The battle of blogger vs traditional media is once again unfolding down in Melbourne, Australia, at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival. It’s been sparked by the seasonal ‘story’ that members of traditional print media are complaining that bloggers are getting front row seats ahead of them.
Now, having been part of the Australian media industry as a content blogger (though I am pictured above trying to wear multiple hats at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia last year) for more than a handful of years, this is familiar territory. I have sat in front rows, middle rows, standing or just not invited at all. None of which I mind as long as I get to see more than just the models heads bobble past.
In recent years, the criteria for attending fashion shows have changed dramatically, as has social media. Bloggers often get invited to attend events and fashion shows solely based on the number of Instagram followers they have, often scoring advertising based on that figure as well. This also blurs the line on what exactly is the definition of a blogger, in the past it was someone who wrote about certain topics on their web-log (hence blog), but today it could mean anything from someone with a blog, to someone who has a significant social media following and has a blog that is updated irregularly and generates almost no traffic.
In the past, an invitation to a fashion event or show would depend on how much traffic your site generated and what kind of content you created. But in the age of vanity, a pretty snap of pretty girl in a designer outfit is sometimes much more desirable to a brand than a write-up (even though you can’t Google that Instagram photo to get more information about it if the poster didn’t give you any details).
So how does one decide at major events like VAMFF and MBFWA, who is worthy of even a show invite and who is not? It’s a tough question that even I have no answer for. Fashion is much like high society, you can earn your way in, but family connections or attending the right school can also rank you higher.
A comment on a Mumbrella story about another drama at VAMFF piqued my interest though, asking if blogger coverage was actually about creating buzz and promoting the designers on show, or promoting the culture of celebrity (the style ‘bloggers’ with huge Instagram followers being the ‘celebrity’ in this case). Fair point, especially when designers and their PRs court style bloggers and celebrities to wear their clothes and sit front row at their fashion show. But what is more important at the end of the day?
An interesting comment came from Elle Australia’s Deputy Editor (and often a scathing critic of bloggers), Damien Woolnough. He told the Daily Mail that, “Bloggers are an important part of the fashion landscape, but just because you post things online it doesn’t make you a credible voice.”
He then goes on to talk about how Elle works with bloggers that fit its brand and other things that a monthly magazine has the luxury to do. But he makes a valid point. In a world where you can buy hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram, what else do you have to offer the fashion world besides one photo? And if you have a blog, does anyone actually bother to read what you have to say on it?
Very few blogs (and other web publications) in Australia are able to give honest and sometimes negative reviews without experiencing backlash from the industry. I remember one year The Vine (owned by Fairfax) wrote a scathing review about Ginger & Smart’s show and we were in the media centre at MBFWA when the editor and the journalist who penned the article received some choice feedback from their PR. Australia has long been known as a small fashion industry, where one negative review can get you on the whole fashion industry’s bad side. Classic case in point, Marion Hume when she was editor at Vogue Australia back in the 1990s. Many people, myself included, have often just decided not to say anything if we can’t say anything nice at all. But sometimes the itch to type takes over and I have to have my two cents worth.
So I ask you, how do you think bloggers should earn their place at a fashion show? And by bloggers I mean people who post regularly on their blog about fashion and related topics, not just a photo or two on Instagram of themselves in a pretty outfit. I believe they have a place in fashion, but they often serve a better purpose being a peacock outside while the writers and buyers do what they do best inside. Because let’s be honest here, buyers are more important to the livelihood of a fashion brand than media and bloggers – publicity can only take you so far if no one is stocking your designs and you have no other means of sales. But I am sure in return, good media and social media buzz can also persuade a buyer to buy the collection. And the circle goes around again.