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Trends We Are Sick Of: The Designer Open Letter

Image: Getty

Image: Getty

I don't know how you handle perceived slights (I find that either giving people the stink eye at parties or exercising emotional maturity and getting over whatever happened typically does the trick), but designers have been taking a peculiar approach. Following the example set by fellow designers Oscar de la Renta and Hedi Slimane last Fall, John Paul Gaultier has released an aggrieved open letter attacking a prominent fashion critic. 

As a refresher: In September 2012, de la Renta took out a full-page ad in WWD attacking Cathy Horyn of The New York Times following what the designer mistakenly thought was a negative review. But it soon became clear that he'd read an insult where none was intended, making the feud a minor embarrassment for the designer. But that didn't stop budding Saint Laurent visionary Hedi Slimane from piling on with his own open letter, where he went after Horyn more abrasively, criticizing her sense of style and claiming that it undermined her professional credibility. (Speaking of things that are tasteless…)

Although Gaultier also took his letter-writing to Twitter, his actions are arguably more rational than either de la Renta's or Slimane's, given that he's responding to a review which, in its opening sentence, accuses the designer of "work[ing] a theme like a last nerve." Style.com editor-at-large Tim Blanks' write-up of the French designer's Fall 2013 couture collection comes down against Gaultier and his recent work in no uncertain terms:

"A few outfits later, a 'millefeuille de mousselines' echoed Yves Saint Laurent's way with color, as a reminder that Gaultier was once considered the one true heir to the throne of French fashion. But that was once upon a time, and that time has, sad to say, well and truly passed."

The designer's response: 

Image: Twitter/JPGaultier

Image: Twitter/JPGaultier

And if you were wondering where he learned that it was acceptable to parade his inability to withstand criticism, here's how he followed the open letter he posted to Twitter:

(Feeling like a scolding mother — "If Hedi and Oscar jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?")

The open letter may be a timeless form (you could trace it all the way back to the Bible), but right now it's also in vogue — and like everything else in fashion, it's a throwback. 

From what I can tell, the open letter's first appearance as a weapon in a fashion feud was in 1988.

At the time, designer Pauline Tri­gère was banned from the pages of influential trade publication WWD, possibly because she opposed publisher John Fairchild's controversial obsession with the midi-skirt (which he'd termed  “the longuette” and no, I'm not making this up) so she took out a full-page ad in The New York Times Magazine

From a 2012 Vanity Fair profile of Fairchild

"In a letter in red ink on her personal stationery, she wrote: 'A Dear John Letter to John Fairchild … is it really over between us? You don’t call, you don’t write, I still love you.' Publicizing the fight gained Trigère a tremendous amount of attention. As Amy Fine Collins wrote in a 1999 Vanity Fair story on Trigère, the advertisement did not end the feud, but Trigère could take satisfaction in being applauded for taking on the fashion-world giant. Stanley Marcus, the former chairman of the retailing chain Neiman Marcus, wrote an editorial in The Dallas Morning News saying that 'only Pauline Trigère has had the courage to publicly protest … this pompous, self-appointed fashion dictator.'” 

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