Every once in a while there emerges an article that every single person - in a certain niche of New York - is reading, talking about, and in this case, grimacing at. This week it is a piece in the Observer called "Elle on Earth," a title almost as smug as the almost 4000 words that follow it. That so many busy people in the fashion and media industries have read it, and read it closely, is indeed a testament to how gloriously the fire of this trainwreck burns. It is as fascinating as it is insufferable, much like the writer of the piece, Jacques Hyzagi. But oh my God, this guy is the worst.
This whole ordeal of a take-down revolves around Hyzagi's experience trying to get an interview with notoriously reclusive Comme des Garçons designer, Rei Kawakubo, published, well, anywhere. After berating "the bores" at New York Magazine, the impoverished New York Observer (where this piece is awkwardly published? What?), and the "Reader’s Digest meets GQ" New Yorker (where David Remnick apparently declined the offer due to the publication's 2005 profile on Kawakubo), the author writes that he finally "settles" on Elle. If Robbie Myers is someone you just settle for working with, you'd have to have a bigger name and influence than oft-rejected freelancer Hyzagi. But we digress.
The problem with the piece is not, exactly, the angle. Most writers, editors, and anyone in the fashion world have most definitely had a hellish experience while trying to push a project they believed in. The problem is this guy's booming sense of entitlement, self-importance, and disdain for the biz he actually so clearly cares about. At one point he says of Kawakubo (who he earlier calls the "Bob Dylan of fashon"), "Her work, even for someone like me who hates fashion, is breathtaking. A folly in the sense that Federico Fellini and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s films were follies." Yeah, dude, you hate fashion.
Despite calling out the New Yorker profile, referring to it as "academic, bizarrely self-absorbed" (#IRONIC), Hyzagi's own writing is full of superfluous, strangely intellectual insertions. Like this one: "people are so fucking stupid nobody knows what Dada is." Or this one: "but she was ready to let it die by Lingchi, a thousand cuts." Is this a thesis or, let's be real, the most catty Glassdoor review ever?
To be fair, Hyzagi seems like the type of writer who would be an Elle-level diva if you so much as added a comma to his work. Unfortunately, this piece needed many commas, and other degrees of punctuation. It was probably easier for the Observer to throw their hands up and press publish on this guy, accepting a complete disregard for English grammar and waiting for the traffic to roll in. For the Observer, though, #respect. I would have published this, but definitely not have written it.
In addition to the alarmingly, just, bad writing, the piece stands out due to Hyzagi's deep, deep hatred of powerful women (or all women). He's almost disturbingly paranoid about Elle editor Anne Slowey trying to sabotage him by not responding to his emails. Chances are she didn't have time to re-work his defiant and perhaps disrespectful interview. (See: "For someone of her stature to smile when I asked her if she were neurotic goes beyond the fact that no one has ever talked to her like this in 40 years...her refusal to give interviews or have her photo taken, which I did anyway on my iPhone.")
On these women, like Myers, Slowey, and even Kawakubo, he writes: "Most of the women gay guys worship work in the fashion industry. They all have the aura of a Bette Davis, Joan Crawford or Lucille Ball or the mom in Grey Gardens. Steely strong women, cold, authoritarian, powerful, slightly unhinged, aloof but charming, tender but cutting, vain but elitist, superficial but cultured, terribly cruel and laudatory in the same sentence, frivol, cunning and manipulative, overdramatic, superb, all bringing, as Hamish Bowles ridiculously once said, ‘a powerhouse of pizzaz’. Their mothers, for most."
The latent misogyny continues with a backhanded attempt at addressing some sort of sexism in the fashion industry, as he calls "sadistic high heels" something for "submissive women...torture apparatus meant to apparently please an ethos from the worst patriarchy." Does he try here? Does he really try to say something here? No, of course not. See, the next line dives right into his history of DATING MODELS. This is something he sprinkles throughout the article, with no rhyme or reason at all. "The models I have dated were fashion proof in their daily lives. They would never be caught dead wearing any of these sartorial debasements... Most of them in order to stay skeletal did coke in the 80’s." Just so you know, guys, he has dated models. We get it.
For a self-proclaimed "broke writer," Hyzagi seems to have some bragging rights. After all, he leaves Paris after the interview with Kawakubo, heading down to the south of France to write. A pull-out gem: "The Riviera is the perfect place to make you forget what a schmuck you are." Here's hoping he stays there, for, as they say, he'll never work in this town again.