Cathy Horyn: 28 years in fashion
The last of the Mohicans
Before becoming a major fashion critic at The New York Times, Cathy Horyn had of course worked for other publications. Although information about her former employers is sparse – there were no scandals, controversial statements or revoked invitations to shows for Horyn while working with the Detroit News and the Washington Post. In fact, prior to her 1999 appointment at The New York Times, Cathy Horyn was a relatively quiet fashion critic for 13 years, honing a sharp tongue and writing skills.
By this time, Horyn had also formed her fashion tastes, which rarely swayed as a critic. She was loyal to Azzedine Alaïa and Raf Simons and absolutely merciless towards those she disliked, such as Hedi Slimane – a relationship that harboured never-ending conflict. It's hard to say whether this derived from personal issues or simply a strong dislike to his creations – or perhaps both.
A dark fashion fairytale, this story began in 2004 when Horyn devoted a review to say that without Raf Simons' influence on fashion, Hedi Slimane would never be a success. Despite the further clarification that Simons himself would be in the same position without Helmut Lang, Slimane harboured resentment at the criticism. A public quarrel ensued that lasted for years and needless to say, Horyn was omitted from the guest list for Slimane's first show as creative director of Saint Laurent. Her retaliation was a scathing review of the photographs on the Internet, writing: "I have the impression that the collection is created by a man who has fallen out of vogue for the past few years" and made no mention of her lack of personal invitation.
For the following season Horyn was again, uninvited. And again, she wrote a review of the photographs, comparing Slimane's creations to Topshop and "based on digital images". Slimane answered via an angry open letter, stylised as 'My Own Times', in which he called Horyn, "a school bully with a touch of a stand-up comedian," saying that she will "never get a seat at Saint Laurent, but might get a 2 for 1 at Dior", and generally questioned her professionalism.
Horyn also managed to go to war with Giorgio Armani, who was offended by criticism by careless words about his friends and relatives in a New York Times review in 2008, which were revoked.
Next up was Carolina Herrera – where Horyn was wiped from the guest list for two years for negative reviews. In contrast, however, statements about Alexander Wang such as "not a great designer, though someone who would be delighted to lay his head on any laurels that people want to reward him. He's definitely a shrewd guy," seem to have had no consequence.
More recently in 2011, Horyn raised conflict with Lady Gaga, who had written a column for V Magazine questioning her style critics and accused them of incompetence. Gaga then took the matter further, and perhaps a step too far, with the track Cake Like Lady Gaga, in which she raps vulgar lyrics about Horyn's partner Art Ortenberg, incidentally the founder of Liz Claiborne.
The cartoon Electric Holiday: Cathy Horyn, Daphne Guinness, Carine Rotfeld, Naomi Campbell
The effort of fighting with Lady Gaga were not in vain – by September 2012, Cathy Horyn took on Oscar de la Renta. In a review of his collection, she called his work "hotdog American fashion" (a statement rather difficult to be taken out of context), and the designer then reacted with an open letter published in WWD saying that since he's a 'hot dog', the critic is a "three day old hamburger." Unsurprisingly, Lady Gaga publicly supported Oscar de la Renta on this one.
Cathy Horyn with fashion consultant Julie Gilhart in 2011
As the Gaga episode proves, Horyn took issue with other professions too. In 2008, she frankly smashed Vogue and Anna Wintour in an article titled What's Wrong With Vogue? And her famous criticism of Chelsea Clinton's "unsophisticated" wedding dress is another topic altogether. However when the topics become this personal, it's understandable that the straight talking journalist is deemed unprofessional. Yet she is not devoid of emotion. Horyn was one of the first influential fashion names to openly sympathise with John Galliano during his departure from Dior, revealing how his controversial Spring/Summer 06 show was "the only time I have stood to applaud a designer, without waiting for the rest of the audience to join in, which it did not."
After her retirement from the post of fashion critic for The New York Times Cathy Horyn will continue to work with the publication, but on a book about fashion history.