The New Critics

There is a huge democratization of fashion happening right this instant. Any of you that are avid blog followers will have witnessed the global phenomenon of super bloggers – the Rumi’s, Tavi’s and Susie’s of the world – that have written and charmed their way into front rows at fashion weeks, Lanvin launch parties, design collaborations and even GAP campaigns.

With some among them receiving up to 35 000 hits a day on their blogs, and nods from the world’s foremost fashion houses, they are representative of a consumer need for both authenticity and immediacy. Celebrities in their own right, these editors-in-the-making are streaking ahead of the outmoded idea of fashion critics, whose words were golden, revered. Susie Lau, aka London-based blogette sensation Susie Bubble, puts it aptly when she says ‘I don’t want to claim to be something that I’m not, which is a critic’.

Rather than promoting an inflexible and superior system of fashion judgement, bloggers like Susie are pure fashion lovers. They revel in playing dress up and taking photos of their styling triumphs and fashion failures. Many of them are excellent writers, whose love for fashion harkens back to the fashion journalism of old, where fashion writers were revered and emulated.

Susie Bubble, in particular, has a clear and playful relationship with fashion that extends to a kind of fanaticism that I identify with well. Her posts are well researched, well written and diverse. To me, they seem almost timeless – they encompass trends, or they don’t. And there is no preference or hierarchy given to either the new or the old. Both are invaluable. Perhaps it is this utter love for fashion that speaks to the readers (or fans). Irrespective of trends, they blog from the heart and, in doing so, arrive at the heart of fashion – what it means to be a girl and to love a dress so much that you can’t live without it and it ruins your day, week, month. Or to be willing to live off noodles and walk to work if it means said dress will then be yours.

Much of the success of these blog phenomenons – talent aside – has to do with marketing, of course. It helps that this new guard of fashion voices is young – all under 27, in fact. Tavi Gevinson, as has been widely publicised, is an even more sensational case. At the tender age of 13 her blog, Style Rookie, took off like a Rodarte rocket. Front row at fashion week, hugs from Anna Wintour and an offer to resurrect the cult girl’s mag, Sassy, ensued, leading the fashion world to speculate that Miss Gevinson might actually be the next Wintour. Tavi’s unique voice – candyfloss naivete meets self-deprecating wit and a bottomless reservoir of cultural references – is surely novel, and being the smart cookie she is, she plays the game.

Gala Gonzalez, the Spanish beauty who now calls London home, has a blog gilded with images of her dark silky tresses, shapely legs and undeniable style. And it works. Jane Aldridge, herself less than 20 years old, delights readers with glossily styled images of herself and her Sea of Shoes, a collection she started at the age of 15, which has grown to include shoes by Martin Margiela and Commes des Garcons. Each of these bloggers uses and cultivates their personal style, mannerisms and even trademark poses into a marketable strategy for gaining a bigger or a better following – all in the name of being heard and then being listened to.

South Africa is a tad behind on these developments, with just a few resourceful fashion bloggers here and there turning their blogs into business. In America and Europe bloggers like Aldridge and Rumi Neely are being asked to collaborate on collections for well known mainstream labels – RVCA and Urban Outfitters respectively. Susie Bubble has styled shop windows for COS and appeared in a GAP campaign and Vogue Nippon; Julia Frakes of Bunny Bisous has also modelled for GAP and Gonzalez of Am-lul’s Closet is fast becoming a street style contender on The Sartorialist. Susie Bubble even reports that brands she mentions on her blog have called her thereafter to say that they sold out of products she blogged about in record time.

While South African blogs are nowhere near at this level of purchasing power, there is a definite movement towards using blogging as a legitimate career choice. The fashion reading community (you will have noticed) has begun to take blogs more seriously as a means of fashion commentary, with bread-and-butter fashion mags like Marie Claire and ELLE devoting full spreads to local bloggers.

Developments like these herald this new prance of fashion muses as an important medium in the fashion world. The blog and the blogger have become a way for everyday fashion lovers to relate to the distant world of front rows and after party invitations. And the beauty of it is that it’s entirely democratic. Because readers are aware that the blogger is very much reachable and available for interaction, they feel they have a choice in the matter, marketing or not.

And what’s even better, is that style – good old-fashioned born-with-it style – plays a huge role in shaping the successes of these bloggers. What could be more democratic than that? You need not be fashion royalty or fashion trained in order to pass comment, or even to lead the way. As Gala Gonzalez says, blogs are ‘a way for designers to see what their consumers like and what they don’t. It’s a place for fashionistas to meet people who love fashion as much as they do. It allows readers to see the trends working on real people.’

Real people. Not entitled, out-of-touch figureheads that take themselves too seriously. Blogging is ultimately about expression – and bloggers like Susie Bubble work hard to keep this expression authentic, playful and inspiring.



6 responses to “The New Critics

  1. YES! so well put! brilliantly written. love your work! xxx

  2. One of yr best columns Kate – really interesting and inciteful. Here’s to you having 35 000 hits a day! xx

  3. This was such an awesome post Kate really enjoyed reading it, so interesting xx

  4. great post! some fashion bloggers are way overrated though!

  5. Pingback: Go Wide | The Pessimiss

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