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Fashion Blogging

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Since the start of the 21st century, a new phenomenon has emerged in the fashion world. Fashion Bloggers take their form in street style photography, documenting their daily “looks” and interest online, primarily through social media, for the entire world to see. Many are quickly becoming the most influential members of the industry. Amateur photographers with intriguing styles have kicked the doors of the once exclusive fashion world open and draw in millions of readers and viewers, democratizing the industry, showing that even the average can claim a stake in the paramount. Fashion bloggers have become the new faces of this generation, with many of their blogs and social media feeds garnering more followers than celebrities do. Representation is the act of speaking for or acting on behalf of others and one of the greatest sources of representation in the fashion world are bloggers, as they have an extraordinary impact on the business wherein both designers and consumers now look to them for representation of the masses.
In “Conspicuous and Authentic”, Marwick defines fashion blogging as “an international subculture comprised primarily of young women who post pictures of themselves, swap fashion tips, sell vintage clothes and review couture collections… [participating] in the global flow of consumption while simultaneously producing fashion media which is read worldwide” (1). Bloggers, in a sense represent more than just themselves, they represent their readers and the brands they wear. They have value as they are part of “the scene”. In “Modeling Consumption”, Wissinger states that models “work to present themselves in the know, as part of a community, an important player in the field” (284), bloggers do the same thing and are valued for these attributes by their fans. Bloggers have become the signifiers of fashion, by taking both designer and non-designer products and showing the world how to make these styles their own. They also offer instant reviews of new lines and trends, this is important for both designers and consumers as in the past, people would wait days for reviews to appear in editorials. “Fashion is a form of imitation and so of social equalization”(541) says Simmel in “Fashion”, it is a paradox that both separates and equalizes, and bloggers fall in between this paradox by being producers of fashion, while still representing themselves as the “everyday girl/guy”.
The thousands to millions of followers fashion bloggers have, give them cultural capital. They can cash in this capital in order to gain larger fan bases and cement themselves as important contributors to the fashion world. As Marwick states “blogging exemplifies a type of ‘conspicuous consumption’ which is less about signaling free time and more about signifying style” (1). Social Media has helped catapult many bloggers to fashion super stardom. Manrepeller.comreceives almost 4M views a month, with +577K followers on Instagram. Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad has over 2.2M followers on her Instagram, SongofStyle has +1.4M IG followers, Kristina Bazan has almost 643K Instagram followers, WeWoreWhat blogger Danielle is coming up on half a million Instagram followers and male blogger, Bryan Boy has +511K Twitter followers. Like models, bloggers work as intermediaries and their “work is inextricably linked to the development of modern consumer culture” (Wissinger 277). They are intermediaries between the “exclusive” and “average” and social media links them to all representing their influential power.
With such mass appeal, it is no surprise designers and editors look to bloggers for both inspiration and product promotion. Many fashion brands give bloggers first peaks at their new lines so that they can blog about it, in turn generating popularity and free advertising. Blogger Chiara Ferragni has become the face of dozens of brands including Louis Vuitton, Tods, Redken and Yves Saint Laurent. She has also collaborated on collections with Steve Madden and Italia Independent. Danielle Bernstein has just produced her first line with Addison Clothing. Many of these pieces cost upwards of $100 and consumers flock to buy them, in an attempt to dress like their favorite style icons. Perhaps young girls grow up to read Vogue and Marie Claire but the world has changed to include the females of today first starting with perusing blogs and searching Instagram for inspiration.
Fashion blogging is one of the first form of digital media that comes to light as a powerful tool for the democratization of fashion. The idea that blogging allows just about anyone with access to a computer and Internet to share their thoughts, ideas, and inspirations online with others in an unedited and spontaneous style really does justice in buzz diffusion. The digital channel has quickly proven to become a significant force in the field of fashion, and enabled a new means through which individuals can broadcast information on a very personal basis. Some of the more influential fashion blogs, like Scott Schuman’s “The Sartorialist”, receive over thirteen million viewers per month (Amed, 2011). Fashion blogging has even allowed industry outsiders to become prominent key fashion insiders; Tavi Gevinson began writing her blog “The Style Rookie” at the age of 12, and by the age of 14, Gevinson was already regularly seated on the front row at Fashion Week, joining the “A-list” models, editors, and journalists
The fact that independent or personal fashion blogs have such low barriers to entry and are still garnering so much attention and industry influence validates the potential this digital channel has to reshape or shift the power relations in the industry. It has essentially enabled industry outsiders who probably have no professional affiliation to the industry to establish a credible and authoritative voice that could stand alongside established fashion intermediaries such as editors and stylists. This enablement breaks the closed and exclusive political system of the fashion industry by completely shattering established hierarchies currently in place
Bloggers as Opinion Leaders
Opinion leaders represent a powerful group in the marketplace because they are able to influence consumers via word of mouth (Stokberger-Sauer & Hoyer, 2009). This influence is considered a key component of opinion leadership because an opinion leader can influence future purchase decisions and attitude formation (Bertrandias & Goldsmith, 2006; Lyons & Henderson, 2005; Goldsmith & Clark, 2008).
Bloggers as social hubs
Social media allows consumers to not only search for opinions on products during the prepurchase information search phase but also to share post-purchase experiences and attitudes (Mangold & Faulds, 2009). One could therefore view these groups as “virtual communities of consumption”, which Kozinets (1999) defines as “affiliative groups whose online interactions are based upon shared enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, a specific consumption activity or related group of activities” (p.254). Virtual communities are considered more influential than traditional reference groups because consumers join these groups due to their common interests (de Valck et al., 2009). However, even though our participants described fashion blogs as a community, they did not necessarily actively participate in the discussion. Hence, Kozinets (1999) might have defined our participants as devotees because their consumption activity was high but their ties to the community were weak. However, there is evidence to suggest that they still felt connected to this community. As Katie (22yrs) explains: “I think in terms of that I quite like blogs because it makes you feel like maybe you’re part of something or it connects you to what’s happening somehow.” Instead of categorising blogs as a virtual community of consumption, a term coined by Kozinets (1999), it may be more appropriate to consider them as hubs which operate within a social network. A hub is a person (or node within a network) that disseminates information which is then diffused to other nodes within the network (Goldenberg et al., 2009). The nodes in this case are the fashion bloggers and anyone who comes into contact with their communications. Fashion bloggers act as a node passing information that they have acquired from other bloggers on to their readers and additional nodes. The vast and complex network was mentioned by many of the participants when they discussed how they discovered their blogs. Carrie (24yrs) states: “I found ‘Katherine is Awesome’ through ‘Isaac Likes’ and I think I found ‘Isaac Likes’…I have no idea. I think I think most of the time finding new blogs is when blogs are suggested by other blogs”. Other participants stated that they frequently clicked on links within the blogs which would lead them to a variety of different yet related fashion blogs. This is facilitated by the website as bloggers often include hyperlinks to other fashion blogs. (to credit them as the 4 source of information) or to simply inform readers of similar or complementary content. We suggest that within this network of blogs, the diffusion of information and ideas, similar to the diffusion of a product within the marketplace, takes place. Within this social network, a hierarchy of blogs appears to exist. The most popular blog sites (which tend to have a high number of social ties, and reflect a high level of fashion expertise) can be viewed as hubs because they are the first to diffuse fashion trends throughout the blogosphere.

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