When the fashion blogging phenomenon exploded back in 2006, there was a lot of resentment coming from the journalists. Except from the few names that received credibility from early on, most of the fashion bloggers were seen as unprepared intruders to the closed club.
Back in 2010, while taking a fashion journalism class, I encountered a number of dressed-in-black-moody-journalists who used their time in the classroom to complain about the downfall of serious journalism and how the fashion blogging mania was a sign of the end of times. That was then.
As Darwin would have predicted, those journalists evolved and adapted to the new reality. Short story: they’ve succumbed to the perks of a fashion life and the instant fame only social media enables. But that’s the short story. The long story is that they realised the power of branding. I guess it started as a (successful) strategy to boost magazine sales in a time no one thought it was possible. A way to make readers fall in love with people behind the magazine just as they do with the girl with the blog. However, I wonder if the personal branding got out of control. The publishing business combined to the fashion world makes for the most volatile kind of working environment. If the world doesn’t see you as Anna Wintour, you must make them see it.
Early adopter of this trend was Anna Dello Russo. Regular fashion enthusiasts don’t even know she is actually Editor-at-Large for Vogue Japan. Dello Russo is a street-style goddess with her own blog (annadellorusso.com) and more than 600k followers on Instagram. Late adopter is Suzy Menkes, International Vogue Editor, complained about the fashion circus in a famous article in 2013, only to right after become an Instagram addicted herself.
Here we are talking about global players. However, all journalists now feel the need to sell their lifestyle on different types of social media platforms. Anna is a character but not all (actually, most aren’t) financially independent. And now we see Editors-in-Chief using Instagram to thank sponsors to their kids birthday parties.
In the opposite lane, there are the bloggers who are looking for credibility in publishing houses. Most famous example is wonder kid Tavi Gevinson who founded Rookie Mag back in 2011. However, most bloggers are satisfied with recognition from the magazines in the shape of article or a collaboration. This doesn’t just apply for fashion bloggers, fashion magazines have now embraced reality show celebrities, pop stars and all the flavours of the week.
This is not a critic on any editorial choice. Fashion magazines are supposed to be in the cutting edge and that is no shame in following natural trends. Still, Anna Wintour managed to stay on top of every trend with a flip phone. She almost broke the internet by putting Kim Kardashian and Kanye West on the cover of the most respectable fashion magazine in the world. Alexandra Schulman is the longest serving editor for British Vogue. For current standards, her Twitter account lacks a large number of selfies. Not a surprise for someone who were said not to look like a Vogue editor when she first got the job back in 1992. Franca Sozzani is not a name you see often in the social medias, but she has been Editor-in-Chief for Vogue Italia since 1994.
Those are women I admire for their self-confidence. Who sell their magazines but not themselves. They leave for the publication to do all the talking in the social media platforms. But these women are a rare breed and we shouldn’t expect to encounter many more of them in the publishing world.
There were no winners in the war between Journalists and Bloggers. Both definitions are merging faster and faster now. Because I wasn’t a Journalism major in college, I myself never understood the misplaced pride in the profession. It’s about writing and informing; let the best man (or woman) for the job do it. Guess the lesson is to ‘never say never’. Or one day you will be writing in a daily basis about that socialite blogger you hated and copying their mirror selfies.