Op-Ed | Don’t Write Off Fashion Bloggers

The organisers of New York Fashion Week aim to clean up an event that “has been swarmed with fashion bloggers, street-style photographers and fashion fans.” But bloggers — fashion’s resident outsiders — have a lot to bring to the table, argues Renata Certo-Ware.

Oscar de la Renta Spring/Summer 2014 at New York Fashion Week | Source: NowFashion

NEW YORK, United States — Last month, in response to senior vice president and managing director of IMG Fashion Events and Properties Catherine Bennett’s comment that New York Fashion Week “was becoming a zoo,” The Cut’s Allison P Davis put into words what many have been thinking for an Internet eternity: “Will Getting Rid of ‘Fashion Bloggers’ Return Fashion Week to Its Former Glory?”

Blogger. The term itself has become one of fashion’s dirtiest words, a catchall axiom for superfluous clingers-on and fashion riff-raff. But why exactly is the blame for the bi-annual circus that fashion week has become — including overstuffed shows, fashion peacocks and Sartorialist-wannabes — falling on the shoulders of well-meaning bloggers? And why are the designers themselves (and their PR representatives who often aggressively enlist bloggers to post about their clients) getting off so easily?

According to Bennett, “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.” As a result, some designers have rebelled, calling for serious changes to the way the shows at Lincoln Center, the official home of New York Fashion Week, are organised.

It’s often the same designers, however, who are feeding the fire of the so-called “zoo” by paying celebrities to sit front row at their runway shows. They also spend significant resources to create fashion week excitement amongst millions of young fashion consumers online. Oscar de la Renta, an early and vocal advocate of reducing the circus of fashion week (“Why have 20 million people with zero connection to the clothes?”) who decided to limit the guest list at his last runway show to those with a “legitimate professional purpose,” meanwhile has one of the industry’s most celebrated social media gurus, OscarPRGirl, on his payroll.

What’s more, designers (and their PR teams) are often the ones who invite bloggers to the shows to begin with. So why the readiness to leverage bloggers and their social following for marketing ends, if they are ultimately unwilling to take responsibility for the circus that ensues?

According to Davis, “IMG says it hopes to eliminate those attendees with only a ‘tenuous connection to the fashion industry,’ because Lincoln Center ‘has been swarmed with fashion bloggers, street-style photographers and fashion fans… in addition to the hundreds of journalists and scores of celebrities.’”

But why are “fashion bloggers” immediately seen as being amongst the most disposable part of the industry and the first to be booted from the tents?

In reality, bloggers are a crucial part of the fashion ecosystem. We are some of the hardest working (and underpaid) writers, photographers and critics in fashion — and, collectively, have just as much power (if not more) to generate consumer interest and drive sales as traditional print editors.

“Fashion Week is supposed to be about the buyers, the sales!” say many designers. But those buyers who want to know what will actually sell before placing their orders could do worse than check out what’s popular on Instagram. Indeed, in a trend-driven industry like fashion, where historical sales data rarely results in consistently better commercial decisions, it seems that what buyers need most is a crystal ball that helps them better gauge consumer demand to maximise profit and minimise loss. Well, here’s your crystal ball: bloggers and social media.

Sure, some bloggers and fashion hangers-on elbowing their way into shows (and eating all the free granola bars and lukewarm Frappuccinos) can be irritating. But don’t forget that, as they furiously tweet images of their favourite looks, proclaiming this skirt or that sweater an absolute must-have, bloggers represent and help translate fashion for a large portion of the buying public.

Davis asks: “Are bloggers needed anymore now that nearly the entire front row of influential print editors use Instagram?” But the way I see it, bloggers are fashion outsiders and that’s precisely what makes us a trustworthy voice: your stylish best friend who tells it like it is. We’re not caught up in the delicate politics, diplomacy and more-than-occasional cattiness of the industry. While editors can often be motivated by influential friends or loyalty to advertisers, we are free agents. While there are exceptions, we generally don’t appear on our blogs Photoshopped or wearing outfits worth thousands of dollars. We are real men and women, with real bodies and real budgets.

Instead of banning bloggers from the tents and longing for the fashion week of yesteryear, designers and IMG should embrace the Internet Age and harness bloggers for our earnestness, our realness and our authentic connection with actual consumers.

The fact is, bloggers — fashion’s resident outsiders — have a lot to bring to the table.

Renata Certo-Ware is a freelance writer, stylist, and fashion blogger based in Boston and New York.

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14 comments

  1. Nice to finally see a bit more of a balanced article about bloggers at fashion week! It seems that people writing scaremongering articles forget that there are those who let in the side down in every corner of the industry, from journalists to stylists, yet it’s us who get the bad rap. There are lots of people at fashion shows who technically ‘shouldn’t’ be there, those with sponsor tickets, those who get given spare tickets or lucky interns. The industry requires a certain amount of chutzpah to get ahead and I wouldn’t fault any student who is determined to see the clothes up close and manages to get into a show. By restricting tickets, there will still be people milling around shooting street style outside venues, that’s not going to change any time soon as people have got used to seeing what editors are wearing and such pictures feature in most magazines. The fact is that bloggers are still going to be invited to shows as it’s a medium which has resonated with a lot of people and those on the front row tend to have followings that dwarf a lot of publications. I know editors have worked extremely hard to get to where they are but if they were starting out now, they’d surely have blogs and be taking any opportunity they could get to experience fashion first hand.

    http://www.iwantyoutoknow.co.uk/

    Kristabel Plummer from London, London, United Kingdom
  2. Kristabel,

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned how hard editors and designers have worked to be where there are. There is a certain amount of blood, sweat and tears involved with the generation of creatives I am a part of. And, perhaps if we’d grown up with instant access as this generation of bloggers has, there would be a different opinion. As someone who has had to work from the ground up in Texas, I can relate to those who want to keep the integrity of fashion week what it used to be. I have often been openly vocal about style bloggers and photographers becoming “Facebook famous”. I styled a photoshoot a year ago with ten stylists. In between sets, all of them were on their phones instagramming “BTS” photos and it was obnoxious.

    Fashion used to not be about “being famous”. It used to be for the art of it all.

    Jennifer Vasquez from Harlingen, TX, United States
  3. As a blogger of five years now, I agree wholeheartedly with this article. The arguments put forth by some in the industry have been completely unbalanced. Fashion Week is a circus not just because of the presence of bloggers (who get lumped together together as one category, despite the great variety in types of blogs) but because of more ‘standard’ media being present, trying to photograph everybody. And all the other people who show up to stare/be photographed (most of whom don’t have a blog, actually). Fashion is a bigger social phenomenon than it was before and everybody wants to feel like part of the action. If that’s a bad thing, please do ban everyone except select media and buyers from attending the shows. A lot of the designers and their sales staff won’t thank you for it, particularly those who operate on a smaller scale or have a younger client base.

    I’ve never actually heard designers or PRs that I know complain about ‘bloggers’ – only those involved with organising LFW or NYFW. In Paris and Milan nobody seems to care about the ‘circus’ aspect. Perhaps those organising the events should remember in whose interests they are meant to be acting.

    Michael Ford from Glasgow, Glasgow City, United Kingdom
  4. I absolutely don’t agree with what Davis is saying about fashion bloggers being “your stylish best friend ho tells it as it is”, and I don’t think they are genuine in their opinion…at least the 99% of them. May be there is 1% of bloggers out there who do sometimes have the guts to tell their honest opinion and write with critisism…but there are really few. Most of fashion bloggers are super willing to please the big established brands in order to receive expensive gifts and invites…they’ll never compromize their relationship with fashion houses which send them bags and shoes like candies, in order to at least once say “no, this time “YSL” (just a random example), you got it wrong!”. This would mean no seat at fashion week next time and no special treatment and fashion bloggers are not so stupidly “genuine” to do that. Honest truth is that unfortunately those suffering from the whole bloggers involvment in fashion are the young designers and little fashion start ups who can’t aford to gift 1000 bags or other stuff to the top bloggers worldwide simply because they have their production capacity to build and also provide for themselves… what happens at the end is that on fashion blogs you see the same old fashion houses, same names, same brands and same bloggers constantly praising them across the community of followers who become brand obsessed as the fashion bloggers themselves…agree with Jennifer’s comment bellow…once it was all for the art of it :/

    Ralitsa Teofilova from Segrate, Lombardy, Italy
  5. This is a really interesting article and I’m so glad that it’s been written. There are a few things that stick out to me about it.

    Well done for pointing out that it is the designer’s and their PR team who decide where tickets are allocated. It’s their choice to invite a blogger. If Oscar doesn’t want a ‘circus’ at his show he shouldn’t allow his team to invite people who aren’t legitimate members of the fashion industry – that goes for buyers and stylists too. He shouldn’t have any celebrities attend. Better yet, he shouldn’t have a show at all – rather just shoot the looks in isolation and e-mail them out to the respectable industry members.

    What I find most interesting, and have been thinking about a lot lately, is what qualifies a blogger to be invited to a show. How do designers and their PR teams decide who gets a ticket? Surely some bloggers have a lasting relationship with the brand, in which case it is obvious that they might be invited. But is it blog stats? Social media following? Quality of writing? Ability to photograph? The first two things are the easiest to quickly judge and yet are the simplest to fake. You can lie about your readership numbers and buy followers on Instagram and Twitter. Do PRs actually take the time to look at past posts that bloggers have done? My gut feeling is no. Do they really care if the blogger does a review of the show? Or, is inviting bloggers just about creating buzz and filling up seats. God knows they send out hundreds of standing tickets which just leads to hoards of people lining up outside the venue being refused entry (at least in London).

    It’s just part of the ‘circus’… which they are creating.

    A lot of the bloggers that attend the big shows are the ‘famous’ ones. They often don’t even post about the shows they attend. This leads me to assume inviting bloggers to the shows is becoming equivalent to inviting a celebrity.

    More thought needs to go into which bloggers are invited and why. That would benefit both bloggers, PRs and designers alike.

    http://thestylecrusader.com

    Jennifer Inglis from Zurich, 25, Switzerland
  6. It’s crazy that ‘bloggers’ keep having to defend online publications. Just look at the real sales figures for fashion print magazines. I know that a lot of people are still enjoying the glamour of the smoke and mirrors – but everyone will have to move forward in the end.

    Kerry Shaw from London, London, United Kingdom
  7. The elephant in the room here is surely that catwalk shows themselves, in their twice yearly frantic dash to shine, are looking outdated in today’s super-connected world. As both a blogger and an industry insider, I look on colleagues who have to perform the monthly schlep around the globe to view the shows -all while having to do their job as if they weren’t away at all, and wonder just how long they can keep the pace up before something explodes.
    Most buyers I know hardly have the time to visit shows and the real work goes on elsewhere, with re-sees and studio visits.
    The issue here is, surely, that the connectivity of social media and the rise of a new voice in the industry -that of the successful blogger -means that the whole concept of a ‘closed shop show’ is massively outdated.
    Some brave soul needs to sit down a redesign the whole concept of presenting clothes to a connected world.

    amanda carr from Twickenham, Richmond upon Thames, United Kingdom
  8. I would like to commend Renata Certo-Ware for her article. As someone who has been covering New York Fashion Week since the second season at Bryant Park in 1993, I was dismayed and disgusted by the whole “Dirty, Unwashed Fashion Bloggers are messing up our fashion week” message behind the press release sent out by IMG Fashion in December. Of course, you do realize that the changes came after they canvased the Top 10% (Anna, Hamish, Linda Wells, Jim Nelson, and company) because theirs are the only voices that matters and no one else’s.

    I agree with her on so many points.

    1. While you do have a certain segment of the blogging community that are not as “professional” as we would like them to be (yet), you have to ask yourself why we have so many bloggers in the first place? Back in the gravy days of fashion publishing, we had a million and one fashion publications where a fashion industry newbie could get his or her feet in the door by being an intern and move up the ladder. All the magazines were chockful of ads and everyone was making money hand over fist. And then it all went away. We had the great advertising drought that started in the mid-1990s when Conde Nast, Hearst and many other publication houses closed down financially nonviable magazines. Remember Cargo? Domino? The barriers to entry into the industry went from difficult to beyond difficult. With the loss of all those opportunities to enter the industry, where were people supposed to go? Luckily (or maybe not), the internet came along and came us all a place to develop our skills and build a resume. The internet has allowed everyone to develop their voice, and if you are lucky, make a few bucks in the process. We are now seeing the trend of fashion bloggers migrating back to print magazines. Their skill sets are very much valued by print magazines who now sees their future on the web. Maybe they should invite fewer drag queens, nightlife mavens, male peacocks, and stale celebrities well past their sell-by dates and print magazine editors and stylists instead.

    2. The other point that stood out for me was the one that, based on my experience, fashion bloggers are very much “valued” by fashion pr and the designers–until it is deemed that their usefulness is over. In New York, I work with fashion pr companies that utilizes my site get the word out about their clients October through January and March through August BUT they don’t acknowledge me when it comes to extending me the courtesy of a seat at their A-List clients’ shows during fashion week. The message is I am good enough when it’s a B-List client (or worse) but not good enough for Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera, Vera Wang, Naaem Khan or Nicole Miller or much anyone else during fashion week. So naturally, you will end up seeing a lot of folks in the lobby at Lincoln Center because the only way for them to cover the shows is to watch the livestream on the televisions in the lobby. So you end up with the celebrity who are paid to be in the front row, friends of the designers who can’t do much for them and their families while the professionals are outside the venues looking like Oliver Twist asking for more porridge.

    3. Let’s not forget that, during the show week, you generally experience some of the worst behavior from a majority of fashion pr reps. If you are not part of fashion top ten percent (Anna, Glenda, etc), you are looked upon with a certain amount of suspicion and disdain. If you ever want to feel truly insignificant, be a blogger at NYFW. It can be a soul-sucking experience all-around. Some of the venues are known for their rudeness and “exclusivity”– and they are proud of it. I recently had the experience of working with pr reps with clients showing during the just-ended fall/winter 2014 London Collections: Men; and the high level of professionalism and courtesy they displayed was quite eye-opening. I was treated with respect and I like it. I will be working with them even more going forth. I might even work towards covering the London shows in July and October in person.

    4. When you are pointing a finger at someone, remember four fingers are pointing back at you. Am I the only one who thinks that the designers (and their collections) are as much to blame for the decline at Lincoln Center? Over the past six years, I have noticed that there is a segment of designers who each season (a) have no clear vision and generally send out collections that’s extremely directionless (and like a Hostess Twinkie snack leaves you feeling as just as empty) (b) are running on fumes and consistently show their seasonal “greatest hits” collection? and (c) have pretensions that are well above their talent level? You work hard to get to your seat–only to find someone else in it; sit forever listening to god-awful music waiting for the show to start (the show always starts late anyways), only to be realize that the designer should have saved their money and sent out a lookbook? Not everyone has the boundless talent of a Alexander McQueen but if you are going to put people through the seven rings of hell to see your show, at least give them something memorable and worthwhile. You also have to wonder about the designers and other top ten-percenters complaining about the “circus’ because you never see them in lobby mingling with the other :unwashed” 90%-ers. The designers come in through the backstage five hours before their shows, never leaves the backstage area pre-show and leaves immediately after the finale. And that’s the full extent of their participation in fashion week at Lincoln Center, until the next season, that is. Michael Kors isn’t hanging out in the Samsung space in the lobby signing autographs. Rebecca Minkoff and Max Azria is not meeting and greeting their fans by the Mercedes-Benz car parked in the lobby either. They are all on fashion’s Mount Olympus and intend to stay there.

    It will be interesting to see how all these new changes work out for IMG and Lincoln Center. I will be picking my moments and only going where I have a confirmed seat and are welcomed this February. All eyes will be on New York. Let the Games Begin….

    Phillip Johnson from Danbury, CT, United States
  9. Thank you for pointing our the hypocrisy and double talk most of the fashion folk are using. As soon as designers stop paying celebrities to attend their shows (whether with clothing and a free meal or actual cash) and stop inviting socialites with ‘no real connection to fashion’ except that they get photographed in the clothes, I’ll listen to their opinions on bloggers.

    What the designers don’t like about the bloggers, and true fashion writers like Cathy Horyn, is that they can’t be controlled. It’s no secret that magazines like Vogue depend on the designers to advertise, so they can’t afford to bite the hand that feeds them. The NYT and (some) bloggers don’t get those dollars, so they can say what they want.

    And THAT is what designers are angry about. They are losing their hold on the fashion press, and don’t like it. The shows stopped being for the store buyers years ago.

    pam bernstein from Plymouth, MN, United States
  10. Preach, Amanda Carr!

    Renata – good of you to inculpate designers and their PR teams in the hullabaloo that is fashion week. It has become a giant stunt, with Twitter boards, live bands and sometimes random-but-of-the-moment celebrities there to draw attention and credibility. But that is business, no?

    Looking forward to the designers who can integrate the digital age into their art. And since when is art only supposed to be consumed by some?

    Aubrie Pagano from New York, NY, United States
  11. I love an article that provokes plentiful comments.

    I agree with much of this piece. While I am not a blogger, nor have I ever attended a fashion event of the magnitude of NYFW, I am a life-long lover of all things garment, from the pages of Vogue and such like it, to family department stores, and the racks of thrift shops during my hippie youth. While in the past, the “elites” dominated and “declared” what we were to wear in the garment world, I do not think that is washing now, not even close.
    Amanda put it very well below:

    “The issue here is, surely, that the connectivity of social media and the rise of a new voice in the industry -that of the successful blogger -means that the whole concept of a ‘closed shop show’ is massively outdated.
    Some brave soul needs to sit down a redesign the whole concept of presenting clothes to a connected world.
    amanda carr from Twickenham, Richmond upon Thames, United Kingdom 10 January, 2014 at 9:37 AM”

    This is correct, I believe and the realm of the “elites” is relatively small. The rest of us out there of modest means and/or real life size, are just as fascinated by clothing and how we can weave it through the roads of our lives. I love Haute Couture and high end clothing but the tiny minority of people who can afford and wear it should not dictate to the rest of us. I could care less about celebrities! The “streets” pushed through that seemingly arrogant attitude from about the 1960′s onward and that shows no sign of simmering down. I love the elegant and expensive clothing being shown, but perhaps show these garments in a different manner. We all love a fashion event but hey, I can pick up a fashion magazine or go to a website and see all kinds of beautiful garments. What I crave is the viewing of garments of beauty, craftsmanship and usefulness. Yes, even a lovely and very expensive gown has a purpose and that should most definitely exist. The rest of modest human beings should also have a say and a forum, as we are not the “conquered” to be told what to do. Bloggers have a real life view and are not to be bought cornered. They have a say in things that is relevant and real. This does not show dispespect for the staggering amount of hard work done by the designers, not in any way. This just says there are many ways to present your work to the world, a big fashion event is just one way and writers from the neutral front lines might be very helpful.

    Wendy Williams from Burlingame, CA, United States
  12. there are many reasons to accept and move forward w the reality of fashion bloggers and their presence everywhere, starting w logic. if anyone still wishes to guard an “in” w anything via merit (let alone snob-infused merit), it’s time to wake up. and if justin bieber is the pinnacle guest in attendance, well….
    my take as prez of a midwest fashion arts affiliate group of the indianapolis museum of art is on HuffPost. here’s the link:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kimann-schultz/fashion-world-insiders-v-_b_3935668.html

    kimann schultz from Indianapolis, IN, United States
  13. Wanna hear the latest from the unusually brilliant minds organizing NYFW at Lincoln Center? You are not going to believe it. In an effort to de-clutter their “exclusive” surroundings during fashion week, NO ONE will be allowed into the lobby unless you have a ticket and/or seating assignment for the each and every show. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Read further…

    “Please note- new protocol for this season will require ALL guests, including credentialed media to have a valid show seating assignment in order to enter the event Lobby. All designer check-in and seating questions must be completed before you proceed through the check-in Vestibule.”

    Doesn’t that “Check-In Vestibule” reminds you of the security checkpoints with the TSA at the airport? Will people attending the shows be required to take off their shoes so that onsite security can check for bombs? Will they use one of those wands and run them over people’s bodies?

    I can see, although I may not agree with it, keeping down the number of bloggers, but how is that system going to play when it comes to everybody else? I mean, suppose Glenda Bailey shows up with a surprise guest, are they going to turn her guest away? Taking it one step further, what if Miss Bailey came a bit early for her show at 1 pm, are they going to have security hold her outside on the steps until they open the house for the 1 pm show? Again, I can see them playing hardball with the average show attendee but are they going to follow the playbook and treat fashion’s top 10% equally? Bill Cunningham generally doesn’t have a seat because he’s a rover. Does this mean then that he will be refused entry into the lobby? And who exactly will be laying down the law here? Citadel Security? Specially-hired hands from IMG Fashion? The potential for drama and tempers flaring here is pretty evident. After all, you are talking about people who won’t hesitate to throw out that infamous Reese Witherspoon phrase ” You can’t treat me this way. Do you know who I am?”

    The second part is: Are they going to clear the lobby after each and every show in order to maintain the purity of the space? And how can you do that without pissing off the “Do you know who I am?” Important people there? What if it is snowing or raining? Are they going to shove people out the door to stand in the rain or snow?

    My grandmother always told me be careful of what you wish for, you just might get it. As I see it, the potential unforeseen consequences are already piling up and fashion week is still less than fours weeks away.

    Phillip Johnson from Bethel, CT, United States
  14. All this consternation about fashion bloggers is insipid. BLOGGERS ARE PRESS. They are either good press or poor press, that is all.

    Seth Friedermann from Brooklyn, NY, United States