The Newest Fashion Bloggers Don't Even Have Blogs

When you think of fashion bloggers, a few requirements come to mind: a covetable personal style, a photographer (or friend with a camera) in tow, and, of course, a constantly updated blog on which to post their outfits. The earliest bloggers — like Susie Bubble, Fashion Toast, and Bryan Boy — paved the way using this model nearly a decade ago. They'd document their ensembles on their respective websites, include links to buy the clothes, and make money off affiliate links, endorsement deals, and site traffic. Now, blogging is not only considered a feasible career choice, but bloggers like Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad have shown how it can be incredibly lucrative, as well.

Although this OG method is still going strong, a whole new wave of style “bloggers” are upsetting the system by ditching the website entirely and focusing solely on social media. Not to be confused with DJs, models, fashion editors, or It Girls (who occupy an entirely separate sphere of Insta-fame), they have built their numbers gradually and from the ground up. Thanks to their unique aesthetics, and that je ne sais quoi quality that makes thousands of people click "follow," they represent a new kind of grassroots celebrity-making movement that is proving to have just as much value as traditional web publishing.

Unlike most bloggers, who start their sites as a way to post daily outfits, these girls' massive followings didn’t originate from #OOTDs. L.A.-based Instagrammer Whitney Cox of @whitneybearr remembers: “Originally, I wasn't posting style pictures — it was just pictures of my cat and selfies with my friends. But, I started posting pictures of my daily outfits, and friends and colleagues really liked what I was doing, so I've been doing it ever since.” Today, Cox’s account boasts more than 24,000 followers, all of whom obsess over her '90s-inspired West Coast style. 

rainy day stomping

A photo posted by WHITNEY COX (@whitneybearr) on

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London-based Alisha Khan says she originally joined Instagram to — no joke — follow the Kardashians ("Fan since day one!" she tells us), but eventually began posting close-up outfit shots and cool accessory details. Now that she has nearly 16,000 followers, she says she puts more effort into photography. "I now take a lot more time in creating content that I think my followers will like to see and making sure my photography is to a certain standard." Given their large followings, it’s easy to assume that these 'grammers would capitalize on Internet fame by creating affiliate blogs. But, Khan explains that she wants Instagram to remain a hobby instead of a career choice. “When I do anything creative, I like to give it my all. With my current lifestyle, maintaining a blog just wouldn't be feasible!” she says. “Instagram is super-quick, there is hardly any planning or scheduling required, and you can still reach a huge audience.” This is a sentiment echoed by the other bloggers we talked to.
Halley Elefante of @The_Salty_Blonde admits that she doesn’t want to commit the time to maintaining a blog. Says the Oahu, Hawaii, resident: “Blogs are a ton of work! I just kept putting it off for so long, and put all of my time and energy into my Instagram account.” That said, it should come as no surprise that having a popular Instagram pays off in more ways than one. As the editorial coordinator for ASOS in London, Khan says her Instagram complements her day job perfectly. "As I do work for ASOS, I end up featuring a lot of ASOS products which I think my followers really enjoy," she tells us. "Scrolling back through my feed, it seems half of my pay slip is spent on ASOS!" Additionally, Khan and the other bloggers we talked to say they work with brands on sponsored posts if the aesthetic fits. 

"I definitely collaborate with companies that reach out to me, [but] only for products that I stand behind," Elefante says. "I personally love the more in-depth collaborations, like helping launch a brand-new line or being part of the creative process in designing something." All four of the bloggers we talked to say they participate in sponsored posts, which often require them to feature the product "organically" in their images. 

More than traditional fashion bloggers, popular Instagrammers have built their followings around their individual identities. Each blogger we talked to has a consistent, distinct aesthetic. Whether it's a Hawaii surfer girl or a London fashion insider, they cater to very different followings. This authenticity (not to mention, the trust of their followers) makes successful 'grammers far more valuable to brands looking for placement. It's easier for companies to gift clothing and arrange sponsored posts targeted to individual audiences — and, at the same time, it's easier for these social media stars to create organic advertising around the products. "It's my favorite to think of cute locations and accessories to make the photo special," Cox tells us. "And, cute content is good for everyone because it's so easy to share nowadays." 

Sister Golden Hair // rocking my new go-to suit from @soleil_blue at golden hour. ☀️

A photo posted by the salty blonde (@the_salty_blonde) on

Given the notoriously ambiguous FTC blogger requirements, it's unclear which clothing posts feature comped outfits. But, regardless of how much they're making per post, this new wave insists it's not about the money. Cox sums up the sentiment: "I did try blogging for a second, and I really don't think it's as accessible as Instagram. Online blogs have evolved into a business about making money, and I'm not in that same mindset." Over the years, style bloggers have traded in point-and-shoot cameras for DSLRs and professional photographers. Their websites have become increasingly polished and photoshopped, often appearing more like magazine editorials than real life. Instagram bloggers showcase the opposite approach, promoting an effortless aesthetic, that — filters aside — seems far less airbushed than that of today's most popular fashion bloggers. 

Elefante stresses that she never wants her photos to be too perfect-looking. "I'm 100% myself, which makes it too easy." In fact, this deliberate realness is what makes this wave of fashion stars so successful. Elefante says she’d rather spend her free time hanging out in surf-and-swim labels such as Australian brands Friend of Mine and Lack of Color (and, of course, tagging them all on Instagram). "My best photos, and most liked, are just me drinking beers on the beach with my boyfriend. No makeup, no professional photographer, no shoot, and the more tropical, the radder." 
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