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SOUNDING OFF: The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion writer Robin Givhan may be many things, but being indirect is not one of them. Speaking with authority on everything from the dysfunctional state of the fashion industry and the decline of thoughtful fashion coverage to Sarah Palin’s choice of red patent pumps, Givhan minced no words during an appearance Friday as part of a speaker series at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, particularly when it came to the recent flurry of celebrities turned designers.

“I can’t imagine Donna Karan saying I’m going to cut an album because her friends say she can sing karaoke,” said Givhan, adding that most celebrity brands are falling by the wayside. “I find that reassuring,” she said, explaining the trend will not completely die because a segment of consumers will buy based on a celebrity’s name.

By bringing celebrities so prominently into the fashion fold (from their front-row fashion show seats to becoming billboards for their clothes), “they [designers] kind of made a pact with the devil,” Givhan said, contending consumers didn’t seem to tune out the fashion industry just because of the economy. “It didn’t just happen because they got laid off,” she said, noting some designers should consider creating larger-size clothing to reflect American reality.

Meanwhile, Givhan said dissecting a politician’s appearance is important because it often relays a message. While she said some coverage surrounding Palin’s campaign for vice president was sexist, commentary was warranted. Palin didn’t chose to wear red patent leather pumps by accident, Givhan noted, and Hillary Rodham Clinton needed to consider her fashion choices as well. “You can’t come dressed head-to-toe in cantaloupe and not have people talk about it.”

Givhan also questioned the value of reactionary fashion writing popularized within blogs and Twitter. For those who immediately tweet their opinion upon exiting a fashion show, Givhan asked, “How thoughtful can you be five minutes after the show?” — Beth Wilson


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