Bloggers and Street-Style-ers: An Authenticity Test
by Kim E. Powell
This could not be a more perfect season to talk about blogging. There has been a fairly recent uproar throughout the bloggers fashion community and beyond as T, The New York Times' Fashion Magazine released an article slamming fashion bloggers and frequently featured street-style fashioneers (people who “engineer” and construct or re-work various aspects of fashion. i.e.: designers, bloggers, editors, etc.), such as Bryan Grey Yamboa (a Filipino blogger that goes by the name Bryanboy), and UK blogger we love, Susie Lau.
Author of the article “The Circus of Fashion,” Suzy Menkes, a British journalist and fashion critic, dished out claims that Fashion Week has become all about attention-seeking bloggers and over the top notice-me fashion statements. She included a photo of Bryanboy sporting an unusually large full fur headgear made by designer, Maison Martin Margiela and Anna Dello Russo in a full fur Alexander McQueen dress and McQueen statement sunglasses that completely obscure her vision. While claims can be made that these types of outfits certainly call for attention, Menkes implies that this can be attributed to a lack of professional training amongst these bloggers; making them somehow unwarranted of the amount of readership or relationships they have built with designers.
Susie Lau did not hold her tongue in responding as Menkes called her “a blogger who dress[es] for attention.”
Lau had this to say:
“You might ask, why does it matter if I've not earnt any respect from the industry? Aren’t you an independent fashion blogger who flouts the rules? As we all know, that isn’t how it works. I don’t work within my own parameters or to put a pun on it, in my own bubble. I have to work with the industry to get the content that I’m after and I’m happier for it. We can talk about the “good and pure” days of fashion blogging but I remember it as a time when I’d email PRs or designers and get ignored or when I would have to sneakily take some crappy pictures in a shop because it was forbidden to do so. A well-known PR recently said to me, “Oh we don’t even think of you as a blogger. You’re an online editor in chief.” Medine hit it in one when she titled her post “Blog is a dirty word.” When blogging is supposedly a full-time legitimate profession as my peers like Medine, Bryan Boy and Rumi Neely have proved, for me, it has never felt enough to say that it’s all that I do” (“The Sad Clown”, Style Bubble).
Bill Cunningham, recognized fashion photographer and New York Times pioneer since 1978, is credited as the founder of street-style photography. Cunningham’s approach is quite distinctive and recognizable to many notable industry fashioneers. Cunningham was a photographer for the New York Times exclusively, producing images for leisure only outside of The Times. Although he took his own images, he does really face the dilemma of legitimacy as his photos were attached to an established and credible publication. Street-style bloggers of today like TommyTon or Phil Oh, take on a path much like Cunningham where they submit photos to sites like, Style.com, Grazia.it, or Vogue. TommyTon is employed by Style.com and Oh landed a position at Vogue. They occupy a space that is quite different than bloggers like Susie Lau or even Tamu McPherson (also featured in Menkes’ article), who runs her own site, All The Pretty Birds and blogs as well as shoots street-style. While she photographs for Elle on occasion, content is mostly produced for her site so it’s questionable as to whether or not her legitimacy comes from her site or her collaborative works.
One might say it’s even I think the battle of authenticity begins when you attach the word “blogger.” Lines of distinction have been drawn across fields and while street-style seems to be more accommodated and legitimized, blogging still occupies a seat of ambiguity.
Along with Lau, Leandra Medine, author of the fashion hub The Man Repeller, responded to Menkes’ article as well:
“…reducing an entire generation of sprouting professionals (the bloggers) to the perpetual black…sheep of fashion just doesn’t seem very open minded” (“Blog Is A Dirty Word”, The Man Repeller).
Menkes really seems to feel strongly against the wave that blogging has created in the fashion world. It is disappointing to see members of the older generation of fashion like Menkes developing such a one-dimensional idea of what street-style and blogging is. Street-style blogging is a way to create fashion content that you want to see, or recreate content already published while incorporating your own perspective. It serves as a platform for many who have decided to create their path into a career in fashion instead of waiting for one. It is an independent entrepreneurial business venture that not only takes guts, but self-discipline, patience, and a strong creative drive.
Street-style and blogging are developing into a world within a world- a world within the world of fashion. With all these divisions, there is bound to be disputes. But without disputes, maybe street-style and blogging would not exist. Street-style and blogging are forms of advocacy within the industry. I imagine it being inspired by people looking to create content because they may be displeased with the content being produced by Vogue, or Bazaar, or Marie Claire. Either way, street-style and independent blogging has opened the door for many to feel apart of this “world of fashion,” but in controversial instances like these, we’re reminded that as inclusive as the blogosphere may be, the industry itself is still quite…well, not.
kim e. powell