Sexy anarchists or scheming wannabes?

Non-existent a handful of years ago, the entirely new occupation of “Fashion Blogger” is now the dream job of young women from New York to Shanghai to Lagos and back.

For bright young Millennials, the model/actress gig seems so 20th century – let’s not even talk about the “trophy wife” role.  However, that hasn’t made them immune to the desire for adulation and swag. These days independent women are perceived as incredibly powerful and sexy, so girls prefer to get their luxury handbags in a more legitimate fashion (still avoiding, of course, paying for them).

Lately the title “fashion blogger” evokes more admiration and dread than the words “Anna Wintor”. Like our image of a Condé Nast or Chanel intern, we picture a 20-something, perfect mess of high heels, ripped jeans and ridiculous chic. But there is one crucial difference: interns are lowly employees, fetching coffee and dropping off dry-cleaning, but fashion bloggers are ballsy entrepreneurs with the fashion oligarchy begging for their attention.

Fashion anarchy

© Aleksandar Todorovic |

© Aleksandar Todorovic |

As most things, fashion blogging had humble beginnings. It was user-generated content as a backlash to expensive magazines touting expensive things on expensive models. Bloggers invented the democratic, “street style” photo shoots – documenting average people with incredible style. The Internet became a place for them to showcase their brilliance at decorating your body on a budget, generously sharing inspirations they found in daily life. They reminded us what the 80s and 90s made us forget: that income has no relevance to style. Accessible fashion.

Additionally, it used to take months for us to see the fashion show highlights and even then there was a clear editorial bias towards whoever gifted the magazines most.  Bloggers rebelled by hustling and posting immediately whatever they personally liked. It was fashion anarchy; the oligarchs were no longer in control. The bloggers made their own rules and owed nothing to anyone. No longer did one have to be born into an aristocratic family and possess model-like genes to participate in le monde de la mode.

A few fashion bloggers soon acquired celebrity and brands began with the swag. Initially blissfully ignorant to the changes around them, magazine editors eventually had to acknowledge the changes and began featuring the bloggers in their editorials. As soon as the wider public got a whiff, everything got perverted.

Behind the blogs

Since the fashion oligarchy saw gifting as a great way to get the bloggers under control, Millennials in turn perceived it as a way to obtain the goods (and clout) they dreamed of. Few had any work experience (many being teenagers), hence neglected to be transparent about why they were touting specific brands on their blogs. They were completely naive about ethics in journalism and advertising.

Other bloggers deceived us in the opposite direction – they purchased what they loved and inferred that they were gifted. From the outside, it looked like girls barely out of their teens were out-luxurying their parents.

Today is probably the vainest society in human history. Just posting one’s opinion and selfies virtually qualifies one as a “professional”. No one needs a diploma or job training, just an innate sense of self-promotion suffices. Unfortunately, it’s challenging for an audience to discern which blogger has altruistic motivations and which has succumbed to the fame and freebies.

Most blogging is just copy/paste work and very few actually create entirely new content. Few actually get gifted or make any money off their “career” for this reason. Brands are now fully hip to which bloggers actually influence large numbers of shoppers and which are simply scheming wannabes with a short attention span and little stamina.

 All in all, there is certainly an upside to starting a blog: one becomes more tech-savvy and gets a peek into the real business world, sometimes more beneficial than a part-time job at Zara. Aspiring to be a fashion blogger is definitely an intellectual step up from wanting to be a model or arm-candy, so society shouldn’t condemn fashion blogging, simply accept that there is a vast variety of qualities of blogging, just like everything else in life.

By Kristina Svensson, January 2014

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