Whether we like it or not, fashion bloggers and influencers are here to stay—or, at the very least, here to usher in the impending changes of the fashion industry. And if they be only the winds of change here for their moment of glory, bloggers have made an awfully large wave.
Vogue published a roundtable discussion after Milan fashion week with some choice words slipped in regarding the industry’s newcomers. After lauding Marni’s “intelligent and elegant” collection for it’s refusal to exist for clicks, Vogue.com’s chief critic Sarah Mower said: “…the professional blogger bit, with the added aggression of the street photographer swarm who attend them, is horrible, but most of all, pathetic for these girls, when you watch how many times the desperate troll up and down outside shows, in traffic, risking accidents even, in hopes of being snapped.” (Vogue.)
Other Vogue editors, chiming in with the critique, went on to despair over the blogger and brand love affair in triumphant tones, wherein Vogue.com fashion news editor Alessandra Codinha said “Am I allowed to admit that I did a little fist pump when Sally broached the blogger paradox?”
Clearly the politics of power here are shifting because, as always, money talks. Meaning, of course, that the influencers brands choose to spend money on are in possession of a fair amount of power and have a loud enough voice to be chosen, whether they be fashion bloggers or fashion industry royalty.
“…if they be only the winds of change here for their moment of glory, bloggers have made an awfully large wave.”
And, regarding this labeling of the industry-wide panic due to sprinting technological change and globalization as the “blogger paradox” one has to ask: what is paradoxical about the power of the blogger?
Certainly the idea of advertising for a brand in exchange for money is nothing new. In fact, Vogue’s March 2016 issue had the highest number of advertisement pages with a staggering 405 pages, according to WWD. And, with a quick search online, one can see the cost of an advertisement that appears once on 1/6th of the page is $44,206. In comparison to Vogue’s primary competitor, Hearst’s Harper’s Bazaar, 1/3 page advertisement goes for $79,025 while the same ad space goes for $88,481 at Vogue. How can a publication under Condé Nast that charges staggering rates for their advertisements have the right to judge sponsored clothing?
Whether or not the bloggers are maliciously grasping at whatever money comes their way is difficult to judge or discover, but a recent study by Fashion Monitor and Econsultancy dove into the scope of bloggers and influencers’ effect on the fashion industry. Despite the popular and assumed idea that bloggers are attention-starved Internet stars without regard for the soul of the industry, about 56 percent of them consider a brand’s values and priorities (sustainability, charity, etc) before working with them. A similar percentage consider their personal development as high in priority, even over money, a consideration that came in around 12 percent.
Further debunking the myth that bloggers care about their follower count above all else, around 54 percent feel judged and valued by their follower count over their other qualities. Certainly many of these bloggers would rather their value be placed in their work and goals than what number digitally rises and falls on an Instagram account. Brands seem to be the ones running the show in terms of industry morals; after all, a blogger can only do so much to be valuable without the baseline follower count, which is chosen by a brand in most cases. Perhaps Vogue editors should be worried about the ruthlessness of the brands that hand out money by a chosen digital hierarchy rather than those who are influential enough to attract the money.
What then, is this “blogger paradox”? Is it the frustration of traditional fashion editors as they face the overwhelming popularity and presence of fashion bloggers? After investigation, there doesn’t appear to be a clear conclusion.
This so-called “paradox” could be a scapegoat for deeper concerns, concerns hidden behind an ambiguous vocabulary term to lessen their surface level importance. There is a real fear in jeopardizing the quality of work and the nature of the change that bloggers usher in. After all, the other half of those bloggers who don’t consider the values and issues surrounding the brands that sponsor them may be the very people who are trouncing around in borrowed style.
And, ultimately, how can one be a style icon without having style oneself? Do these blogger’s have any background or knowledge in the fashion industry, and do they know what they’re looking at? Certainly, the army of phones facing runways (in lieu of actual eyes) is alarming. These concerns that Vogue editors brazenly expresses aren’t unfounded.
The plight of newspaper journalists comes to mind, as they fight against increased online competition, with blogs and Snapchat and Instagram beating them out despite their professional training. Fashion journalists are no different; they’re threatened and unsure of the future.
One thing is for certain: the relationship between these groups of influencers ought to be cooperative if either group prioritizes the good of the fashion industry. They might be able to shape the tides of fashion’s future, should bloggers contribute their mass appeal and editors share their industry wisdom. Whether or not they’ll play nice is an entirely different story.