The fashion industry is no longer solely governed by magazine editors and high-end fashion houses. Today’s fashion week front rows house a selection of handpicked fashion bloggers and style influencers. Fashion week, the four weeks where the industry’s elite travel from New York to London to Milan to Paris, marked the moment when “style blogging as a genre moved from its position on the fringes of fashion media” (Findlay) to the seats alongside Anna Wintour. A week once solely experienced by the upper echelons of celebrity has made room for a “new class of runway fashion spectators: smartphone wielding, Nikon-toting, java-sipping millennials known as fashion bloggers” (Alexandre). These blogger-turned-influencers have taken part in rewriting the fashion world playbook, completely changing the landscape of the industry.
Oftentimes, any divergence from the norm is met with resistance. With that said, these new players’ rise to influence has faced combatting tension from old players, attacking this new crowd as “posers and unprofessional nuisances who clutter the shows with their cameras and sponsored gear” (Alexandre). Although it may appear that these new front-row residents simply turned the key of opportunity and poof, were living lavishly in the establishment, there’s a little more to unravel. The blogger alone will carry their obnoxiously large camera and tripod to every event, record a YouTube clip in any “vlog-worthy” circumstance regardless of the stares, and squeeze into her seat and give you the best runway play-by-play because she’s “one of us, sitting amongst all of them” (Alexandre). However, it’s important to note that with such fame, she hasn’t lost sight of her roots. With every show, opportunity, and adventure, she shares her seat with her audience. The authenticity and unique perspective bloggers share are just two of the many important qualities successful bloggers exude. So, how exactly have such bloggers rose to fame?
The most dominant players took to the social media platforms long before its peak of popularity. The earliest fashion blogs came to fruition in 2001: She She Me, resembling Sex and the City; Primp, delivering concise statements of fashion recommendations; and DFR: Daily Fashion Report, a gossipy critique of the fashion industry’s latest. Although the aforementioned bear little resemblance to today’s fashion blogs, they were just as “informal and direct” as the ones we are accustomed to seeing today. Back then, the dialogue was much more invested in wider issues around fashion, and thus, was “characterized by long written posts occasionally punctuated by images.” The content of the era was quite detached, as bloggers’ true personas were “partially visible at best” (Findlay). Two of the earliest bloggers, Danielle Meder of Final Fashion and Julie Fredrickson of Almost Girl, reiterate how the fashion blogosphere of the early 2000’s simply allowed people with a shared passion to have a conversation. People were immersed in a fashion-grounded dialogue, which is radically different from the “consumerative nature” (Findlay) of today’s blogging community. The inquisitive, analytical, and commentative nature of early blogging connected viewers with the voice of the blogger, not their Instagram feed or aesthetic.
As digital media continued to evolve, the increased number of “forums, social networks, and fashion-based websites” (Findlay) gave rise to the onset of personal style blogs. Forums like “the Fashion Spot” commenced the sharing of one’s personal style on a public platform, which aligned with the social interactivity and networking practices prevalent in the early 2000 media channels such as Myspace and LiveJournal. This period, 2004-2006 to be exact, marks the transition from commentary on the outskirts of fashion to the documentation of personal style. Individuals saturated the forums and social networks with images of their daily outfits and comments about how it made them feel. This exemplified the celebration of everyday style for everyday people, which deviated from the prior emphasis on high-end exclusivity. This first wave of blogging spotlighted the styling of everyday outfits, inviting opportunities to highlight accessible fashion and in turn, individuality, creativity, and originality. By visually documenting their outfits, bloggers started to develop a preferred taste and recognizable style. From accessorizing with tortoise patterned barrettes to sporting all-black aviators, these bloggers rarely considered the location, lighting, or feed — which, nowadays, is downright unthinkable. Back then, owning high-end pieces was the exception— not the expectation. Bloggers took their own interpretation of the runway and recreated high-end looks in a savvy do-it-yourself way. Because these renditions were accessible to virtually anybody, the disconnect between the blogging devotees and industry elite still remained. Bloggers were very much seen as the “amateurs interested in fashion, writing on the sidelines.” They resided comfortably on the fringes of fashion media and shared for the sake of sharing.
When offered to fuel a passion through lucrative means, most will take it and run. From 2008-2010, bloggers started to discover profitable opportunities to collaborate with established brands. To be at the forefront of this industry, fashion houses had to evolve with the consumer. The nature of the 21st century consumer, in particular, demanded that these companies rework their approach. The narrative shifted from an attitude of exclusivity to a desire for inclusivity. With the internet democratizing influence, we have “bred a new niche of celebrity” (Hayes) — one who is easily accessible and inherently relatable. On and off screen, these bloggers curate a lifestyle their followers aspire to attain. Working with industry-shaping tastemakers positioned to attract, empower, and influence, aligned these brands with their consumer. The transition from sharing a daily stream of outfits to working alongside big brands was a major turning point for the fashion bloggers of the industry. What originated as a “creative means of identity play through fashion” (Findlay) has become a launch pad for entrepreneurial pursuits and acclaimed recognition.
The fashion industry is constantly evolving. With first-wave blogging exemplifying independence and second-wave embodying aspiration, style blogging has quickly transformed from a “cluster of experimental indie blogs celebrating individuality” into a space where a select few bloggers are invited to fashion week, collaborating with luxury labels, and partnering with high-paying brands. Now, the value of the fashion blog lies in the persona behind the blog. Brands asked themselves; “Does she exude what our brand stands for?” “Is her content consistent with ours?” “Does her following reach our target market?”
These blogger-turned-influencers have cultivated successful personal brands associated with so much more than a web page. The evolution of digital media and more specifically, social media has granted greater accessibility to voicing one’s opinion on fashion. Above all, social media has fostered a generation that values authenticity. Mega bloggers, who have a following of a million plus, are the most well regarded in the space. Some of the most popular influencers include Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad, Aimee Song of Song of Style, and Emily Weiss of Into the Gloss. All three bloggers, who started with the collective desire to share, have used their blogging career as a springboard for other endeavors.
The queens of the realm, Chiara, Aimee, and Emily, are on a first-name basis with the editors of Vogue, creative directors at Chanel, and writers at Elle. Chiara Ferragni (16.4 million on Instagram), founder of The Blonde Salad, has taken the global fashion world by storm. Ferragni started The Blonde Salad to deliver an irreverent take on fashion, dabbling in travel, beauty, and fashion and playing off the Blonde cliché. After cultivating a loyal following, she took her platform to the retail world and launched The Blonde Salad as both an e-commerce site and a collection of pop-ups in Milan, Paris and Shanghai. Landing partnerships with Lancôme, Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Intimissimi, Chiara has led the pack in “monetizing the dual streams of a blog and personal brand as a business” (Sanderson).
Another early adopter of the blogging movement, Aimee Song (5.2 million on Instagram), has leveraged her personal brand into a thriving business. Besides running her fashion blog, Song of Style, Aimee has ventured into the entrepreneurial field with her clothing collection, jewelry line, YouTube channel, ambassadorships with Chloé, Giorgio Armani Beauty, Dior, and Laura Mercier, and book publications, “Capture Your Style: Transform Your Instagram Photos, Showcase Your Life, and Build the Ultimate Platform” and “World of Style.” She launched her blog in 2008 while studying interior architecture in San Francisco. What started as an interior design forum shaped into a personal style diary, where she shared her multifaceted interests including travel, beauty, interior design, and personal style. Because Song of Style started as a “passion project, she did not anticipate the stream of revenue to follow” (Leach). Her intentions were clear and her endeavors are reflective of that; she only works with companies she genuinely loves and takes on projects she knows will resonate with her followers. Song does not take her role lightly and champions her following as the common denominator of all her successes.
Emily Weiss (467k on Instagram), founder and CEO of millennial online beauty brand Glossier, turned her beauty-buzzing blog into a major league direct-to-consumer beauty brand. Getting a foothold in fashion at age 15, Weiss worked through the ranks of the industry. Dabbling at Ralph Lauren, Teen Vogue, and Condé Nast, Emily spent her free time writing to the world about her newly discovered passion: beauty. When launching her blog, Into the Gloss, Emily set out to make beauty just as integral to personal style as fashion. Into the Gloss challenged the traditional paradigm of beauty and positioned the customer as the beauty editor. Glossier’s success relies on the ever-changing needs of the customer and invites that round-table discussion. Though specializing in beauty, Weiss occupies the influencer space alongside style bloggers and has become a household name for female influencers breaking ceilings and crashing barricades.
Influencers have saturated virtually every platform, developing niche markets and earning celebrity status. They have become their own personal brand, curating creative content and portraying a desirable lifestyle. With the evolution of the influencer comes a role remodel. Bloggers started out their ventures by creating content to fit the demands of the brands. Now, the roles are reversed. Influencers have gained recognition in an industry that once failed to look their way. Brand-fit is up to their discretion. They may ask themselves, “Does this product fit in with my brand?” “Does this collaboration resonate with my following?” “Is this partnership authentic to who I am?” The elite circle of bloggers have and continue to tell their compelling story, unraveling a narrative that strikes a lasting impression. Fashion is just one realm in which social media influencers have penetrated. The means by which personal style is shared will continue to evolve, as the Internet and fashion itself “live on the principle of permanent change” (Findlay).
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Findlay, Rosie. “The Short, Passionate, and Close-Knit History of Personal Style Blogs.” Fashion Theory, 21 Apr. 2015, pp. 157–178., doi:10.2752/175174115X14168357992319.
Hayes, Danielle. “A Rousing History of Influencer Marketing (We Promise).” The Shelf, The Shelf, 8 Apr. 2018, www.theshelf.com/the-blog/influencer-marketing-timeline.
Leach, Samantha. “After Almost a Decade, Aimee Song’s Influence Is More Bankable Than Ever.” Glamour, Glamour, 27 Apr. 2018, http://www.glamour.com/story/after-almost-a-decade-aimee-song-influence-is-more-bankable-than-ever.
Sanderson, Rachel. “Chiara Ferragni – the Italian Influencer Who Built a Global Brand.” Financial Times, Financial Times, 8 Feb. 2019, http://www.ft.com/content/9adce87c-2879-11e9-a5ab-ff8ef2b976c7.