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Who are we really listening to within the fashion industry?

Social media devotees (read; bloggers) once again hijacked the fashion industry at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia, where professional bloggers ruled with their digital weaponry and further blurred the line of traditional journalism and fashion editing.

It’s not a newsflash, it’s been happening for a while. Perhaps it’s been happening so slowly and progressively – like a braid unravelling unaided – that it has become difficult to discern the exact turning point. There has been a power shift not just within the Australian fashion scene but the global one, where now the most influential spectators in the fashion industry are self-made bloggers. How did it come to be that instead of listening to those who have earned their stripes in the fashion industry through years of experience and traditional training methods are no longer the ones calling the shots?

Firstly, it’s important to understand the history of the blogger species and its exponential increase in influence within the fashion industry. In an age largely dominated by hashtags and heavily reliant on instantaneous information, engaging a fashion brand with a social media audience is an intelligent marketing manoeuvre particularly for emerging fashion labels aiming to break into the international fashion market. Potential buyers and consumers are more inclined to listen to informed fashion folk that are of a relatable nature, rather than the opinions of high fashion magazines whose opinions have traditionally carried an air of grace.  At the end of the day, bloggers are just like you or I. Empathy factor aside, there has to exist more reasons that the voice of bloggers are listened to over traditional fashion personnel. To quote Cher Horowitz, I don’t want to be traitor to my generation but I have to wonder, is the influence of bloggers increasing simply because of their commitment to maintaining their impeccable aesthetics or because on the merit of their work? Those who have garnered years of experience in the fashionsphere through hard work and traditional methods of training have unbeatable credentials and are being outsourced by innovative Gen Y-ers who are bypassing the global job shortage and are using their SLR’s in conjunction with wordpress to create a job. It is understandable that those who have subsisted in the industry for a long time to condemn the shrewd and unapologetic fashion week blogger behaviour, as something so historically exclusive such as fashion week should remain open only to those who have truly earned it.

Recently highlighted in Suzy Menkes piece The Circus Of Fashion, there’s no denying that Fashion Week is becoming increasingly circus-like where aspiring bloggers amalgamate to partake in social peacocking and where carefully choreographed “candid” moments are aplenty. On one hand it arguably makes a mockery of what fashion week stands for, the traditionally exclusive runways that have been excruciatingly organised are overshadowed by DIY paparazzi and streetstyle. While the blatant self-promotion is little disheartening to witness it’s hard to wholly condemn this change because I am part of this change. It is a generational shift precipitated by traditional jobs in fashion and journalism being few and far between.

It’s also not fair to write off fashion bloggers in general as attention hungry wannabes because there are a handful of bloggers who rightfully deserve the hype they get. When I think of Susie Bubble, Tommy Ton or Leandra Medine, I think of extremely talented fashion commentators who continuously produce astounding work. It’s just now that every (wo)man and their dog has a fashion blog it’s hard to wade through the masses to find a voice of originality and innate talent.

My own experience at MBFWA 2013 started experimentally by applying through my own brainchild blog (being amateur and embryotic as it is) This Prey. Fundamentally, I wanted to see just how difficult it was to ascertain media accreditation passes. Surprised as I was to receive a confirmation email enabling me to make the fashion pilgrimage to Sydney I was instantly sceptic – was it merely testament to how easy they were to acquire from a blogger perspective? I don’t consider myself the voice of my generation for insightful fashion commentary and styling but I have a voice of a generation and are inherently passionate about the fashionsphere and everything involved with it. It’s not something I plan to monetise or receive accolades for because I admire those far more talented than I who know the fashion industry by working in it for years. My recent employment at a (fantastic, mind you) PR firm has really highlighted just how much I don’t know about the media and fashion industries, but more than anything this excites me because it means there’s a whole lot more out there to learn. The ostensible problem lies here; many bloggers don’t share the same view as I and don’t think they have anything to learn from the forbearers of fashion commentary. That kind of self-entitlement is where the fashion blogger movement is getting a bad name for itself.

I suppose in the end like anything, Darwinism will prevail and those innately talented will continue to flourish and those in it for 5 minutes of fame and their picture in the social pages will eventually flounder. The voice of experienced fashion media will never be obsolete because they are part of the innately talented; it’s just a matter of adapting to this change.