Fashion: Bread And Circuses

The fashion industry is a machine that until recently was solely driven by the people who work from within. They’ve been channelling their thoughts on fashion, into one looooooooooong carefully orchestrated PR line. We were blinkered, easily led by whatever diamante-encrusted carrot was being dangled in front of us; probably by Vogue in the days I could bare to look at a copy.  Along came the internet, enabling platforms such as WordPress or Tumblr, where anybody can voice an opinion. Bloggers, as with all social media users are freely able to say if they hate the latest s/s collections by top designers, without fear of being banned from the next show. Mainly because, in the early years of blogging and even now, the majority aren’t invited to the shows. Only when certain blogger’s voices become popular, do high-end designers invite bloggers to their shows. I’d also like to think, bloggers such as Susanna Lau are being recognised for their journalistic merit.1

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Bloggers and journalist photographers, outside the Chanel show, Paris Fashion Week. Source: Address Publications

Unlike writing for most publications, writing a blog is purely about you and your thoughts. A space where you can be emotional, swear, photograph yourself and put that photo on the front page, every day if you want. No editor in chief is going to come along and say you can’t, because you’re the boss! You don’t have to concern yourself with pleasing sponsors either, as most publications do with advertising contracts – another layer of say-what-you-like freedom. Seeing as most bloggers are actually blogging for free, freedom of speech is the very least perk to be enjoyed.

When your blog is successful, advertisers will want a space on your site. This is not the route Address wants to go down because it will alter the voices we’re still experimenting with. However carefully chosen, advertising adds layers of meaning which will compromise your voice in some way. If you’ve made blogging your business, do it every day, have something worth saying and this is a way to get paid for that, how is it any different than the restrictions forced on ‘professional’ journalists, in more established publishing companies? No wait, it’s not just different, it’s better, because you’re in charge. And that’s why the fashion industry doesn’t like it. They want their power back, but they can’t have it.

So where does this leave us? At the moment, we’re still feeling the reverberations of Suzy Menkes’ piece “The Circus of Fashion”, and subsequent backlash from bloggers, highlighting the phenomenon and division between ‘professional’ journalists and bloggers.2 Fashion is a circus, inside and outside of the tent, but this isn’t news!

People love having something to marvel at (fashion, fashionistas), to do the marvelling (journalists, bloggers, general public), and to complain about the marvel and the marvelling (as before, plus fashion haters). It’s been perfect for the drama, or circus of fashion. Technological advances have enabled anyone to have a go. This has created confusion, who now has the authorial voice on fashion? Melting away two fundamental components that has kept the fashion wheels turning, until a blogger or two got stuck in the cogs, it was a relatively smooth performance of hierarchy and control.

I wanted to ask bloggers at this years London Fashion Week, their motives for blogging, to see what they think the position of bloggers is now, and where it’s going next.

Shimpei says he started blogging because he went to a show in New York, which he enjoyed so much it inspired him to have a go at documenting what happens around the shows, with his own blog. We had a slight language barrier but he told me, having a blog is an important form of self-branding. He’s been blogging for one year.3

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Shimpei, Blogger. Source: Address Publications

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Audio: Shimpei

Laura has been blogging for three years, first with a friend and now with her boyfriend who is a photographer. He takes pictures of Laura, how she styles herself, sometimes wearing her own designs because she’s a design student, too. She uses a blog as a public journal to benefit her work and for her boyfriend to develop his photography skills.4

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Laura, Blogger. Source: Address Publications

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Audios: Laura

Florrie’s blog has been going for 4 years. An interest of hers that began from her bedroom, as a way to recover from serious illness. Initially inspired by photographers and food blogs, Florrie decided to combine the platform with her own enjoyment of fashion as a 17 year old doing A-levels. She thinks the future of fashion blogging will become bigger, although already cluttered, making it hard to stand out, she still thinks it’s a good experience.5

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Florrie, Blogger. Source: Address Publications

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Audio: Florrie

Tosin, is a Business Studies student who has been blogging for 6 months on her fashion and lifestyle blog. She thinks blogging will become much more mainstream, letting more people know what is fashionable, which she says is a good thing.6

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Tosin, Blogger. Source: Address Publications

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Audio: Tosin

Kokko is not a blogger, yet. He was found at Somerset House, being photographed all day, 50 or so times is his guess. He doesn’t always know where his pictures go. He loves street style blogs, and hopes to be a blogger one day. He says, the fashion bloggers are the new journalists, they go to the fashion shows and take pictures. He checks blogs everyday, his favourites are Kate Loves Me,  Anna Dello Russo, The Blonde Salad, Stockholm Streetstyle.7

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Kokko, found outside of Somerset House, London s/s 14 Fashion Week.  Source: Address Publications

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Audio: Kokko

Some blogs are better than others depending on taste and have arguably more or less value in terms of content, compared to mainstream publishing. I like that, not knowing what you will find when you click on a link, the personality of the blogger coming through in presentation, style of writing. Technological advances, Generation- Y, the future of now are happening and it’s reassuring to me that young people want to play with online spaces, however naively at first, putting themselves out there. As Laura tells us, it’s a live journal, somewhere to experiment. This is a great way to play with technology, identity and fashion.

This wave of self-publishers seems to have the industry, in particularly the fashion media sector, running scared. Understandably a threat, as much of what is online is available for free. What makes me uncomfortable is the fashion industry as a whole has become a bit of a mess, out of date and is well overdue for an shake up, from how shows are presented to how opinions are shared and discussed.  Whilst happy to see more live streamed fashion week shows, that alone is not enough of a shift in this digital age. Bloggers have helped open up the discourse and availability of images, even if in many cases the fashion history knowledge is lacking, the readiness and interest to experiment is forging the right way.

What next?

 

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