If you read the voices that matter in fashion, Rachel Tashjian is already on your radar. She is currently the Fashion News Director at Harper’s Bazaar, working across print and digital platforms, she constantly delivers an incisive perspective on the industry – whether recapping runway collection or tackling relevant systemic and up-to-the-minute issues. Among her previous roles: GQ’s first fashion critic, deputy editor of GARAGE and a contributing writer to Vanity Fair. Her writing has also appeared innBookforum and Artforum. In 2020, Tashjian launched Opulent Tips, a candid, invitation-only newsletter in which she explores ideas with far more detail than on her popular social media accounts where she goes by the handle, @theprophetpizza.
In what ways do you see exploration as a natural part of the design process?
I think the best designers are ultra-curious, easily fascinated, and eager to be dazzled. A great collection often comes from a designer digging deeply, obsessively into something; I’m thinking of Mrs. Prada’s ongoing infatuation with the miniskirt at Miu Miu, or Jun Takahashi turning over entire collections in this all-consuming way to one theme, like exploring the decadent undertones of Cindy Sherman (SS18) or his sudden dedication to jazz (SS17). The sense of exploration can even feel sort of left-of-centre and still dominate the mood of the show. I remember the SS19 Comme des Garçons show was all about motherhood and creation and the dresses became more and more jagged and gloomy, suggesting just how painful it is to be a designer who has to create something brilliant twice a year on the dot. But the soundtrack is what really pulled at me: it was all Tom Waits. And that dragging, barbed voice is what opened up the whole collection to me, making it feel like an invitation to us to explore the ideas of the clothes, rather than providing one pointed and direct runway message. As a fashion observer, I love a sense of openness in a show, an incantation to interpretation and feeling.
What are some of the themes and ideas that you would like to see designers exploring through the next few seasons?
A lot of brands are excitedly talking about sustainability and climate change and making enormous donations and changes within their infrastructure to do something about this disaster. But I’d love to see these goals worked out in the clothes. This is something I thought a lot about after Issey Miyake died earlier this year: why aren’t designers using technology to make our lives better? What are fabrics that feel light and packable and unobtrusive and beautiful? And I don’t mean in a “smart fabrics” way (Zzzz!). I mean something with a great designer’s sense of beauty and intelligence. Our world is in a seemingly irreversible time of tragic heat. Are there lighter cottons, looser silhouettes, and more breathable fabrics? This kind of creativity is just as interesting as the sort of wild indulgence of pure fantasy. And in these times, maybe it’s even more interesting!
How have these past years shaped the way you explore fashion through social media and the virtual world?
I’m one of those freaks who has no anxiety around Instagram and social media in general. I love it. I think the Instagram explore page is a work of art. I love the way social media has helped us get to know designers better; I adore the way Marc Jacobs uses Instagram and frankly I think his selfies alone have given a lot of people (especially younger ones) a totally new appreciation for what a lover of fashion he is. I love the way the generation below mine bubbles over with commentary and analysis and cattiness on Instagram and Twitter and TikTok; it’s like a diffusion of the John Fairchild WWD sensibility. Like any journalist, I’m retain a bit of skepticism of it all, of course, but I think you have to go with your times, you know? I don’t want to sit around feeling nostalgic; I want to make sense of the world I live in.
How do you, personally, explore what’s new and exciting in fashion?
We have the greatest team at Harper’s Bazaar. We are like a puzzle where everyone offers something different, and we are united in this exciting, enthralling quest for what is luxurious and beautiful and special. I’m constantly asking everyone on text and Slack and in the car between shows what they like, what they see. (We’re doing a special newsletter for fashion week and that’s given me a great opportunity to do this more.) We are always sharing new things and ideas and thoughts. And outside of work, I have my community of fashion writers and designers and photographers and stylists I’m always chatting with. I really found my way in fashion when I found a community of people around my age. Like the morning of the Prada show, I had five group chats going, dissecting the shoes and the styling and the music. It opens up everything.