Saturday, February 14, 2009

A new media day dawns @ NYFW

the daily via bryanboy

Here is the daffodil yellow, hope-imbued cover of The Daily's first New York Fashion Week handout edition, which was distributed at the Bryant Park tents on Friday. Of course The Daily is owned by IMG, which also operates the central Mercedes Benz Fashion Week tented show event at Bryant Park - and which has been affected by show cancellations and other industry budget cuts due the current economic crisis. But life, business and fashion do go on. And as Anna Sui told The New York Times on Thursday, “It’s survival of the fittest at this point”. Sui talked about the costs of putting on a big show – US$50,000 to rent space and US$100,000 in production costs, not including models – and asks “Is it worth the investment”? Sui obviously thinks so because her show will go ahead. And Sui makes a very good point: the strongest and/or best-adapted to the changing environment, have the best chance of survival. While certainly some very good new-ish designers have closed up shop recently, it is no surprise to learn that the plug has been pulled on Australian brand Morrissey. Founding designer Peter Morrissey was long gone, all that remained was a name – and lacklustre merchandise which consumers could find at numerous other cheaper retail locations. But designers and retailers are not the only ones having a wakeup call at the moment. A media shift is afoot.

Those who are currently paid to report on fashion are having their budgets, retainers, word rates - and also, jobs - slashed by mainstream media outlets whose adstreams are evaporating. Over the next month it is going to be interesting to see just how many media reps front up to the shows.

Interestingly, this first FW0910 edition of The Daily devotes one entire page to four exponents of the new fashion media guard: the blogosphere.

The Daily ran four mini profiles of Bryanboy, Rumi Neely (Fashion Toast), Tina Chen Craig and Kelly Cook (BagSnob) and Natalie Hormilla & Britt Aboutaleb (Fashionista).

Dubbing these fashion bloggers “The Excitables!”, here is the intro to the spread:
“They love shoes. They love bags. They love Pre-Fall and resort. Their resilient passion for fashion will chase your disillusionment away”.

The Daily also calculates an “excitabality” ranking for each blog, with each excitability point represented by a graphic of a shopping bag-laden fashionista.

Bryanboy receives five excitability points and here’s what The Daily has to say about him:

“Manila-based blogger Bryanboy was an Aliona Doletskaya early-adopter; he described the discovery of Lanvin resort and Spring 009 T-shirts available for pre-order online as “STUNNING”; says watching old Dior shows on YouTube gives him “chills every time”; selected Clemaris, Iris Blue, Mouse and African Violet as his favorite Hermes ostrich-leather colorations; considers Marc Jacobs naming the Sunburst BB Shoulderbag after him “the best thing that has ever happened to me”; introduced the now-classic phrase, “Male fans of Pierre Hardy, rejoice”.”

The fashion industry has traditionally viewed fashion reporters as cheerleaders: mouthpieces via which to talk up its products. Hungry for advertising revenue, the fashion media has traditionally bent over backwards to provide positive coverage.

As such, it is interesting that the blogosphere continues to be so overlooked in this regard.

Although bloggers have generated quite some coverage from the mainstream media, the fashion PR sector continues by and large to look down its nose at bloggers, irrespective of their individual expertise, as second class fashion reporters.

As The New York Observer’s Irina Aleksander noted on February 4, while speculating about the potential impact of the Michelle Obama factor on attendance at Jason Wu’s upcoming show:

“Mr. Wu’s September show, held at the same venue, did have some prominent names; it was attended by Vogue editor Anna Wintour, for one. But it also had some fashion bloggers and mid-level reporters, who are typically deported to the second, third and fourth rows at the more high-profile shows, sharing the front row with Ms. Wintour. Now Mr. Wu’s dedicated attendees are probably wondering if their seats will be bumped back a bit”.

With the current economic crisis, it is going to be interesting to see which way the tide turns.

A very high percentage fashion gossip and news is now broken on fashion blogs, not the virtually moribund fashion news columns of newspapers, which, more often than not, contain news already reported online.

To be sure, there is a huge volume of low-profile fashion blogs which are more personal diaries than traditional reportage. Let's call it citizen fashion journalism.

Some of these personal diaries have, however, emerged as absolute must-reads - and their diarists, as media brands in their own right.

How many of The Daily's four featured fashion blogs are actually at the NYFW shows? Just one so far apparently, Fashionista.

But there are other fashion bloggers at the tents.

Now in its second year, Inside The Tents is an interesting portal of independent blog coverage of NYFW, offering an aggregation of multiplatform reportage via accredited blogs, Twitter, Flickr and video streaming.

Frockwriter understands the organisers may have had some difficulties with IMG. Judging from the sheer volume of coverage on the site however, this does not appear to have been a major issue. At the end of the day, individual designers decide who gets into their shows.

melissa hribar/the new york observer

One breakout ITT star so far is a new media specialist by the name of Yuli Ziv (pictured above).

Featured in a story in The Observer this week, Ziv is a co-founder and editor-in-chief of both the user-generated fashion/trend magazine and a new organisation called Style Coalition.

A sponsor of Inside The Tents, Style Coalition aims to be a new "guild" for indie fashion bloggers.

According to Style Coalition's mission statement:

“We are a coalition of independent online publishers in the fashion and lifestyle vertical committed to building a bottom-up, content-driven alliance whose mission is to both advance professional standards in content creation and increase the effectiveness of advertising messages within this realm."

The Observer story noted that fashion companies exclude fashion bloggers because they are concerned about "inflammatory reviews" devised to drive "cheap Web traffic".

Noted Ziv in the story:

“It’s easy to be nasty. You can take the negative handle and you can survive for a while, but you’ll only get to a certain point. Eventually you have to change.”

On Wednesday, high profile New York media blog Gawker paid out on the Style Coalition, dubbing it as “Kiss-up Guild for Fashion Bloggers”.

Noted Gawker:

"The idea is to be as toothless and sold-out as fashion magazines.

If Ziv and her partners are so inspired that the internet allows a designer to "become very successful without any blessing from the big folks," they should go find those scrappy little designers, instead of clamoring to get in to events dominated by the major names. And they should think twice about trying to become one of the "big folks" handing out blessings.”

Gawker suggests that Ziv and co should take a leaf out of the book of The New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn. Horyn is widely respected as a fashion authority, in spite of the fact that she has been banned from numerous shows following her critical reviews.

Frockwriter cannot help thinking that Gawker - and Ziv - may be missing two key points here.

First up, although Cathy Horyn has certainly devoted some effort to establishing her online voice at the NYT, she is not an independent fashion blogger. Cathy Horyn works for one of the world's best-known newspapers.

Should Horyn ever leave the NYT to launch her own independent website, it remains to be seen precisely what access she would be accorded.

Secondly, on Ziv's personal website, she describes herself as a:

"Web 2.0 Entrepreneur, Online Expert & Strategist with extensive Marketing, Creative and Publishing background"

According to Ziv's bio, her background is exclusively marketing-focussed.

That's fine and best of luck to Ziv and of course also to the plethora of fashion bloggers who do not have journalism backgrounds either. A journalism background is by no means compulsory for blogging.

Nor indeed does it appear to be among the compulsory selection criteria for fashion writers on most magazines, and even some newspapers. And provided that, for instance, Australian publications such as Vogue and The Sunday Telegraph don't mind winding up on Media Watch on repeated occasions over ethics issues (as both have), then that should not pose a problem for anyone really.

In the specific case of Yuli Ziv, however, with no journalism background, how can Ziv possibly promote herself as the professional standard bearer of the fashion blogosphere?


Chowder said...

Great read Patty, last NZ Fashion week, i sat next to a very frumpy looking individual in pilled polar fleece, thinking she must be an aunt or cousin of the designer, I asked her what she did... she said she was writing for our major newspaper in NZ and knew nothing about fashion having been pulled in from netball coverage or something similar...and I thought to myself.. oh now I get the clothes.. out of interest, i read her review in the paper.. unbelievably lame revealing a complete zero level knowledge of Fashion in NZ... I think we need the bloggers writing mostly unpaid from a genuine interest and love of the subject...

Mike said...

This is such meteoric proliferation with a large contingency of individuals who work or call themselves fashion writers/bloggers. On the contrary, you could say that one false move, one that is quite major could give a permanent distaste for all fashion orientated bloggers out there. With respectability to the professional fashion industry, you still have to acknowledge them that they have still hold the authority because of the fact they know what they are doing. I feel in a case like this, jumping too far into the 'inner circle' is highly unprofessional for anyone. It says she did an unrelated degree but strangely, she could have spent her time being involved in things, I would assume other bloggers would try and get under their belt - for example writing or styling for a publication. Yet she has done none of that.

I can somewhat understand now that the fashion blogsphere is trying to create its own vacuum but we should all try and remember whose running the show even though there are a number of us genuinely knowledgeable within Fashion itself.

S.A.A. said...

I have to say I very much enjoyed reading this and even the comments left by Chowder and Mike are really great to hear also. Seeing what others opinions on the current situation with bloggers and their credentials is particuarly interesting because I'm actually starting my first year of journalism and have retained a 'fashion blog' for quite some time now (knowing that fashion journalism is what I would one day love to be involved in). So this is one issue that I resonate with I guess!


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