December 11, 2009
just a thought – four posts about fashion blogging
What was the biggest trend at the SS10 runway season? Fashion bloggers! Though us bloggy types have been watching this coming for five years now, it seems that the mainstream media has finally decided to embrace, celebrate and vilify fashion bloggers at a high level of broadcast frequency. Like any major trend it inspires strong feelings. Recently I posted links to four articles about fashion blogging, and now I’d like to take a few excerpts from them and stick my own oar in. You can stick yours in the comments.
All this attention from the fashion mainstream is blurring the line between independent, accessible fashion bloggers and the rest of the industry gatekeepers. The whole allure with fashion blogging is the fact that it’s an alternative to the fashion media. While not all bloggers are rubbing shoulders with those in the industry, when designers are dressing you for their shows and giving you a front-row seat or department stores are sending you packages, a regular gal you are definitely not. Street-style photographers have turned their lens from nameless faces on the street with great style to fashion insiders with access to designers most could only dream of. The dynamics of the conversation in fashion blogs has changed with the reader left now as the only outsider—just like in glossy magazines. And what’s so indie about that?
I don’t think that the perks that successful bloggers enjoy compromises the “allure” of fashion blogging at all. What’s “indie” about blogging is that the voice on a blog can be individual in a way that a magazine or a group blog cannot be.
The implication in the first part of the article is that the only way to be an authentic blogger is from the outside of the fashion industry – give me a break. But the author does provide a balanced opinion.
“I think those who are disappointed by advertisement and endorsements need to shut their computers and start living their own lives,” says Bayne. “The internet is the most public and widely accessed domain for self-expression. To imply all bloggers must be inherently indie while broadcasting themselves online is rather contradictory.”
I also like this quote from Anina which points out the hypocrisy of the criticisms directed at fashion bloggers.
Anina, who runs 360FashionNetwork and Anina.net, believes transparency in fashion blogging is very important for credibility of the bloggers. “Fashion bloggers are mistakenly carrying over old media techniques into new media space. Where traditional media cloaks their advertising into editorials, bloggers are supposed to disclose when they are being paid to promote a product.”
Not that everyone does – but the point is that a blogger who makes an effort to disclose business relationships in a way that is honest and professional earns more credibility – just as the New York Times has greater editorial credibility than Vogue. It is not about the delivery mode of the media – it is about the best practices of individual broadcasters.
Jennine of The Coveted has stepped up as a leading advocate for fashion bloggers, and IFB is the platform she created to provide resources for fashion bloggers and encourage best practices. Yet she has been disillusioned by the media blitz this season.
I don’t want to say, ‘back when I first started blogging, it was like this…’ because there are a lot of factors there, mostly around my own eagerness and enthusiasm for my new found voice. I don’t want to say we had a stronger community then, because, well, we didn’t, or there was less gossip then, because there wasn’t. But I do think that the fact that back then a ‘famous’ fashion blogger only meant famous amongst people who blog, and not everyone knew what a blog was.
Fashion blogging has changed a LOT since 2006. Back then, when you told your friends you had a blog, they were like “what’s a blog?” So the only people who visited fashion blogs were… other fashion bloggers. The community was a lot tighter, and the participants were a lot more invested, but also felt more free to express themselves. Blogging was seen as a hobby to be enjoyed, rather than a business, or an avenue to fame. It was more experimental.
But something is changing here, and I’m not sure what it is. I’m not sure if that changes the goals of my blog, and with that it’s direction. Do I keep pushing to make it better? Of course. Do I know what a ‘better blog’ even means? I’m not so sure, as lately, it seems that SOME of the hottest blogs aren’t necessarily the best ones, and best, well, that’s subjective.
Well, we’re all dedicated followers of fashion so we all know that bad taste is not an impediment to fame and financial success. Even knowing that, the inequalities of merit will still make you want to throw it all out the virtual window sometimes. Hang in there Jennine.
Be sure to check the comments too to get an idea of how upstart and mid-list bloggers feel about the shift in status. Bonus – fashion blog fairy godmother Susie Bubble chimes in –
I really do believe, after much thought, that this will all die down within the next year and that the REAL wheat will be separate from the chaff….i.e. those with tenacity, patience and good quality content will prevail and whilst they may not have 100’s and 100’s of comments, they are garnering readership slowly and gradually, as well as being integrated into communities like these….
“I speak to you as I speak to any of my other friends,” is how Schuman explains his appeal. “I’m not shackled by advertising or an editor. I shoot men on intuition and I shoot women on absolute experience; the quality of what I shoot is so strong that people really don’t have to ask why.” At one recent signing session for Schuman’s first book, also called The Sartorialist, fans waited in line at Liberty in London for four hours.
Schuman hits the nail on the head – as the most successful fashion blogger he should know – and yet what makes him indie is that he calls his own shots both literally and figuratively. Its incredibly refreshing (and sometimes kind of embarrassing) to read Schuman interviewed in the press because he is so candid – and the reason he can be candid is because he is independent. This is something that most people in the fashion industry can’t bear to be – thus the reputation for insincerity. Up until recently it was only Karl Lagerfeld who could say what he really thought. But if you are independent – guess what – you decide what you can and cannot say.
For luxury houses – and indeed for consumers of high-end fashion – the question that needs to be answered is: how far should we embrace, or not embrace, the bloggers? In part this is clearly a generational issue. Those who write and read blogs are mostly young, and mostly not typical consumers of high-end designer fashion. Conversely, luxury goods consumers are generally wealthier and older and, consequently, less likely to be interested in the esoteric musings of Bryanboy or Tavi.
Since it is the financial times, it does discuss the phenomenon in terms of how a businessperson would want to analyze it. But several parts of the article were wrongheaded and incorrect.
Antoine Arnault, son of LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault and head of communications for Louis Vuitton, adds: “It is not a question of whether online fashion media is a growing force but of where it will stop.” Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s creative director, explains: “It’s important that the bloggers become well respected. They have a very articulate way of expressing an opinion. The difference between bloggers and traditional press is that [bloggers] are often talking directly to a final consumer.”
LVMH and Christopher Bailey reveal they have no clue. “Where it will stop.”? What does that even mean? Bailey’s got it backwards. Fashion blogging is still an intramural activity. What happened this season is that the fashion bloggers, in addition to speaking to eachother, were now being followed by the fashion media. The final consumer, for the most part, still absorbs information through the established channels. Whether the media blitz for fashion bloggers cannibalizes the audience of big media itself is doubtful.
This guy gets it: fashion blogging is for mavens, not a general audience.
Hugh Devlin, a brand consultant at Withers LLP law firm in London, draws a parallel between such consumers and fervent followers of the royal family: “Similarly, most consumers of luxury don’t want to see behind the curtain. They want to understand the effort that goes into their products but not all the nitty gritty,” he says.
You’d think the Financial Times would do a little research before claiming something is the “first”. Some PR person at LV must have gotten a pat on the back for this piece of fiction.
Having witnessed blogging’s ability to reach vast global audiences, brands are lining up to launch new digital strategies of their own. During the recent shows, Louis Vuitton became the first fashion brand to broadcast a catwalk show live, through Facebook from Paris, and 50,000 guests from its 750,000-strong Facebook fanbase logged on to watch.
Considering Alexander McQueen streamed his show just the week before, and Victor and Rolf did an innovative online presentation last season, streaming a show over the internet isn’t any newer than… well… fashion blogging. Nice reporting, FT.
Industry blogger Imran Amed does a bit of what I’m doing here – aggregating a bunch of media brouhaha about fashion blogging and social media – and breaking it down.
Amed points out that it was a clever PR move by D&G which suddenly propelled fashion blogging to the popular consciousness – but it was a gesture without real substance.
At that now infamous D&G show in Milan, where bloggers were prominently placed in the front row for all to see, laptops were also set up in front of their seats. The objective, it appears, was to make it look like they were “live” blogging and tweeting during the show, even though none of the selected photobloggers (Scott Schuman, Tommy Ton, and Garance Doré) work in this way.
As a PR stunt, the illusion of live blogging may have done wonders for D&G as press photos of the bloggers appeared in major publications around the world. Conjuring up images of young people streaming their ideas live from the front row made for a great story, but it probably made the bloggers themselves feel uncomfortable.
Amed also praises members of the media industry who have gone beyond rehashing the D&G blogger coup and understand that bloggers are now a part of the media, not its usurpers.
Jefferson Hack, Editorial Director of Dazed Group, has taken this one step further. When hiring for Dazed Digital a few years back, he did not look to traditional editors or photographers to lead his new digital team. Rather, he turned to the internet’s burgeoning fashion talents, hiring photographer Alistair Allan as Digital Director and prodigious fashion blogger Susie Bubble as Commissioning Editor. Long before much of the mainstream media was even paying attention to bloggers, Jefferson was already learning from them.
Still, I regularly hear reports of major online fashion properties who “can’t find the budgets” to hire young digital natives to help them amp up their online content. This is pennywise, pound foolish, especially as these young talents can be hired for a fraction of the cost of major photo shoot or big-time editor.
Well said. The idea that the internet is a complicated and expensive enemy is old-fashioned – and if there is one thing that will kill your business in this industry – it is being demode.