10 February 2012

How Things Changed


We live in a world of consumer participation.  A news report will have the opinion of an expert, followed by the opinion of ten people stopped in the street, as if the perspective of the latter is more relevant than the former.  A news article is published and there are reader comments left below, voted up or down by other readers, the topic taking on a life of its own often far removed from the facts.  But what of topics where there are no real facts to be debated, but simply ideas and opinions to be discussed?  What of art, fashion, design, culture - not from the perspective of the historian or critic, but from that of the interested observer?  We are connected at all times, the Internet is all pervading, everyone has a voice.  It is both liberating and constricting.  Sometimes I wish I could leave everything behind and just find somewhere quiet to meditate on fashion.

When I started blogging some four years ago the blogosphere was an entirely different place.  Although fashion blogging was slowly gaining part of the recognition and place within the industry it now enjoys, it was still in the early stages.  This was before every shop had its own blog, before news sites pushed their reporter blogs, before every fashion label and store had a Twitter and Facebook to connect with their customers and fans.  People were more anonymous, less willing to reveal their faces, their names, their personal lives.  But these same people were more willing to voice an opinion, to say how much they loved a collection, how much they hated a collection, free to voice themselves as they wished.  Blogs came and blogs went, but they passed mostly unnoticed by the fashion industry.

And then things began to change.  Suddenly fashion blogging was the new hot thing within the industry.  It was a breath of fresh air, sweeping in so that the cold and scary world of fashion was blown open to outsiders.  Blogs became an accessible avenue into talking about and appreciating fashion.  These were not magazine writers, news writers, experienced fashion critics, but normal people, people like you and me.  These blogs talked about fashion, but they were less daunting, more casual, more personal, more approachable.  There were good blogs, there were bad blogs, and yet whilst many fell by the wayside, both seemed to flourish.  And suddenly there were bloggers in magazines, bloggers at fashion shows, bloggers in the news, and now it seems that having a blog is a necessity for anyone working in or interested in fashion.  Everyone has a voice, however some are louder than others, and because what they say gets noticed, there are always those wishing to influence what is said.

Whereas once PR companies turned their noses at the amateurs, now it seems you cannot open your inbox without dozens of emails poring out - "Could you write about our client?", "We think you would love our zebra print thongs!", "Let me introduce this new range of fluoro-latex pocketsquares".  The fashion industry has quickly come to realize that blogs have access to a massive potential consumer base.  Their readers are almost guaranteed to be interested in fashion, and thus potential customers in the making.  Nowadays there is advertising on blogs, sponsored content, freebies for review, sponsored giveaways, blogs being asked to join publisher networks, etc.  There was money to be made and although fashion may often present itself as a realm of untainted creativity, of masterpieces designed by genius artists, it is very much a commercial venture, and here is an avenue to make more money.  Blogs are often seen as a space for free advertising, advertised by someone the potential consumer can connect with, and thus more likely to foster interest.

I exaggerate the point only to provoke consideration of the issue, because I do wonder about the extent to which advertising and the participation of the fashion industry influences the blogosphere.  I am not  against advertising and sponsored content (although I do not participate in either), provided there is a certain amount of transparency.  Indeed I think bloggers should be allowed to earn a revenue, but I wonder how slippery the slope is where it comes to fashion companies dictating what is to be covered and what is to be said.  A magazine can not criticise a company that pays for advertising in that magazine, and I wonder if the same fate lies in wait for the blogger.  The cynic in me sees so many blogs slowly becoming conduits for advertising and serving to create a buzz around whatever brand or product.  Sometimes I wonder whether blogs risk becoming exactly what they were created to provide an alternative to.


xxxx

8 comments:

  1. There are enormous number of blogs in this world.Thank god,I found yours.My soothing time. I like you often update too.Thank you:)

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  2. Mari: Well thank you very much for taking the time to read mine :)

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  3. Well said, Syed.
    Dare I say I question the transparency of Jak & Jill at times.

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  4. You know, while I was sitting at the IFB Conference this week, I had the same thoughts in my head. I feel like I'm at this point where I have to really make a hard decision whether or not to engage in advertising or sponsorships. Up until this point, I've refused simply because the items they were offering me were ridiculous or ugly (while I didn't have fluoro-latex pocket squares, I got jean straps - they're real - and hair products - strange because I spend minimal time on my hair). Now, I feel like I could really be a voice for my community and wonder where I have to draw the line between maintaining my artistic integrity and being an ambassador for not only my city but my brand.

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  5. I use your articles for my photography projects. It was the inspiration for my "I love fashion" series on my blog. Your voice is one of the realist on the blogosphere.

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  6. There are a lot of bloggers out there who call themselves fashionistas, or experts in fashion, and to me they seem fake with no foundation, and just blab about nonsense. I enjoy your blog because I actually learn things about new trends, and you give your opinion about them.

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  7. It’s so amazing to gather information on the blog. I really loved reading these post. It has strengthen my faith more. You all do such a great job at such concepts. ..can’t tell you how much I, for one appreciate all you do.

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  8. Oh this has been something that has been playing on my mind for a while too. I think it's great that people can turn their blogs into businesses and some of my favourite bloggers have been able to do this and also remained true to themselves- something I truly admire. However, there are definitely other blogs out there that have unfortunately turned into PR machines and they are an entirely different kind of blog to when they first started which is sad to see.

    While I love being invited to events and getting sent things to blog about, at the end of the day, I blog for myself and that's the most important thing to me.

    I do wonder though as these things are on my mind more often these days and the UK is slowly catching up to the US when it comes to Bloggers/Sponsorship/Business. The blogosphere has definitely evolved into a very different place to when we first started blogging years ago. I have to say Syed, yours is so consistent and remains one of my favourites. Always so much food for thought!

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