Posts in Editor's Pick
Should bloggers be at fashion week?

The same conversation has been going on since 2010 when the spark that lit the growing hatred towards bloggers at fashion week first set flame.

No doubt, it was when Tavi Gevinson wore an oversized hat to a Dior show, thereby obstructing the view of everyone sitting behind her, that the anger really started to boil.

It has been four years and, while we may have learned a few common courtesies regarding what is acceptable to wear on the front row, we are still having the same discussion about whether bloggers deserve to be at fashion week. The resounding answer that comes from within the industry is no. Shows are overcrowded, the atmosphere resembles a circus and, as a result, print media and buyers are incapable of doing their jobs.

Ultimately, it is the designer that suffers. 

But bloggers are still coming to the shows and, these days, no one bats an eyelid when Susie Lau is positioned on the front row next to heavyweights like Anna Wintour or Suzy Menkes - as I'm sure you know, she is a blogger. This leads me to think that the debate we're having is misguided. The issue is no longer about whether bloggers should be allowed at fashion week. Instead we should be looking at which bloggers get to attend and what they can offer in return for their ticket. 

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This seems like a simple issue and one that PRs should have a firm grasp on. They are the ones who decide on ticket allocation so surely they have a systematic approach to dealing with bloggers. I contacted a number of London based PR teams who organize shows for fashion week and none were willing to comment on why they invite bloggers to shows or what they hope to achieve through sending them a ticket. I was told repeatedly that the issue was 'too sensitive' for them to weigh in on. But really it is rather straightforward. Do they look at stats? Social media following? Quality of content produced? Do they try to gauge their overall influence? No comment was given. Their insistence on remaining secretive hurts both the blogger and the designer they represent. If there was transparency regarding ticket allocation then bloggers would know what PRs deem important and could thereby act accordingly. 

For print media and buyers there is a clear hierarchy regarding seat allocation but when it comes to bloggers it often feels random. In the past, I have been given front row tickets to shows by designers I have never supported or previously written about. Other times I've been denied access to shows that I've attended for years and repeatedly covered. I spoke to a number of bloggers and they all said they had experienced the same treatment. As a blogger, if you attend a show you are likely to feel confused and bewildered by seat allocation. The incentive to post about a show is reduced when you are on uncertain terms with the designer and their PR team. You are left wondering if they value your coverage or if you are just there to fill an empty seat.

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To get to the heart of the issue regarding bloggers at fashion week I contacted a few designers directly.

In the same way I did with PRs, I asked them how they decide which bloggers to invite to their shows and what they hope to achieve by sending them a ticket. Everyone I spoke to was willing and eager to comment. None of the designers ranked blog stats as being an important factor when deciding whether to invite a blogger to their show. Repeatedly I was told that having a relationship with the blogger was of utmost importance. Nik Thakkar, for example, expressed a desire to establish long term ambassadors for his label Ada + Nik. Vin & Omi told me that one of the reasons they value bloggers is because of their ability to put their brand in touch with people who aren't part of the fashion industry but could become potential customers. Charlie May acknowledged that bloggers are key in creating instant buzz through social media but also recognized that for a blogger catwalk reviews often receive the least traffic. For her, it's also important that bloggers be seen wearing her designs because that's what helps boost sales. Each designer expressed an interest in having bloggers post about their show but only if they genuinely saw something they wanted to feature. There were also concerns raised about poor coverage coming out from bloggers that are unable to take clear photos or write a coherent review. 

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As far as I see it, there are two types of bloggers that should be invited to fashion week.

First, there are the ones that are 'online famous'. These are the big guns who often attend shows in every city and whose mere presence is good publicity for the brand. They are the equivalent of a celebrity except they have the added bonus of being social media savvy. They'll likely Tweet and Instagram live from the show. They'll probably hashtag FROW along with a photo of their designer clad feet next to the catwalk and that's great because it generates instant buzz. Second, there are the bloggers that are great 'content producers'. These people will Tweet and Instagram too, albeit to a smaller audience, but there is also the chance that they will post a show review if they identify with the collection. They will likely appreciate their ticket and, therefore, feel a loyalty to the designer whose show they've attended. Famous bloggers and people who can produce great content are rare in the blogging world but they are the people that need to be sought out and invited to fashion week. The others should be left out. 

Designers, along with their PR team, should devise a strategic plan when it comes to allocating tickets to bloggers. They should think about the brand's image and what sort of person they want to be marketing to. This shouldn't be an afterthought and time should be allocated to properly think though it. Bloggers that are invited just to fill seats should be left out. The aim of a fashion show should not be to generate the loudest buzz but instead to create one that is well suited to the designer in question.

Photos taken by Jennifer Inglis at the John Rocha SS14 show.

How much Photoshop is too much?

It starts out harmlessly enough. Tweak the colour balance, adjust the light, change the contrast. Maybe you soften the skin, remove a pimple, brighten your eyes.

Oh, that nasty scar you got when you were a kid? It kind of distracts from the overall beauty of the picture. You might as well remove that too. Actually, come to think of it, your legs are looking a little pudgy and your bum is sticking out a bit. Might as well suck those in while you're at it.

Most of us have access to photo editing equipment. There's nothing wrong with using it. Every photo I publish on this blog gets a bit of tweaking before it goes live. I even run my images through some software before posting them on Instagram. Because why settle for reality when you can publish a romanticized version of it? 

But there's a problem here. 

Blogs and the people behind them are supposed to be different than traditional print media. We're supposed to represent normal people. But it's hard to settle for normal when you can so easily manipulate reality into looking a bit more perfect. If you're a blogger, you might have noticed that you are up against some tough competition. It's becoming increasingly common for bloggers to double as models and to work with professional photographers when taking outfit shots. The result? Pictures that look a whole lot more like they belong in a magazine than on a blog. 

Do bloggers owe it to their readers to present a realistic picture of themselves? Is it OK to use editing software to improve images that go up on blogs? If so, how far is too far when it comes to manipulation? I'm sure we'd likely all agree that what I've done below (to the pictures on the right side) is taking it a step too far. But is this the direction we're headed in? If there's an increasing pressure for blog pictures to look as good as images that appear in magazines then is this not the next logical step? 

By the way, I edited these pictures using a free app on my phone. No fancy skills required.

A letter to my fellow bloggers

Hi bloggers,

How's it going? I thought it might be a good idea for us to clear some things up. As I'm sure you already know, we have a bit of a bad rap in some circles - what, with all the front row stealing and endless piles of free stuff we get sent (cough). Since London Fashion Week, I've thought a lot about what it means to be a blogger. There's an increasing amount of shame associated with having a blog, especially at industry events where there are real press and other people who actually deserve their invitations. I'd like to share my thoughts on this and find out how you feel.

First, I just want to point out how dear I find the whole platform of blogging. As you know, I started this blog almost three years ago. It was a little shocking to start off with (wait, you still might find it shocking... but go on, click here, the original posts are even scarier) but I stuck with it. So delirious was I with my new-found platform of self-expression that I posted frequently and regularly despite the fact that no one was reading. Never in one-hundred-gazillion years did I ever think the blog would lead to anything. I didn't expect anyone to be interested and I didn't care if my Site Meter read '5'. The point was that I had a place where I could say what I thought and post what I wanted in whatever way I saw fit. Shoddy photos, who cares? Poor grammar, so what? No one was grading what I did and I didn't have to impress anyone.

Somewhere down the line that changed.

When I met other bloggers I felt a growing pressure: 'What camera do you use? Where are your jeans from? Are you going to that press day tomorrow?'

The further you fall into something the less you are able to see it for what it truly is. When you collaborate with a brand or get invited to an event you start to feel a degree of obligation. After all, you're just a blogger. You should be thankful to have even been contacted.

The crux of the problem between fashion bloggers and the industry is the disconnect between expectations. There is an anger and a judgement directed at the poor journalistic standards. But, most bloggers don't claim to be journalists. There are hard feelings when a blogger is seated in the front row (if she wears a big hat that blocks the view of those behind her - even worse). But, surely, if the PR seats that blogger in the front row then only they are the ones to blame? When at a show, it's a simple courtesy to try to be as unobtrusive to the people around you as possible. It isn't rocket science to politely ask someone if they wouldn't mind taking their hat off. If they refuse, spit in your face, and declare, 'It's fashion, darling', then you probably have a reason to be pissed off. But there's no point sitting around disgruntled and bitter if you didn't even attempt to amend the situation yourself.

There should be no shame in admitting to be a blogger. We shouldn't feel the need to pretend to be something we're not or be too embarrassed/angry to apply for a Blogger Pass at LFW. I really think that if we're honest with ourselves and with others the entire blogger/industry relationship would benefit greatly. Below are my thoughts/tips on how best to deal with the industry side of things:

1. Be honest about who you are and what you have to offer. Don't ever lie about this. People listen, they remember, and they talk. Don't ever say anything in an e-mail or to someone's face that you wouldn't happily have them repeat on Twitter for the entire world to hear. There is nothing wrong with giving information out about your blog stats. If it's helpful for a brand to know which countries most of your traffic comes from, then tell them. Whether you have 100,000 hits a day or ten, there shouldn't be any shame.

2. Consider which brands/PRs/designers you really want to work with. When I say 'work' I don't necessarily mean paid work - I mean a general working relationship. Your blog is precious. Only you get to decide what goes on it. Don't let anyone make you feel guilty for not inserting the links they want in a post. If it feels wrong to you then it's wrong. There are people out there that will want to support you and collaborate with you on your conditions. Take the time to look for them and don't expect it to happen overnight.

3. Be informed when signing up to networks or placing ads on your site. You can tell when a link is an affiliate one - even if the URL name tries to hide it. I can honestly say that I have never received any compensation that was worthwhile from doing a sponsored post or slotting in a cheeky affiliate link. This is why, currently, my blog is entirely ad free. If you decide to enter into a 'cost per action' scheme then make sure you have a freaking butt load of traffic going through your site. Otherwise you'll be left wondering why you agreed to do it in the first place. Brands moved from pay-per-click to pay-per-buy for a reason... it's because they get a lot of exposure without having to pay you very much (or often anything).

4. Don't get bitter. Try not to compare yourself to other bloggers. Obviously, this can be difficult - we always see what people around us are doing and wonder how we measure up. You can't help but notice when a blogger has 1 million comments on every post, the newest Proenza Schouler bag and a Jag to pick them up at the airport when they arrive in Cannes. Stop it though. Stop comparing yourself. Trust me, it's not worth it.

5. Think about what you're doing and why. I really can't stress this enough. A lot of people are starting blogs because they want to work in the fashion industry. That's fine. Whether you're eleven, eighteen, or eighty-five you can use a blog to showcase your talent and present what you're passionate about. Do not start, or keep up, a blog because you think it will get you free stuff or get you into fashion shows. The reality is, these things are often not free and having a blog (no matter how 'big' it might be) doesn't guarantee that a designer or PR will want you at their show.

6. Be grateful for what you are given. Whether it's an e-mail with a look book attached, an invitation to a launch, a thank you for reviewing a product or a free stay at a luxury hotel. Remember to say 'thank you' and be kind. If you aren't interested in, say, what Rihanna wore to that party last night just respond and explain why it isn't relevant to your blog and ask to be taken off the mailing list.

7. Don't seek fame. I don't believe that having a blog should be, on any level, a quest for stardom.

8. Hold onto the magic. Blogging requires passion, motivation, inspiration and a lot of time. It is, at its core, intended to be personal. That's the only thing that distinguishes it from an online magazine and that's exactly what makes it a vital piece of media. You aren't getting paid to have a blog. Why should you be? It's your little slice of the web. So, if you aren't having fun with it, why bother?

These are just my thoughts and my take on blogging, if you disagree please let me know.

Hope you're well. xx

p.s. these photos were taken by Kit- they're nice, right?

p.s.s. so, do you like my outfit? It's my 'relaxed and chilled-out but at the same time hotttt' look. Umm, yes it is hot. I'm wearing a short black leather skirt - that's as sexy as I get - but with a long silk coat, a canvas bag, and manky Converse (not seen, but I promise they are there). It looks more disgruntled mess than hooker... which I like to think is a good thing. Incase you're interested: TBA coat, Maison Scotch jumper, 2nd Day skirt, Lucy Folk bracelets, Maria Nilsdotter ring, Bottletop Luciana clutch, and Versace sunglasses (stolen from Charlie).