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Do Fashion Show Reviews Matter?

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For his second and latest womenswear collection, Tom Ford once again chose to show his clothes to only the most elite group of print editors in his new London showroom. "I don't want to be reviewed," he told the Los Angeles Times. Ford made the statement even more explicit: "I'm not an artist with an opening; this is not a film. I'm just trying to make pretty clothes. And beautiful clothes make beautiful women, but sometimes they don't make fashion news."

Ford's words come out as a striking contrast to the rest of fashion reality, that of today's live-streamed runway shows, front row bloggers, and reviews tweeted in tandem to each exiting look. Fashion has become so over-hyped, over-publicized, and over-reviewed you'd think it was nominated for an Oscar.

Even though Mr. Ford's approach may seem antiquated, it might be the fashion review itself that has become a curious vestige of a yesteryear. Once shows were extremely exclusive industry events -- the type that Tom Ford now replicates -- and reviewers gave the only insight into what was being shown behind these closed doors. Now, with runway images available in real time, the idea of a formal fashion review makes less sense -- everyone has access to the collections and can form an opinion on what they see.

Instead of reporting on the clothes, collection reviews have become more esoteric in their interpretations of the designer's mood and mindset. In a sense, reviewers elevate fashion to the same level as modern art in anointing a select erudite few to decipher the meaning behind the clothes.

Why should a fashion review be that different from an automobile review, at the end of the day? Shouldn't we be more concerned about how that wool jacket will hold up as the seasons pass rather than musing on what Mrs. Prada's latest thoughts on the proletarian are based on hem length?

It's hard to imagine that a real-life woman even briefly entertains Cathy Horyn's or Suzy Menkes' opinions while browsing Bergdorf's, let alone while dressing in the morning.

Despite this, it seems the fashion review has exploded in recent years, owing to the celebrification and democratization of fashion. Now it's not just WWD, Vogue, and the New York Times opining on the runway, but everyone with a blogspot and a digital camera feels the need to weigh in.

The larger implication of fashion reviews is that it causes consumers to suffer from fashion fatigue. Enamored as it is with all things new, the fashion media metabolizes the new collections the second they hit the runway, which are then distilled into slideshows showcasing trends that won't be readily available for purchase until six months off. By the time the stores have the clothes for sale, consumers have already seen and begun to covet the next season's looks.

At this point, there are two divergent possibilities: one is that the industry will follow Mr. Ford's regressive lead and return to a closed door approach or, more likely, fashion shows will become live test groups, with everyone watching at home via Facebook livestream able to "like" each piece as it floats down the runway, put it in their electronic shopping bag and then tweet the purchase to their friends.