The latest attack by a major fashion magazine against the army of bloggers (influencers?) who crowd the streets and front rows of every fashion week on the globe (and there are way too many now) might seem another episode in the never ending quarrel between art & commerce, but looking closer it’s really a power struggle inside commerce itself, and a very hypocritical one at that.
Magazines like Vogue US are little more than catalogues where practically every available space is up for sale, and Vogue itself, the self-appointed ‘style bible’, started the very lucrative (yet much disparaged) trend of celebrity culture in high fashion publications. They might bitch about bloggers getting free outfits to go to the shows, or getting paid for the privilege of sitting front row, yet it’s part of an editor’s job to go to the shows and they usually need to favor brands that advertise in their magazines. Anna Wintour mostly sees the big advertisers, many of whom might even pull their pages from the magazine in case she doesn’t show up. Advertisers tend to pamper the highest-ranking editors, as fashion is an industry that runs on friendships and pleasantries, but their money is obviously needed to run the whole machine, as actual sales of the printed copies make only a part of a magazine’s revenue. Yet many of those editors criticizing bloggers stay in amazing hotels, have drivers and all expenses paid (by the magazine, therefore partly by advertisers). And do we need to bring up the gifts? The bags waiting for big time editors at their posh hotels? The free trips? The discounts? The fashion industry is based on commerce, nepotism and elitism, it really isn’t a mystery to anybody within miles of it.
Can you blame the bloggers for trying to hustle a living out of this multimillion game? Let’s not forget that they exist because magazines print their pictures and the same magazines who deplore the rise of bloggers use their photos to get easy clicks and likes on their online platforms (how many careers were launched by Tommy Ton on style.com?).
Another reason for the ubiquity of bloggers is that designers and labels find them more useful to showcase their product, they are more approachable, cheaper, and a lot faster than most magazines.
It’s easy to point fingers at ‘the bloggers’ as a mass of vapid, incompetent fashion wanna-bes but some of them have proved to be very prepared, professional and hard working; fashion itself, after all, is full of vapid, incompetent people. Some are there because of their last name, or their looks, some just because they are rich and/or friend of powerful people.
One of the reasons, I suspect, why Fashion likes to be such a closed clique, is because fashion people are afraid outsiders might find out how actually easy it is to work in Fashion with little to no talent…Isabella Blow famously said that all you need to know to be a stylist you can learn in 3 days. I’s not entirely true, and it’s certainly no basis to be a great or even half-good stylist, but you’d be surprised how many people with no fashion education and a bit of experience can successfully fake it in this business.
The real problem here is the shortage of ideas and utter commercialization of fashion in general, the eternal rush to make a quick buck and a general lack of depth both in the clothes and in their representation, whether it’s on or off-line. It’s something that affects fashion houses as well as blogs and magazines, even magazines with history and reputation. It’s a set of problems that runs much deeper than a squabble over unprofessional bloggers versus commercial magazines, which in the end looks like a greedy lament by privileged girls who are used to eat all of the pie and aren’t ready to share it.