Since the start of the 21st century, a new phenomenon has emerged in the fashion world. Fashion Bloggers take their form in street style photography, documenting their daily “looks” and interest online, primarily through social media, for the entire world to see. Many are quickly becoming the most influential members of the industry. Amateur photographers with intriguing styles have kicked the doors of the once exclusive fashion world open and draw in millions of readers and viewers, democratizing the industry, showing that even the average can claim a stake in the paramount. Fashion bloggers have become the new faces of this generation, with many of their blogs and social media feeds garnering more followers than celebrities do. Representation is the act of speaking for or acting on behalf of others and one of the greatest sources of representation in the fashion world are bloggers, as they have an extraordinary impact on the business wherein both designers and consumers now look to them for representation of the masses.
In “Conspicuous and Authentic”, Marwick defines fashion blogging as “an international subculture comprised primarily of young women who post pictures of themselves, swap fashion tips, sell vintage clothes and review couture collections… [participating] in the global flow of consumption while simultaneously producing fashion media which is read worldwide” (1). Bloggers, in a sense represent more than just themselves, they represent their readers and the brands they wear. They have value as they are part of “the scene”. In “Modeling Consumption”, Wissinger states that models “work to present themselves in the know, as part of a community, an important player in the field” (284), bloggers do the same thing and are valued for these attributes by their fans. Bloggers have become the signifiers of fashion, by taking both designer and non-designer products and showing the world how to make these styles their own. They also offer instant reviews of new lines and trends, this is important for both designers and consumers as in the past, people would wait days for reviews to appear in editorials. “Fashion is a form of imitation and so of social equalization”(541) says Simmel in “Fashion”, it is a paradox that both separates and equalizes, and bloggers fall in between this paradox by being producers of fashion, while still representing themselves as the “everyday girl/guy”.
The thousands to millions of followers fashion bloggers have, give them cultural capital. They can cash in this capital in order to gain larger fan bases and cement themselves as important contributors to the fashion world. As Marwick states “blogging exemplifies a type of ‘conspicuous consumption’ which is less about signaling free time and more about signifying style” (1). Social Media has helped catapult many bloggers to fashion super stardom. Manrepeller.com receives almost 4M views a month, with +577K followers on Instagram. Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad has over 2.2M followers on her Instagram, SongofStyle has +1.4M IG followers, Kristina Bazan has almost 643K Instagram followers, WeWoreWhat blogger Danielle is coming up on half a million Instagram followers and male blogger, Bryan Boy has +511K Twitter followers. Like models, bloggers work as intermediaries and their “work is inextricably linked to the development of modern consumer culture” (Wissinger 277). They are intermediaries between the “exclusive” and “average” and social media links them to all representing their influential power.
With such mass appeal, it is no surprise designers and editors look to bloggers for both inspiration and product promotion. Many fashion brands give bloggers first peaks at their new lines so that they can blog about it, in turn generating popularity and free advertising. Blogger Chiara Ferragni has become the face of dozens of brands including Louis Vuitton, Tods, Redken and Yves Saint Laurent. She has also collaborated on collections with Steve Madden and Italia Independent. Danielle Bernstein has just produced her first line with Addison Clothing. Many of these pieces cost upwards of $100 and consumers flock to buy them, in an attempt to dress like their favorite style icons. Perhaps young girls grow up to read Vogue and Marie Claire but the world has changed to include the females of today first starting with perusing blogs and searching Instagram for inspiration.
The fascination with bloggers stems from the fact that they are relatable as they were once “normal” girls like the ones that they now appeal to, proving that anyone can be someone where most bloggers have no specific training in the field. This is how bloggers have democratized the fashion industry, breaking down the exclusive line that once existed. The industry has no choice but to acknowledge many bloggers as being important players in the fashion world. A few years ago, it was a surprise when bloggers were seated at the back row of fashion shows and now many have now gained access to the front, showing a democratization of the once most coveted seats in the industry, sitting next to celebrities and top magazine editors.
As Veblan notes in “The Leisure Class”, “to gain and to hold the esteem of men it is not sufficient merely to possess wealth or power. The wealth or power must be put in evidence, for esteem is awarded only on evidence”. Just the seating alone represents their importance, proving just how much they have transformed the industry. The more popular bloggers now also sell their images to many publications, whereas in the past these pages were only reserved for celebrities. Digital media has allowed anyone to infiltrate and contribute to cultural industries, often surpassing the press, as reading blogs is free and constantly updated while fashion magazines cost a few dollars and come out monthly. In this fast moving world, monthly just doesn’t cut it. Bloggers have formed an identity as fashion journalist who gives consumers the feeling that they too can be “that” girl. Anyone can now represent the face of fashion. The contribution of bloggers gives consumers of the fashion industry the ability to interact with the overall processes of creating style in a way unlike we have seen before.
Fashion bloggers also hold value in their opinions, because when they speak, designers listen as they know they represent the masses. They often invite bloggers to meetings to receive their input as they know they can influence attitudes and behaviors of consumers. As Veblan states “taste classifies the classifier” (6), consumers follow specific bloggers based on if their taste is similar and bloggers use their taste to distinguish themselves from everyone else. Followers rely on bloggers to provide “looks” they can use in order to represent their style or what they wish their style and taste would be. “I want them to be someone I could see on the street and be able to relate to… and not like a model in a magazine” (11) Marwick quotes one person as stating when asked what makes blogs different from magazines. Blogs have become a source of communication consumption which represents power and prestige.
If bloggers have democratized the fashion industry and changed the way we think of the culture, are they problematic? While they do seem to promote the ideals of conspicuous consumption, many critics are more concerned and skeptical of some bloggers credentials, accusing them of lending their image and promoting certain brands because they are being paid to do so. This muddies the entire ideals of blogging as being creative expression of personal style. Many also accuse them of following trends as opposed to creating them. But does this matter? Is blogging a fad? Are they just “cultural mediators”? The answer for now is no. There appeal is too big and there audience grows by the day and has seen no signs of slowing down. The idea of being similar to these bloggers is more powerful than concerns of peacocking and commodification.
The fashion industry has changed with technologies which have opened new doors for virtual nobodies to take center stage. Bloggers have changed the way in which we consume fashion and have become as important as major editorials as proven by their fan bases. They are the trend setters of our generations and they show consumers that you do not have to be rich and famous to have great style. Most importantly, fashion bloggers provide a sense of community. “As desire for community is directed towards pre-determined ends, consumers produce themselves as attentive audiences, delivering themselves for free as marketable units of attention to be bought and sold in the commercial market place” (Wissinger 293). Bloggers allow their followers to feel as though they have a voice, giving the masses the feeling that they too can claim a slice of the fashion world. There is no arguing with the impact they have and their followings by both designers and consumers prove that at least for now, they are here to stay.