Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Invisible Labor of Fashion Blogging

Earlier this month, the biannual circus that is New York Fashion Week saw non-stop coverage on social media via Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, with the scene repeating itself in London, Milan, and Paris through early October. Though coverage of designers, models, A-listers, and celebrities was in no short supply in mainstream and industry publications, there was another formidable yet familiar force on the scene: fashion bloggers.

It’s been nearly a decade since these independent voices “took over the tents,” as Women’s Wear Daily proclaimed of the fashion blogosphere’s first wave in the mid-aughts. While industry veterans initially saw the inclusion of bloggers as an invasion, the latter’s presence at runway shows and designer fetes no longer draws the ire it once did. Instead, both designers and fashion editors recognize the power of bloggers. The resurgence of Birkenstocks, the frenzy over fringe, and the ubiquity of off-the-shoulder styles are among the recent trends that have been brought into the mainstream by a collective of online tastemakers, whose scrappy origins grow more and more distant every year. With annual incomes of top-ranking bloggers climbing into the seven-figure range, it’s not surprising that they’re frequently hailed as savvy entrepreneurs.

In the popular imagination, blogging has become a viable career path with legions of aspirants. As many other creative workers struggle to find stable and fulfilling careers, bloggers and others with digital clout seem to have shaped their careers with ease. The impeccably curated online presences of these young women—fashion blogging is heavily skewed female—seem to offer hope and a sense of control in an economy marked by persistent instability and precarious employment conditions.

But this idealized profession is less glamorous than it first appears. In a new study to be published this fall in the journal Social Media + Society, we examine the gap between the rhetoric and reality of fashion blogging. (Our analysis of 760 Instagram images by 38 top-ranked female professionals is part of a larger, multi-year project on the subject.) Pro-bloggers, we learned, must continually reconcile a series of competing demands: They have to appear authentic but also remain on brand, stay creative while tracking metrics, and satisfy both their readers and the retail brands that bankroll them. Many work up to 100 hours a week, and the flood of new bloggers means companies increasingly expect to not have to pay for partnerships. Meanwhile, the nature of the job requires obscuring the hard work and discipline that goes into crafting the perfect persona online.

by Brooke Erin Duffy and Emily Hund, The Atlantic |  Read more:
Image: John Taggart / Reuters