The international fashion week circuit. Recently described as a ‘zoo’ or a ‘circus’ thanks to the hordes of style bloggers who swarm around the show grounds and bag the best seats in the house. But after seasons of red carpet treatment by brands keen to associate themselves with these young opinion makers, has the inevitable backlash begun?
Last September, Fern Mallis, creator of Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week, was caught on record bemoaning how fashion bloggers have gained precedence over industry buyers, when it came to fashion show seating and pecking order. “That needs to change,” she was reported as saying.
Then, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Catherine Bennett, Senior Vice President and Managing Director at IMG Fashion Events and Properties which runs the aforementioned showcase, unveiled plans to cut the number of fashion bloggers attending shows by twenty percent.
“What used to be a platform for established designers to debut their collections to select media and buyers has developed into a cluttered, often cost-prohibitive and exhausting period for our industry to effectively do business,” said Bennett of the New York shows.
Judging by the resulting slew of approving tweets, albeit tentative ones for fear of reprisals in the blogosphere, industry experts are questioning whether bloggers have had their moment in the sun – not just on New York’s front row. After all, the special treatment extends to press events and private presentations, which can be irksome to the seasoned print editor or influential fashion buyer.
As to whether fashion week organisers in London, Paris, or Milan will take a cue from New York remains to be seen. And if they do, how significant will the impact be on global show coverage? Do luxury brands even need to put bloggers in key seats now that nearly the entire front row of influential print editors uses Instagram and can tweet up a storm?
For one London department store executive the answer is a resounding ‘no’. “Finally!” he exclaims. “The fashion blogging phenomenon is being recognised for what it is –‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’.”
And he doesn’t stop there. “When everyone on the planet has an opinion or a voice, the really good bloggers are being drowned out in a culture of noise. Sadly, what we are left with are self-promoting personalities who are not known for their fashion insight or experience. In fact they are more likely to be recognised for dressing up like Christmas trees!” Ouch!
Fashion is of course subjective but since when did voicing an opinion matter so much? Somewhere along the line, we seem to have forgotten that there are designers and trends at stake here. Globally, fashion is a $1.5 trillion dollar industry and employs millions of people. Doesn’t that merit a professional critique, edit and knowledge about trends and in knowing what will ultimately sell?
And while I’m all for writer’s taking a slightly detached position vis-à-vis the fashion business, with the notable exception of Imran Amed’s excellent ‘The Business of Fashion’, has any blogger really shown a professional journalistic approach to his /her analysis?
I still adhere to the mantra I learnt during my five-year training in Milan as a fashion correspondent under American publishers. It is the same rule of thumb which Suzy Menkes and others at the top of their game still abide by – ‘it isn’t good because you like it; you like it because it’s good.’
As one respected fashion editor told me: “The Internet has obviously given anyone and everyone a platform to express their views and opinions. They are as relevant as anyone allows them to be but I am intrigued to know who reads them. Other fashion bloggers..? Serious potential consumers of luxury brands? Why would a confident 45-year-old woman be in any way interested in the opinion of a 20-year-old fashion student?”
Daniela Morosini is 20 and runs the successful ‘Couture and Crumpets’ blog. She has plenty to say in defence of her fellow bloggers – even though I had to run things past her agent first!
“I think there is a perception of bloggers “making it big” overnight and swooping in to snatch a front row seat from an editor who’s worked for years to earn that spot. The reality is that blogging is difficult; you have to be good at coding, at design, at writing, at photography, at social media, at business…the list goes on. No one gets a fashion week invite overnight; it’s not always an easy path.”
Morosini believes there’s room for everyone in the fashion reporting game. “I think it’s important to remember the different qualities each attendee brings to the table,” she says. “For the blogger, it might be immediacy; getting images to their followers quickly. For an editor, it might be about visuals and choosing pieces for editorials months later. There’s a balance to be found.”
So what should bloggers be doing in the meantime to save face? According to one online fashion bloggers consortium, the obvious solution would be to put more effort into building relationships directly with fashion brands (the designers and their PRs) as opposed to fashion week organisers. After all, luxury brands still value their relationship with top bloggers. Chanel’s ongoing allegiance to the brilliant Susie Bubble is a case in point.
Elsewhere it’s up to designers and the various international fashion councils to be a bit more discerning when it comes to enlisting those who understand blogs and bloggers in order to sort the wheat from the chaff at the next round of shows.
Lucie Muir has been a fashion journalist for over 20 years working for publications such as Vogue, The Financial Times, Luxury Briefing and the International Herald Tribune.