Media Talk: The Personal Shopper comes a cropper in Age makeover

Media Talk: The Personal Shopper comes a cropper in Age makeover as fashion gets a Fairfax dressing down

To lament the passing of one's favourite newspaper section seems trivial at best in such times (any time, one might argue), like being peeved about the pitter-patter of falling rain foiling your morning walk (guilty), but mention must be made of one of GWAS' weekend niceties going astray in The Saturday Age's relaunch. Where for art thou, The Personal Shopper?

The regular spread '48 Hours - The Personal Shopper' in the A2 Culture and Life section (now known by the more generic Fairfax 'Life & Style' moniker) had become a staple in the GWAS media diet: feasting on Michi Girl's clever copy, admiring Janice Breen Burns' literary-like, sing-songy 'Hot Six' sartorial prose, feasting on the words of Nicole Bittar ('Covet') and Amy Choi ('Revival') and high-fiving the creativity of the 'I Made It Myself' crew, was a sight for feature-weary eyes (a girl like me can only digest so many stories analysing Egypt in one sitting before her brain spontaneously combusts). This weekly selection of assorted musings on fashion and design added joy to my world – a bit of bonhomie to my breakfast.  

The disappearance of the section, six-plus years in the running, points to a general glossing over of the power of fashion to put passion into a paper's black-and-white pages, which is odd because The Age claims to reflect and embrace changing Melbourne culture. Is fashion not in the very fabric of the city? And yet, sport (nee AFL) gets an entire section (anyone who knows women knows shopping is a participatory group sport and fashion its spectator sister). I'm sure I'm not the only one who's miffed about the discrepancy.

While 'style and substance' may seem an oxymoron to your average punter, and the new Life & Style section is packed to the fascinator with bookish bits and cultural activities and food (oh, my golly, how we have come to behold food as the quintessential element for a good life), the frivolity of fashion (headlines like 'Splits, twists, tulips and colour pops'), the irreverent, jovial tone and personality of The Personal Shopper will be sorely missed.

A weekly glimpse inside the "Frockosphere", where haute truths are gleaned, "chiaroscuro palettes" are discussed and trinkets unearthed with child-like exuberance, without a side-serve of diet stories, puts the zing into one's step. And, surely, a few dollars in the coffers? The section was never without advertising spots for arty events, furnishing companies, clothing enterprises and occasionally glossy magazines. What's more, without being beholden to the big fashion and beauty houses for financial support the writers and editors were more freely able to critique.

What of fashion in newspapers in general? Yes, there is The Australian's weekly offering, Rachel Wells' beautiful column (Saturdays, SMH, Spectrum, and The Sunday Age), though that is soon coming to an end (this Saturday marks her last contribution), Vogue editor Kirstie Clements' musings in The Sunday Telegraph and dedicated space in the female-friendly weekly supplements (The Sunday Telegraph now has 'SHOP Smart', while Good Weekend and Sunday and Sunday Life all carry fashion pages), but a few still-life fashion items ordered by colour and theme and collected under a 'Fashion' banner do not a fashion section make (less so a bunch of rehashed press releases).

What's more, Sydney's sartorial offerings tend to be on the flashy side, which has its place but Melbourne's fashion authorities need to be part of the national conversation, too. I want familiar but unique voices where passion and fantasy and practicality combine with lashings of tongue-in-cheek humour. And, besides, segregating fashion by way of allocating them more space in the predominantly female supplements seems a terribly 1950s notion.

Yes, we have Vogue and Harper's BAZAAR and SHOP Til You Drop and the like, and there are plenty-still smart fashion blogs where we can get our fill, but to gloss over the cultural relevance, practical implications (do we not all wear clothes?) and entertainment value of fashion is an oversight, at least in this blogger's eyes.

Perhaps Tori Amos, one of the wise personages quoted in The Personal Shopper's pink ticker (alas, the pink is also absent from the new look, replaced by horrible orange), describes the nature of the former section best, being its perfect personification: "I know I'm an acquired taste – I'm anchovies, and not everyone wants those hairy little things. If I was potato chips, I could go more places." (Karl Lagerfeld's abode not one of them). Farewell, friend; you were the salty, flavoursome topping to The Saturday Age pizza.

Some good news: Maggie Alderson, no longer penning her Style Notes column for Good Weekend and blogging at Maggie Alderson Style Notes, is now lending her talents to M magazine (out with The Sunday Age) and The Sydney Morning Herald's Essential Style supplement, out Thursdays, with a new column called 'The Rules' – and it has nothing to do with AFL.

Girl With a Satchel


Amy Choi said...

Thank you for mentioning my little column in your lament over The Personal Shopper. Revival is online at