emerging now, because I think that very few brands have been consistently uplifted by the industry in the past 20 years. I believe that seeing these great designers building their own brands, with their own DNAs and their own iconic accessories is a thing to look forward to in the future.
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