Is fashion blogging dead?
Fashion blogging is ridiculous. In fact, it almost seems absurd. Think about it.
Some kid who lives at home with his parents pairs an H&M top with some ripped jeans from Zara. And thanks to the glory of photo filters and picture editing apps, he’s an Instagram sensation. He posts slight variations of the same outfit and pose almost daily. And he only seems to share snippets of his “real” life when he‘s hanging out with his other fashionable friends or when he’s working out in his cool home gym (i.e. a pull up bar and some dumbbells). He has the writing skills of a fifth grader. A visit to his official website reveals “articles” that feature 12-15 photos of his outfits with cute little grammatically incorrect paragraphs about the inspiration for his looks.
He’s probably never heard of Fern Mallis or Steven Kolb. He probably never saw Alexander McQueen’s astonishing exhibit at the Met. He doesn’t even know what herringbone is, for Christ’s sake. But somehow, there he is sitting front row at a high-profile fashion show or getting free swag from the most luxurious brands on the planet. Just like that, a person who knows nothing about fashion becomes the face of the industry. And therein lies the reason that fashion blogging is ridiculous.
"Fashion blogging is a constant effort to convince complete strangers that you’re an expert at getting dressed. That you should be praised for somehow putting on your pants differently than the rest of the world."
Don’t get me wrong. I love fashion. I love gushing about my favorite designers. I love investigating the business aspect. I love talking about fabrics, aesthetics, styles, and trends. But that’s not what fashion blogging is about, silly rabbit.
Fashion blogging is about Internet fame. And unlike real fame, which is mostly based on tangible skills, Internet fame is empty and fleeting. Fashion blogging is a constant effort to convince complete strangers that you’re an expert at getting dressed. That you should be praised for somehow putting on your pants differently than the rest of the world. That you should be followed. Despite the fact that you’re just like your followers and you might not actually possess any kind of actual fashion knowledge, you work hard to paint a picture that you’re more superior. The more effectively you do this, the more you can cash in your influence for Monopoly money (otherwise known as free merchandise). And if you’re really good at it, you might even make real money.
I started out with a personal style blog and a carefully curated Instagram profile. I spent a lot of money on clothes and photographs. I invested a lot of time creating stories that I thought were compelling. But alas, none of it drove traffic. Here I was-a classically trained journalist-fretting over Fashion Week invites and wrinkles in my shirts. I was taught to dissect politics and current events, but instead I was musing about #whatiworetoday. Blah. It was empty and boring. And I got really tired of brands asking me to wear their shit for free. If I can’t take your shirt to the register at Whole Foods to buy my free-range chicken breast, I don’t want it.
I know, I know. Receiving unwanted free shit definitely has the makings of a first-world problem. Let me explain. By creating a fashion blog and amassing more than a thousand followers on Instagram, I became an influencer. What’s an influencer, you ask? An influencer is someone who tries (and fails) to subliminally advertise products via social media by making it look authentic. Though we’ve been paid or received free product as compensation, we have to pretend that an advertiser’s product is part of our everyday lives. This weirdly disingenuous method of marketing is called native advertising. For influencers with huge followings (like 500,000 followers), native advertising pays the bills and nets them a lot of free stuff. If you’re like me and you have less than 10,000 Instagram followers, no one will pay you to shoot with their product. They’ll give it to you for free and you have to foot the bill for professional-quality photographs. Not exactly a profitable business model.
"If I can’t take your shirt to the register at Whole Foods to buy my free-range chicken breast, I don’t want it."
If you’re scratching your head because you have no idea what native advertising looks like, you’ve seen it. “Relaxing in my @americaneagle joggers while having a cup of @starbucks chai tea latte in the new @levis550 lounge. #ad” If you’ve ever seen a caption like this from one of your favorite Instagrammers, you’ve been duped. If you’ve followed me on social media and you’ve seen an Instagram post like the one below, you’ve been bamboozled by me at least once. I’ve never promoted a product that I haven’t received as a gift. Ever. I’ve liked a lot of them, but still, I didn’t buy them. And in some instances, I was paid to like them.
Receiving a lot of free shit was cool in the beginning. It turned my trips to the mailbox into some type of daily Christmas. But the more the boxes started to pile up, the less my blog became about fashion. I slowly started to become a slave to my advertisers and they weren’t even paying me. My social media accounts and website were becoming heavily branded, but I had nothing to show for it. It was then I realized I needed to use my “influence” for something more meaningful.
Influencing has become some type of aspirational career. It’s sad because it’s not really a job. I mean, sure, it pays money for those who are really good at it. But it’s not a job you study for. There’s no Instagram influencer degree. And fashion influencing definitely doesn’t have a pension plan. As an influencer, your main focus in life is to get people to press follow and double tap. How is that changing the world? How is that even enhancing your own life? Social media management is a skill, but taking selfies with products you’ve received for free is not. Fashion blogging and influencing are endorsement heavy industries that are chock full of product placement but low on authenticity.
Is fashion blogging dead?
This September, mega successful blogger Aimee Song is releasing a how-to book with the inside scoop on becoming a top fashion blogger. Newsflash: the days of Aimee Song and other multi-million-dollar fashion bloggers like Bryanboy and Chiara Feragni are OVER. Whenever there’s a blueprint, there’s a conclusion in sight. Fashion blogging is no longer a novelty. It’s no longer something that only a select few can achieve. And if there’s a map leading there, it’ll most certainly stop at a dead end. So yes, fashion blogging is currently dying a slow, bloody death. But on the bright side, maybe it can get 1-800-flowers to sponsor its funeral.