How Much Can We Trust “Fashion Media” Anyway?

I’m cynical by nature. Heck, I may be the only person on the planet who thinks Breakfast at Tiffanys is a depressing movie (I can’t get it out of my head how Holly Golightly is just so desperate).

Anyway, I’m telling you this, because I’ve never really fully trusted “Fashion Media.” You know, the cycles of trends. “In” one day, “Out” the next. Everything is fabulous and gorgeous and exciting. I remember before I discovered blogging, flipping through fashion magazines, thinking, this world was so, so far away. Especially articles like this one I read about a woman telling the story about how she purchased her first item of clothing that cost more than $1000 (which also happened to be an advertiser of the magazine). Or traveling, and meeting with socialites, designers, movie stars, and generally fabulous people. Who lived like this? I did not know anyone like that…

Enter blogging.

At first I loved blogs because they offered something that fashion magazines did not. A girl in Norway who wore a lot of H&M just like me. A girl in London who searched out designers no one had ever heard of. A guy in Paris who got into all the “cool parties” and photographed the Parisian hipster scene. A disgruntled PR in New York who bitched about industry ridiculousness. Even though they all lived worlds away from me, it didn’t seem so contrived. For once, I could fall in love with fashion in a way I had never thought to before.

So I joined in.

Since then, it’s been a wild ride. Most of the time I have loved it, but not all the time. When blogging started to blow up around 2009/2010 it became obvious that bloggers would have growing pains. Brands jumping in, trying to capitalize on popularity, bloggers trying to capitalize on their own work. It was a gold rush.

More than once I had to fight a brand not to remove a certain line of text here or to not use their verbiage there.

I did not have any experience working with brands, but quickly found out that for all the “authenticity” brands desired, they really wanted that honesty as long as that honesty portrayed their brands in a positive light. More than once I had to fight a brand not to remove a certain line of text here or to not use their verbiage there. Or have been harassed by brands for publicly questioning their intentions. That when a blogger works with brands, it becomes business, not a personal musing. At least for me anyway. Of course, I need to pay rent. I need to eat. So to spend the time I do on my blogs, it’s important to make money. Little by little, brand partnerships became about relaying a message for the brand more than sharing my personal opinion. As much as anyone can say, “Oh, but you don’t have to work with xyz brand.” or “Only work with brands you believe in.” Sure, but after a while you build a reputation… and then you’re out.

The post on Jezebel, As Fashion Bloggers Become Insiders, Do They Lose Their Impact? really honed in on this phenomenon. But even more so, that it’s not just fashion bloggers… but the fashion media industry as a whole, which relies on advertisers to operate, that you can’t be a loose cannon with your opinion, or even candid, or even straight out honest when it comes to brands, because if the New York Times’ Cathy Horyn can be banned from fashion shows for stating her honest opinion, what about the little blogger from a small town? Or heck, what about any other fashion publication digital or print?

 …if the New York Times’ Cathy Horyn can be banned from fashion shows for stating her honest opinion, what about the little blogger from a small town?

I’m not trying to justify why fashion media does what it does, nor am I trying to condemn it either. But in reality, “trust” has never been as important as glamor. To the masses anyway. We’ve all bought into the glamour, by dressing up, by reading about fashion, by trying out new trends we see floating around the ether (by “ether” I mean, fashion magazines, newspapers, movies, film, fashion shows, blogs, street style blogs, social media networks, etc.) That behind the scenes there is a great deal of seeding, through celebrities, through press releases, through sponsorships on all levels of media, not just blogging.

Of course, bloggers will continue to bear the brunt of the questioning, being the new kids on the block. But either everyone in the fashion industry genuinely thinks everything is “amazing” or is clever enough to hide their opinions in cleverly worded, expertly written reviews that say nothing at all or they’re doing exactly what bloggers are allegedly doing and remaining tight-lipped about the flaws of the brands they work with.

At the end of the day, I try my best to do what’s right, and I believe that’s what many others do as well.  There is no utopia, so everything has it’s plusses and minuses. Sure, we could have expert insights from top-notch journalists giving us the real scoop on fashion, but would they be allowed access to the brands? We could have bloggers who give the most critical reviews of products, but unless they are able to pay for their own products through monetization, or subscriptions (how many of us are willing to pay to read a blog?) they would have to play nice with brands to continue access. So maybe we’re all willing to put up with the schmaltz and the gushing to indulge in fashion escapism…. but for how long?

That’s another post.

[Image credit: MCM. Which, I love that wallet by the way. Honestly.]


jennineHow Much Can We Trust “Fashion Media” Anyway?

Comments 7

  1. Cameron

    This is exactly how the auto-journo scene works, as well. Most publications bow to the whims of the auto manufacturers so that their writers can have access to the latest from the (“expertly” prepared) test fleet. Go against the grain in the face of a legitimate issue — as my editors have with Ford of Canada, General Motors and Porsche — and you could be on the outs immediately, not only among the brands, but among your fellow “journalists,” as well.

    Thankfully, my editors and I don’t care to play their game. They — the manufacturers and the fashion brands — need us — the automotive industry and fashion media — more than we need them, after all, and they would do well to remember that.

    1. Post

      Great point! This dynamic runs true in so many industries. Perhaps that why nothing is really unique. And congratulations on your new digs! It sounds like you have a great boss. Ultimately, it really depends on how talented or powerful a publication/blogger (read: how dedicated their readers are) is to outweigh the brands. In particularly competitive industries, like fashion… I think there is a lot of fear because no one is untouchable, and there are so many people willing to take another’s place. Anyway.. it’s just a thought.

  2. Lisa

    All I know to do is to listen to my conscience. If it tells me I’m lying, I listen. If it tells me to go forward, I go. Sometimes I mess up. Then I confess.

    Bloggers are different than media inasmuch as we don’t have a boss. Of course, if it’s your whole living, that’s the moral equivalent of a boss and it’s really, really tough.

    My own personal efforts don’t solve the industry, just typing those words makes me laugh, but it’s all I can control.

    1. Post

      So true. All we can do is try our best to listen to our gut. Sometimes we make good decisions, sometimes, not so much. I’ve made my fair share of royal fuck-ups in blogging, but I think it’s part of the process. We’re all living and learning… boss or no boss.

  3. Francesca

    This couldn’t have been written more appropriately, Jennine. Bloggers became for brands another channel for branding. Journalists went from saying it as it is, like Suzy Menkes, to … saying nothing because constricted by the higher operating power of advertising budgets.
    Some bloggers went for the big road and started making a living with being represented by an agency and receiving a paycheck for wearing designer clothes. You, Jennine are truly a blogger, not a knock-off. With class and distinction you articulate your reasons for liking or disliking.
    Who loves fashion, its glamour, that flair that makes you look and feel good, cannot go for ‘in’ today and ‘out’ tomorrow. We all have our opinions which we cherish and stand by.

    P.S. I won’t say it again, but I am happy that The Coveted is back :)

    1. Post

      Aw, thank you so much. I do think there are some blogs that have arrived for the mere purpose of channeling messages for brands… but at the same time, that’s their business plan.. will it work? Sometimes yes, but not always… such as the same for personal bloggers. I’m still looking for that sweet spot… maybe I’ll find it, maybe not. But might as well have fun trying, no?

      Anyway, thank you so much for coming back to read The Coveted! It really means a lot.


  4. Tiina L

    I’ve often wondered about sponsored posts, how much is actually the blogger’s honest opinion… And it seems that some bloggers are always wearing certain brands. Maybe they genuinily like the brand, or maybe they get the products for free… But I can’t help thinking that there is a new group of ‘supermodels’ emerging in the form of the brand ambassadors of the blogosphere…

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