Lauren David Peden is a seasoned journalist in the fashion world whose work has appeared in a variety of international and online publications including The New York Times, Vogue.co.uk, WWD.com, and Elle. The former Vogue Copy Director and current Contributing Editor at Rue La La became a pioneer for the now bustling fashion news blog scene when she founded The Fashion Informer in 2007.
As a seasoned journalist, you’ve worked for publications like Vogue, Vogue UK, Fashion Wire Daily and The New York Times, among many others. What inspired you to branch out and start your blog, The Fashion Informer?
When I launched The Fashion Informer in 2007, there were no other fashion news blogs out there (TFI pre-dates WWD.com, Fashionista, Business of Fashion, On the Runway, HuffPost, Daily Beast and most street style blogs). I wanted to establish a site that offered fashion industry news, event coverage and designer profiles from the perspective of an experienced journalist but with a more approachable, reader-friendly voice. And as much as I love writing for other people, you’re sometimes constrained by a publication’s in-house style (meaning I have to tailor my voice to fit their overarching tone), not to mention word count and things of that nature. TFI allows me to write about what I want, when I want—and if I need to take 1,500 words to tell the story, so be it. It also allows me to champion the work of designers—or products or artists or services—I love who might not get play elsewhere.
Does your past experience open doors for you and help establish relationships? Where have you seen the most rewards?
Absolutely. Because I came up through the ranks as a journalist (I started as an editorial assistant at Mademoiselle magazine back in the day) and had already interviewed most of the players in the fashion industry for more established publications before launching TFI, people a) knew they were dealing with a seasoned journalist and b) trusted me to tell their story in a professional yet authentic way. Today, of course, bloggers are ubiquitous on the scene. But for several years, I was literally the only blogger sitting front row at the shows, because I was also reviewing for FWD or Vogue.co.uk. As far as the rewards of my past experience, I think the access I’m afforded is the biggest perk. Even before designers or publicists really understood the whole blogging thing, I was granted interviews with some of fashion’s biggest players—Donna, Michael, Vera, even Maison Martin Margiela—which, in turn, boosted the credibility of TFI as a trusted source in the industry.
What are your favorite things to write about?
I love discovering and promoting the work of talented emerging designers, I love taking my readers on a you-are-there, behind-the-scenes journey (as I do with my Fashion Week dairy posts), and I love profiling established designers and presenting a side of them that people haven’t seen before. Nothing makes me happier than getting an email or thank you card from a designer after their profile has posted, saying “Wow, you really got me.” At the end of the day, I believe that everyone just wants to be heard and understood by others, and if I can do that in my profiles—help the reader to really get the person being interviewed—than I’ve done my job.
Does the content for Rue La La appeal to a different audience? How do you bring the two together?
While both are aimed at a consumer audience, my content for Rue’s blog, The (Style) Guide [LINK: http://www.ruelala.com/blog/category/lauren-david-peden/] tends to be a bit more mainstream than TFI’s, and they’re definitely stricter with word count. But there’s a good deal of overlap (it’s all fashion, after all). I think the two kind of go together naturally, like peanut butter and jelly—or Proenza and Schouler!
You were one of the first to do mainstream interviews of Philip Lim and Alexander Wang, among others. How do you view their careers today and do you think they will mature into the fashion icons of the next generation?
I think Phillip and Alex have both had a phenomenal level of success very quickly but I think they’re the exception, rather than the rule (which I say only to manage the expectations of other young designers who may be reading this). Fashion may look glamorous from the outside, but it’s a very, very tough business—and one that literally eats its young. A real-life example: my first piece on Phillip was a roundup for Time Out back in 2005 that featured a group of the best emerging New York designers, all of whom were equally talented. He’s the only one who’s still in business. I think the secret to Phillip and Alex’s success, in addition to being talented designers, is that they both have very savvy, forward-thinking business partners running the back end of the things (as do Proenza Schouler and other successful designers of that era). That’s key to succeeding in today’s marketplace, I think.
As to who will mature into the fashion icons of the next generation, I’d put my money on Tess Giberson, Wes Gordon, Daniel Vosovic, Sally LaPointe, Melissa Webb, Dean Quinn, Juan Carlos Obando, Haus Alkire and Anndra Neen. There are a lot of really, really talented new designers coming up right now who have very strong, distinctive points of view—and that’s what makes for a successful label. But partnering with the right people and making smart business decisions is equally important, so only time will tell.
Who are a few of your favorite emerging designers?
See above. I also like Tanya Taylor, WHIT, Erin Barr, Laura Siegel, Sunhee, Julian Louie and Katie Gallagher. Public School is a terrific emerging menswear brand and George Esquivel is an amazing new-ish shoe designer.
Back in 2007 when you started The Fashion Informer, you were one of the first. Now that blogging and social media is everywhere, how do you see the fashion industry changing?
That’s kind of a huge, far-reaching question. The short answer is yes, the industry has changed exponentially since I began blogging. Then, most bloggers were treated like the ugly stepsister of mainstream publishing, and there was a big outcry when someone like Julie Frederickson of the (now defunct) blog Coutorture dared to interview Anna Wintour at a fashion show.
Today, bloggers are accorded the same respect as established journalists, sometimes in ways I don’t think they merit. (As much as I love Tavi, for instance—and I am truly in awe of what she’s doing with Rookiemag—it always irked me to see a 13-year-old sitting front row while writers, editors and buyers who had been working in the field for years were seated behind her. That’s just disrespectful). I do think experience and knowledge should count for something. But we’re in fashion, which is all about what’s new, what’s hot, what’s next. The other big change is just the speed and frequency with which everyone—bloggers, journalists, photographers, buyers—is expected to react to things.
There’s less of a focus on quality and more on quantity, and that’s a very sad thing, all around. I also think social media has made designers and fashion brands feel like they have to have a presence online—and, in some cases, on every social media platform out there. But unless it’s done extremely well (which is often not the case), I actually think it can devalue a brand to be on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Tumblr and Pinterest and whatever the hell else they have yet to invent. It dilutes the brand’s message, in my opinion. Better to choose one or two things and do them well than spread yourself too thin. I also miss the days when the shows were less about street style and reality TV stars and more about the clothes on the runway.