FROM RENEGADES TO FASHION INSIDERS
Can we still trust the fashion bloggers like Bryanboy and Susie Bubble?
by Martha Barnett
When blogging was born it was personality driven, intimate and conversational: from street style through to couture, bloggers tried it on, ate their lunch in it, joyously admitted when they made a fashion faux pas in it and then flung it in the wash. They were the renegades that demystified fashion and made the industry relatable and accessible to real world people, like you and I.
As magazine sales plummeted and the number of blog readers rose in their thousands, fashion eventually woke up to the potential of these online arbiters. In 2014 it seems that bloggers have their feet well under the fashion table: Granny-chic wunderkind Tavi has been sitting front row at shows rubbing knees with Anna Wintour, the chichi Bryanboy is collaborating with Adrienne Landau on a line of unisex pop-coloured rabbit fur accessories and LA based Aimee Song is fronting a campaign for Botkier. Fashion blogs are littered with banners for Net-a-Porter and Tommy Hilfliger and just about every one of them seems to have an affiliate marketing campaign or brand tie-in. Bloggers are no longer on the same side of the fence as their followers - outsiders looking in – they have become part of the mechanism of fashion. Many like Bryanboy have parlayed their brand into celebrity and collaborations with Fortune 500 companies.
There are now bloggers and wanna-be bloggers vying for attention outside shows, sporting jaw-dropping costumes in the hope of getting papped and boosting their fame and income. This peacocking has been ruffling the feathers of the fashion elite who subscribe to the ‘wear black and glide coolly past the cameras’ ethos. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Catherine Bennett – Senior Vice President and Managing Director of IMG which runs Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week – revealed plans to deal with this ‘zoo’ by cutting the number of bloggers attending shows by 20%.
Fashion may have announced a cull but as long as bloggers have thousands of followers – the infamous Bryanboy has 200k more than British Harper's Bizarre on Twitter – they will continue to be an integral part of the industry.
These days, reading a fashion blog can be like flicking through the pages of a magazine: all promotions and gloss. Fine for Elle or Grazia but why does it seem so invasive and inappropriate on this platform?
Our expectations of the blogger are based on what they used to be: they were honest and they aligned themselves with their readers. This honesty is diluted when they work for the brands or pander to advertisers. When they post professionally taken, beautifully lit Photoshopped photos it creates stunning visuals but it also makes them seem less accessible and less real. Bloggers are distancing themselves from the people who originally gave them fashion clout: their followers.
However, it would be underestimating the savvy readers of fashion blogs to think they can’t spot a marketing ploy or sift through sites to find the gold amongst the grit. These are the people who hunt for blogs because they love fashion – not because they love marketing campaigns and brand tie-ins. If readers decide that a blogger is no longer accessible or credible they will click ‘unfollow’. The blogger’s numbers will drop, they will lose their sway with the
fashion industry, and it will drop them too.
It is the readers, not the industry, who make or break a fashion blogger and it will be the readers who decide which bloggers fall into the dark pit of Catherine Bennett’s uninvited 20%.