This is the latest installment of Public Streets, a biweekly urban observations series curated by Ellis Avery.
Fashion is a multi-billion dollar global industry: New York Fashion Week alone is a $900 million enterprise, bigger than the US Open, Super Bowl, or NYC Marathon. It’s not surprising, therefore, that most fashion writers toe the line of the advertisers who back the media organization for which they are writing. That’s why I love the work of Cintra Wilson, a frequent contributor to the “Critical Shopper” column in the New York Times, whose 2009 review of midtown Manhattan’s new J. C. Penney’s proved so blistering that the delicate editors of the Times saw fit to print an apology to Penney’s and its customers. Wilson’s new book Fear And Clothing: Unbuckling American Style is exactly what I believe fashion journalism ought to be: an examination of why we choose to put certain attire on our bodies, and a consideration of that choice beyond simple herd-mentality consumerism.
Cintra is a fearless observer, from Fifth Avenue to Jamaica Avenue in Queens, from Salt Lake to Wyoming to Birmingham. While she is so acidly funny she is best consumed with vodka, there is no one who writes about what we wear with more scrutiny, speaks about it with more vivid precision, or nails it with a silver hammer the way that she does. To be an independent fashion journalist is to take what has been under our noses all along and finally bring it, not just to academic forums or glossy magazines or frivolous shows on television, but to a discerning audience. And you, the discerning audience, will learn things from Cintra Wilson’s years of travels that you didn’t know, and consider why, in our meek little hearts, whether we are Mormon missionaries or South Beach barhoppers, we all dress to empower our lives in the camouflage we call fashion.