“Every industry has to change at one point, and rarely does that mean less opportunity.” Jennine Tamm Jacob, founder of the Coveted and Independent Fashion Bloggers, sums up what many fashion bloggers feel. It wasn’t long ago that fashion considered the internet in general to have no place within the established fashion media cycle. Show collections to buyers and journalists 6 months before they appear in magazines, lobby to have your clothes appear in the largest fashion publications to reach the largest audience, rinse and repeat.
Now, it’s not unlikely to see photos appear minutes after they’re seen on the runway via Twitter – at the very most within the week, and if Alexander McQueen and Prada’s recent live streamed shows are any indication, soon it wil be in real time. The old system seems archaic, and as print has struggled to find it’s footing online, fashion bloggers can find themselves on the receiving end of thinly veiled insults from journalists, misquotes that serve the same effect, and the general cattiness associated with fashion.
It’s an odd irony given that fashion is an industry that thrives on what’s current. With the largest luxury fashion houses slowly softening in their approach to the internet in general, so to is the acceptance that the people who influence fashion media aren’t always those who hold fast to the old fashion rules. Bryanboy sits front row at fashion shows and meets with designers backstage, Tavi lands magazine covers and is included in the marketing push for new collections – what’s changed?
FurFur, a Japanese brand recently referenced in the New York Times may have been familiar to online readers. Had it appeared on Style.com, Conde Nast’s established online fashion destination? No, for readers familiar with Jane Aldridge, the label was familiar from multiple appearances on the Texas based teenager’s popular personal style blog, Sea of Shoes. The ruffled cardigan and brocade pants, posted in July of 2009 – 6 months before popping up in the Times, are one of the only visual references to the brand that you’ll find among English language sites.
“When I was younger, I’d always look at fashion magazines and think ‘this is so condescending’, says Aldridge. “I just found [the ‘here’s what looks good, here’s what doesn’t tone] offputting from the start. Maybe it’s because I’m full of authority issues and don’t like being told what’s good and what’s not. To log on to the internet and see someone like Susie Bubble, her personal relationships with the designers in London, how she was self-deprecating and funny, but you could still tell she was so passionate about fashion. I’d rather [see] that than the whole Vogue team.”
With no crucial advertisers to please, or page counts to consider, Aldridge and many other bloggers have found connections with readers just by posting about what they love. Sometimes that means discovering a Japanese brand that hasn’t joined the New York or Paris fashion system, or just relating to the clothes more because of a feeling of knowing the person on the other side of the photos.
Susanna Lau, better known to readers as Susie Bubble, doesn’t even consider herself a publisher. “[The blog] is a hobby, and it always has been. It’s something I do on the side, not meant to be ‘run’ any particular way.” Though she doesn’t consider her own blog a business, Lau is commissioning editor of Dazed Digital – as the name implies, the online arm of London’s Dazed & Confused publication. “They’re embracing new media more than ever. I think print media are trying to incorporate what they do into new media,” she notes.
But print media doesn’t (usually) have personality. When Cathy Horyn was uninvited to one of Giorgio Armani’s shows for the “tone” of a previous writeup, many people found it silly, but it was a relatively forgotten incident by the next season. When Pam Hogg attacked Susie Bubble’s photo in one of the designer’s superheroesque catsuits as “bad publicity,” reactions poured in from readers and other bloggers – largely in defense of the originally posted photos. Of the 400 comments she received, Lau says “it was in a way I think an anger vented towards brands in general that dismiss bloggers.”
Of the bloggers who responded to our request for comments on their influence – Susie Bubble, Jane Aldridge, Jennine Tamm Jacob, Lesley Scott, Jessica Morgan & Heather Cocks (better known as the Fug Girls), not one felt themselves to be in competition with other media types, despite the reader connections.
“Because our blog is SO specific, we would really only be “in competition” with the “what was she wearing” section of the weeklies,” says Morgan. “”That’s really an area that has room for many voices. Truly because we are so focused, I don’t think there could be a competition of any sort. I’ve always thought that blogs and print media, in the perfect world, can really compliment each other beautifully. I LOVE print magazines and newspapers and I would hate to see any more of them go. They can accomplish different things than blogs can, and vice versa.”
Cocks adds “And Fashion Police stuff isn’t about breaking news. Yeah, it’s great if you can get a photo up that people hadn’t already seen, but we’ve found that when people see a photo of something outrageous, they get excited to see what their favorite critics have to say about it — so it’s less about being first to the scene, and more about just maintaining the quality of your writing and humor. So in a sense, and this is a tired old chestnut but it’s true, we’re really just in competition with ourselves.”
Even without realizing it, there are qualities among most influential blogs that are shared: frequent updates, a distinct writing style, a progression of quality in content and the desire to keep at it day after day, year after year. Says Lesley Scott, founder of Fashion Tribes, “when I started the blog five years ago, no one even knew what the word meant; I had a very “if you build it, they will come” attitude, and then they did – which was most gratifying, I must say.”