Arts Desk

Fare Assessment: Sarah Kaufman at New York Fashion Week

There are plenty of reasons for an arts critic to leave town—say, vacation. OK, OK, all critics should see what's animating the national conversation from time to time—it can broaden and inform their perspective. But sometimes it feels like The Washington Post's reviewers are spending a bit too much time consuming art in other cities, especially New York—this despite the Post's 2009 reorientation as a paper focused on politics and local news. With editorial budgets tight and plenty of in-town art that escapes the Post's eye, we offer this regular series, in which we determine how much of the Post's travel budget ought to have gone to an individual review. At one end of the budget spectrum: Acela. At the other: Hitchhiking.

Reviewer on the Road: WaPo staff writer Sarah Kaufman, profiling model of the moment Karlie Kloss, who so far this Fashion Week has walked for heavy hitters like Carolina Herrara, Jason Wu, and Donna Karan.

Invoice Argument: Kaufman, a dance critic, seems to be filling the Louboutins Robin Givhan vacated two months ago. In this piece as well as Sunday's article about the awkwardness of male models, she weaves her knowledge of dance into her fashion coverage. It's a unique perspective, sure–but is it a compelling one?

Budget Hawk: In the case of the Kloss piece, not especially. The 18-year-old has dominated the pages of Vogue for the last two years, even scoring several pages of print in addition to her standard portraits last fall as the unofficial face of Fashion's Night Out. I'm nowhere near the model-follower that I once was, but I knew that Kloss hails from St. Louis; even her ballet training–Kaufman's focal point–is well documented.

The Verdict: Most readers of WaPo's Fashion Week coverage are probably also readers of Vogue, and ultimately, Kaufman is a few years late to the table with this fawn-a-thon. There's little in here that hasn't been written about Kloss before. Sending a dance critic to Fashion Week is interesting in theory, but doing some additional homework next time would be advisable. Still, it's important for WaPo to have someone on the ground at Fashion Week; it's just not worth spending more than Chinatown bus fare for coverage like this.

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