@skipdin’s Fashion Week Survival Guide
Tomorrow night, @skipdin writer George Serventi launches his first print publication, bringing his trademark quips and commentary IRL. As fashion industry insiders stare out of Mercedes car windows this weekend, pondering the future of fashion week, George hopes they will have a copy of his survival guide nestled in their laps. With bumper activities from ‘LFW Bingo’ to ‘Designer Daycare’, the zine offers sweet, comic relief from what George describes as “a very intense weekend of schmoozing, show-ing and stress.”
Ahead of the launch party, the CSM Fashion Journalism alumnus shares his thoughts on contemporary fashion communication, what it takes to be relevant, and how he’s learning to tease without hurting people’s feelings.
In your editor’s letter, you write: ‘I can’t help but wonder why I even started the damn thing. After all, no one asked for another bloody fashion publication.’ Why did you start this project? What are you hoping to gain from it?
The @skipdin Instagram was my final project for BA Fashion Journalism at CSM. I’m a bit of a wind-up merchant. I find myself getting annoyed about things all the time, and that account was great for free therapy – a sort of fashion anger management! I was getting into trouble with certain things, but I couldn’t stop because it was too much fun. Then someone referred to me as an “insta-critic” in an article, which was frustrating, because that’s not what I am. I just happen to put my work on Instagram. Making my own zine, I’m doing what I do anyway, but I’m printing it out. People don’t seem to value work that you put on the internet. I don’t understand why people get so excited about publishing, but if you can’t beat them, join them.
I found that I allowed myself to put more time and energy into things, knowing I would print it out. But it’s basically the same as what I put on Instagram, just all in one place. It’s not separated by other people’s work and memes. I hope that people will appreciate the illustrations and the content more than they do on Instagram. I find that a selfie, or a picture that’s already done the rounds on the internet will do better than a drawing.
“I don’t understand why people get so excited about publishing, but if you can’t beat them, join them.”
How does a physical magazine work with your brand, which is so heavily influenced by Internet culture?
I had to be really conscious that the content was evergreen. I don’t know what’s going to happen over fashion week, so I couldn’t comment on it in the same way I would on Instagram, which is more reactive. Everything in the zine had to be more generalised and I wanted the people to carry it with them through fashion week. Content like ‘LFW Bingo’ or ‘Snakes and Laddered Tights’ relates to how people experience fashion week. I’m planning on continuing this indefinitely, producing one every season. It’s a good benchmark for the zine, to be a companion through the hysteria of fashion week, without directly commenting on what’s going on.
The zine is basically fashion’s answer to children’s activity packs in restaurants. Why do you think fashion week attendees need some comic relief?
Judith Watt always says I’m trying to turn everyone back into being a child. My work is always a bit silly and childish, but I do like to comment on things other people wouldn’t. I just don’t take anything too seriously. Fashion week is such high stakes. It’s six months of back-breaking effort for a 20-minute show. There’s so much competition and so many events. People are seeing the same stuff all the time. It’s nice to have a breather and look at something that genuinely makes you laugh.
Satire necessarily tows the line between insulting and amusing – how do you maintain a good balance, especially in fashion, where people are so protective of their brand image and cancel culture is so rife?
You wouldn’t expect a film review to be anything other than honest, so why should a fashion review be any different? I’ve gone wrong in the past by targeting certain individuals, which can easily upset people. The best way to do it is to offer commentary and be inspired by what someone is doing, but speak more generally and don’t use names. I have a rule now that I won’t come for anyone who has less than 10,000 followers. If you’ve got less followers than that, you’re irrelevant.
How many followers do you have?
I’ve got 4,000 so I’m irrelevant!
“Fashion week is such high stakes. It’s nice to have a breather and look at something that genuinely makes you laugh.”
The magazine is being distributed for free – how did you fund the project?
Did the advertisers escape your satire?
They have to! I’ve joined the game. What makes this zine different is that every advert has been hand-designed by me. If you advertise in the zine, the deal is that I come up with an advertorial for you. The My Beauty Brand advert is a jokey crossword, the one for Sophia Webster one is a shoe I drew…
You created all the illustrations in the magazine (and have previously produced similar fashion faces as Top Trumps for the British Fashion Awards) – what’s your creative process?
I have a drawing tablet, which works like a pen and paper, but on Photoshop. They can take anywhere between half an hour and all day. Whenever I do the flip-book round-ups of fashion week for LOVE, they take a long time. It’s normally about 15 illustrations at a time. I don’t like to do anything half-arsed.
You studied Fashion Journalism at CSM – why did you choose that course and how did it inform your style/point of view? How did your tutors and the classes you attended improve your work?
The only reason I did that course was because I had met Judith (my queen) the year before when I was studying Textiles at Chelsea College of Arts. Judith is such an integral part of CSM and that course. I just wanted to learn from her. As a tutor, she tries to find out what you’re about and what makes you different from everyone else and then she pushes you to work on that. She’s always been very encouraging about @skipdin.
“Judith is such an integral part of CSM and that course. I just wanted to learn from her.”
What was your experience of CSM more generally?
At one point in my final year, I was suspended for something I posted about the college on my Instagram account. Coincidentally, I was going to my mum’s house that day, so I had a suitcase in college with me. After meeting with the Dean, I got escorted out of the building, with my suitcase trailing behind me. I looked like I’d just been evicted from The Apprentice. But I loved CSM. I was there for six years, because I did my Foundation there before going to Chelsea for a year and coming back. I couldn’t get enough! I still go in now to say hello and use the printer.
I don’t know how many people come out of studying Fashion Journalism at CSM and actually pursue writing. I always got a bit frustrated that people on my course weren’t freelancing. Or they say they are, but they’re not actually writing anything. It’s difficult to get a fashion writing job I suppose. They are so few and far between, and it’s all about who you know. Most jobs are filled by internal candidates before they’re even advertised.
Do you think Skip Dinner has hindered your chances of getting a job?
I’d rather piss people off than have no impact at all. That’s something I had to decide at the beginning. If this is something that might stop me getting a job, I have to do it for myself and no-one else. I always post things that I know won’t do well. No-one seems fussed about the drawing, but that takes a long time. I think anyone who becomes successful does it for themselves. You can’t make money from stuff like this zine, at this stage, so why else would you do it if not for you?
“If this is something that might stop me getting a job, I have to do it for myself and no-one else.”
Your brand is based on the idea that fashion can be infuriating and its communicators aren’t stepping up and pointing that out. Which fashion communicators do you admire and why?
The first piece I started writing was ‘I’m a blogger, get me out of here: 10 film-inspired fashion week escape plans.’ I had already pitched it to two magazines, but neither wanted it. They liked it, but they said it wasn’t their vibe. So I just decided to publish it myself – that’s partly why I’m doing the zine. There doesn’t seem to be much space in existing publications for light-hearted, more listicle-style content and illustrations. Fashion isn’t just about designers. An article doesn’t always have to be long-form. A meme is journalism, because it’s commentating on what’s happening.
You can say a lot without actually saying very much. Benny Drama is hilarious on Instagram, and Gareth Wrighton is a genius. I also love what Max Allen is doing, and @loveofhuns always brightens my day.
@skipdin’s Fashion Week Survival Guide (AW20: Mercury Retrograde) will be available for free throughout London Fashion Week. You can get your hands on a copy at 180 The Strand, the CSM MA show, or Fashion East. Alternatively, message @skipdin on Instagram.