December 1, 2011
the insider issue
In fashion, insider status is coveted by those who lack it and flaunted by those who have it. In a business that makes a shrine to exclusion, the idea of being omitted from a list or unseated at a fashion show is on a par with being excommunicated.
As someone who had the chance to walk inside the establishment, albeit in a second-tier fashion city, I subscribed to the insider glossy – being inside was good for business. I attended all different types of fashion events, took home bags of free swag, met more and more insiders, until I became a recognized feature on the scene in that city. Initially, the novelty of insider status delighted me – then I was pleased because I found I was gaining some recognition for my work and even some clients.
Everything was great. But weirdly, after just two years of this, I was beginning to recognize diminishing returns. I began to notice that I wasn’t meeting as many new people, simply because most of the same people were in attendance at these things. After I had established a core group of friends, events became less about exploring the unknown and began to become less exciting, more routine. How terrible to be jaded to generosity and special treatment so quickly.
The other thing that I began to be frustrated with was how this new layer of social obligation was obscuring the original objective of blogging. I was doing a lot of posts just because I felt I should. I felt my will-to-blog ebb and saw my traffic flatline. Last year, I gradually tried to take myself out of the loop, but it wasn’t until I moved to London that I truly got back “outside”.
Arriving in a new city where I was a bonafide outsider, I consciously decided not to ingratiate myself with the local PR companies and not to attend fashion events in a “professional” capacity. I quickly discovered that the intramural blogging league that had become so firmly established in Toronto also existed in London, and I didn’t want to risk being a part of it. I had come to see insider status as more of a liability than an advantage. On twitter, you can see it all go down in real time – fashion bloggers posting in lockstep following an event, the content being dictated by publicists instead of celebrating the individual creativity of the bloggers. Insider blogging has begun to resemble the rather faded, rote status of most printed fashion publications. I call it mid-level blogging. Being inside is toxic to creativity.
The most interesting stuff in fashion blogging (and fashion generally) is happening at the edges – the top tier and the off-the-radar zones are where it is at. Looking at professionals I admire like Cathy Horyn, Tommy Ton, Dries Van Noten, Tilda Swinton – these are insiders who know how to behave like outsiders – and their work is outstanding as a result. I love finding fresh, creative bloggers who haven’t yet been exposed to the insider treatment – their work is guileless, uncontrived, often uneven in quality – but far more fascinating than the middle-of-the-packers.
This past year in London I got my blogger swagger back. I rediscovered the reasons why I started blogging in the first place and I upped my game. I zagged where everyone else zigged – not many fashion bloggers write long posts, so I write longer posts. I endeavour to include as much original material as I can in every post, writing or illustration. Before I post anything, I ask myself two questions. Is it universal? The best way to bust the blogger bubble is to be relevant regardless of location. Is it atemporal? Will this post be interesting if you read it six seconds after it’s posted, what about six months, what about six years later? I consciously try to eliminate as many exclusions as I can. Because my social life is more varied than ever before and the stimuli I seek out are unique to my own proclivities, I am constantly discovering inspiration in unexpected places. I find my life more interesting now – and my blog reflects that.
The response to the changes I’ve made has been wonderful – but even if I didn’t notice any growth at all, it would have still been worthwhile because I love Final Fashion more than ever. I am finally writing the blog I’ve always wanted to read – because I am an outsider again.