Fashionista.com’s senior editor Leah Chernikoff was invited to cover the spring/ summer 2012 shows in São Paulo as several members of the international press are every season. She was undoubtedly the hardest working international journalist in São Paulo this season, and made sure to attend and write about several shows a day, learn about the designers, and post pictures of entire collections and some of her favorite looks. To wrap up her coverage of São Paulo Fashion Week though, she wrote a post about the top ten most ridiculous or outrageous looks seen at the shows. That very post, which I personally thought was great since Fashionista does the same with the shows in Paris and Milan, caused an uproar and a major backlash in Brazil, with several bloggers and even Vogue Brazil criticizing Ms. Chernikoff for her sense of humor.
I don’t want to add fuel to the fire, but I feel like I should say something in defense of Fashionista since I do not understand why designers in Brazil would feel offended with the website’s post. If one thing is offensive and ridiculous in this situation it is the fact that members of the Brazilian press believe that Ms. Chernikoff is not allowed to criticize the shows in São Paulo just because she was invited and flown in to cover the event. SPFW invites several members of the international press every season, and in the past years none of them has paid as much attention to the designers and the clothes as Ms. Chernikoff did last week, but that of course went unnoticed by the national press. The main concern of the national press was that the shows would be not taken seriously only because Fashionista selected ten ridiculous looks and posted them online for the world to see. Guess what? The ten looks selected were indeed ridiculous, and if no one is allowed to mention that, what is the point of having editors and journalists at the shows anyway?
What I also find insulting is the notion that Ms. Chernikoff (or any international journalist for that matter) should not be allowed to say negative things about the show in Brazil because they have been flown with expenses paid by the event. If Cathy Horyn were to ever come to São Paulo for the shows and gave them poor reviews, would she have received the same harshness from Brazilian websites and journalists as Fashionista did this week? And would she not be invited back because of those poor reviews? Just how are Brazilian designers supposed to develop if they can’t take criticism? If you do not have a thick skin and a lot of sense of humor, you should be working at a different industry.
On a final note, in spite of what several Brazilian websites have reported, Leah Chernikoff did not receive a royal treatment while in São Paulo. She was a guest of ABEST, the Brazilian equivalent of the CFDA, and actually put up at a hotel of the same level as members of the national press. I covered the shows in Brazil for V Magazine for two consecutive years, and I never received any special treatment in spite of being linked to one of the most important fashion publications around. The treatment international press members receive is the same as members of the national press, and even if it were better Brazilian designers should still have to deal with bad reviews. Let’s make something clear: it is an invite to cover the event, not a bribe.