Wednesday 21 February 2018

Author apologises for inventing word ‘fashionista’

Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Sarah Jessica Parker starred in Sex And The City on the big and small screen
Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Sarah Jessica Parker starred in Sex And The City on the big and small screen

Stephen Fried, the writer who claims to have thought up the word 'fashionista' in 1993, has apologised for creating a 'word of terrifying power and controversy'.

"I suppose I should apologize to all users of language for my crime against nomenclature," says author Stephen Fried in an article published in The Atlantic . His crime? The invention of the word 'fashionista'.

Fried conjured up the word in 1993 whilst writing a biography of Gia Carangi, the supermodel who died aged 26 of HIV contracted due to a heroin addiction. He needed a phrase which encompassed all of the many professions which form the fashion industry - models, photographers, designers, journalists, editors, stylist and so on - and, having been immersed in 70s and 80s publications as research about the time when Gia's career was at it's peak, the word Sandinistas (the colloquial reference for members of the Sandinista National Liberation Front) was fresh in his mind. And so fashionista was born.

Though his wife, who was also his editor, hated the word, he went ahead and it was used four times throughout the book. When it was published, he received a number of poor reviews which commented on the word - one New York Times reviewer said it was a "corny label". Despite this, use of the word started to spread, and the Evening Standard and Washington Post used it several times during the 1995 couture season to describe show goers.

But its use was spectacularly boosted when in 1998, HBO decided to turn the book into a film starring Angelina Jolie. As Fried comments, "The word was used more than 200 times in U.S. newspapers that year." Then, in 1999, the word was inducted into the Oxford English Dictionary, which defines it as "a person employed in the creation or promotion of high fashion, such as a designer, photographer, model, fashion writer, etc. Also: a devotee of the fashion industry; a wearer of high-fashion clothing."

Though Fried apologises that he "unleashed upon an unsuspecting public a single word of terrifying power and controversy", we're wondering what on earth we would have done without it?

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