It’s not idly flicking through Vogue that makes me reach for the AmEx any more. It’s nonchalantly scrolling Bloglovin’.
Our appetite for online fashion is growing every year. Luxury retailer Net-a-Porter reported a 55% increase in sales from 2012 to 2013, while e-commerce stalwart ASOS smashed sales across June to December 2013 with global sales for the final months coming in at £336m. Business, as they say, is booming.
But what is it about consuming fashion online that makes it so appealing? Aside from comfort and access benefits, there’s a trend-clad, selfie-snapping elephant in the room: the fashion blogger. Because it’s not just the garments we’re buying into, but rapid editorial.
We’ve been used to seeing fashion editorial grace print pages post-season for decades, but in the last ten years our experience of fashion has changed dramatically. I can visit Pinterest, click through to a fashion blogger in New York, follow a retailer link and be buying shoes in less than five minutes and all before breakfast. When Coco said ‘I don’t do fashion; I am fashion’, she couldn’t have predicted the visual and verbal sartorial assault we would experience online in 2014.
As fashion bloggers become important stars in the constellation of the industry, anyone concerned with consumption – and their own bank balance – has to ask if it’s them, the newest editorial providers on the scene, who are making us buy so much.
A single blogger isn’t going to double a brand’s profits overnight. But personal relationships and information dissemination have significant and widespread effects. London Fashion Week A/W 2014 is one example in action.
“Google+ features enabled…widespread reach and unrivalled opportunities for broadcast…The [campaign] activity garnered 4 million views across all platforms, with 2.5 million from YouTube.” The Future of the Fashion Show (2013) case study
This year (and for the past few) LFW wasn’t just seen in Somerset House. We watched live streams, followed hashtags across Twitter, and marvelled as Topshop yet again pulled off a spectacular multi-channel mash-up of catwalk and customer, relaying their Tate show into flagship windows via virtual reality headsets. We got the looks, the trends and the insight more quickly than ever before – instead of waiting for that next print edition, we just waited for the next minute-by-minute update on The Guardian.
Bloggers played a key role in this multi-channel experience, supporting brands’ community managers with regular updates to their thousands of followers. A single tweet about the Anya Hindmarch show from Disney Roller Girl reached an estimated 68,400 users. Susie Bubble influenced over 205,000 accounts with a tweet featuring a sweater by Happy Ashley. Although high-profile examples, it’s clear just how far one blogger’s words can travel.
Their purchasing influence travels just as widely. I asked fashion bloggers and readers a few questions about their buying relationships and the influence of editorial (1). Just over 68% of readers said they’d bought from a brand recommended or seen on a fashion blogger, and nearly six out of 10 said fashion blogging encourages people to buy more clothes. Collaborations between brands and bloggers shows fashion businesses are well aware of this ‘call to consumption’; they’re the new celebrities when it comes to selling what’s on their back.
“We are…constantly making outfit lookbooks with things we don’t even own but are beautiful and link everything we’re wearing so a reader can purchase them… These practices expose readers to a lot of retail and it’s only natural that that will also encourage more purchasing.” Fashion blog reader, 2013
But maybe bloggers themselves are more susceptible to the lure of consumption from online fashion exposure. Of the bloggers I asked, 80% of them attempted to photograph unique outfits – that’s new or unseen garments – when they posted. That’s not surprising when the industry runs on newness. But what is surprising is that one in four of them had bought something new specifically with blog posts in mind. Their results clearly showed a stronger influence from fellow bloggers when compared to readers’ results: 80% had bought from a ‘blogger recommended’ brand and seven out of 10 thought blogging encouraged greater consumption.
“The number of fashion blogs that mainly feature ‘outfit of the day’ posts is huge…and yet you rarely see them wear the same thing twice…With fast fashion pumping out cheap garments it’s quite easy for anyone with a spare £20 to nip to Primark and buy a bunch of stuff for an outfit post or ‘haul video’.” Fashion blogger, 2013
For those of us concerned with consumption in fashion, this ever-increasing cycle of consume-blog-repeat feels monstrous. And it’s not only the consumption of material goods, but of trends, ideas and thoughts. This cycle isn’t necessarily negative as brands are pushed to greater lengths to create spectacular output on every channel; after years of thin, white, bored models, we’re now getting dancing, stomping, body-positive sketches and riotous fun from haute couture to high street. But, just like pop, it feels as if fashion is teetering on the edge of eating itself, as image after image is consumed before the material garment hits the shelves.
In the Spring/Summer 2014 ELLE Collections, editor Rebecca Lowthorpe argued a catwalk show “must exceed expectations on every level” (2). Exceeding expectations however, only increases expectations. It accelerates editorial and material production and – like economic patterns of recent years – it’s likely to end in bust, not continuous boom. So whose responsibility is it to adjust our requirements and allow online fashion to remain fresh, minus the mob mentality currently fuelling our industry? The buyer, the blogger, or the brand?
1 – Survey conducted through www.surveymonkey.com, January 2013, of 20 fashion bloggers and 22 fashion blog readers.
2 – Editor’s Essay, British ELLE Collections Spring/Summer 2014, p.31 (Hearst: London).
This article was written and submitted by Eleanor Snare for Round 1 of Modeconnect’s International Fashion Writing Competition. Eleanor was invited to take part in Round 2. Read all the published submissions.