Fashion bloggers force journalists to up their game

Fashion both on and off the catwalk. Jonathan Short/AP

Josephine Collins, University of the Arts London

As London Fashion Week wows the front rows, the bloggers are in focus again. These style mavens are now a fixture of our fashion weeks. They have caught the imaginations of photographers – often bloggers themselves – and PRs. This new army of fashion writers is now an important conduit for ramping up a designer’s profile on the internet.

And an army it is. The British Fashion Council, which organises London Fashion Week, has a separate category for accrediting bloggers for the event. This season it has had to limit the number of these blogs in the face of an estimated 3,000 people attempting to sign up.

It’s easy to be snobby about fashion bloggers as untrained arbiters of style. But the fact is that these aficionados of fashion have become important, perhaps the central, 21st-century trendsetters.

Of course, there is a world of difference between enthusiastic teenagers publishing selfies with the caption, “I love this dress,” and the high-profile bloggers that are respected by the traditional fashion media. These write well, articulate extensive knowledge and behave ethically in terms of disclosing “gifting” and their financial relationships with brands when they have them.

The best fashion blogs are effectively part of the established fashion media, no more a threat to established magazines than the swathe of niche independent magazines launched every year. Indeed, respected fashion bloggers are now rolled out as experts to comment on fashion stories across the media. Stylebubble’s Susanna Lau is a case in point, and this fashion week she is also contributing her thoughts to London Fashion Week Daily.

These fashion enthusiasts have effectively democratised the catwalks. Once the privileged and exclusive arena for retail buyers and fashion journalists alone, instant availability of fashion images from the runway, not to mention live streaming of the events, means that traditional journalism has had to change.

The change elicited by this boom in blogging was eloquently described by veteran fashion editor Suzy Menkes in an article this time last year. She contrasted what she described as the “black crows” of traditional journalism with the “peacocks” – both style bloggers and look-at-me stylists – and described how the fuss around what those outside the shows were wearing was beginning to overtake any fuss about the shows themselves. It is not only fashion writing that has been transformed, but also how we consume it.

This is perhaps why it is no longer the role of a fashion journalist to describe what a designer has sent down the runway. Any member of the public with access to the internet can see that for themselves – and even buy the product online in advance of it hitting the shops. Today, fashion journalists have to take a longer view. They have to contextualise in history and culture and advise how, why and when to wear different trends, looks or individual garments.

As style blogging has democratised fashion journalism it has influenced the content of fashion pages in our newspapers and magazines. Most importantly, it has also moulded online editorial fashion content, whether written or moving image.

And in response to many tens of thousands of teenage selfies showing their latest fashion purchase, and hundreds of fashion bloggers doing the same, fashion editors now parade themselves in the latest looks. No longer able to be aloof from their readers, fashion journalists have to flaunt themselves, taking on the role of model as well as information provider. But will this mean that eventually fashion journalists will need to look like models to get the job?

Anyone can be a commentator now – which means that as well as quality of writing, the show of personality is increasingly relevant. And back at London Fashion Week, the scrum of photographers looking for the most strikingly dressed visitors continues to annoy and delight in equal measure.

The Conversation

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