Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Quote of the Month

Bettina Ballard at work in the studio, photo by Nat Farbman

The fashion world is akin to the political world – a good place in which to exert power, influence people, and give expression to the ego. Like political careers, fashion careers are open to talented, personable amateurs who often rise to fame meteorically, only to fall with the whims of fashion arbiters. Fashion, like politics, is an ever-changing picture, with its own fluctuating foreign policy, its moods of isolationism, its factions, its jealousies, its internal politics. Even the words for fashion success have a political ring – king of fashion, fashion arbiter, leader, dictator – not a single, soft, gentle, feminine noun amongst them. The fashion world is no place for timid dedicated souls; it is a field for strong, determined egotists who have an innate desire to impose their wills on the world – wills of iron disguised in rustling silks and beautiful colours.

Ballard, Bettina, 1960, In My Fashion, London: Martin Secker and Warburg Ltd. pp:v

This month's quote comes from the preface of Betina Ballard's autobiography In My Fashion. This book is an intriguing insight into Ballard's experiences of working in fashion journalism for Vogue, tracing her journey from humble assistant to Edna Chase in 1930's New York, to fully-fledged Fashion Editor, perching on a gilded chair in the Parisian salons of the grand haute couturiers. In particular, this quote pithily summarises some of the internal workings of the fashion world, noting wryly the steeliness underneath the so-called frivolity of those who succeed within its confines. In my research of the fashion city it is intriguing to note how many 'key players', such as fashion editors, fashion school department heads, designers, PR's and boutique owners, influence the fashion cultures of the cities they operate in. For Ballard fashion is very much a business in which it is these characters, those that act as decision-makers (and who too, inadvertently, fuel the businesses' dose of gossip and intrigue), actually 'make' the industry what it has become.

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