The fashion industry has made some major shifts in the past few weeks — and that's just putting it lightly. The CFDA announced it'll be helping to create the New York Fashion Week schedule; NYFW owner IMG said it would make the events more exclusive; and shortly thereafter, IMG was acquired by William Morris Endeavor and Silver Lake Partners. So, in light of these changes, we can't help but wonder what this could mean for the future of fashion lovers starting from the bottom and breaking their way into the business, one blog post at a time.
“Blogging is not dying, but it’s definitely changing,” says Gala Darling, co-founder of The Blogcademy, a workshop that teaches bloggers how to make money online.
And, Jennine Jacob, blogger and founder of Independent Fashion Bloggers (IFB), the leading community network for fashion bloggers, agrees: “I don’t think blogging is ‘dead.’ It’s more popular now than ever.”
But, today, the term "blogging" means something entirely different than it did a few years ago. Especially, when taking the lure of fame, fortune, and freebies into consideration. “Blogging used to be about being honest, sharing what was on your mind, and offering something different than the magazines,” Darling adds.
Yet, with IMG's announcement recently about limiting access to NYFW events, Catherine Bennett, senior vice president and manager director, told The Wall Street Journal that Fashion Week was simply “becoming a zoo,” a pointed response to fashion insiders’ groans over the growing presence of bloggers at the shows. A new struggle, sure, but that’s not to say blogs aren't lucrative businesses.
In fact, when the fashion-blogger scene exploded, labels started seeing major opportunities for cross-promotion. “[From 2010 to 2012], it was pretty much a free-for-all with brands learning how to work with popular bloggers,” says Jacob. However, with companies now equipped with social media experts, marketing strategists, and new technology to measure their return-on-investment (ROI), they have a better understanding of how they can work together. Still, at the end of the day, Jacob says these partnerships are not fair to the newcomers here: “Bloggers are publishers, not salespeople.”
Now, with the heavily documented ROIs, bloggers are faced with increased pressure to keep traffic, engagement, and sales high. And, in the worse cases, this can result in loss of integrity, “selling out,” or simple burnout — and not just for the blogger, but for their readers, too.
“I miss the good old days, when blogs felt like blogs, not billboards,” Darling laments. And, this fatigue of heavily commercialized blogs has been echoed elsewhere in recent months and could very well begin to turn readers away.
But, Darling is also quick to add that a blogger has to think outside of brand collaborations. “Any blogger who doesn't have some kind of offering beyond advertorial or banner space is insane.” And, the pioneers of the fashion blog know that and seem to be moving on. And, quickly: Bryanboy is now a judge on America’s Next Top Model, Tavi Gevinson launched Rookie, The Blonde Salad designs shoes, Cupcakes and Cashmere is writing books, and Kenza Zouiten has her own clothing line.
Ultimately, the interest for blogging is still there. New sites pop up every day, and attendance for annual blogging conferences like Independent Fashion Bloggers and Lucky magazine’s FABB conference are still impressive. Meanwhile, The Blogcademy workshops, which started last year and are held around the world, sell out within days.
And, of course, blogs can still be moneymakers today — as long as you have enough readers. But, with oversaturation in this realm, the challenge becomes much more profound. “The bar for becoming a mega blogger is much higher than it used to be,” Jacob explains. “Anyone can start a blog, but to become popular it’s almost as hard as becoming a successful writer, TV star...” And, if IMG has anything to say about it, the industry may be slowly phasing out opportunities.
So, yes, a revival may be needed. But, what can be done to strengthen the blogger business model, and what can these self-starters do to keep their audience? Should we, as the fashion community at large, embrace the changes, go with the flow, and see what happens? Or, should we just accept that this could be the beginning of the end?