Note from Anne:
Guest blogger**Kate Dotsikas has joined us once again. A fourth year University of Toronto student, my firstborn is usually consumed with health policy and bio ethics. Today, she’s fired up about street fashion and taking aim squarely at fashion bible Vogue magazine. Take it away Kate!
In September of this year, vogue.com published a round-up of Milan fashion week with the perspectives of four editors: Vogue Creative Digital Director Sally Singer; vogue.com Chief Critic Sarah Mower; Director, Vogue Runway, Nicole Phelps; and vogue.com Fashion News Editor Alessandra Codinha. The article received significant backlash from the fashion blogger community because of remarks made by all four editors against blogging as a profession. Singer made a particularly scathing remark: “Note to bloggers who change head-to-toe, paid-to-wear outfits every hour: Please stop. Find another business. You are heralding the death of style.”
Bloggers took issue, for obvious reasons, and their arguments centred around the implication that blogging is an entirely useless and ineffective profession. Here’s the reality: successful bloggers are hugely influential forces in the fashion industry. Top blogger Chiara Ferragni has 6.7 million Instagram followers and a multi-million dollar shoe collection sold at over 300 retailers worldwide. Kristina Bazan boasts over 2.4 million instagram followers, a seven figure deal with L’Oreal Paris as a brand ambassador, and a burgeoning music career. My favourite fashion blogger, Danielle Bernstein, makes on average $15,000 for one instagram post, to an audience of over 1.5 million followers. She’s collaborated with several brands and has just launched her own fashion line specializing in denim overalls. These ladies are no joke, and Vogue’s attempt at brushing their accomplishments aside is a little desperate.
It is true that bloggers make a large bulk of their profit from brands paying them to wear their clothes. Phelps says it’s “sad” for the bloggers and “distressing” for the fashion purists like her. Codinha calls this practice “gross” and “embarrassing,” and wonders why anyone becomes a blogger when there are more important things going on in the world, like the American election (Codinha, you’re a fashion journalist. You might as well be subjecting yourself to the same ridicule – you’re in the same boat as bloggers on this one. Your condescension is misplaced. If fashion blogging doesn’t rank on the list of “important world topics,” then where does that leave fashion journalism?). The hypocrisy is ridiculous considering Vogue magazine and vogue.com is allowed to exist based on paid corporate advertisements from the very same brands that pay bloggers. If Vogue’s editors think they are immune from that influence when they make their proclamations about Gucci’s latest collection then they are naive as well as bitchy.
Let’s be clear: fashion is an industry like any other.
While it produces amazing art that has been a huge part of the development of my self-identity (and that of fashion lovers everywhere), its ultimate goal is profit. Vogue, as the traditional gatekeeper of the fashion elite, represents this profit machine just as much as bloggers. They’ve been replacing models with celebrities on their covers for years for the sole purpose of boosting sales. If anything, bloggers are more likely to maintain their independence because the brands need them more than the bloggers need endorsements; bloggers won’t get paid by brands until they have already amassed a large social media following. At that point, they get to be choosy about which endorsements they take and which items they actually wear in their posts.
Vogue also seems to be bashing street style as a legitimate source of fashion. Most fashion bloggers at their core are just very successful street style stars, which us plebs aspire to be. And bloggers make us feel like street style stardom is a realistic aspiration: after all, they prove to us you don’t need luxury fashion brands to have style. But Singer characterizes the “creation of streetwear stars and clothes made to stop traffic and paparazzi” as if it’s a bad thing, Phelps calls it a “street style mess,” and Mower calls the girls hoping to get snapped by a street style photographer “desperate” and “pathetic.” Clearly these fashion journalists see themselves far superior to lowly street style bloggers, even though these bloggers represent the common fashionista like you and I. Let’s not forget that we regular folk who perpetuate street style trends are the source material for all the big fashion houses – velcro flatforms at Prada Spring/Summer 2017 didn’t spring directly from the mind of Miuccia. The ugly shoe is a street style staple.
What is ultimately problematic about the article is the elitism that seeps through every line.
The main access point for the average person into fashion is through bloggers and their daily street style looks. For Vogue to belittle this aspect of the fashion world is for the magazine to say it is above the majority of its readers. The fashion lover without deep pockets is way more likely to turn to bloggers than Vogue, a magazine that constantly reminds us that we don’t belong in fashion’s elite*, with their fantastical albeit beautiful spreads where stick-thin models are draped in garments whose price tags would make your eyes water. High fashion produces stunning clothes made by talented craftsmen and sometimes visionary designers with quality materials. But they are out of reach for most of us. Bloggers like Bernstein, on the other hand, understand the plight of the real-life fashion lover: under all of her “outfit of the day” posts, she includes links to more affordable versions of what she’s wearing, clothes made by brands like ASOS and Zara, realistic options for anyone outside the 1% (Bernstein herself often wears these affordable brands). Vogue doesn’t even try to relate, and perhaps that’s their problem. The magazine doesn’t understand the future of fashion, and the editors in the article in question know it.
In response to Vogue’s article, long-time successful blogger Susie Bubble tweeted “The fashion establishment don’t want their circles enlarged, and for the ivory tower to remain forever that. Towering and impenetrable.” Bubble is right: Vogue’s ethos, that is traditional fashion reviews, is obsolete. Tyler McCall of fashionista.com says that while there will be a place for journalists to contextualize the collections, people don’t need a snobby Vogue writer to tell them what’s stylish anymore (Vogue still thinks pantyhose and open-toed shoes, something street style lovers have long worn, is a “jaw-dropping trend”…). He writes “customers who want to buy Tommy Hilfiger’s collaboration with Gigi Hadid aren’t waiting to hear Tim Blanks’s final word — they’re waiting to see how girls like Danielle Bernstein or Arielle Charnas style the clothes on their social media feeds.” Brands recognize the changing times, and have been tapping into these bloggers and street style mavens for years now because their influence translates into sales. The Vogue editors’ distress is disingenuous considering the magazine itself is jumping on board the blogger train: Chiara Ferragni has graced two Vogue covers (Vogue Spain in April 2015 and Vogue Turkey in August 2016).
Get over your jealousy ladies.Your whole article reeks of it. As much as you try to disguise it as real journalism, it proves nothing other than you’re afraid of the new order.
At stake is not the death of style- it’s the death of the fashion establishment and the advent of a fashion democracy. Maybe it’s time to join the revolution.
*If you’re wondering to whom “fashion’s elite” refers, just think of guest list for the gigantic love-in that is the Met Gala.