This image was lost some time after publication.

Even if you've never stopped to think about what the fashion director of a store actually does—they're not buyers, or merchandisers, or window dressers, or marketing execs, but sprinkle their oracular wisdom (shoulder pads: back! Heels: high! Hems: flouncy!) over all of these domains—you may still be taken aback to learn that this civilizing breed of person is endangered, bordering on, dare we say it, obsolete. Both Michael Fink of Saks and LaVelle Olexa of Lord & Taylor have been let go, neither to be replaced, and their counterparts at other stores must be wondering what the future holds. But who, or what, is to blame for this sad state of affairs? It practically goes without saying that it's those twin destroyers of culture: blogs and reality TV!

Shows like Running in Heels and Project Runway, suggests the Times' Ruth La Ferla, as well as the proliferation of fashion blogs, mean that we're all so informed about fashion and trends that the idea of an expert in his ivory tower, dispensing unilateral decisions about how high our waistbands will be worn this season, has become anachronistic.

"Today, information flows so fast that there is no need to wait for pronouncements from fashion directors," opines Ed Burstell, Liberty of London's buying director. "It's already out there and presented with authority." Authority being a rather loose term to describe the style credentials of people like Heidi Klum and Jay Manuel, but we take his point.

What the Fashion Seers Didn't See Coming [NYT]