Vanessa Friedman On Why Fashion Matters (Hint: It's About Nudity)

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BFA_7179_839303Photo: Joe Schildhorn/BFA.
In her final column for the Financial Times, Vanessa Friedman states many astonishing facts about her 11-year tenure. Since joining in 2003, she's written over a million words for the paper. She's seen the luxury fashion market grow from a $178-billion industry to a $305-billion one. She's seen Galliano rise and fall, Givenchy tear through three designers before entrusting his brand with Riccardo Tisci, and Tom Ford and Jil Sander enter, exit, and reenter again. And, oh, yeah — there was a weird couple of months when Lindsay Lohan designed for Ungaro.

But, maybe the most surprising thing Friedman's seen in her time at the paper is the rise of fashion as a topic worthy of serious discussion and analysis. It was not always this way. Friedman, FT's first-ever fashion writer, recalls that as soon as she sat down for her job interview with the paper's editor, he declared, “I never think about clothes.” Later, when she told the head of a major bank what she did for a living, "He laughed so hard and turned so red [over the thought that the] Financial Times had a fashion editor," Friedman worried he'd have a heart attack.

But, somewhere along the way — thanks in no small part to critics like Friedman and Cathy Horyn, who Friedman has replaced at The New York Times — fashion began to gain a more serious reputation. And, for all the reasons Friedman enumerates, from Bernard Arnault translating luxury's exclusive appeal for a mass audience, to Steve Jobs making design fetishists of us all, maybe the best one of all is what Friedman closes her column with — the simple, self-evident answer she wishes she'd been armed with at her FT job interview in 2003 and that she now uses for anyone who question's the topic's legitimacy: Fashion matters because "the world is not run by naked people." We'll be stealing that one. (Financial Times)

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