I heard Kirstie Clements paired in a panel with writer and social commentator Anne Manne at Bendigo Writers Festival on the rise of narcissism.
It was an intriguing discussion with Anne Manne commenting that narcissists are those that are typically grandiose, braggers and posers. Manne went on to joke that when she was growing up in Bendigo they used to say that such people had “tickets on themselves or up themselves".
Clements kicked off her discussion debunking the assumption that the fashion industry is essentially narcissistic. She says on the contrary, high-end publications like Vogue are about celebrating creativity. She was adamant that Vogue is an artform presenting the best international fashion, photography, styling, design, and writing available as well as showcasing the best of Australian design talent. I tend to agree that there should be a stronghold in publishing for showcasing the best talent … but is it sustainable?
Clements laments that the digital age has created a culture that is subjective. She discussed with the audience her thoughts that a new generation of bloggers and journalists often lack historical references, or the ability to view collections in their social context. Rather, the pieces are dependent on what individual bloggers think and feel of a designer and their collection. It's more “I” and opinions, as in "I really like this green bag" as opposed to finding out from where the concept stems.
I agree with Clements up to a point, but the prevalence of fashion bloggers has created a bit of a media democracy. Talented design bloggers, like thejoye.com and stylerookie.com have huge followings and created a space for writing directly to the audience and not beholden to advertisers and outside budget demands. The writing is concise and informed and I think the platform of new media is the ultimate meritocracy where people can work in the media, even if they don't have the correct sartorial wardrobe and connections. The content just has to be good, and how we define that is changing.
As for the prevalence of writing in first person … the tides have well and truly changed. Language is fluid and the editors of the major mastheads are on the move too as I am frequently asked to file features and profiles in first person. I agree it is a little disconcerting when initially asked, but when Fairfax and News make the call you know it is now the benchmark.
I followed up this discussion with Kirstie afterwards via email and she generously answered some lingering questions I had about her memoirThe Vogue Factor and her fictional memoirTongue In Chic, along with writing and publishing.
Kirstie, you end your book The Vogue Factor stating you still "believe in the magic" of the publishing industry. What publications are you reading at the moment that still have this "magic"?
I'm not sure that many of the current print publications have the magic, bar some of the ones such as Frankie which has forged a new path, one with integrity. But I believe in the magic of astute, original publishing and I think we are going to see more and more of it as legacy media dies from bad decisions and a new order emerges.
Who are you writing for at the moment?
I have been writing my next book, my third for Melbourne University Press, which will be out in April 2015. It's non fiction, a career/style guide. In terms of freelance, I write for The New Daily, Elle, whoever asks!
How did you approach the transition to writing fiction? How did you approach this process?
I found fiction very challenging. It's something I feel I needed more time to do properly. I may have another go at it, but I will do it slowly. I have always wanted to write a horror story.
You mentioned your next book is a career guide. Is it targeted at those who want to be in the fashion industry or magazines or a more general guide for budding journalists?
It could be useful for any career, but I have focused on the fashion and media industry, and the people I asked for advice and opinions
What would you like to see more of published in Australia?
Anything but cookbooks
What do you like reading in your down time?
I haven't read very much except internet feeds for a while. I find it really hard to read other people's work when I am on my own book deadline, I get discouraged!
Describe your typical writing day.
I wake up about 9, drink tea, and check social media and emails for two hours. Then I write until 4pm, 6 days a week. I'm currently writing at my kitchen table but that needs to change, my husband and kids keep interrupting me. I wrote The Vogue Factor at a friends house, while he worked upstairs which was nice.
All of them, bless them. Thank goodness someone is still trying.
iPad, Kindle or book?
I don't mind. I'd read a book on my phone.
Book/s that changed your life?
The Famous Five. Grimm's Fairy Tales. Madame Bovary.
What are you reading now?
Since we were on the panel together, I read The Life of I, by Anne Manne, about the rise of narcissism. She makes a great point about the way we are raising children.
What do you plan to read next?
Anything I can! I'm free for a moment. I just sped read a book by Robert Ressler the FBI serial killer profiler which my son bought on Amazon for 95c. He interviewed Jeffery Dahmer.
What are we likely to find in your your capsule holiday reading list?
History, crime, horror. Not vampire horror, just books about horrible people. I find human behaviour really fascinating, especially if it's odious.
To listen to the discussion on the culture of narcissism between Anne Manne and Kirstie Clements at the Bendigo Writers Festival click here.
Read more from Kirstie Clements on her blog Ma Folie du Jour.