Today, news broke that fashion critic Cathy Horyn resigned from her post at the New York Times after 15 years of incredible service to the world renowned newspaper.
Unfamiliar with Ms. Horyn? Well let's get you up to speed. In her 15-year career at the Times that includes 1,123 bylined pieces, she has led the field in critical analysis and sparked more than a few honest conversations about designers, the work that they show, the business of fashion, and the issues that need to be addressed in the fashion industry. One standout example is the piece Horyn wrote in the Times back in 2008 well before the fashion community at large became collectively spurred on to (lightly) discuss the issue of race and fashion.
Horyn became infamous (and I mean that in the most respectful way) for her blunt criticisms and voice of dissent when critiquing designers most journalists revere too heavily to actually confront and speak of negatively. Who else has the balls to say that they didn't like what Hedi Slimane showed on the runway for the house of Saint Laurent, one of the most talked about and anticipated comebacks in fashion history.
"I expected more," she remarked. A total ethering in three words is greater than anything Nas has ever done. (It should obviously be noted that she made these critiques from her laptop, because Slimane made sure to ban her from attending his show. And for the record, I did not agree with her review of the collection, as I sit here in my Saint Laurent jeans.)
She's been just as brutally honest about other huge names in fashion, including Oscar De La Renta and Giorgio Armani. She was banned from attending shows put on by these designers as well.
However, let's be very clear: Ms. Horyn is not some bitter, spiteful critic with an axe to grind. As Stuart Emmrich, the editor of the New York Times' Style section said to Matt Lynch of Capital New York about Horyn's departure, “It was an incredibly difficult personal decision for Cathy, but one I understand and completely agree with... Though not all designers agreed with her, and more than a few were angered by her reviews, even the ones who banned her from their shows or took out full page ads in WWD ultimately respected the intellectual heft of her reviews and the unquestioned integrity she brought to her work.”
In fact, the criticism went both ways. Horyn has been critiqued on her always favorable reviews of designer Raf Simons, throughout his career and at numerous posts. While other journalists wrote unfavorable reviews for Simons' collections when he was at the helm of Jil Sander, Horyn was always able to find the silver lining and highlight the best parts of these collections without fail. Perhaps their personal relationship trumps criticism, but to be honest aren't we all proponents of the work our friends do?
She's one of the most respected, and thought-provoking women in the industry and it is with a heavy-heart that the fashion industry receives her resignation. In her span at the Times, she was one of the few voices that was free of politics, gave honest insights, and challenged designers and the industry as a whole to do better.
And in doing so, she gave us numerous memorable quotes and lines. As a farewell, some of my favorites have been listed below for your reading pleasure. We would all do better simply by aspiring to the bar that she has set:
“A runway is like a shrink’s couch; stuff just comes out.” –Cathy Horynon Dior.
"Big houses like Giorgio Armani can’t expect to reach around the globe, putting down hotels with little GA soaps and towels, without more thrust than yesterday’s understated pantsuit." -Cathy Horyn on Milan Fashion Week's spring/summer 2011 season.
"It’s embarrassing to see how Vogue deals with the recession—For the December issue, it sent a writer off to discover the “charms” of Wal-Mart and Target. A similar obtuseness permeates a fashion spread in the January issue, where a model and a child are portrayed on a weekend outing with a Superman figure. Is a ’50s suburban frock emblematic of the mortgage meltdown?" Cathy Horyn on "Whats Wrong With Vogue?"
"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. But a box of labels is worth a million." Cathy Horyn on Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent