Bang for your style blogging buck
The top fashion bloggers of the moment
Susie Bubble. Photo: Getty Images
A horde of bloggers descended upon Australian Fashion Week earlier this month, dressed to the nines in Balmain and brocade sandals. Circular Quay became a playground for the world’s most esteemed style pack, including Rumi Neely of Fashion Toast, Susie Lau of Style Bubble, Elin Kling of Style by Kling and Bryan Yambao of Bryan Boy, recruited as reporters and ambassadors, trips paid for in exchange for show coverage and live-streaming.
Once hailed as the democratic voice of fashion, blogs have emerged as legitimate media sources and (surprise, surprise) lucrative cash cows. These days, it takes more than “eclectic” style and a standard point-and-shoot to make it as a top blogger and the ones who have are reaping the rewards.
There’s nothing wrong with making money - hell, it’s about time someone in the fashion industry got paid in more than perks - but the authenticity of blogs and the “personal voice” of their authors can become diluted and compromised when commercial interests come into play.
It’s no secret that popular style bloggers are sent boatloads of free swag, unequivocally urged to advertise them in return. Take a recent post from Fashion Toast’s Rumi Neely, which states: “Outside the Shibuya station on a cold morning, capitalizing on the opportunity to wear this beautiful shearling vest that was sent to my hotel.” Neely then links to where you can buy said vest, touted as her favourite piece from the designer’s autumn-winter collection.
The pressures of product placements, brand endorsements and opportunities for real-time employment can create a dilemma for the blogger and how they balance commercial interests while maintaining editorial integrity. As Hayley Phelan reported on Fashionista, some high-profile bloggers have even been offered commission on the sales of items they plug.The problem lies with when bloggers are not transparent about their relationship with brands – when gifted products are held, worn or promoted without acknowledgement that they’re gifted.
Though journalists are encouraged to turn to their own code of ethics regarding whether or not to accept freebies, no such thing exists for bloggers in Australia. The Federal Trade Commission in the United States introduced guidelines requiring bloggers to disclose all ties to companies whose products they review or promote, however, these are not yet steeped in law and don’t reach as far as our shores.
As they transition from personal style diaries to full-blown commercial endeavours with sponsored editorials and professional photography, some of my favourite blogs are becoming increasingly resemblant of mainstream glossies, the image of the “everyday woman” replaced with a shiny, moneyed chosen few.
We’ve been taught to approach magazines with a healthy dose of cynicism (blame the plastic surgery booklets at the back pages of Vogue for that) and it’s high time we apply our skepticism to blogs, too. So, the next time you read about your favourite style blogger wearing Qantas PJs or downing Vitamin Water, best take it with a sprinkle of salt.