Monday, 12 September 2011

What would Mrs Fashion say?

If only I knew the answer to that question. How I miss Mrs Fashion, she was my favourite blogger. Due to her early retirement from the blogosphere I still hanker after her posts. Would I be saying that know more than 5 years on if she was still a blogger. I think so. Mrs Fashion had that perfect blend of writing, fashion knowledge and magazine (or newspaper) insider edge. I suspect she is thanking her lucky stars she has remained anonymous (I never did discover who she was, a matter that piques me to this day) and not had a spread in Grazia.

I've alluded to of late about undertaking an assessment of fashion blogging. Why? Well I don't think a really biting analysis has taken place. I have no desire to undermine blogging or fashion blogging in particular but there are questions to be raised. Fashion blogging is merely a blip on the global phenomenon that is blogging. The United States have led the way, political blogging, social commentary being the foremost of this publishing genre. Fashion blogging is a small element of the blogging world. This helps to put it in perspective. I'm in my 6th year of blogging. My first endeavours were hopeless. I was a whim, I bottled out of pushing the publish post button and then managed to forget my password so lost my original http which was I then set up a new url makedostyle and spent a year reading all the fashion blogs I could devour.

My original banner - I've missed these ladies, seeing this again makes me think they should come back!

I was reading blogs via blogrolls. Mrs Fashion, Style Bubble, Wendy Brandes Jewellery, Kingdom of Style , lots of Scandinavian ones including the one which caused an international search for a missing blogger, who's name escapes me now but she really was the one who set the pace along with Fashion Toast for the posing and alternative way to dress. Back then (rolls eyes) it really did feel quite subversive. Ignoring all the rules of publishing, a heady mix of graphics, home made photos, fashion fact, observation and personal information set the pace for a new force of fashion fun.

It was mainly fun, it was uplifting and I spent a lot of time reading French blogs and wistfully wishing I was 20 again. The youthful nature of the bloggers was a joy. I have to admit I miss Style Bubble pre Susie and Steve moving in together! It was the personal nature of fashion blogging that on the one hand can be a bit banal but on the other introduced you to a community. A community that made you know people before you met them. Meeting fellow bloggers was bizarre. At first it felt like stalking but then quickly it became a norm and lost the freaky feel!

Rebakah Roy (Stylist Stuff blog) & me at the Victor & Rolf exhibition, Barbican August 2008

Fashion blogging was the perfect antidote to the exclusive elite fashion in crowd. It was our party and the fashion elite weren't needed or invited. It was challenging the traditional norms of print, publishing and marketing. At first the fashion industry was needled. Badly so. I was at an industry event early in 2007 and someone who shall remain nameless was very disparaging about fashion bloggers. Of course I merely nodded my head and smiled inwardly. The fact is now most of the fashion industry from editorial, to retailers to designers etc. have all embraced or aped blogging. By 2008 there was a sharp reversal of views and the race was on to 'own the space'.

The fashion blogging rift was about to begin....suddenly instead of a mutual appreciation club, a level playing field of shared passion/interest the blogging elite were created. A combination of marketing and genuine content precipitated a fashion buy out or sell out! The marketing aspect was numbers driven, suddenly how many followers, readers you had became important! This could make or break your 'worth'.

The immediate winners were Fashion Toast, Bryan Boy, Style Bubble and Style Rookie. The immediate losers were all the housefraus the world over. Then in the middle a few others, mainly with insider credentials i.e. peeps who were already editorial staff in some format, started to be include in the mix of bright young things.

The important point in all of this is that anyway anyone can or wants to earn money is fine by me. This examination is not a criticism of how people earn their money. Gosh it is hard enough to make ends meet these days unless you fall into the top earning percentiles. What this is about is how blogging has become mainstream and subsumed into the establishment. Capitalism has become its driver, success based on the measure of rising to the top, increasing earning potential and generally accepting the accolade of the mainstream method.

I have no doubt that fashion blogging didn't set out to or intend to precipitate a revolution or question the notions of elitism or egalitarianism. Good grief it was all about the dresses, shoes and bags. The lovely Wendy Brandes decided to make her blog all about marketing her jewellery business and rightly so. Blogging gave Wendy a platform to undertake affordable and good marketing directly to the right audience. But Wendy doesn't just use her blog to promote her jewellery, nope she interjects it with personal stuff, her views, Family Guy, and lots of history, oh and more Family Guy. This gives a taste of what blogging has done. It blended the journalistic approach to a subject and wove in the gung ho nature of the columnist to varying levels of success. Arguably fashion blogging finest achievement is the 'curation' of the ordinary. Ordinary women all over the world (the exceptions are stark, mainly most of Africa, and huge swathes of South America) have shared their most everyday wears. If I were a social historian or a fashion curator this is where my days would be spent, let the fashion magazine curate the obvious!

The fact that many bloggers are now absorbed in the mainstream of fashion magazines and retailing I suppose was inevitable. Many like Kingdom of Style have resisted and stayed the same. Bloggers like Susie Lau of Style Bubble and Navaz of Disneyrollergirl have both managed to stay part blogger/part industry, which they always were to some extent with their media backgrouds.

LinkSusie really set the pace and her love of blogging pushed it further. She always wanted to work in a way that allowed her to blog full time and she has achieved this. Equally Navaz who is a wonderful fashion illustrator (I managed to capture her Oasis balloons in my short film) and has always have a clear covert-able aesthetic is still working freelance as she was before with increased success. Nothing ever stays the same but there is a part of me that laughs at the ridiculous nature of being sold via a magazine a top blogger who you used to read years ago but got really bored of. I understand I was an early adopter of blogging and it is only in the last year or so it has become mainstream but the fashion industry likes to cherry pick those they are comfortable with, they might already know them or somehow they are more acceptable than say a 50 something maverick living in LA like Sister Wolf. Sister Wolf is less palatable due to her unforgiving nature of questioning fashion excess. Her notoriety in respect of biting critique often to the bone was highlighted with her views on materialism and excess by vilifying Sea of Shoes

This is the stuff of life outside of the sanitised fashion magazine world where it is all kisses and luvvies. Jane of Sea of Shoes is doing as she pleases (I'll admit some of which I find hard to stomach but each to their own) and her mum Judy is a fabulous photographer of her daughter. Judy's blog Atlantis Home was one of my first reads. I have mixed views on Judy's blog but on the whole I rather like her spunky American upbeat take. She was also extremely kind to Sister Wolf when she lost her son. They managed to find a friendship of sorts through email. And this is why blogging has not been wholly consumed by the fashion industry - the drama's still continue outside of the mainstream print!

The cache of blogger turned photographer, turned author turned whatever is still the holy grail for some but I find this mix of making up your profile as you go along a worrying trend. We all change jobs and careers. Some of us might have to do a day job whilst building up a business. There are no rules about who or what you should be but the worry for authentic blogging, for the beauty of there being no rules and doing just as you please is that many who achieve success through their blogs were already working in a freelance capacity as a journalist, a fashion PR or had undertaken intern work on a magazine. There is a lot of nepotism and stage managing of who is in, so to speak. A good example of someone who worked hard at her job and has honed her skills and has been focused on her ambition is Style Slicker. Kit has just worked and worked and worked. She is young, talented and focused. Equally I can't deny that after years of working within the news industry as a features writer Liberty London Girl through what was a very interesting and witty blog to start with about her dating in New York has become a myriad of offerings in the fashion press but when you work freelance I think you have to grab what you can, but...
... let's not pretend that those who are selected are better than anyone else because that would defeat the pleasure and nature of blogging. Surely it is more than the sum of being an extension of marketing or a fashion features or a business proposition. I like the honesty of Looking Fab At Any Age (formally in your 40s) for being a shop window to accessible and good fashion for Forty somethings - and great if she can make some money out of it. Coco's Tea Party is still my go to place for celebrity information, dressing and Ella's love of the fashion industry and all its trappings is a fabulous perspective.

Where would I be without the diverse reading of That's Not My Age, Faux Fuchsia, Mrs Bossa, Vintage Vixen, Fashion's Most Wanted, Fashion's Pearl's of Wisdom and My Style -Thrifting, Fashion and me, to name a few! I could extend the list to past, present and future but this post is long enough. I far prefer these blogs and they have saved me a fortune over the years in magazines and entertained me much more!

The point of this post is what next for fashion blogging? I still think a spirit of subversiveness prevails. I was reminded of this when reading Lisa Armstrong in The Daily Telegraph. Lisa Armstrong is my favourite fashion journalist. I only used to buy The Times on a Wednesday due to her. I'm thankful she's left the Murdoch stable and is now at The Telegraph. The Telegraph feels like a subversive paper these days, who knew that the Torygraph could be the main force of good and attack against the institute of Parliament and the current coalition! Lisa Armstrong is back to her biggest and best. Her disregard for following the pack (much like the wonderful Hadley Freeman) is evident and yet she still has the great ability to mix the good of fashion and dispense it fairly to us all. Lisa has given me hope for fashion bloggers to find a new way of forging the spirit of it's evolution. A spirit that stepped away from the mainstream, examined, challenged and questioned the predictable offering of the fashion magazine and mixed it up a bit.

The main challenge is to keep challenging, not to accept the accolade of 15 minutes of fame but to continue to forge new ways of talking about fashion, examining the fashion industry and how to find new hand to face poses! More importantly how can we stop models or celebrities as designers..if there is one campaign I'd like to start it would be this one!

And I'm sure you lot all have views on this. Do share and Pearl, don't ever stop using your brick wall as a back drop to your outfits! Keep recycling that brick wall!

And as for Mrs Fashion if you do happened to chance upon this - let us know what you think.

Wednesday - Bloggers & advertising/marketing - is it really worth it!


  1. New media and blogging is generally long overdue an examination. It's almost an 'invisible medium'- would you believe some exam boards don't allow students to write their A level projects on blogs, only established brand websites? Shocking, but probably because the head examiners can't get their heads around them yet!

  2. Kate, you don't hold back do you! you have the most infuriating way of tackling a subject but hitting the nail on the head. I will remain anonymous on this comment because I'm being cowardly. I deplore the way bloggers have been appropriated and fetted (think this is made up word which is used now in an urban dictionary was for saying being shackle) by the fashion press and designers.

    If I said they'd sold out that would be too harsh, more like being used or duped. Perdita is right to identify it is almost an invisible media. It isn't truly understood or examined. I'm not suggesting it has to be defined in an academic sense but if blogging is unruly because it is free and unregulated then how can you be a blogger if you become part of the regulated and structured media?

    I'll refrain from passing comment on those who've made the grade. I'm not a blogger but I have to contribute to our corporate blog at times which is a purely manufactured element so we are seen to be part of social media. Ugh!

  3. Missing blogger = Agathe!

  4. P.S. I got overexcited and forgot to say thanks for the mention, which reminds of that time on Family Guy when ....

    Nah, just kidding! (But read that in Stewie's voice.)

  5. WendyB - haha Agathe yes! I kept thinking I was being too Abba when that name popped in my head!

  6. I also miss Mrs Fashion, she was one of my first reads, along with yours, remember when all Blogs were either black or white, those were the days.

    As I have said so many times, I only started blogging because I couldn't find anybody else in my age group doing it at that time, well not in the UK anyway and figured there must be many women like me who still loved to buy clothes.

    As you know I have a job, blogging is a hobby and I never pretend to be something I am not which is a forty something woman who wishes she had worked in the fashion industry when she was younger and also wishes she was rich enough to buy all the clothes and shoes she lusts after on a regular basis, what you see is what you get, that is just me, love me or hate me!
    This is a great post by the way, lots of food for thought xx

  7. Hi Kate-a really splendid and insightful post, this is our 4th year of knowing each other and my, blogging has changed so much from those early days-glad to see our annual Pimms fest is still going strong though!! Thanks too for the mention xxxx

  8. I don't know where to start that was such an indepth post. So I will just say that I started my blog as I thought it was a great way to keep a diary of my outfits and also meet people who I could talk about all the fashiony stuff with. I don't have one of those useful photographer boyfriends, not beautiful locations (or time to go to them) for shoots. Would I love my blog to look like SOS or Fashion Toast? Sometimes, but them I also think that some of the 'realness' would be lost too. I am touched when I get emails from readers, I love that people find me approachable and I would hate my blog to become more of a soul-less magazine.

    Do I make money from my blog? Yes, but not enough to quit my job. Would I like to blog full time? Of course it is something I love doing. I insert the odd sponsored post to help cover costs (I mean I need shoes) but would I go all out and change my blog into something different for a price? I would like to think not. I will be working on a new project the next few weeks which I would love to talk about but can't right now. Maybe I can come back and see if I stayed true to what I have just said?

    BTW Are you around during LFW x

  9. Hey hon! Weird, haven't been on here for a while and when I do I'm totally gripped by your post. Remember the time when we all met at Absolut Masquerade? Ah those innocent days.

    I said to D the other day, why does anything new and creative always get taken over by corporations? I agree this has happened somewhat with blogging but it was inevitable. Yes we were all quite happy blogging as hobbyists but I guess when you do get smiled upon by the brands/publications you admire, it does take a certain maturity to see it for what it is. We are being used yes but we have to evaluate whether it's worth it. For me I play the game with eyes wide open. So I'll go to the launches etc but I won't promise coverage - good or otherwise. I've stuck to my guns (I think) and insisted on staying authentic. I really try hard to avoid the PR generated posts but it's hard to resist sometimes as it's such a thrill to be invited to things that were so far out of reach before.

    What blogging has actually done for me is really show the industry for what it is. At the end of the day, whether you're a blogger, journalist, stylist or fashion editor, or even celebrity in a way, your job is to get coverage for the brand. As it's the industry I'm in anyway, I'm aware of this as it's always been my role, even pre-blogging. You're only as good as the last Prada bag/perfume/show you wrote about. Yes, it would have been nice if the brands/PRs had left us alone but they didn't, they courted us, and those of us in a position to be self employed just add blogging to the laundry list of skills on offer. For me, the nice thing is that I get to do more of the things i like, while the brands pay for my time, as opposed to churning out mindless copy for publishing companies whose freelance stylist/journalist budgets are ever-dwindling. That said, yes I do still have to do some money jobs but on the whole I can pick and choose.

    Anyway, all that said, I too miss Mrs Fashion. And I really do wonder what she thinks of the whole affair!

  10. I thought I knew who Mrs Fashion was but then I was wrong and had hoped she would come back...I started blogging as a way to channel a little bit of the old me, when I used to work in the Fashion industry before the reality check of wanting to earn more, marriage, kids etc. I treat blogging as my own little magazine on what interests me and yes it has a heavy shopping/fashion slant but that's what I like. I never wanted to 'Brand/pimp' myself - despite encouragement to go further - improve my stats and get more coverage from the media. When blogging starts becoming a chore I will stop . PS great post and I hope you carry on blogging and this was not a swansong post to get us prepared for your au revoir???

  11. Comparatively new on the block - undiscovered and unread, as I am - I have not had opportunity to observe or chronicle the evolution of new media and blogging.

    That said, I have encountered a number of blog authors seemingly in the pay and play of a PR contact. Would I do the same? Absolutely not, but then, I'm not in the game to make a living.

    I work in publishing - editing the words of dusty, hairy-of-nostril academics, who would, it must be said, recoil with repugnance to learn of my bit on the side (i.e. the blog) - and so have never regarded my blog as an extension of my career or, even, a means of establishing one.

    For those who seek an alternative use for their on-line persona - whether that be the generation of income or fifteen minutes of fame - I think it is no less valid or authentic and it would, perhaps, be overly cynical to judge their motives...

    Or how they choose to get rich. ;0)

    Sarah x

  12. I found this a fascinating blog post, Kate, as always.

    I fear all I can say is that anyone I look at, who has been described as a big-name fashion blogger, always strikes me as seriously dull.

    I'm so sick of samey outfit posts and the same old same old photos from sponsored events, collection previews and fashion shows. I'm sick of the banality. The truth is, very few of them would have EVER been picked up to work in fashion journalism ten years ago. It's all hype.

    Keep doing what you're doing lady, because it's one of the best!


  13. What a brilliant post, Kate!
    Completely agree with Liz, the big bloggers bore the pants off me. What attracted me to blogging was the sheer freedom, when advertising and promotions creep in I can't be arsed with it. x

  14. I absolutely LOVE those dresses with all that texture and fabric manipulation and silk dying.I only started blogging because I couldn't find anybody else in my age group doing it at that time, well not in the UK anyway and figured there must be many women like me who still loved to buy clothes. Right up my alley!

  15. Hi Kate, I'm a new reader, have been reading a couple weeks but this is my first comment.

    Great post!

    As a relative newbie to the world of style and fashion, I've been really enjoying reading fashion/style bloggers. There's so much to learn, so many cool people writing. I would hate to have to rely on mainstream media to get a clue about fashion and style.

    Thank you for the introduction to Sister Wolfe. What a wit!

  16. Super post - I totally miss Agathe and Mrs. Fashion. Fortunately, we have so many terrific second wave blogs to dull the sadness.

  17. What a great post Kate, that was an excellent read. It is an odd thing isn't it, because it is still in a state of flux and many people on both sides don't know how to handle it. Magazines make most of their money from advertising, but when blogs try to do the same it so often ends up with the blog being consumed by it and having nothing of substance left.

    I have to say when I came to it (and yes, I was very scared too), amongst the many people I was inspired by was Wendy B, because she was using it to market her own business. I thought it was quite wonderful that you could write about what you loved, and in doing so also be promoting your own business. But even that I find hard, because when people come to my blog they aren't there to constantly be reading about what I have for sale, and I fear I don't really pimp myself as much as I should. It is a really fine line between being able to make something out of blogging, and becoming so boring and the same as everyone else that people stop reading you. I don't think I've really placed that line yet, but I keep looking ;) xx

  18. Thanks for the mention, Kate - really touched. You were actually the first blogger I ever read, when I hit on Make Do Style while looking for Jess Cartner-Morley posts. I think I've told you that already. I wish there was more in-depth critique of fashion blogging; I'm sick of people saying, "everyone's got a fashion blog", which undermines the fact that there are bloggers out there with real style, a genuine voice, a consistently interesting perspective. Like you, I also love the 'realness' of untainted bloggers, and I for one would be very sad if Pearl stopped posing in front of her red brick wall.
    I remember meeting you and Pearl and feeling a little intimidated, as though you were celebs and I was a geek for speaking to you. But the support and info you two have given me since has been fantastic and honest, ad I wouldn't trade that for anything. xx

  19. You left out The Despotic One: who actually set up his blog to teach fashion P.R. clients how important blogging was. I met you, Sister Wolf, Janet, The Seeker, SuperK, WendyB, Kristin, Sally and my dear fellow Aussie Skylark via Imelda's Blog and I've loved watching you all. Yes there has been sadness- a double helping but WendyB's (drink!!*) response taught me that you don't just sit back and say; "oh how sad" - You do something.
    I'm only a pretender in fashion world. I love it, I laugh at it (I'm talkin' bout you Marc Jacobs) and long for it. It's an escape for me and it taught me to live outside your own narrow experience, and be someone else for a while.
    My dream is to get a book published and come and do a reading in each of your home towns - then make you buy me cake and prosecco. It could still happen.

    *I promised to take a drink every time I see a link to WendyB.

  20. Another great post, you were one of the first blogs I read and I've always enjoyed reading your posts. And you've always been a supportive blogger, leaving lovely comments. Your post has also given me a new perspective on blogging. I really just want to write creatively rather than be a fashion blog but have been concerned that a visit to my blog might not live up to a true fashionista's expectations. But after reading your post, I need to just continue writing about things I want to blog about rather than try to write for a specific audience.

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