Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Fashion Blogging: The Rape of the Innocents

My quarterly clearout of magazines before I sink under their weight and am never seen again is always a harrowing experience forced on me by sheer lack of space. A snowy day in London town – to
meteorologically twist the old song – seemed as good a day as any for doing a job I hate. But this time, as I was piling them up (tears in my eyes!), I thought about a comment from Helene of The Luxe Chronicles on my blog about – well, bloggers, in fact (read her comment here), and whether the blog really could take over from the corrupt and collusive world of printed fashion magazines.

I share Helene's fear that bloggers will soon be no better than magazine editors if they become a major new means of fashion communication and are prey to the temptations of corruption in their turn. But only up to a point…. Bloggers are disadvantaged because we all know that what they write is neither edited nor refereed. So, at this stage at least, what they stand for is much more interesting than anything they might actually say. And they stand, in the main for a clean, clear way of looking. The other small problem is that they are also not normally experts in fashion – or, if they're only thirteen, in anything. But what they do have in many cases is a fresh enthusiasm that can transcend this lack of knowledge. And, who knows, it might develop into some sort of wisdom if they stick around long enough.

But then again, I don't really want them to … for their sakes. What we are all seeing is the rape of the innocents by the fashion industry just as it was in the thirties in the movie business, with child stars like Judy Garland destroyed for the rest of their lives simply because they looked cute on camera. Yes, young bloggers will probably be showered with privilege, just as their print equivalents are, but only for as long as fashion thinks they and their medium can deliver the publicity it needs. When they don't - it's out on your butt! And curly hair and cute dimples will not save you then, my girl!

There is another reason why, although in the short term the bloggers' freshness might help fashion out of its seemingly terminal creative stagnation, in the long term their future doesn't seem so rosy. And that comes back to my magazine clear-out. For a long time now, the catwalk has only kindled fashion's dynamic. The essential spark that makes the flame has come from the magazine pictures created by stylists and photographers of genius. And what they do, new technology cannot, at this stage, hope to compete with. It's a question of scale.

We all have our favourite magazines. Mine is Italian Vogue, usually as thick as a Mezzogiorno mamma's waistline but infinitely more
seductive. Its creative values are unrivalled and its variety is never allowed to stale. I paused in my clear-out. I simply couldn't bring myself to toss out the September 09 issue with its brilliant Steven Meisel story, Performance: page after page of boundary-pushing audacity (see the pictures here). It's going to be a long time before blogs can catch up with that sort of quality.

In the meantime, let the bloggers have fun and feel important (as well as sometimes giving us unusually straightforward, honest, from-the-heart appraisals of what they see). Enjoy that feeling of warm well being, my darlings. Every fashion journalist longs for that often too brief spell of being pampered, valued and cared for: the gifts ('Goody! Another Gucci bag!'), the front row seats (only three away from Suzy!), the private dinners with Dolce & Gabanna! … everything that seems to make life worth living for many of them. Fashion paradise doesn't last long. When your time has come to hit the mat marked Scram, it will come even faster than slipping in the snow and it will probably bruise your ego more than a pratfall in the snow will bruise your butt. As the say in the porno industry, 'It's your organ that has to be big, baby, not you.'

Picture source. Vogue Italia Sept 09. Sasha Pivovarova & Ash Stymest by Steven Meisel.


  1. Should all fashion bloggers be tarnished with the same brush? Just as there are journalists and journalists, there are many varieties of blogger. We're not all after the freebies, goodie-bags and seats in the front row. Anyway, who needs to attend a fashion show nowadays, when you can see all you need to on the net?

    It's interesting to observe the way that fashion industry is developing (as pointed out by disneyrollergirl) and the manner in which established journalists are vying for their share of the potential rewards by teaming up with new players in the market.

    New markets bring new opportunities - some will sink and some will swim. This has more to do with the free market economy and the changes we're going through than with previous experience. Talent is subjective and depends on our individual appreciation, but why shouldn't there be enough room for journalists and journalists as well as bloggers and bloggers?

  2. Well, there are different types of fashion bloggers, not all bloggers are teenagers playing at being fashion editor out in the sticks. Some like you Colin, WendyB, me and countless others are journalists or ex-journalists who at the moment can have an uninhibited opinion away from the sway of advertisers and editor-in-chiefs.

    Also, I totally disagree with those who mock teen bloggers. My observation is that these younguns appeal across the board - every age-group is reading them and not necessarily for advice but for simple entertainment and a different take on fashion.

    But to the main point about stylists - I totally applaud. I'm a stylist and there are becoming fewer editorial outlets as the axes continue to fall. Without the photographers, stylists and other visionaries, the shows and designers' collections wouldn't be a patch on what they are now. But I do think there will be a time when fashion shoots too migrate to online - look at the emergence of fashion films for starters.

    The main question here is not about any of these things though. What I really need to know is... where are all those discarded magazines going to go???!

  3. The industry has changed dramatically over the last few years but I think there's enough room for journalists and bloggers (both young and old), and journalists who blog. The most important thing is to have integrity - I've noticed that some bloggers who are new to the industry are easily swayed by freebies, and that I don't like.

  4. This post has already elicited some fantastic comments and I'm already worried that whatever I add my not live up to the caliber of Colin's post or these previous musings! But here goes...

    Yes the industry is changing, yes it is worrying to see 13 year old bloggers lavished with the highest praise, as well as gifts and freebies galore. But they do breathe new life into an industry that can never risk getting stale.

    I agree with That's Not My Age, integrity is the key to good blogging. Magazines for me are still the Kings (or should that be Queens?) of the industry. The one aspect of fashion publishing that does worry me is the pressure exerted by advertisers. True opinions of collections, quality and design, are curbed to keep this essential financial element on side. Unfortunately some bloggers (not all) are slowly moving in the same direction. It is very hard to disparage a brand or designer that has invited you to a lavish party or even chosen to highlight your blog on Twitter, let alone advertise on your blog or send you gifts. The future for bloggers has to be in maintaining a fresh and honest approach - once opinions are curbed blogs will lose the element of appeal that singles them out from magazines.

  5. As a fellow blogger I have to say I do agree. Ive just had a friend dragged over to New York for the recognition of her blog and she knows nothing more about fashion than myself. The danger of pulling everything off the net is loss of originality. The point of Fashion blogs is to analyse and report creativiity first hand in all aspects and era's of fashion, not to analyse a photo from someone' elses creative eye. How can you be truely original feeding from someone elses vision. Bloggers who are truely serious about fashion attend events, walk the walk on the catwalk and arn't ashamed to go rummaging in the vintage shops for pieces we can never and would never want to see again! I adhere to Susan's comments, for all true bloggers, recognition comes with time, hard work and effort, not just becuase you can write creativly in school at 13! Stay there x

  6. On one side it's fashion democracy. On the other hand, it's the ability to voice your personal strong opinions which are never answered in fashion magazines. This is the problem. Magazines like Italian Vogue only ever feature glamour fashion and the like. And the rest of the high end fashion industry talks about itself over and over. I think many fashion bloggers are sick to death of over creativity. Every single issue does not have to have some big photographer doing some photoshoot. Why is it that we have to keep seeing model in the nude or overly provocative? It's derranged.

    I've said it again, the industry has been seduced by fashion bloggers and might I add those that are female and look pretty and based on these merits and witty remarks about clothes, they have been invited to shows as PR push power. But might I also add, that as a rarity as it is, some few bloggers have a lot of integrity and they push to write extremely well or they publish content to an editorial level.

    I WOULD rather hear and see raw energy from someone than to be spoonfeed editorial after editorial after editorial of photoshoots. This does not belong to Miesel nor does is it own by any great photographer. Fashion blogs are by the voice of the people.

    However, as much I would like to quibble about the industry itself with editors and journalists working for newspapers, they need to safeguard and ensure that the industry it working day to day and not squandered by fashion bloggers. At the end of the day, it's about professional news reporting. I don't want to see this go badly. We still need to maintain people such as yourself.

  7. Dear Mr. McDowell

    Once again I’m here advocating the voice of the designer, even if I'm a few days late...

    I find it incredibly disrespectful that a fellow blogger would believe that seeing the collections online is sufficient.

    I couldn’t disagree more.

    I would hope that if one is truly interested in fashion and would like to have a job in it or simply an opinion...

    They should know what they are writing about...they should know the clothes inside out and they should know the difference between a French seam and one which is over locked.

    I emphasis clothes because this is what this craft is about. I’m talking about fabrics, construction and execution…

    How can one have an opinion on the these without seeing the clothes in person?

    Fashion writing should be about thoughtful journalism, even if it is clothes we are talking about.

    It is not about dictating ...

    Purple is in... mini skirts are out…


    Eilis Boyle

  8. I like WendyB's laconic point that it is always a CRISP white shirt in the dire, couldn't-care-less copy that is now acceptable in even good newspapers.

  9. I look at blogs both as a writer of one, but also as a Marketing exec (my day job). I think there was a gap in the marketplace that bloggers, of all ages, are filling. Bloggers have enthusiasm and an audience and, oh yes, money. Bloggers, and what they write about and how they feel, can be a great resource for market testing and customer satisfaction.

    Yes, per SilentStoryteller, they may not all know the different types of seams, but they do know what they like and what they will spend their money on. Imagine if more companies and designers of all levels recruited an "advisory board" of their passionate purchasers to test the waters. Many of these bloggers are spending on everything from Target to Prada, and not just small goods either.

    Yes, there is still the need for the publications. They have access and resources an individual may not have but I don't feel they are any more objective than an individual site. They may be creating art but a person showing how they are wearing a piece in real life will often influence me to make the leap to spend more than the art image.

    And that's what the companies want, right? My money.

  10. I think the major statement made here is "the industry got seduced by the bloggers" - they were seduced by the attention bloggers get, and those pretty girls in pretty clothes got the most attention - it is only a logical step in marketing terms, to try and use them for their means.

    but this does not mean, that blogging is per se about freebies, about pretty girls, about marketing hoaxes - blogging can and is delivering a fresh approach, some fresh air to the fashion media, which for too long was stuck in the conde-nast-principle, writing about the contents delivered by ad-clients.

    This, and many other comments, are a natural reaction to what has been going over the top last year, and might continue through 2010 - some major bloggers' attention is lured by simply means like free travels and the like. but still I do think, that there are very creative and smart bloggers out there, as are journalists, as are stylists.

    I think there is a share for everybody, every medium has its advantages and downsides, you just need to know how to play it.

  11. Well I'm not sure about blogging! This is my first attempt. But I do know about throwing out magazines. I used to fillet them, which was a lengthy process, and edit and file the fillets. However, it paid off, as my filing cabinet is full of truly memorable photos and articles which were worth keeping. The blogs can vanish.