Sunday, 7 February 2010

Hierarchy and Humility

What is so interesting about blogging is the diversity and can do attitude of all. There are lots of different approaches, differing content and aesthetics when it comes to the fashion bloggers. What is shared is an appreciation and a love of fashion garments, because I'm not talking about fashion here in a wider context, rather the seasonal joy of the shows and the street and the adoption of designs.

What is causing me concern is the hierarchical notion of good or bad blogging. Content aside the main issue here is how fashion bloggers are being used by marketeers and the aspect of product placement, promotion or advertising.

The very charming Jane of The Small Fabric of my Life very politely discussed advertising on a post once as she was concerned by allowing advertising she'd put off people coming to her blog. She was tempted as she's going to do a post grad teaching cert and every penny helps. Believe me I can relate to this with my recent funding of my education. I accepted a my-wardrobe banner on the basis that any sales would provide me with a percentage of money. This is not a great money spinner as my-wardrobe is not the scale of internet fashion business Net-A-Porter.

This clearly puts me in the lower scales of fashion blogger hierarchy. Higher up the scale and I would have been offered the afore mentioned Net-A-Porter gig. I've been blogging since 2006, I abandoned all my posts in that year due to being scared, incompetent and avidly reading the others. In 2008 I finally plucked up courage and started Make Do Style. My blog prior to that is lost for ever as I can't remember my account details. I keep meaning to ask blogger how to get back into it as there is a lot of material in there I liked. My first blog was a story dressed up as a person living her life. It was good fun but it wasn't easy to engage with the blogging community as a fictitious character.

In 2008 bloggers began to be approach in various ways by Marketing and PR peeps or companies, so began a dance of advertorial placement. I decided not to get involved and retracted very quickly from this (after a couple of parties and some dodgy pants!) but decided to keep my banner as all funds help and if someone chooses to visit my-wardrobe that is up to them. I do post items I've selected from there from time to time but that is purely on the basis of all my selection, personal preference or for a specific look etc. I also inform of any offers very occasionally, again in the same way as I would highlight many other offers in the way that papers or magazines do. I'm actually boring myself with this explanation but that is to some extent my point - we don't need one and probably don't want to read one either. This has only come about due to a hierarchy of consumer goods being attributed value.

What is concerning me is when bloggers take the high road and explain why it is okay or not okay to write about certain companies/products/shows/whatever. Quite frankly I don't care how one bloggers moral compass/editorial decisions stack up against another as long as it doesn't involve the exploitation of children/animals/vulnerable people and isn't do with extreme right wing groups/racist organisations or drug trafficking. Shall I throw in paedophilia, Al Quaeda and money laundering to cover all bases.

Lets face it after the rape and pillage of our economies by bankers any minor product placement by fashion bloggers is hardly impacting the tax payer.

So, the crux of this must be 'value' or 'good' - it is a bit like Vogue then InStyle then Reveal, a hierarchy of publications. In newspaper terms, The Times, The Daily Express then the The Sun. Adverts in these are graded accordingly, editorial likewise and promotions. When I do styling work I know the difference in terms of worth when I call in clothes from the PRs. I also know my place in the styling hierarchy as a freelance jobbing one, someone who is no longer attached to a magazine. My best friend was a 'proper' journalist, a war reporting hazard trained BBC hack. She would laugh at us lifestyle softies. She thought anything that involved clothes, interiors, travel or restaurants was a meal ticket in every sense.

But this hierarchy thing is quite pants because particularly in the blogging world it isn't based on any fact other than perceived value or worth of a blog. Blogs gain a certain position due to content, then the ensuing publicity and so on...Many successful ones reach this status due to their previous industry work/standing/relationships etc.

My point is I think there is a lot of danger in determining what is good or bad on the internet in regard of blogging. Firstly there is the matter of freedom, people are free to do as they please. Secondly, this is fashion, which is creative, diverse and is often trail blazing in cultural terms. Finally, hierarchy is a particular British thing - the class system. A country where what school you went to is more important than the quality of your education or your own intellect. A country where how you speak defines the worth of your person. If you wear Chanel and talk like a common urchin then you'll be sniffed at. I'm always reminded how coke snorting Eastenders actress Daniella Westbrook managed to single handedly destroy the value of Burberry check. It still amuses me to this day.

Sister Wolf made laugh with her 'So What' definition of bloggers who posing in fairly ordinary daily outfits and have family photos only of interest to their friends and families. As a fashion academic this interests me no end as it is a representation of fashion as mass adoption. Sister Wolf makes me laugh a lot and is a good example of a leading blogger in terms of content and readership who is either passed over or not on the PR radar. In magazine terms she would be a best kept or insider secret.

Essentially no matter how you dress up a freebie it is a freebie. Some freebies are no better or worth more than others, it is all a matter of perspective. All material goods are a matter of subjective views. Some dream of Tiffany, others think not. Some love an it bag, others deem it beneath them. Snobbery is a treacherous road on the capitalism highway. It fuels the constant hierarchy and affords wealth more status than a life.

I think it would be good for fashion bloggers to show some humility and stop banging on about the whys and hows; the rationale of their judgement. I've been mulling over this issue for a while but AA Gill sealed it for me in Northumberland restaurant review of 'Milan' in a place called Wooler in the Sunday Times - I love his last paragraph which says it all ....

"I have often said that I don’t review rural restaurants because most of them wouldn’t last a week in Putney, and this is true of Milan. But it also showed me I need to eat my words: most Putney restaurants wouldn’t last a week in Wooler. This place serves a community with good food and an occasion. It does it without patronage, without an agenda of education or improvement or social manipulation. It offers warmth and magic and exuberance, and it’s giving local people what they want without telling them what they should have. And that is just about the most you can wish for or expect from any restaurant, be it Le Gavroche or a chip shop."


  1. HI Kate,
    Great post. If you do want to book a holiday in the campervan then visit or phone Sandra on 07816 119490. This is purely an altruistic plug - no many has exchanged hands!
    If you do book though mention my name!

  2. Hi Jane - thank you, I'm very grateful for your very informative plug! How else would I have known about this and how to satisfy the dream of a small boy!
    And your family photo was truly delightful!! xx

  3. I also thought this was a great post. I find that I don't read any of what I consider to be high profile fashion blogs, the ones I read about in magazines and newspaper supplements before I started blogging. I want real people in everyday clothes not girls in their 20's who dress like freaks and sit in Chanel's front row. Although I started out reading them, I soon stopped when I found ones I considered to be more "down to earth" a lot of them need to stop taking themselves so seriously and forget the hype that surrounds them and remember whey they starting blogging in the first place. Wouldn't we all love to be full time bloggers, I know I would but at the end of the day, it is a hobby and I can't knit, so blogging it is!

  4. Fantastic post, darling... Well-written and insightful!


  5. Here, here! Now that blogging has become something of an industry, it's so nice to see bloggers who are still just doing their own thing. It's the diversity of voices afterall that makes reading blogs fun. It saddens me to see some bloggers disheartened because their name isn't on everyone's lips. That's not the point. If you love what you're doing then that is all you need. Even if you've only got a readership of one, it's reason enough to keep at it.

  6. Mrs Fab - I really don't mind who gets what or does what, good luck to them all just don't tell me what is a good or bad choice! Hark at me getting my knitting needles out.

    I do love the community sense of blogging and that is what keeps it distinct from a publication that talks at you but rarely with you.

    Couture Carrie - the best written bit was AA Gill's bit but he has the subs to sort his copy out unlike me. We both suffer with dyslexia.

    Dressed & Pressed - you always say it like it is!

  7. Wonderful post.

    I struggled with the decision to put google ads on my blog, but I figured that for the 3 plus hours a day I spend blogging, I might as well try to earn some PPC revenue. The joke's on me though because I can't figure out how to access my Ad Sense account! So much for PPC.

    I'm also an affiliate for several products but hell if I can figure out how that whole affiliate code thing works.

    I have no problem with a blogger promoting products, whether they are paid to do so or not. It's their blog and I totally support their choice to turn their blog into a potential POS.

    I write on my BHB blog about vintage and estate jewelry, not as an affiliate, but as the CEO of Beladora. There's not click through arrangement on BHB. I just want to promote estate jewelry and Beladora because it is AWESOME, just as Wendy B writes about her fabulous jewelry.

  8. I think each to their own really! Personally I have pretty much refused most companies asking to advertise as I just wasnt being offered good enough deals. I dont really like the commercial blogs mainly because you cant see the post for the sea of ad's! That said I wouldnt be put off a favourite blog just because they started displaying ad's. There is one exception to that though, I wont name names but a blog I really loved and was based around handbags started to advertise a counterfeit bag website!! So they were swiftly deleted from my links!

  9. Belle De Ville - Wendy's blog is a great example of being set up to promote her business and she mixes it all really well. There is a good balance of jewellery, info, personal and fun.

    Dr Pearl(!) - I agree some sites do get advert overloaded. I do agree about advertising counterfeit goods that is plain criminal. I was more concerned with bloggers setting parameters of taste and good judgement when accepting freebies by companies. I can't abide the leverage of superiority of decision making seems smug at worst or pointless at best.

  10. Really enjoyed this post.. I actually dont care if blogs are sponsored or not, if you can earn a little off your enjoyment why not?
    I love the fashion blogs from non company people .. I dont read Matches blog or any fashion house I much prefer the opinion and ideas from my own little blogging community of real people with individual ideas and tastes the only reason I often use Net a Porter in my wish list is that I am lazy and its all in one place :) Once again great post

  11. Very interesting post and discussion happening here.

    This hierarchy is happening in every type of blog now--art blogs, poetry blogs. Poetry, especially, brings with it all sorts of judgments about good/bad or high/low.

    Isn't it interesting how blogging gives power not only to anyone who chooses to write, but now also readers in making (loudly-voiced) decisions about what to read...

  12. Great post ... lately I've been interested in bloggers passionately declaring that they're completely unmoved by freebies. Part of their defense is always "But magazines do it!" -- but when they say that it's always while they're disparaging the credibility of the magazines. So do they want to have more credibility, less or what? Seems like people want it both ways.

    Thanks for the nice words, Belle and Make Do. I feel like I get to watch a lot of the blogging uproar from the sidelines because as you point out, my blog is there to promote a product. It was commercial from the start!

  13. This is an interesting take, Kate. Being the lowest of the bloggers on the totem pole with my 2.756983 readers, I don't worry about product placement or ads, because I don't get many solicitations. I used to, last year, when I posted every day, but now I don't.

    In any case, I find that I don't take seriously posts that are paid. I'll take seriously a post that's a review if I already "trust" that blogger's integrity, but if I'm new to a blog, I'll read the review/post with a very dubious eye. I think blogging has taken a turn for the commercial—not that there's anything wrong with that if that's what a blogger wants—but that's not really what I enjoy about the blogging world.

    I enjoy learning about a person and her tastes and ideas and wardrobe. Not about which free garb she got last week.

  14. Make Do Style!!!!! How could I have only seen this post today! I've been in hospital, so that's my excuse.
    I love that you have raised these issues! As you know my blog is only 2 months old and no one has ever offered me anything free but obviously I'd love to be offered anything! When I reached the 100,000 views mark, I knew the blog was popular, so I did think about getting some ads but a lot of readers said they'd hate this...I was unsure about how much $$ I'd even make from this so didn't get any ads. I might change my mind. I'd like to earn some income from it. Did My Wardrobe approach you? How'd it all come to pass? love FF xxxxxx

  15. Hi my dear-a very interesting post, as you can tell from mine, I do have ads and its true the bit extra certainly comes in handy. Ads on anyones site doesn't put me off reading their blog, it depends on whether I think their blog is enjoyable or not.

  16. I don't care what anyone does on their blog as long as they project a personality that's either interesting or endearing. Since it's not fiction, personality is what's there to judge. However! If the personality is obnoxious enough, then it's art, and then i have to look until the thrill is gone.

    I would love to make money off my blog. I'm thinking of a tshirt without the word Cunt.

  17. Sister can't you approach PBS about a reality tv show? I feel you'd be a Natural.

  18. Sister Wolf - yes my post was prompted by art that is now boring me. I'm less concerned about the adverts more the need to post a lot about one's decision making and approaches to blogging and why it is ok to talk about certain products.

    On the t-shirt front I think 'team drag queen' is one avenue but surely 'Sister Wolf saves your from mediocrity' is another option. You could have a whole series SW saves you from mom/palin/etc..

  19. I don't really read many fashion blogs apart from yours (because you know, yours is the DEFINITIVE one) When I do go to them, I go for the ideas, the interpretations and to find out new stuff. If this new stuff is the result of advertising, then so be it. Its pretty easy to spot the hawkers.
    I didn't know blogs got sent freebies, once I knew it made me wish I had started a blog about cheesecake.

  20. What a well written, interesting post! I'm really interested to see everyones views on this too.

    I accept advertising on my blog, because my blog is my job, it's how I make money! I hope it doesn't get in the way of content though.

    I have also occasionally been sent free stuff, if I hated it I wouldn't write about it, but being sent it sometimes allows me to write about products I would otherwise have no access too (see previous, blog as job statement!)

    I would add, though, that this weekend I tweeted some photos of my March copy of Vogue, from which I removed 230 pages of ads from a 352 page magazine AND You have to pay to read a magazine. I always bear this in mind when I see adverts on blogs who provide their content for free.

  21. Retro Chick - really I have no problem with adverts, product reveiws etc - my real point has probably been lost, the fact some bloggers love to bang on about the wisdom of their freebie choices v the rest of the bloggers. I'm really anti this hierarchy of taste. I don't want to be bored by someone's list of invites, freebies - either get on with the job in hand DisneyRollerGirl does this very well or don't explain nor complain!

  22. Very enlightening post. I haven't even started thinking of the money making aspects of a blog - which, I guess, is blessed ignorance.

  23. Great post. I think everyone should do what is comfortable.

  24. indeed a terrific post.
    can i just say, though, that as an american, "pants" to mean crap is the very best expression i've ever heard ;D


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