Three years ago, in an article for the Cut titled “The Golden Era of ‘Fashion Blogging’ Is Over” the fashion critic Robin Givhan argued that the first generation of digital fashion “outsiders,” whose content we craved because it disrupted traditional magazine coverage, had quickly become “insiders,” posing the question: “Is there still an opportunity for new voices at shows? And if so, what kind of voices can still flourish?”
While we’ve still got thoughtful, honest critics like Cathy Horyn, Robin Givhan, and Vanessa Friedman to bring their decades of authority to covering fashion, there does seem to be room for a new guard to weigh in on less formal platforms like Instagram. Here, anonymous accounts like Diet Prada are quickly gaining a following for their truth-to-power assessments of major brands — a practice that is still cautioned by most publishers, who legitimately fear the loss of advertisers.
The Diet Prada account was created three years ago by two fashion obsessives, who’ve been working in the industry for about a decade. Today, they’ve amassed nearly 40,000 followers, becoming knockoff detectives, as well as the cultural appropriation police.
They’ll post any and all comparisons they see between brands with blunt, and oftentimes poke-in-the-eye captions and hashtags. Most recently, Diet Prada went after Dolce & Gabbana for allegedly knocking-off Gucci, prompting Stefano Gabbana himself to respond. Rather than retracting their comments, they decided to make taunting T-shirts, further twisting the knife.
“Normally, we would not respond in that way to anyone,” Diet Prada told the Cut in an email regarding Gabbana. “But given the extremely inflammatory things he’s said in the past, it was necessary.”
In this way, the minds behind Diet Prada seem to want to play the role of critics as well as social-justice warriors. They mix self-righteousness, humor, and a clear devotion to making fashion better. Because it costs nothing to publish on Instagram, the duo are free to say as they please, with no risk, and no stakes. What a potent cocktail.
Because the Cut love clothes just as much as it loves criticism, we reached out to Diet Prada to find out how they define their version of Instagram fashion commentary, why it’s gaining steam now, and how they plan on making it last in a way that feels as organic and trustworthy.
What first inspired you to start this account?
We were both working together and looking at runway shows all the time. We’d crack jokes with each other about how similar some looks were, and thought it was funny enough to try and put it on Instagram. When it came time to think of a name, Diet Prada came easily to us. As huge fans of Prada since ages ago, it was our homage to the brand for always leading innovation and creativity. The “diet” part pokes fun at the copies that we consider “light” versions of the original.
What’s your background in fashion? How have you retained such a memory for so many looks?
Between the two of us, we have a combined education and professional background in both fashion design and history. We’ve been in the industry for about a decade, so experience coupled with our semi-photographic memories leads us to finding a lot. Now that our fan base has grown so much, we’re lucky that a lot of our followers send us submissions. We love them and have been super impressed with how passionate and loyal they are. They’re #DietPradaDetectives.
How would you describe your role in the fashion space today, as you gain more of a following? What’s your goal?
We’ve been called the ‘new critics’ by a few people now, and we think that’s great. The old system is so broken, with reviewers having been banned from shows; it sometimes feels like an industry-imposed free-speech ban. I also think we provide some comic relief and entertainment in what can at times be a very monotonous industry. On a more serious note, we hope our perspective will cause a shift in designers and fashion conglomerates to re-analyze the product they’re making. Creativity should always come first.
How do you think social media has shaped the role of the fashion critic?
Social media has obviously given a voice to many people in all sorts of industries. We believe that if you have something unique and of substance to say, people will genuinely want to listen. Diet Prada is modern in that it democratizes the critic role. Not beholden to advertisers, we’re able to say what we really believe and this truth resonates a lot with our following.
How would you define the difference between an homage, copy, and cultural appropriation?
We feel that to be an homage it needs to come from a place of love, and better if they credit the inspiration. Copies generally have a commercial air around them; you know they did that screen tee or puffy sleeve dress because they saw other brands having success with it and they want to cash in too.
Cultural appropriation is a whole different beast — you get into looking at levels of society and where people have been oppressed; that’s often at the root of it. It’s especially tough when people use cultural references and claim another inspiration … If you’re going to use indigenous artisan work as inspiration, we think you have to be especially diligent about crediting them.
Why do you feel it’s important to call-out comparisons today?
Because it’s unfortunate when genuine creativity is reduced to a lame knockoff. We’re not talking about the fast-fashion giants whose business model is exactly that. We’re talking about the designers and brands that are in a position to do something new, but choose to take the easy route by “designing” what they know is already cool or sells.
Do you think people care more about calling out copies today than they used to? If so, what changed? Does social media have anything to do with it?
Yes, simply because information can be transmitted so quickly now. If people are passionate about something, they will go to great lengths to spread the message. It’s a social media grassroots moment!
Are there simply more copies to be called out? If so, why?
There always will be, because that’s just the cycle and demand of the fashion industry. Not to mention there are just SO many brands putting stuff out there now and getting industry coverage like they’re a fashion house, when they’re really just a jeans brand. Sadly, designers will always be told to keep churning out designs and to hit this or that note of the season in order to sell and be a part of the picture.
What made you decide to work with brands like Gucci this season? How can this both help and hurt your image as a trusted critic?
They came to us with an interesting angle and a fun opportunity. We thought their new approach to transparency in their inspiration was a step in the right direction. It definitely upset some of our followers who think we sold out, but most I think were genuinely entertained by our takeover and glad to see that one of the biggest luxury houses recognized us as a valid voice in the industry. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would turn down the opportunity. Alessandro is also super chill and has a sense of humor about it all. At the end of the day, no one is dying and it’s all in good fun.
What was the most egregious copy you saw this season?
Marques’Almeida’s whole [Nicolas] Ghesquière excursion was pretty brilliant. The Cinq à Sept Dior look with the screen tee was also just hilarious because they are THE SAME.
The most brilliant homage?
Definitely Anthony Vaccarello for Saint Laurent’s ode to “legs go all the way up” from Family Guy. It’s always fun for us when we find something that can appeal to non-industry people, too.
Overall, how did you feel about this season?
Having been our first international Fashion Week experience, it definitely holds a special place in our heart! There will always be innovators and there will always be followers. What’s exciting now are the brands that have stayed true to their identity, rather than fall victim to trends.
There’s a lot of talk about the state of the industry. Do you have hope for new ideas and voices?
New voices are always exciting. I think higher-ups are starting to see that gambling on newness can pay off. Look at Gucci.
Moving forward, what are your plans for the account?
Using our powers for good and not evil and campaigning for a spot on the Business of Fashion 500.
This interview has been edited and condensed.