The market for fashion blogger–launched clothing collections has grown increasingly crowded in the last few years. These once-whimsical, largely directionless offerings are on the heels of a makeover, with influencers like Aimee Song and Vanessa Hong rebranding or relaunching their collections along socially conscious and ethical lines. Others, like Karla Deras and Danielle Bernstein, are making a point to create brands that are larger than themselves — appealing in their own right, not simply by way of association.
Chiara Ferragni with shoes from The Chiara Ferragni Collection
Many of the OG bloggers continue to produce their original lines: Chiara Ferragni has her namesake collection, Emily Schuman has the Cupcakes and Cashmere line, and Julie Sarinana has Shop Sincerely Jules. Aimee Song launched Two Songs with her sister Dani in 2014, while Rumi Neely, of Fashion Toast, launched the celebrity-loved Are You Am I in 2015. Shea Marie, of Peace Love Shea, introduced her Same Swim collection that same year. More recent entrants include Karla Deras’s The Line by K and Danielle Bernstein’s Second Skin Overalls, and the list goes on.
“People naturally relate to us because they feel like they are a part of our daily lives — which they are,” said Sarinana. “It makes it a lot easier to launch a brand knowing that we will have their love and support to move it forward.”
Julie Sarinana wearing Shop Sincerely Junes
Celebrities like Rihanna and Kendall Jenner, who may never have read Neely’s original blog or scrolled through her Instagram, now gravitate toward her designs. Achieving that is the ultimate goal for Deras, who made her online debut with urban-infused and often revealing outfit posts on Karla’s Closet. She knew she’d have some customers based on her following, she said, but “the hard work is introducing your brand to consumers who have no idea you exist. I want people to buy The Line by K because they love the clothes, not simply because they know of me or my blog.”
As such, the marketing for the line, including lookbooks and Instagram posts, increasingly features models other than Deras herself. Danielle Bernstein, of We Wore What, has taken a similar tack with her overalls line Second Skin, which launched last year. The brand’s e-commerce site scarcely mentions her.
An Are You Am I lookbook image, sans the brand’s founder Rumi Neely
Some blogger collections are transforming along “woke” lines. In early 2016, amidst the widely troubling U.S. election, blogger Vanessa Hong of The Haute Pursuit began questioning the real purpose of her line, THP Shop, and fashion in general. Despite her line being sold by retailers including Avenue 32 and Nordstrom, and championed by Lady Gaga, the uncertainty nagged at her: “I [wondered] if the line was really necessary.”
“So many of us say, ‘Oh, well we’re bringing beauty into the world,’ but I felt that that was too hollow of an explanation,” Hong said. Around the same time, she watched the documentary “The True Cost,” which details the negative effects of fast fashion on the environment. “I was so disturbed and so shaken by it, that I literally just stopped [the business] entirely,” she said. “At whose expense are we making these clothes?”
Aimee Song in the new Two Songs’ “Love Wins” tee
Aimee Song went through a similar transformation with Two Songs, which she initially launched as a fun avenue for creating and selling graphic T-shirts with her sister. “Dope songs only,” read one early offering. In 2016, they shifted the company’s message so their products would do a better job of bringing awareness to important social causes: The “Rose Tits” tee donates 50 percent of its proceeds to breast cancer, for example, while the “Love Wins” shirt donates the same amount to The Trevor Project, a non-profit organization focused on preventing suicide among members of the LGBTQ community.
“I’ve realized that being authentic and transparent is super important,” said Song. “There are so many brands that create pieces to bring awareness to social causes, but very little of the proceeds actually go towards charities. It is mainly used as a marketing strategy. My focus is to actually increase awareness and [make an impact] by donating half of our sales.”
As for whether or not other bloggers will follow their footsteps, Hong is unsure. The production process for most bloggers is “really an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ situation,” she said. “A lot of these bloggers are with big agencies, like Next or IMG, who have whole departments dedicated to sourcing, with factories in Brazil and China.”
And given how popular lines like the Chiara Ferragni Collection and Are You Am I remain, without any social context, they may never feel the need to overhaul their companies for the greater good. Unlike coastal liberals wringing their hands at Trump and questioning his ethics in The New York Times, joked Hong, “the group of people actually questioning influencers and holding them accountable for what they do is very small.”