BLACK VOICES
09/13/2013 03:21 pm ET

Robin Givhan Reddit AMA: Journalist Fields Questions On Diversity, Fashion Week & Clueless Dressers

Helayne Seidman

Robin Givhan is arguably the best fashion journalist in the world, and she's got the Pulizer Prize to prove it. So we were thrilled to find out the Washington Post and The Cut contributor was teaming up with Reddit for one of the site's "Ask Me Anything" chats.

With that simple call to action and New York Fashion Week officially over, Givhan fielded a string of questions Friday morning, including several on the hot topic of fashion's diversity issue. Other inquires ranged from what her favorite show has been thus far, to what fashion advice she can offer a single 30-year-old male with an apparent hygiene problem.

Check out some highlights from Givhan's "Ask Me Anything" chat below...


It seems as though every couple of years, the topic of diversity on the runway comes up again, with little change. Do you think we'll ever see a significant change towards more diversity? What do you think it will take for this change to take hold? (via Sdiek)

I think that the change won't really take hold until the culture's perception of fashion changes so that we think about fashion as something that has more of an impact on our lives than just what we put in our closets. I think for most people it's hard to get riled up about which 18 year old girls get to walk down a runway, but if we think about the broader impact of fashion, and how it makes us value different kinds of people, we are more likely to be concerned and think about the runway as an important place.


Hi Robin, Prominent people of color are few and far between in the fashion industry in general - not just on the runway. As a Black woman, did you face any discrimination on your way to become a leading critic in the industry? Did you feel like you had to break down glass ceilings and challenge any stereotypes? (via Missymusing)

The metaphor of breaking glass ceilings seems far too dramatic for anything that I've ever dealt with. I would say there have been moments of subtle -- I'm not sure discrimination is even the word -- I'd say subtle surprise when I've shown up to interview someone or for an event. But that happens far less now. There have been times when, because I'm the only black woman in the room, people will ask my opinion on some race-related topic. And i fear they will then take my answer and extrapolate seem vast generalization about how all black women feel. And that is so far from reality that ....well, I don't even have the words. I'm one person with opinions. And while there is common ground, my opinions may well be very different from those of someone who grew up, say in the South rather than in the midwest. Or someone who came from far more meager circumstances than I did. The biggest stereotype to me seems to be that black people all think the same.

Will you do an analysis of diversity at #LFW [London Fashion Week]? (via Contentnet)

I'm not going to be in London, but I will be in Paris. And based on the letters that Bethann Hardison sent out, the Paris shows last season were especially homogenous. So while I won't be keeping count, I will be taking note.

I'm curious why Asian models were not included in the balance diversity campaign? (via davidb820)

my understanding from conversations with the founder of the campaign is that the lack of black models is her primary concern because they have the least representation. at the moment, Asian models are getting a fair degree of representation, in part because the industry recognizes the growing economic clout of the Asian market. but diversity is diversity and it would behoove designers to be aware that if they want to sell in a global marketplace, they should let their runway and advertising reflect that.

Hi Robin. I'm always amazed by how many fashion critics—especially those who work for digital-based media—can review a collection so fast. What aspects do you always scrutinize in each collection to come up with a critical piece in such a short period? (via Niconovito)

Some online critics write so fast it makes my head spin. i think that i'm pretty slow by comparison. but the first question i always ask myself: was my gut reaction positive, negative or somewhere in between? did the collection keep my attention? but mostly i try to understand what the designer attempted to to accomplish and whether he/she was successful. when a designer puts on a show, they're essentially picking up a microphone: What did they say? Was it coherent or was it a jumble? And i do try to take into consideration whether the collection was presented by a brand with every advantage or a newbie who basically had to put the whole thing together with bubble gum and straight pins. Context matters to me.

Whose show was your favorite so far this fall? (via chooter)

My favorite show to write about was Thom Browne because he gave me so much to think about, and I thought it was extremely appropriate that he had all of the fashion audience sitting in a white, padded cell. And I love designers who make us think about clothes as more than costumes.

What's the craziest thing you've witnessed at NYFW? (via GoneShopping)

The woman walking across Lincoln Center Plaza wearing a fox fur vest when it was 80+ degrees outside. This was followed by a woman wearing a wool coat outside of Ralph Lauren when it was about 80% humidity. But they attracted the street style photographers, so their job was a success!

In the morning I grab the clothes that smell cleanest out of the pile of "clean" clothes on my floor to wear that day (I don't own a dresser, which I'd probably never use anyway). Would you say this is an acceptable way to approach fashion for a 30 year old single male? (via Tropicarcinogen)

No, my dear. This is not acceptable. You are better than that. You deserve more than reasonably clean clothes from a pile. Find your inner swagger. Hang up your clothes. Find your style. Go conquer the world.

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