So far, the word on everyone’s lips this fashion season seems to be blogs – or more specifically, street-style blogs, those online repositories that assiduously document the style-conscious and the fashion-savvy.
Street-style blogs are nothing new. The grand-papa of this genre, New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham may still prefers the printed medium. However, the man credited with bringing this genre to the online landscape is Scott Schuman, who, along with his peers (Garance Doré, Yvan Rodic, and Tommy Ton, to name a few) has had a meteoric impact on the fashion industry and its attitude toward the world of digital. Indeed, if in early 2005 the street-style blog was yet to have been conceived, by early 2008 it was common knowledge that “to have one finger on the fashion pulse, you [had] to have the other one on your computer mouse, reading the latest blogs.” (Daily Mail)
The popularity of street-style blogs stems from the direct access they provide in terms of their subjects. During the major fashion weeks, they offer a glimpse into the real-life style of fashion’s image-makers: the fashion editors and stylists who would otherwise remain behind the scenes to most. Indeed, over the last few years, fashion weeks in particular have emerged as a sort of a street-style photographic free-for-all, with bloggers able to capture their subjects flamboyantly sauntering from show to show. The rest of the time, they shine the spotlight on ordinary people who exhibit an extraordinary understanding of color, shape and proportion as they go about their everyday lives.
For the Schumans of the blogging world, street-style has been the launch pad to considerable media influence and financial reward – from advertising campaign commissions to book deals and everything in between. Certainly, it is easy to understand the appeal for others to start their own street-style blog, having witnessed the big names go from relative unknowns to influencers, revolutionizing the traditional information flow within the industry and gaining respect as image-makers in their own right.
The low-barrier entry to setting up a blog has always made it extremely easy for just about anyone to join in. However, lately there is no denying that the number of street-style blogs has grown exponentially, prompting many industry insiders to remark that the number of bloggers lurking outside venues during fashion week seems to have gotten out of control. In the words of one commentator, “what used to be just Bill Cunningham roaming around the streets of New York with a camera [has] morphed into every city [having] twenty amateur style bloggers leaping out of alleys to take pictures of homeless peoples’ outfits.” (Jezebel)
But the effect of this proliferation of street-style bloggers goes further than issues of crowd-control. From a qualitative standpoint, saying that not all street-style blogs are created equal is a bit of an understatement. If one approaches the street-style blog as an art form – which it could arguably be – the value of its most renowned characteristic lies in artistic composition and fashion sensibility. This runs deeper that knowing this season’s trends, and reflects an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion phenomenology and the wider socio-economic context of dress and custom. This is evident in blogs such as The Sartorialist and Jak and Jil.
Regrettably, not all bloggers employ the same level of critical evaluation and discernment. For this reason, to many, this genre seems to have degenerated to a platform to promote weirdness for the sake of weirdness, with not much in the way of filter, editing or critical judgment. Many are fashion students, or fresh out of college, and eager to join the fray of fashion bloggers
The bloggers are not entirely to blame. Somehow, the multitude of blogs seems to have pressed all the right (wrong?) buttons of a particular type of individual, whose capacity to crank up the kookiness is only second to his desire to be shot by a preying blogger. In the words of one exasperated fashion journalist, “I am furiously pro eccentricity. I will fight for the right of my peers to wear whatever they want, the wilder the better [..]. But Fashion Week brings out the faux-weirdos, those for whom the need to dress wacky can be adjusted seasonally, switched on and off.” (The Observer)
One cannot help but question their authenticity and motivation, lending credence to the feeling that this propensity to jump on the street-style blog bandwagon seems to be spurred on by more of a desire for self-promotion than a genuine quest for self-expression. To many, this self-awareness and contrivance has contributed to diminishing the value of the original medium. The feeling in London this past fashion week is captured by another frustrated fashion journalist, who urges bloggers to “back off, get their cameras out of our faces and really consider what it is they are aiming to achieve – because no one likes content without purpose.” (The Observer)
There is no denying that street-style blogs are now an important part of the online fashion landscape. However, it remains to be seen whether or not the medium will always remain in fashion.
Interested in this topic? We are, too! That’s why we’re covering this in detail at FashionForward where Yvan Rodic from Facehunter, Leandra Medine from The Man Repeller and CA Creative will lead a panel discussion titled, “A Look at the Industry’s Top Bloggers & the Best Ways to Reach Them”. Space is extremely limited and tickets are going quick. Visit the FashionForward site for more info and to request an invitation.
Photo Credits: Glamour.com