Tony Wang, a reader who writes Post.Fashionism, wrote in asking a really amazing question. I wanted to take the time to answer it on the blog. He wants to work with fashion societies in colleges and build a community. Thanks for asking.
I wanted to find out if you ever think bloggers can brand designers, or if that power will always be in the domain of larger media corporations. Do you think a blogger can sell clothing too without losing his/her integrity and self-voice?
Bloggers have come a long way. At the moment, a blog's prime ability is to identify budding talent and to grow a brand. It's also a great way to test the effectiveness of a campaign. This should be the place that new and young designers grow. Everyone wants to be in the pages of Vogue, but it's not always a great fit. There are a slew of blogs and webzines out there. Young firms can do outreach and grow. I've advised a number of PR consulting clients to do just that. Reach out - develop relationships and connect.
We created the photos for Lyle Thomas to do just that. To highlight the clothes and to make it fun and frivolous, we got some great pick up. Mango launched a campaign using Scarlett Johannson, Armani lent clothing to the Lindsay Lohan photoshot for Muse. I'm saying, new and young designers, with some planning and smarts, can have the resources of a big house on a budget. They're no longer tied to a massive postal budget and the printing costs of a LookBook; why they don't have better photography and create cooler concepts is beyond me. If you're a new designer, your job is to be creative and to work. Fashion is work. That's often lost on people.
On some blogs, we've had a raging debate about swag and people asking for samples. Yes, there are editor gifts. As we've seen in Devil Wears Prada. I've been lucky to get some swag, but it mostly comes in the form of lipstick and mascara. One PR firm sent me 2(x)ist undies and that made me very excited; another is sending a t-shirt. I've never received anything outrageous, or for a matter of fact luxurious.
The fur coat Derek Lam lent and eventually gifted Carine Roitfeld (French Vogue's Editor), some bloggers aspire to that kind of freebie. But that was very specific, because the editor in her own right is a celebrity and creates demand. Bloggers are giving blogs a bad name by assuming they deserve this kind of gift - they don't. The blogger is in the swag game and not in the fashion game. Although gifts for hard work are appreciated, they are not the norm and shouldn't be expected. Open bars at a fashion event are a different matter.
A magazine ultimately creates demand. It's just like a good date - you have to wait for it. With blogs, they're readily available, and sometimes promiscuous. At times we take them for granted. We need to wait for a fashion glossy, we hold it - we analyze it, thought goes into it. Also they have a completely different platform for organizing information, they identify and sift through the clutter at a macro level. Ultimately, they produce the work. They create photo shoots, and they deliver editorial. Blogs are flakey (sometimes).
There's sadly only so much real estate at a show. This is largely to do with budget constrains and because designers still don't know what to do with the online press corps. Most bloggers can't do all the shows, New York, Paris, Milan, only because it's impossible unless personally funded with family wealth. Blogs also routinely pick up an established journalists work. So why let both in?
I was particularly interested in your discussion about bloggers and the need to herald in the next generation of fashion talent.
Anna Wintour's power comes from her ability to organize and sift through the many brands, delving far beyond the clothes themselves and into the business of fashion. We've all watched the September Issue. She can recommend a designer to Gap and they can collaborate and make it work. This takes a massive amount of resources that blogs just don't have. She has at least two assistants to help her, as well as a large and capable staff. I don't know of a blogger that has that ability. When she helps a young designer up the ranks, they inevitably advertise in Vogue. When she does a favor the fashion firm advertises in Vogue. She in effect helps create a small economy. The numbers have never been made public, I wouldn't be surprised if the economy swirling this powerful publication rival a third world country.
Yet magazines have abdicated much of their responsibility. When the internet was first birthed, we created a culture of free, largely because people undervalued its transformative power, or mislaid resources (Pets.com). First the software industry reacted because they were the first to see the pinch, panic and re-slapevaluate. Then the music industry teetered, finally saved by Steve Jobs and the iPod. They also went a bit crazy with slaphappy lawsuits. For good or bad, music deals are not as one sided as what writers and content providers have to face.
Now it's publishing's turn. For everything Vogue does, they've created the most horrible website. I visit it because it often has something great. But I despise it. There are so many cool new blogs popping up. Publications like New York Magazine, who took the web seriously, have succeeded. Or broke even at best.
I was curious to hear about suggestions for how to create a conducive environment for new designers, especially for those who do not attend design school. Do you think bloggers could be key to identifying new talent?
The way you identify new talent is by spreading the message and repeating the concept. That takes cold hard cash. One of the quotes that stuck with me was, "we moved from dollars to cents" refereeing to the pay-per-click and impression model. It takes dollars to support work. It takes the ability to band together for a common goal. To share resources. The advertising networks that are the secret pariah of the online world need to share more of their gain. If someone pays 60 cents a click and the network only pays out 5 cents to the blogger for the content. Well, you do the math. I know some bloggers that have 25,000 unique visitors each day and make $500 every six months. That's wrong.
The magic of Fashion Week is the community it creates, the ability to meet people in real life, form relationships and do business. The more creations created, the more business can be done, it quickens the process. It heightens the chance to make it.
It takes community. So build one, encourage these societies to build connectivity. The virtual and the real kind, share resources and hard work - fashion is fun, amazing. People need to have the environment to be able to experiment, make mistakes, grow again and ultimately succeed. That is what is often lost in translation. The secret juice of success.