Garance Doré. Punky B. Pandora. You may not have heard of them, but they are the fashion stars of the Internet. In the space of only five years, the number of fashion blogs has increased dramatically and they now compete with women’s magazines for the attention of consumers and designers. Their growing influence has enabled them to alter the way the fashion industry works.
As simple as a click
Blogs first appeared in the United-States at the end of the 1990’s. The term is the contraction of “web log”, log meaning “diary”. The American radio talk show host and author Hugh Hewitt defines the blog as “an online site with time-dated postings, maintained by one or more posters, that features links and commentary.” A fashion blog is therefore an online site where people (women most of the time) write articles about clothes and accessories, share their feelings about the latest trends, and exchange their “fashion tips”, very often accompanied with pictures of their latest purchases.
Fashion blogs, which are sometimes called “blogs féminins” or “blogs shopping”, where born around 2005 in France and became more and more numerous. This growth is not very surprising giving how simple it is to create a blog. Indeed, (almost) anyone can be a fashion blogger. The only materials required are a computer, a camera and of course, clothes to be displayed and commented on. Bloggers have the choice of different platforms such as Skyblog, Blogspot and Blogger, all free. Moreover, most fashion bloggers are what the American writer Mark Prensky calls “digital natives”. They were born with the new technologies and know how to use them: personalized layout, video posting and photo-montages all come naturally to fashion bloggers.
In a few clicks, any girl can pretend to be a model in front of her camera. The fact that fashion blogs feature “normal” women (that is to say not models), probably contributed to the popularity of fashion blogs. Readers tired of the impersonal models found in magazines can identify with girls they could have met on the street, at work or in school. Most of the time, blogging is just a hobby for these girls, who during the day have ordinary jobs. For example, Mimnor, the author of the blog Sushi&Pedro, recognizes that there is no link between her job (she is a veterinarian) and her blog . She envisions her website as an “outlet” where she can write about what she likes the most: clothes !
A blog for every taste
The style of fashion blogs is less formal than that of most magazines and therefore more accessible. Fashion bloggers not only write about clothes, they also discuss their daily lives, just as in a diary, as the titles often suggest (My Little Fashion Diary, Punky B The Fashion Diary, or Diary of a Fashionista Blog). As a consequence, fashion bloggers often accompany their articles with their personal thoughts on current events, films, television shows, or the weather. Many female readers look for and appreciate this casual and spontaneous tone in a fashion blog.
Whereas some women have their favorite magazines, others have their favorite fashion blogs. As Linda Leung, a senior lecturer at the Institute for Interactive Media and Learning in Sidney, highlights, readers have the choice among a large variety of fashion blogs. She identifies three main categories. The “aspirational” blog covers runway shows and trends from famous designers. The shopping blog features more affordable clothes. Finally, the “specialized” blog focuses on one specific item such as shoes, bags, etc. Thus, anyone can find the blog that will match her style, tastes, and budget. And for those lost amidst the thousands of fashion blogs available on the Internet, several websites provide directories of fashion blogs. The website Hellocoton, for instance, lists a large number of “blogs féminins” and provides a preview of their recent articles to help the readers stay up to date on the latest “fashion blog news”.
A threat for magazines ?
Should fashion magazines be worried about fashion blogs ? Blogs do offer several advantages. First, they are of course free. Second, blogs are faster to produce and more up to date than magazines, since bloggers write every day, if not several times a day. Blogs are also more interactive than magazines. The fashion blog can be compared to a forum where readers post comments on any article and where bloggers can answer almost instantaneously. Bloggers cannot do without readers and vice versa. Bloggers can ask their readers’ opinion about a new haircut or the possible purchase of a new dress for instance.
Fashion media quickly understood that fashion blogs were a great source of inspiration for their readers. In 2008, the magazine Elle published the first rating of fashion blogs in France, listing sites according to their popularity and influence. The list was established by counting the links directed to the blog. In other words, the most popular and influential blogs were the ones which were the most referred to by other blogs and online media. The same year, Madame Figaro released an article entitled “Bloggers, the new fashion priestesses”, featuring five French fashion bloggers. According to the author, these bloggers embody a new generation of fashionistas, who are as powerful as fashion journalists, if not more powerful.
In fact, fashion magazines have contributed to the popularity of the blogs. In August 2009, Elle published “The best of fashion bloggers”. Then, in the summer of 2010, the magazine Public Look chose its 5 top fashion bloggers. Today, fashion magazines scrupulously analyze and comment on fashion blogger’s outfits. Whereas magazines used to interview professionals from the fashion industry for their articles, they now rely on more and more bloggers’ opinions on the latest trends. Like real experts, fashion bloggers provide critical commentary and advice that is read by fashion industry leaders.
The new fashion gurus
In October 2011, the American blogger Tavi Gevinson made the cover of L’Officiel. She is the author of Style Rookie and began her fashion blogger career at only 12 years old in 2008. Two years later, she was invited to Marc Jacobs’ summer show and sat in the front row. Commenting on this event, the British newspaper The Guardian observed that « the Internet had [broken] down traditional barriers to entry”.
In the space of a few years, a number of girls had moved from the status of simple blogger to real fashion icon.
In France, Garance Doré was among the first to create a fashion blog in 2006. Her blog is now translated into English and often appears in the best fashion blogs in France and abroad. Last February, The New York Times devoted an article to Doré, who recently moved to New York. Initially an illustrator, she is now a famous street fashion photographer and is invited to the most prestigious fashion shows worldwide.
After being noticed by women’s magazines, fashion blogs caught the attention of designers and marketers. For their 40th anniversary, GAP asked Garance Doré to put together a collection of her sketches and photos for an exhibition in London during fashion week. She also collaborated with GAP to design a limited collection of T-shirts featuring her sketches. Then, in 2010, six fashion bloggers were contacted by the shoe brand André to create a new collection called “When bloggers get involved”. This collaboration gave birth to six pairs of shoes, each designed by a blogger. Also in 2010, the blogger Miss Pandora, who receives between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors a day, posed for the new Comptoir des Cotonniers advertising campaign.
From a hobby to a business
In addition to involving bloggers in the design and marketing of products, clothing brands have also called upon them to test and promote their products. This process is called sponsorship. The most influential bloggers receive regular coupons to spend at the brand’s online shop. In exchange, the blogger has to put a banner on her site redirecting visitors to that store. Furthermore, bloggers are often invited by brands to various events such as store openings or magazine launch parties. The brand’s goal is of course to be mentioned in an article. What was once a hobby has become a business. In the United-States, some bloggers even have agents to manage their careers. Yet only a small minority earn enough from their blogs to quit their day jobs. Most use their blog to earn some extra money.
As the popularity of fashion blogs increased, criticism of them became more frequent too. According to a number of readers, fashion blogs lost their spontaneity and simplicity. Because they receive coupons from the brands, some bloggers wear clothes that are not affordable for most readers. Moreover, it is sometimes hard to differentiate “real” articles from sponsored ones. According to French law, bloggers must disclose any payment received for their articles. But as the magazine L’Express suggests, the control on the Internet is always difficult and bloggers sometimes “forget” to mention the payments they receive.
Journalists, models, designers, brand ambassadors, and icons… Fashion bloggers are no longer ordinary internet users keen on talking about clothes. Thanks to the simplicity of a platform and a growing popularity online, blogs caught the attention of the fashion industry. Who could have guessed a few years ago that unknown girls would become fashion gurus ? Though critics attack them for their lack of independence towards brands, fashion bloggers have become very powerful. Bloggers managed not only to break into a relatively closed industry, but also to change that industry.