Can fashion bloggers be trusted online authorities?
As the ever-proliferating fashion blogosphere continues to expand, and more and more bloggers gain access to fashion week, it's pretty clear that the answer is yes. The fashion blog is here to stay. But it's also fair to wonder whether all of this new content actually adding anything new to the reams of content already out there.
This past Spring/Summer 2009 season saw the debut of Inside The Tents. Inspired by Web 2.0 initiatives such as SXSW (South by South West) and the liveblogging phenomenon from political conventions in this U.S. election year, ITT aggregated fashion bloggers on one site to share their collective experiences from the tents at Bryant Park, using Twitter, Flickr and video content.
"Bloggers and online journalists are often dismissed as lacking the skill and insight to cover the 'haute' concepts of fashion," says ITT organizer Michael J. Pratt of MyItThings.com. "Yet, they [traditional media] find themselves adopting the same techniques, or trying to, because there is undeniable effectiveness in connecting with the millions of people who love fashion."
Fair enough. But, it's not just about the medium; it's also about the message. A perusal of some of the aggregated content on ITT causes one to pause and ask: are these bloggers really offering any unique expertise or vantage point that adds to the fashion dialogue? Some (though not all) of these bloggers appear to be more focused on themselves and on the celebrities in the front row than on the fashions on the runway. Unique opinions are few and far between.
"An awful lot of people not only have an opinion about fashion, they also believe those opinions are worth broadcasting," muses Pulitzer Prize winner Robin Givhan, The Washington Post's fashion editor, in her 2007 Harper's Bazaar article Everyone is a Fashion Critic. However Givhan hasn't entirely dismissed fashion blogging phenomenon as a mere trend. To the contrary, she has embraced it by launching her own blog on the Post's website.
So, if well-known critics like Givhan and the New York Times' Cathy Horyn are penning blogs (and thereby adopting technologies which were once the exclusive domain of independent publishers), then, more than ever before, fashion bloggers must offer unique perspectives and insights not available in the traditional media in order to attract and build a loyal following. Merely adding to the information overload is just noise.
It's true that the Internet has allowed virtually anyone to become a 'citizen journalist,' enabling them to offer their opinions and advice to anyone within a clicking earshot. But that doesn't mean people will want to listen.
With research contributed by Tu Tram Pham.