You know the type: pretty pictures, pretty blogger, pretty clothes, pretty much everything denoted as “gifted by” or “c/o”. On the other end of the spectrum, we have: bloggers basking in the limelight that is fashion week, happily detailing who they are wearing, and posing for scores of photographers like pros. A Hollywood red carpet of sorts.
But what The New York Times discovered is that these supposedly spontaneous snapshots of great personal style are more often than not, highly orchestrated and planned out by the PR or marketing teams of brands outfitting said bloggers. A non-photoshoot photoshoot; a non-editorial editorial; a non-ad campaign campaign. Since a majority of the population doesn’t recognize bloggers as models or spokespersons, brands have come to realize that there is an unexploited avenue of opportunity here. With fan bases in the thousands (essentially the brand’s target market/demographic), one outfit can mean thousands of dollars in sale. It’s a gold mine of valuable real time results and it is only costing a fraction of an actual full-blown advertising campaign.
This relationship is mutually beneficial, of course – free clothes, appearance fees, all-expenses paid trips, or the highly coveted front row seats. However, questions are rising about the authenticity of the blogger and their voice and whether wearing gifted or borrowed items is crossing a line. Is it still considered personal style, especially when a team is behind the scenes curating this image (an image that is expected to be re-blogged hundreds of times)? Or is it simply an evolution in the fashion landscape? After all, at the end of the day, fashion is a business – and it moves fast.
While some well-known bloggers have received some flack for losing their credibility by choosing to go commercial, international editors are loved and highly admired for their taste in wearing head-to-toe designer looks. (I can count the number of oversized, neoprene, ironic 80’s printed Balenciaga sweaters and coordinating Marni twinsets making their rounds in NYC, London, Milan, and Paris.) The Sartorialist’s Scott Schuman noted that the exclusive, pricey bags some editors are proudly displaying often contain nothing (read here). Literally just for show. Natalie Joos, renowned stylist and mind behind the blog Tales of Endearment, admitted that her New York fashion week outfit was borrowed from a designer friend. It’s all about additional exposure. And why shouldn’t brands take advantage? The Miroslava Dumas, Taylor Tomassi-Hills, Elin Klings, and Anna dello Rossos are commanding a following rivaling those of other celebrities. Not only are they street-style mainstays with fashion week paparazzi documenting every Nicholas Kirkwood step and Givenchy arm swing, they are also capitalizing on this newfound fame by creating their own namesake capsule collections that stir up buying frenzies.
So, is it a double standard when the same opportunities land on a blogger’s doorstep? It sure seems to be that way. Although the essence of true personal style can be debated on – something even The Man Repeller discussed – there is a reason why certain bloggers and editors have the status they do. They move product. They are walking billboards (a few more blatantly obvious than others). Whether or not we choose to buy into whatever it is they are wearing – read: selling – is our decision. Nevertheless, brands will continue to use blogs as another marketing outlet and bloggers will continue to go along with it.