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London Fashion Week AW 2010 – New Digital Era Spells Trouble for Fashion Bloggers
Sarah Brown talks to The Daily Telegraph's Hilary Alexander in a packed press room. Photograph (c) The Global Herald

London Fashion Week AW 2010 – New Digital Era Spells Trouble for Fashion Bloggers

The world of fashion writing is changing.

Like all forms of media of late, fashion, in particular, has seen a huge surge in the numbers of both skilled and unskilled practitioners making and developing their own niche or mainstream fashion blogs.

At the opening day of London Fashion Week yesterday, I witnessed at first hand the remarkable task that this seemingly unstoppable rise in the numbers of entry-level fashion journalists has posed those involved in fashion PR, namely: who is who among the bloggers; and how to stop those who aren’t from invading our press rooms, and eating all the food.

After Sarah Brown spoke following the opening catwalk of LFW AW 2010, there was a battle to the press room not seen since my last visit to a rugby international where understandably bulky former-players-turned-mouthpiece’s-of-the-sport jostled light-heartedly for free drinks after the event.

So, it was with not a little bemusement that I watched as the Prime Minister’s wife was squeezed for room by awkwardly dressed pseudo-fashionable young things who were pushing themselves towards the free press patisserie with aplomb. The coffee machine had run out of water. Something had to be done.

A hastily assembled and never before seen at London Fashion Week rope across the entry to the press room, installed at some point during the morning, managed to restore something approaching order to the situation in a way which highlighted most tacitly a feeling that was becoming increasingly apparent as we went from show to show: bloggers will be tolerated, but there is a food chain at work here, and those with dot blogspot or dot wordpress in their domain name should know that they are at the bottom of it.

This newly installed fourth tier to the heirarchy has added an air of anarchy to the already “runs because it has to” feeling of Fashion Week in general: the job of the PR has just become that little bit more complicated. Because the handling of such matters is usually left in the hands of unpaid interns, one can see how the queues for the shows can only get longer as more and more bloggers enter the fray.

But the problem is not that these fashion bloggers feel they have a right to be at these shows, the problem is that the fashion establishment does not know what metrics to use to differentiate these bloggers – in order to sort the wannabes from the already-ares and the never-will-bes. This could be quite easily fixed with a sensible appraisal in the first instance, before accreditation is handed out: simply ask for verifiable proof of circulation figures, or, horror of horrors, actually go and look at the blog or website in question and discern whether or not it is, in fact, a quality publication. Then greet all approved with open arms.

Either that, or create a different ticket for bloggers, and create a “bloggers room” which is full of computer terminals and tap water.

Unless something dramatic changes, this season’s London Fashion Week represents the tip of the iceberg: with respected fashion publications such as The Daily Telegraph running almost constant items about the fashion bloggers’ rise to prominence in a somewhat ironic piece of touching base – ironic because the scorn which pours from the press areas toward the blogosphere dribbles most obviously from those working for large print organisations – the number of people writing such blogs is sure only to rise.

In my capacity as editor of The Global Herald and other related digital products, I have seen at first hand that the majority of people coming through journalism BA and MA courses whom I have spoken to would list “fashion” as a top three item of interest when it comes to subject matter – rather disappointingly, “entertainment” was resoundingly the number one. While this reflects what people want to read about, it certainly also reflects what people are going to want to blog about and, if you are blogging about fashion, you’ll probably want to go to a major event such as, say, London Fashion Week.

Some questions need to be answered: firstly, is it necessary that every blogger should be physically present at London Fashion Week? If not, how does the British Fashion Council aim to decide who is and is not allowed accreditation? If bloggers are to be accomodated, it is clear that there needs to be more thought into how this might work in practice, as queues will continue to grow for more than just the pastry shelf.

Making bloggers into second rate attendees might do more harm than good due to the negative reaction one might expect, however, so the feeling is that perhaps something else would be a more suitable alternative. With the amount of rights-free pictures and – increasingly – videos offered by fashion PRs, there is the not insignificant creeping question as to whether or not bloggers, with their multiple cameras taking substantially similar inexpert photographs of the same things – not to mention their occassionally limited ability to express themselves particularly well in prose – might not be better served sitting at home watching said videos and copy/pasting said pictures for their unknowable numbers of readers.

That being said, there is, as ever, a worrying air of arrogance which emanates from the mainstream media hacks in the press area. As they push their way to the front of queues across London and take their places in all the front rows of all the biggest shows, some of these people need to know that the very blogs they deride in just this way are read by far more – literally millions more – people than their own articles will ever be. Numbers aren’t everything, but they do mean a lot, particularly where reputations on the fashionable high street are concerned.

One key statistic which was discovered from a LFW press release about the launch of yet more digital services was found in their very own hype: the London Fashion Week website, in 2009, received “over 100,000 unique visitors” during the SS 2010 fashion week. I have been involved – and still am involved with – a number of significantly less well known websites which receive more visitors than that in one day, yet people still hold in sniggers when I tell them the URL or website’s name, because “oh, I haven’t heard of it”.

It would seem, then, that we are at a fork in the road: quite clearly, we can’t go on running out of Danish pastries as a result of the presence of hundreds of bloggers who are impossible to differentiate. Yet fashion must embrace digital PR if it is to move with the times and keep attracting a young and vibrant audience out of their bedrooms and into the shops.

The only way to touch base with the generation which is growing up in 2010 is to elevate some – but not all – of its members to the status which used to be reserved for ‘proper’ journalists. Certainly, we mouldering characters in the press rooms won’t like it. Whoever is tasked with this, just make sure that, when you do, you use the right barometer to guage the brightest and best among the bloggers.

For now, how about “only those in Google News allowed.”

About Robin Scott

Robin Scott
Robin Scott is co-founder and publisher of The Global Herald.

32 comments

  1. I’ve never heard of you (got here via a link) but this sounds like sour grapes to me. Bloggers, who aren’t even being paid to write, getting equal attention to you, a drone on yet another mediocre news site? Scandalous! Something ought to be done! (Especially if they’re beating you to the pastries!)

    Pretty pathetic.

    • Robin Scott

      Two points in response: 1) this article is from last year; 2) I was, and still am, principly a blogger; the main reason I wrote this article is because something went badly wrong at this fashion week – notice that I do not criticise bloggers themselves, rather the (lack of) organisation.

      I all honesty, I should not have been given accreditation for this event, but I was certainly not alone.

      Please also note that I use Danish pastries as a device to highlight the fact that there were about 200 people in a room built for 20 or so. The principle issue was not the pastries; it was that people were queuing to get into a 15 minute show for an hour, and, in many cases, the doors were shut, and they were not allowed to enter because the show was too full. This should not happen at a well organised event.

  2. I think a major problem with the fashion world as it’s stood for the past hundred years is that a few people have control over what fashion lovers worldwide think of as beautiful and trendy. High fashion especially relies on perceived exclusivity to survive. The blogosphere is shifting that silly balance of power to one that’s much more democratic.

    We can all write about what trends and designers we prefer (known and unknown, with backers and without). We can reject models that are too skinny and looks that don’t translate to real life. We don’t have to read secondhand about the shows using preselected photographs and trends that someone we don’t know has dictated.

    Ultimately, this can only be a GOOD thing.

    Like anything new, we have to develop infrastructure as to how we’re going to handle these new power players, but consider this when you scorn them — the only reason I even read this article was because it was linked from one of my favourite blogs. lolz

    Lola Re

  3. Interesting article, Mr. Scott. Thank you: it’s interesting food for thought.

    Speaking of which.. I’m sorry that I ate your free food in the press room and crowded the catwalk shows. AND sorry that I’ve got a blogspot at the end of my name. Someone should tell all those nice people to stop visiting my blog. Perhaps you’ve got some spare time?

    p.s. Elliot: LOVE your comment!

  4. Mr. Scott it saddening that some writers feel so threatened by the enthusiasm of the bloggesphere . However your readers may wish to be aware that thestylescout.blogspot.com had as of last year over 2,150,000 page views which may even be comparable to this website…

    Also, every posting we upload attracts at least some comments which honestly exceeds the interaction this website has with its readers.

    Except of course for this article, which seems to have exceeded the combined total of all the comments ever posted on the entire. Consequently, confirming the you along with the junior staff at PR companies you are also deriving great benefit from engaging with bloggers…

    Meanwhile, I hope that you manage to keep up the controversy driving traffic to your site ….

    If you see us around daytime fashion events please say hello. We are the couple who schlep around a smiling fashionable baby in his Mclaren…

  5. I have written a substantial response to this article; it is too large to be saved in a comment box. Please view it here: demicouture.ca/2010/02/23/the-fashion-industry-vs-fashion-bloggers/

  6. Thank you also for your amazing comment on my post. Like you I
    could not bear to bring myself to go to Somerset House today.

    I know it will be crazy seeing some of the names that are showing
    today. The bigger the name, the more crazy people seem to get I woke
    up with an awful flu and thought I would review the collections from
    home.

    I wish you a good rest of week. If you are covering Paris and Milan, I
    wish you a better experience while at them.

    Thank you.
    Marian.

  7. All it takes it a little research in to a) quality of the blog and b) its reader count to see whom is worth while attending. It’s the same in all industries and the blogger world.

    I am sure sooner or later people will catch on that a few simple questions will sort this all out … they will, wont they?

  8. www.cdlcreative.me

    The obvious problem here is that the industry’s PRs appear to be woefully inept. And that’s putting it mildly.

    I can think of at least four leading museums in London that enjoy a good relationship with bloggers or producers of online content. Probably because they make the effort to engage with the right people.

    I was at the Irving Penn press view last week (review here bit.ly/dbxzE3 if you’re interested). It was busy, and a lot of the attendees were not from the “traditional” print media. But I wasn’t treated like a second-class citizen because I don’t have a press card. Possibly, of course, because I am a photographer and was representing an established site and (like everyone else there) interested in the images rather than the patisserie.

    Don’t blame the bloggers. Give the PRs who created the shambles a good kicking instead. I might be a cynic, but I wonder if some fashion PRs are rather more interested in being a fashion groupie than being a professional PR person.

    Steve

  9. I also agree but who’s fault is it that Fashion PR refuses to move with the changing time? And when they decide to, they get it completely wrong. How hard is it ( with all the various free channels available online today) for a PR intern to simply google and get stats and metrics of any website? All they need to know is basic SEO and pronto, the chaffs are removed from the wheat or is it the other way around? Sorry all the confusion at the Press Lounge has drained me of any common sense.

    My only fear is that in a bid to find ‘the right bloggers”, things go back to being the way they were which prompted the need for bloggers in the first place i.e sponsored editorials. Blogs have taken off because of their perceived independence to ‘write it as they see it’ but now even the so-called credible ones are nothing more than sponsored bloggers so whichever way we get it, we will still loose …. However look on the bright side, it means the pastry in the press lounge will be warm and sufficient for the ‘credible bloggers’ and everyone will be happy again!

  10. Also – Susie Bubble and Kingdom of Style both have .typepad accounts and they are two of the best known blogs

  11. Do it via readership figures

  12. House of Holland use .blogspot blogs to promote their own collection. I think it’s up to the designers about how they want to spread their message and if that means inviting bloggers along then great. Why try and alienate the very people who may in a couple of years be a) your customer, or b) the next big fashion journalist.

  13. britishbeautyblogger

    There is a similar scenario on the beauty blogging scene although to a lesser degree for now. As I’m both press and blogger, I see the situation from both sides, but the most obvious thing is the new enthusiasm that bloggers bring. You are absolutely correct that there needs to be a shake-down and I think that cream naturally rises. The better blogs – once PRs actually start to read them properly and come to their own conclusion – will start to take precedence over the majority. Blogs take dedication, hard work and a huge level of commitment and the ones that put in the effort are obvious. If bloggers have something new to say, fresh eyes to see with and an engaging way of communicating their views, that has to offer something over and above the relatively small number of fashion writers. And, as for running out of pastries…oh please!! Don’t you know a good blogger always brings an emergency Kit-kat; unlike the press who expect to be fed and watered for free! BBB

  14. How stuck up and how dare you whats makes one human better than another I cant believe what I just read I love clothes and I tell you something alot of what I see down the runways has actually been done by bloggers well before they designed it. What would Henry Holland think of this as a blogger.com?????
    Are you aware that he has a blog. I hope one day you find yourself in a situation where you are not allowed to eat a danish and are made to drink tap water how stupid do you sound idiot did you go to university to write that artical you are so shallow

  15. It’s a “thing” – not quite as wonderful as the first time there was a Balenciaga black motorcycle bag; Carine Rotfeld understood it but over time and tawdry attempts to make money at it the “thing” became a 15. plastic bag at Walmart. But the moral of this is that nothing can take away from the original, fine thing. It’s a wonderful thing that there is LibertyLondonGirl and the handful of amazing, cheeky, smart bloggers she kindly moved from here to there in the back of a warm car. The price of admission and audience leaving comments and adoring said blogger has been enthusiasm and that’s all lovely. But to chirp about Rodarte or Galliano and then chirp away about a 15. blouse as just as good – no, really really no.
    I’m cross as a buyer at all the Fashion Weeks of the world, front row only at a handful and really the shows took up so much time that they were simply me paying respect to certain designers that I loved – the work is in the showroom, and why are bloggers, apart from the very very fine ones, given the attention that shop buyers deserve for pioneering and championing and who ultimately pay for the fashion?
    I blog, I write, I love fashion and I am embarrassed by this. And reiterate my great respect for the handful – but not the children and the eager enthusiasts.

    It’s not a game, it’s a business and requires devotion and commitment. The gate is open and there’s no going back but a little discretion would be good.

  16. I am an experienced fashion professional (a fashion writer, fashion writing & celebrity personal stylist) who also happens to blog.

    I was appalled by the behaviour of SOME(please note emphasis on that word people!) bloggers on day one of fashion week!!!!

    I think there should be some sieving, remove the wheat from the chaff. Just because someone blogs doesnt mean they actually have a clue about high fashion or how to properly review a collection. In that same vein, just because someone blogs does not make the enemy of the state.

    Sieve the good from the bad people!!!The content and quality in terms of posts etc on the site is all it takes to make that judgement.

    Glam kisses,
    Marian.
    http://www.mariankihogo.com

  17. thepoliticalbadger

    Editor (if that’s your real name?),

    I can’t help but feel you’ve missed the point about blogging a little bit. Bloggers aren’t trying desperately to be like their heroes writing for ‘legitimate’ publications like The Global Herald (who?) It’s about bringing a new perspective to commentary on anything from fashion to politics to technology, and while it might be a pain that you’ve gone through three years of drinking alcopops to get the opportunity to be published online, that’s all a bit old hat.

    Have you thought that a blogger (using blogspot of all things, shock, horror!) with a decade of experience in the fashion industry might just be more deserving of your precious pastries?!

    thepoliticalbadger

    • Editor

      Yes badger, I do believe that was the point of my article: that the bloggers do deserve a place at the table, just not all of them; it isn’t feasible, and ends up with hundreds of bloggers in the C row and standing around the periphery of the less well-known shows all snapping away inexpert photographs.

      The issue I was grappling with was precisely this, that online publications are not currently well represented at LFW – some of them DESERVE front row seats, and not just the ones which are faddy, there are fashion blogs out there which are better read and better written than those which seem to be accepted by the establishment.

      I’m 100% behind the idea that the writers of these blogs have a valid role to play – where do you suppose I came into online publishing from? I just don’t see the powers that be – and, more importantly, those in fashion PR – showing any signs of understanding the digital landscape particularly well; hence my comment about metrics, and the lack thereof.

      Accreditation seems ludicrously easy to obtain for this week, yet nobody is quite sure which of the new bloggers they should be letting into the big shows, and allowing access to the press room.

      For my part, yesterday was my last day at LFW – I hope all enjoy the shows (and tolerate the endless queuing), unfortunately, as things stand it isn;t conducive to getting work done.

      For the record, my name is Robin Scott. I would class myself as a blogger, only it often seems to be said pejoratively. If you want to see if I understand the online landscape, Google “Lord of the internet” and hit “I’m feeling lucky” and see where it takes you: probably a blog.

      http://theglobalherald.com/editors-authors/

      • Oh dear. I blog innewyorkparistomorrow.blogspot.com/ and honestly I would hope that credentials be reviewed by the fashion houses as it is done for other media and buyers (sad that the prescient wonderful buyers, ahem, have not been interviewed for their perspective on the shows and on the fashion that they will be buying, or not buying). So much noise, and it’s not helping the industry. Help would be hearing that money is plunked down and Mrs. B (Mrs Burstein at Brown’s) is buying this collection – that gets the attention of other retailers and that’s rather germane.

  18. I totally agree! EVERYONE on the planet blogs these days, a ‘standard’ for qualified fashion bloggers must be set. It’s not only that, what if fans and wackos start walking-in off the street?!

    Security should be a major concern too. In reality, many of these models are just children.

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