The fashion industry is atwitter over a Vogue smackdown with streetwear bloggers. But what seems like nothing more than a petty catfight is actually another data point on how much the old guard industry has to fear.
Here’s the blogpocalypse, explained.
Vogue.com editors including creative digital director Sally Singer, chief critic Sarah Mower, app director Nicole Phelps and fashion news editor Alessandra Codinha were blogging about Milan Fashion Week when they let collectively ganged up on fashion bloggers. Singer said bloggers changing their outfits every hour to appease the brands that pay them were heralding the “death of style,” while Mower said blogger girls and their swarms of photographers are “pathetic” and “desperate.”
Codinha wrote that the entire practice of “paid appearances and borrowed outfits” was “gross” and said these bloggers at fashion shows weren’t about style, they were just about showing up, tweeting and Instagramming.
Right: Plenty of people, including bloggers like Susannah Lau and Shea Marie, hit back. Marie said: “The only thing that is ‘pathetic’ here is this jealous, catty and hypocritical article you’ve just published. You are exactly the type of people that have given the fashion world the cold, unwelcoming and ruthless reputation it has had in the past. Thankfully those times are changing … I would think an institution such as Vogue would respect young entrepreneurs instead of belittling them.”
So who’s right?
Break it down.
It is somewhat ironic that Vogue editors would lambast bloggers for supposedly dumbing down style and making it about dollars instead of fashion. Bloggers like Chiara Ferragni have been featuring on the cover of Vogue Spain, the magazines often use “street style” photos featuring these bloggers on their sites. Plus, Vogue and other fashion publications regularly borrow clothes for shoots and rely on paid advertising — there were 209 ad pages in Vogue’s 800-page September issue.
Ultimately, bloggers and big media brands have a very similar business model: They determine what’s hot in fashion by influencing customers and getting paid for doing so. So the whole idea of calling them out for not being real enough isn’t just catty, it’s also hypocritical.
And media also relies on bloggers since they have a more direct connection with customers.
Have any other media outlets weighed in on this?
Media is hardly monolithic: Not all of fashion media is on board with what the Vogue.com editors said. Even British Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman distanced herself from her American colleagues on Twitter.
Can I just be CLEAR. The current Bloggersgate furore is via American Vogue not @BritishVogue.
— Alexandra Shulman (@AShulman2) October 3, 2016
The controversy has been long time in coming. Bloggers are a relatively “new” outgrowth of the fashion world. Some have been around longer than a decade, but in some ways, their influence and power has exploded with social media. Bloggers now command front-row seats, have a hand in designing, and for some brands are the preferred way to market to the world. They also command, correspondingly, sky-high fees. Rates vary, but some estimates say top bloggers can ask for over $40,000 just for a short “appearance” at, say, a store opening. Back in 2009, when then-13-year-old Tavi Gevinson was invited to review the Comme des Garcons collection for Harper’s Bazaar, there was plenty of sniffing among the old guard crowd: Anne Slowey of Elle called her column “gimmicky.”
Gevinson also sat in the front row at Dior in 2010 wearing an outfit that happened to obscure the view of the show of those behind her. “Dior through Tavi’s pesky hat,” a Grazia editor tweeted.
http://twitpic.com/zpbqh – Dior through Tavi’s pesky hat
— Grazia UK (@GraziaUK) January 25, 2010
What do the brands think?
The jury is still out. Ultimately, though, it’s about them, since they’re the ones who pay bloggers and keep the old-guard media awash in advertising. With bloggers, brands get a direct line to customers, more so than they might through fashion magazines.
There are signs of discontent: Neiman Marcus CEO Karen Katz said on an earnings conference call last week that bloggers are to blame for the lack of luxury sales because they kill demand by posting images of items months before they actually go on sale. A Popsugar editor also called out bloggers in a scathing open letter last weekend for breaking brand embargoes. Clearly this is a showdown that will only continue to heat up the runway for the forseeable future.