Critical Mass

Stylist: Edward Enninful

For decades, a select group of print journalists dictated our views on fashion. But in the age of Twitpics and do-it-yourself commentary, Troy Patterson wonders: Who can you trust?

Stylist: Edward Enninful

Hilary Alexander The Daily Telegraph

Signature look: Tribal accessories—including a fur hat from Kazakhstan, where they hunt foxes with eagles. “I feel it was justly earned.” Bad habits: Marlboro Lights. Responding to Mayor Bloomberg’s smoking ban in New York City’s public parks, she exclaims: “That fucker!” College life: Never went, but when she begins archaeology classes next fall she’ll concentrate on Babylonians, Mayans, and Assyrians. Early reporting coup: Scored a preview of Christian Lacroix’s first ready-to-wear show in 1988. After the photo editor nixed a picture she had selected, her editor in chief dug it out of the trash.

Stylist: Edward Enninful

Suzy Menkes International Herald Tribune

Signature look: A regally aerodynamic pouf of hair, with dresses and pantsuits from Pleats Please. Early education: “I did a course in fashion design in Paris, and learned pretty fast that it was easier to write about it than to do it.” College life: “When Courrèges brought out short white ankle boots, I took the milk train from Cambridge to London at half past four in the morning to buy a pair and be back in time for class.” Worst reaction to an unfavorable review: After she wrote that the classic Chanel bag was passé, Karl Lagerfeld took out a full-page rejoinder in the International Herald Tribune. “That shows the genius of Lagerfeld,” she says, “to do that and get massively talked about.”

Stylist: Edward Enninful

Bridget Foley Women’s Wear Daily

Signature look: Eschews pants; fights off chills with cashmere cardigans. Career track: Has worked at WWD since 1984, starting on a beat covering junior sportswear, jeans and casual pants, blouses, and shirts. Journalistic approach: “I do not start from a neutral position. While I try my hardest to be objective, I go into every show loving fashion.” Worst reaction to an unfavorable review: Known for her lightning-quick speaking style, Foley responds with a rare pause. “That is not something I would go into.”

Stylist: Edward Enninful

Cathy Horyn The New York Times

Signature look: Roomy pants and sensible shoes. Signature sound: In Fashion Week wrap-up videos on the Times’s website, Horyn speaks in a lockjaw accent that out-Hepburns Hepburn and belies her small-town Ohio roots. First fashion job: The Detroit News. In response to a 1985 classifieds ad, she submitted two writing samples: “One was about the trend for mixing black and navy, the other was a piece that looked at curvaceous tailoring (this was the Thierry Mugler era) by reflecting on how my mother used to have hip pads sewn into her clothes,” she revealed in the Times. Worst reaction to an unfavorable review: In an over-the-top dis, Oscar de la Renta railed against Horyn as “immature” and “unprofessional” when she won her CFDA award in 2002.

Stylist: Edward Enninful

Robin Givhan Newsweek/The Daily Beast

Signature look: “People assume that if you write about fashion, you should have a certain look,” she says. “My No. 1 goal is not to embarrass my employer.” College life: Wrote her senior thesis at Princeton on Edward Albee. Still has a letter the taciturn playwright once wrote her. Early fashion education: “If you grow up in the Midwest, as I did, you spend a lot of time hanging out at malls.” Worst reaction to an unfavorable review: An elaborate letter of protest from a member of the 9/11 Commission after she wrote that his “bold pinstripes…make him look like he shoots craps on the side.”

Stylist: Edward Enninful

Guy Trebay The New York Times

Signature look: Levi’s and owlish eyeglasses. “I’ve worn more or less the same pair of frames since I was a kid, but when they discontinued Oliver Peoples’s O’Malleys, I wrote a story, and there was such a response, they brought it back as a retro line—one of the rare instances where I had an impact.” College life: None. “I dropped out of high school, and I went to work for Andy Warhol. A friend of mine had gotten a gig with Warhol’s Interview, and I thought, If she can do it, I can do it.” Nominees for the fashion-critic canon: Kennedy Fraser (The New Yorker) and Holly Brubach (The New Yorker; The New York Times); Blair Sabol of The Village Voice and counterculture magazine Rags.