There has been much mention since the CFDA awards on Monday evening of Marc Jacobs’ thank you to bloggers (and indeed everyone else). From the precocious Tavi Gevinson to the frequently discussed Bryan Boy, after whom Marc Jacobs indeed named a bag, bloggers have established a solid presence for themselves as a serious fashion commentators, bringing new scope and external verification to fashion criticism that can so often fall just south of insularity.
As a writer, I only recently have begun to explore applying my knowledge of fashion to my job. This was half because my previous job had nothing to do with fashion and half because the fashion industry has always seemed, well, purposefully impenetrable.
It is somewhat paradoxical that fashion, from a certain point of view, exists at the opposite end of the spectrum of the academic world in which I’ve spent much of my life. Although fashion, literature, and cultural criticism meet in the pages of Vogue and in my own research on aesthetics, fashion can seem pure pleasure, unnecessary, yet alluring.
Supporting my own argument about importance of maintaining the élan of luxury, the glamour of the fashion world, like Hollywood, is what makes it compelling and thus is a fundamental of industry marketing.
Fashion is a complicated mixture of art, design, and craftsmanship. Haute couture, for example, is, by its very nature, high art because it represents an individuated concept, whether that concept is designed for a specific consumer or is meant as a self-styled artifact, existing only on the runway.
Yet, as any fan of “Project Runway” can tell you, an undeniably important component of fashion is also to sell—to make clothes that someone somewhere wants to wear. Even the most abstract designer is keenly aware of that at least some part of their work has to involve a functional component, if he or she wants to make money from his or her own creations.
For example, when asked by the Financial Times a few weeks ago what he thought of the new Vuitton Bond St store, Marc Jacobs commented that he didn’t know what it looked like, stating that his job as Creative Director is “to create products,” rather than be concerned about store design.
But, when it comes to marketing—which is an essential component of fashion writing, fashion has to have the right balance of art, glamour, and functionality. Whether on the runway or on the high street, a fashion brand has to give its collections and point of view an almost linguistic quality, creating a narrative glamour for itself in order to separate itself from other brands. For most brands, this is something that has to be constantly reinvented, even while maintaining a consistent voice in the marketplace.
So, what does this all have to do with blogging?
Until recently, many fashion designers, particularly luxury brands, have eyed the internet with skepticism as the wild west of business due to its lack of regulation and its all-inclusive critical environment. In this way, some fashion journalists think that we’re witnessing the fashion world embracing the inevitable by seeing designers inviting bloggers to fashion shows. Others think that this is new age for fashion and fashion criticism, as blogging makes everyone a critic and opinions instantly accessible to a mass market.
From a certain point of view, the idea of blogging as a new front in fashion criticism impacts the luxury sector most particularly because it makes the inaccessible suddenly more familiar and thus arguably less desirable.
Yet, from an artistic and even marketing perspective, the proliferation of educated, market-savvy, passionate commentators from an array of backgrounds seems nothing but positive because it does what all art should do—it gets people talking.
Even if a sale cannot be directly attributed to a blog mention, the sheer fact that blogging makes it possible for informed and innovative content—whether from a teenager or an editor from In Style—to get noticed on an international level keeps fashion and fashion writing interesting, particularly as it opens up the possibility for new designers or innovative collections to make their mark more quickly.
These are hardly new points, of course. Yet, from a sheer academic point of view, this actually represents a seismic shift in the field of aesthetics, as the lens of criticism about beauty and culture continues to widen.