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.