French fashion critic Pierre Alexandre M’Pelé has a voice that counts in the industry; a voice that is valued all the more as it is not caught up in advertising. The young journalist, who operates under the name of Pam Boy on social networks, has built up integrity by refusing to pander to the dangerous connections that often bind together fashion critics and advertisers. He does it all with humour, enthusiasm and relevance. Sought after by big names in the profession, the globetrotter critic now heads up his own print medium, called SCRNSHT. FashionUnited asked Pam Boy about his experience in the fashion industry.
How would you describe yourself in a few words?
My name is Pierre Alexandre M’Pelé, known by the alias @pam_boy on social media. I am 26 years old and am a graduate of Central Saint Martins where I studied fashion journalism. I circulate articles for magazines such as LOVE, The Face and Women’s Wear Daily. I launched my own magazine SCRNSHT in 2019.
How did you enter into the world of fashion?
I started to become interested in fashion as an industry in my teens when I was living in Nigeria and I chanced upon FashionTV, it was the Chanel 1989 Autumn–Winter show. That was the moment I fell in love with fashion.
Despite your young age, you are regarded as an influential and respected critic. Are you the new Suzy Menkes of fashion?
It is very flattering to be compared with journalists who I used to worship. I leave it to those who read my work to judge my relevance or my importance or influence. I think that you can only be defined by your own history and experience.
Can you live on your profession as a fashion critic without being supported financially in one way or another by advertisers?
Absolutely. I think that with the possibilities offered by the internet, anyone can develop and diversify their activities without having to depend on advertisers. Communicating directly with my audience - both intellectually and financially - has allowed me to stay completely independent. I work for certain brands, in particular young designers, but without risking any conflict of interest.
Fashion month has just finished, what’s your assessment?
We are entering into a new decade. The internet and new technologies are completely shaking up the fashion industry but I have not found any great changes in fashion shows - on the contrary, there has been a somewhat disturbing whiff of nostalgia. Fashion must look to the future, even when inspired by the past. For example, I think the current structures, the large groups and certain types of management and communication are outdated. Fashion is not completely in tune with the new generations. Of course, there are exceptions. For the Spring–Summer 2020 season, nothing has really changed despite the big changes in thinking that are now coming about. So I am a little disappointed but confident about the future of the industry.
What main trends have you noted?
Ecology, although it should not be a trend but a new way of thinking. This is also true of diversity. I am completely in love with the cummerbund - the way it contrasts so strongly with streetwear and sportswear. Aside from that, I could talk to you about colours and cuts, but is that really interesting?
Ecology, as well as ethical and sustainable consumption, have become major subjects in fashion, what is your opinion on the subjects? Have you found sustainability talk by the large luxury groups convincing?
Fashion cannot become a non-polluting industry because fashion is an industry. The large groups are trying to improve their methods of production but they still remain somewhat opaque.
Another major subject is diversity. Has fashion kept its promises in this area?
Certainly, diversity has developed in the sense of representation in fashion magazines but most of the time diversity remains a façade. Where is diversity in boards of directors? Where is diversity in the design studios? Where is diversity in job descriptions? It is this diversity that is crucial.
Who do you think is the most influential designer at the moment?
It’s a paradox but I think it is Phoebe Philo.
Is Instagram still the preferred tool of influencers or do you think other methods of communication are emerging? For example, you have launched a new medium called SCRNSHT: is this a sign that from your point of view the social networks are beginning to show their limits?
Instagram and YouTube are the two favourite platforms of influencers and the wider fashion world. I think that both of these giants are going to have to share their market share with podcasts in the future. There is also the TikTok app that brands are ignoring for the time being but that is a preferred tool for Generation Z.
This story was originally published on FashionUnited.fr before being translated into English
Photo: © Gaetan Bernede