Not all fashion blogs are created equal

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NEW YORK, United States – Can fashion bloggers be trusted online authorities?

As the ever-proliferating fashion blogosphere continues to expand, and more and more bloggers gain access to fashion week, it’s pretty clear that the answer is yes. The fashion blog is here to stay. But it’s also fair to wonder whether all of this new content actually adding anything new to the reams of content already out there.

This past Spring/Summer 2009 season saw the debut of Inside The Tents. Inspired by Web 2.0 initiatives such as SXSW (South by South West) and the liveblogging phenomenon from political conventions in this U.S. election year, ITT aggregated fashion bloggers on one site to share their collective experiences from the tents at Bryant Park, using Twitter, Flickr and video content.

“Bloggers and online journalists are often dismissed as lacking the skill and insight to cover the ‘haute’ concepts of fashion,” says ITT organizer Michael J. Pratt of MyItThings.com. “Yet, they [traditional media] find themselves adopting the same techniques, or trying to, because there is undeniable effectiveness in connecting with the millions of people who love fashion.” 

Fair enough. But, it’s not just about the medium; it’s also about the message.  A perusal of some of the aggregated content on ITT causes one to pause and ask: are these bloggers really offering any unique expertise or vantage point that adds to the fashion dialogue? Some (though not all) of these bloggers appear to be more focused on themselves and on the celebrities in the front row than on the fashions on the runway. Unique opinions are few and far between.

“An awful lot of people not only have an opinion about fashion, they also believe those opinions are worth broadcasting,” muses Pulitzer Prize winner Robin Givhan, The Washington Post’s fashion editor, in her 2007 Harper’s Bazaar article Everyone is a Fashion Critic. However Givhan hasn’t entirely dismissed fashion blogging phenomenon as a mere trend. To the contrary, she has embraced it by launching her own blog on the Post’s website. 

So, if well-known critics like Givhan and the New York Times’ Cathy Horyn are penning blogs (and thereby adopting technologies which were once the exclusive domain of independent publishers), then, more than ever before, fashion bloggers must offer unique perspectives and insights not available in the traditional media in order to attract and build a loyal following. Merely adding to the information overload is just noise.

It’s true that the Internet has allowed virtually anyone to become a ‘citizen journalist,’ enabling them to offer their opinions and advice to anyone within a clicking earshot. But that doesn’t mean people will want to listen.

With research contributed by Tu Tram Pham.

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25 comments

  1. New technological advances are always dismissed at first and then embraced and take over the former medium. I think many factors affect the popularity and following of fashion bloggers. Enjoyed reading your piece :)

  2. BoF, What exactly is your point here? Several weeks ago we wrote to you regarding the content of your blog. With very few participants responding here it is difficult to have a dialogue about fashion. You continue to quote stories provided by other publications. Where is the ongoing dialogue in the fashion blogasphere? “Millions of people interested in fashion”? The Business of Fashion is lucky if you receive a comment per week, Cathy Horyn this past weekend had 3 participants at about 50 comments between them. Alot of the other fashion blogs that you recommend don’t bother to update. Please define and recommend the most popular fashion blog.

    artefact212 from Gloversville, NY, United States
  3. @artefact212: The point is that if one is going to add something to the massive amount of content that is already out there, then make sure it is coming from a new and interesting perspective, that adds something to the mix. The best fashion blogs are those that bring unique personal insights or points of view. Susie Bubble (www.stylebubble.com) does this well, as does Diane Pernet (www.ashadedviewonfashion.com) and Scott Schumann (www.thesartorialist.com). There are many, many other excellent fashion blogs out there. P.S. We already responded to your previous comment about the Daily Digest of news articles which has proven to be extremely popular with BOF readers.

  4. Hmm… “An awful lot of people not only have an opinion about fashion, they also believe those opinions are worth broadcasting,” There are a lot of people who have nothing interesting to say *in my opinion* but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t broadcast it if they want to. I’ve heard many complaints about this ‘noise’ and the chaos created by ‘anyone who can start their own blog’ but the fact remains, that not everyone can start a blog that people read. Even if people read a certain blog, it doesn’t necessarily make it good either. When you mention Diane Pernet, she’s been in the fashion industry for a long time, the fashion editor for Zoo Magazine, also she has a lot of contributors to A Shaded View. It’s not really what one would call a personal blog. Style Bubble and Sartorialist started out blogging as a hobby like many of us and now they’re both currently professionals in the fashion industry. But they wouldn’t have been where they are right now if they never tried. I’m sure they made mistakes along the way… we all have. I find them very inspiring, and why not try? What’s the worst that can happen, I write about bad fashion? Like that’s some kind of crime…

  5. BoF In response to your comment “Millions of people interested in fashion” is basically your wish list. Now, what exactly is this blog supposed to be? We are at a loss.

    artefact212 from Gloversville, NY, United States
  6. @jenine: Thanks for your thoughts — they make sense, and of course everyone should try to write a fashion blog if they can. We certainly would not have The Sartorialist, Style Bubble or Diane Pernet without their early efforts! That said, what we are trying to emphasise is that in order to build a real following (like the blogs mentioned above have) and effectively compete with the major players who are now also using the blogging platform, there is even more reason for fashion bloggers to have something new and interesting to say. @artefact212: While we are reluctant to respond to aggressive commentary, for the sake of dialogue and clarity, we will do so this one last time. You will note that the comment about millions of people interested in fashion was made by someone quoted in the article and not by BoF. As for the purpose of BoF, it is a place to discuss and debate the business of fashion in a constructive manner that pushes thinking and ideas further. We welcome your thoughts and comments in this spirit. Let’s continue to discuss! And hopefully, our newly designed format will allay your concerns about the Daily Digest and allow you to ignore it in case you are not finding it useful as a filter for the most important fashion business news of the day.

  7. Hello I’m an argentinean journalist and fashion blogger. I started my blog in 2006, and Argentinean blogs dedicated to fashion at the time were three at the most. Today there’s one born and another dying every day but as you said, I hardly find any new content. Most of these bloggers are quoting (and scanning) print fashion publications, and even other blogs such as my own. Non the less, the blogs that survive their first year of existance are adding new content. People who only copy or repeat what’s already outhere get tired very fast and abandond their blogs. At least this is the case in my opinion. Another thing. I consider your blog Imran to be one of the best in the fashion blogosphere. I think what you add to the “conversation” has enormous value. Bye Paula

  8. I find The Business of Fashion to be very valuable. For me it does exactly what it says on the tin: it’s a roundup of stories and interviews related to the business of fashion. It also comments and asks insightful questions thus provoking discussion on such stories. Just because readers don’t comment does not mean that there is no discussion. Does Artefact212 know how many readers BoF has? This site is one of the few that actually covers the business of fashion extensively and thus, for me has something different to bring to the blogging table. In my opinion there are too many fashion blogs that are just about how cool someone thinks their own style is. Thankfully this blog has survived and thrived. Long may it continue.

    Moda from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, United Kingdom
  9. BoF We always appreciate your responses. What is the true definition of a successful blog? Is it because you have maintained it a year or more? Is it the number of subscribers? or is it the number of active participants in an ongoing dialogue? Finally, is the blog revenue generating?

    artefact212 from Gloversville, NY, United States
  10. I think there are in fact “millions of people” who are interested in fashion, I mean, it’s part of our daily lives and the fashion industry isn’t a multibillion dollar business that only caters to a certain demographic. Although there aren’t any reliable records stating the numbers of visitors or fashion blogs online at this point, with over 1 billion internet users worldwide, I wouldn’t be surprised to find a few million of them perusing fashion blogs and websites. I agree with Moda, dialogue can happen outside the blogging medium, such as email exchange or forums. Also, blog posts can generate indirect dialogue by having bloggers post a response to something they’ve read online, linking to original articles, and post thoughts of their own on the matter. This can further generate discussion among the blogosphere albeit indirectly. As for the noise created by fashion blogs, I find it a bit like marketing and advertising. Everyone has a product to sell, but only those who able to give something of value to consumers will survive. Content is king, as the saying goes. Those who value quality content (to their own standards I suppose) will eventually find what they want to read and follow through.

  11. I am wondering why the content on http://insidethetents.com was dismissed as second rate content put forth by a bunch of amateurs? Every single contributors to ITT was awarded credentials by the NYFW organizers and most had great opportunities to see most of the shows. The fact that the reporting inside the tents was finally done by those not a part of the fashion media “elite” establishment gave a ring of authenticity sorely lacking in their behind the velvet rope style of journalism. Indeed, professionals like Robin Givhan know a great deal about fashion and her critique should be a part of any serious study of the industry. Susie & Scott put out wonderful content as well. To dismiss everyone else as nothing more than hacks devoid of an original opinion is not only misinformed but smacks of an already formed opinion. Like any market of ideas, the good ones will rise and survive. If we had not provided a means to hear the thoughts form everyone inside the tents, do you think Vogue would have done that? Of course not, they want to control the dialogue. …until they realize they’d rather be a part of it. And lest we all get wrapped up in our own ivory towers, let’s just remember, we’re only talking about fashion week opinions. As an example, professionals and hacks alike all comment on celebrity appearances. That doesn’t make it Pulitzer material. Thanks for using my quote. I’m glad I stumbled across the article. We have big plans for even more in depth coverage in the Spring… ivory towers be damned.

  12. @artefact212: Fashion blog success can be measured in many ways, but perhaps the most meaningful measures are (a) loyalty — having a set of engaged readers who come back regularly to read content and participate in the discussion and (b) personal satisfaction. This puts highly trafficked blogs like that of Cathy Horyn and Scott Schuman on the same level as smaller niche blogs, which while not registering hundreds of thousands of pageviews, are still attracting a loyal audience, even if that audience is relatively small and providing an outlet for the blogger to share his or her ideas. Overall traffic and revenues are relevant if the blogger is trying to make money. For those bloggers who are writing a blog as an outlet for their opinions to be heard, a loyal set of listeners (no matter how big or small) who trust and value those opinions is perhaps most relevant measure of all. @Michael J Pratt: Thanks for your comment and for sharing more about Inside The Tents. We certainly did not intend to dismiss all of the bloggers on ITT as hacks and amateurs — and that of course is not the case. Many of the ITT bloggers seem passionate and committed, and it is great that they have a platform like yours available to them. To your point, however, I guess one additional thought is also that with so much content out there (and the amount of content available to online can sometime seem overwhelming) perhaps a function on your site that would allow the best content to rise to the top (e.g. through user ratings or submissions like Digg, etc) would make it easier for visitors to ITT to find the content that is the most popular, and therefore likely of the highest quality. Best of luck with your initiative next season.

  13. that wasn’t an original quote from mike regarding ITT?? i thought it sounded familiar. i’m sorry, if you’re going to accuse other bloggers of sloppy journalism, or being ‘unoriginal’ then you shouldn’t be using cherry picked quotes in your articles. being as we’re all bloggers here, isn’t it better to work together as a community to build a better platform than to pander to the increasingly irrelevant establishment? keep in mind, they’re scrambling to learn how to play our game as much as we’re scrambling to learn theirs, we’re bound to meet at some point, probably in a way that seems impossible to us now. i like to think of kevin kelly on TED ‘next 5000 days of the internet’ http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/kevin_kelly_on_the_next_5_000_days_of_the_web.html it’s good to look at what’s happened on the internet in the past 10 years, because the next 10 years are going to be incredible.

  14. Quotes are used all the time in articles, books and magazines to support the author’s ideas. Take an example of proverbs being used to express one’s feelings in a concise way, yet these could’ve been written 50-60 years ago and are still relevant today. Original content isn’t necessarily defined as “never seen before,” I believe original content is more so in having a new take on the topic at hand by giving a different angle instead of always jumping in the same bandwagon.

    Dahlia from Montreal, QC, Canada
  15. @Jenine: Michael’s quote was an original quote from an interview conducted by one of the contributors to BoF. Incidentally, this site has always been a huge supporter of blogs and independent publishers, but that does not mean we can’t aim to push things higher and better. We have no reason or desire to pander to mainstream media. We agree, by the way. At some stage there’s going to be a convergence of mainstream media and independent media. All the more reason to up our game!

  16. fair enough, it’s alright to use old quotes. people do it all the time. as far as offering a unique point of view… your point has been discussed countless times in the mainstream media over a period of years…. the only difference here is you’re a fashion blog, and like it or not, you’re guilty of the same thing you are criticizing.

  17. oh sorry, i didn’t see the last post from bof… and i just read daliahs comment, which my post is in response to. i just think that what inside the tents was doing was a good step in developing something new. it’s not perfect, but if we waited until something was perfect nothing would ever happen. i’m only sad that we dont’ have similar movements in europe because there is so much going on on this side of the pond…

  18. Blogging is very subjective and personal, it is impportant to remember that it does not have to be any one thing. When I started a fashion blog I was looking to do something different than just report on trends, shopping, and fashion shows. Our blog focuses more on the behind the scenes of the garment center in NYC and is written by actual designers about the industry. If your interested please check it out; http://www.39thandbroadway.com/

  19. What makes blogging interesting is that every writer has a different point of view. BOF is becoming the authority on the business of fashion, I find myself reading it more than WWD. I guess what I’m trying to say is, we can all be fashion bloggers as long as we have our own take on fashion.

  20. What do you all expect? The quality in fashion blogging is a mirror image of fashion itself. You have good lines, crappy lines, sweatshop produced knock off lines, just like fashion blogging. One begets the other; why expect anything different? Likewise, it would appear there’s the sour grapes contingent. One catty designer (blogger) complains another designer (blogger) is encroaching or degrading the field. The point is, if there weren’t a market (audience) for the product line (blog), it’ll cease to exist or limp along on its way to a ghastly death. If you don’t like it, perhaps that’s your call to action. In my case, I seek to prevent ghastly fashion by helping designers start clothing lines intelligently and ethically. It’s useful to consumers in evaluating products too. Now, if were there only one to be as useful in assisting fashion bloggers in polishing their craft… heh. http://www.fashion-incubator.com ~Nurture people, not products~

  21. Although I don’t comment all the time, I’d like to think of myself as one of the loyal readers of this blog: I check it every day for new posts.
    And, to agree with BoF, the reason why this is one of the few blogs that I do read is because it does put forth a unique opinion.
    Here are two other blogs that I read on a daily basis (or as often as there are new posts):
    http://www.counterfeitchic.com: an interesting commentary on the intersection of fashion and law.
    http://www.decadesinc.blogspot.com: the blog for the vintage couture store Decades, in Los Angeles. I’ve learned a lot about vintage fashions from reading this blog.
    Imran, keep doing what you’re doing.
    = )

    Anjli from Calgary, AB, Canada
  22. Hello, as you can see this is my first post here.
    In first steps it is very nice if somebody supports you, so hope to meet friendly and helpful people here. Let me know if I can help you.
    Thanks and good luck everyone! ;)

    SmokeEate from Riga, Rīga, Latvia
  23. This puts highly trafficked blogs like that of Cathy Horyn and Scott Schuman on the same level as smaller niche blogs, which while not registering hundreds of thousands of pageviews, are still attracting a loyal audience, even if that audience is relatively small and providing an outlet for the blogger to share his or her ideas. Overall traffic and revenues are relevant if the blogger is trying to make money.

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