January 27, 2019

The Modern Socialite

After giving social media influencers a hard time in my previous blog post, I thought it best to even out the playing field. This post was inspired by an incident that occurred back in 2016, but with the still-prevalent ubiquity of social stars today, the fraught battle between old media and new media remains as relevant as before.

In a recap of Spring/Summer 2017 Milan Fashion Week, Vogue.com editors made scathing remarks about the fashion bloggers in attendance:

"Note to bloggers who change head-to-toe, paid-to-wear outfits every hour: Please stop. Find another business. You are heralding the death of style." -- Sally Singer

"...the professional blogger bit, with the added aggression of the street photographer swarm who attend them, is horrible, but most of all, pathetic for these girls, when you watch how many times the desperate troll up and down outside shows, in traffic, risking accidents even, in hopes of being snapped." -- Sarah Mower

"It’s not just sad for the women who preen for the cameras in borrowed clothes, it’s distressing, as well, to watch so many brands participate." -- Nicole Phelps

"...how funny it is that we even still call them 'bloggers,' as so few of them even do that anymore. Rather than a celebration of any actual style, it seems to be all about turning up, looking ridiculous, posing, twitching in your seat as you check your social media feeds, fleeing, changing, repeating...I have to think that soon people will wise up to how particularly gross the whole practice of paid appearances and borrowed outfits looks. Looking for style among a bought-and-paid-for ('blogged out?') front row is like going to a strip club looking for romance." -- Alessandra Codinha

Clearly, the crows were out to feast! Every single editor featured in that article couldn't help but express utter distaste at the swarms of influencers making a living off online profiles. Not surprisingly, Vogue ruffled the feathers of those they called peacocks. Among the many responses to the provoking assertions, the one that inspired me to write this post was published by Fashion Magazine in an interview with Canadian fashion bloggers Sam and Cailli Beckerman:

"Calling anyone pathetic because they like to have fun with fashion is awful. What we do is a legit job. We’re editors and journalists, too—it’s just on our own platform."

Them vs. us; you vs. me is a disappointing mindset to have, and one which I believe powers much of the world's conflict, intolerance and antagonism. So if you've already pitched your tent in support of one side of the quarrel, I ask that you erase such notions and proceed with me, because we've got some exploring to do.

The fashion editors...they had a point. There are undoubtedly bloggers out there who are paid to wear outfits they probably wouldn't promote if it weren't for the dollars they received just to slide those pieces over their bodies and arrange themselves flatteringly in front of the cameras. Vogue's criticism is not unwarranted. Authenticity has become a precious rarity. Around the time blogging became monetized and bloggers became celebrities, we lost the bona fide feeling of closeness to those whose words and images we scrolled through. And the extent to which some influencers will go to be snapped -- blocking traffic, posturing, grasping for attention -- can be quite unfortunate to see. The show is not about them; it's about the designer. Paid-to-wear outfits can perpetuate superficial style, so I don't blame Vogue editors for their disparaging comments. At least they had the guts to speak up with crushing honesty about what they saw as undignified behaviour.

But of course, not all bloggers in borrowed clothes lack substance to their style. We can't just assume influencers dress up for the money. I'm sure many bloggers genuinely love the garments they get paid to wear, and if they're like me, probably welcome any opportunity to experiment with different styles, brands and attitudes. A sincere love for fashion can manifest itself as a willingness to wear absolutely anything. And to preen and prance is arguably what these bloggers are paid to do. It is their job to be seen. Did Vogue editors have to attack bloggers with such venomous language? Probably not. They erroneously allowed the actions of a few to impair their perception of the many.

And the Beckerman twins make a good point: many bloggers have worked hard to get to where they are. Whether a fashion editor or a fashion blogger, we're all just trying to build a career out of pursuing our passions. I would discourage against partitioning out the industry and assuming one group is more elite than the other. Fashion editors cannot boast to have uttermost integrity either. They march to the beat of advertising dollars, and no one reads a fashion publication believing all of its content is unadulterated by commercialism, corporate motivations and obligatory praise. Our modern, self-made socialites have managed to carve a portion of the industry for themselves, and I think we should be proud of that. Fashion is becoming more accessible and interactive. Social media mavens have inspired countless everyday youth to embrace creativity and believe that dreams can be within reach.

So after all this, whose side am I on? I started off on nobody's side, and I will end on nobody's side. Because ultimately, I am on everybody's side. I respect the calibre of our editors, while still admiring the entrepreneurship of our influencers. Let us recognize our common goal of making a difference in the world by doing what we love -- and support each other in doing so. We are a team, and together, we make up this wonderful thing called fashion.


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Image Source: I Am Schick, INM, Vogue, Marie Claire