Dressed to the Nines

Have Fashion Bloggers Gone Too Far?

The street style set is known to peacock at fashion shows and accept free gifts. Is it time for things to change?

Daniel Zuchnik/Getty

In the first issue of Deborah Needleman's T Magazine (which hit newsstands Sunday), Suzy Menkes writes about how fashion week has become all about bloggers and street style stars peacocking for each other. As she writes, fashion weeks around the world have become a "celebrity circus of people who are famous for being famous." The street style blogs -- which used to capture real, stylish people at their most natural -- have now been eclipsed by people trying to dress for the sole purpose of being featured those street style blogs. The result is a scrum of over-accessorized people taking pictures of each other outside of every show. Of course it feels like a circus.

On Monday morning, Leandra Medine of The Man Repeller (one of the most successful street style blogs) had published a rebuttal on her site -- agreeing with Menkes on many points, but then defending her kind: "It doesn’t seem quite fair to peg the bloggers that have actually become “famous” as such just for being famous. When I think Tavi Gevinson or Susie Bubble or Emily Weiss or on the street spectrum, Tommy Ton, I think recognition based on the merit of astounding work."

Brands have figured out by now that fashion bloggers have real influence -- and that street style blogs can really drive people to buy their clothes. But Medine has a point: you can't lump all fashion bloggers together. Some of them are good writers; others aren't. Some have a good eye for clothes; other's don't. You can't hate on all the fashion bloggers in the world just because you can't get into your seat at a fashion show without having to walk past a few of them. And they may be swaddled in astrakhan when you see them, but not all fashion bloggers have had it easy. As Medine points out, many have started their blogs from scratch and invariably hustled to make money off of them. Some are real entrepreneurs. "Many of us couldn’t land the jobs we wanted," Medine writes. "So we just made our own."

But there's another problem: many bloggers (and again, we can't lump them all together) accept a lot of free stuff from brands -- everything from beauty products to designer bags. At first, not all bloggers acknowledged when they got this free stuff; but then the FTC cracked down and required them to acknowledge when they got swag for free. Slowly, the community became comfortable with disclosure.

But now, it's gone to another extreme. Getting "gifted" has now come to be known in the fashion blogging community as a sign that your blog matters -- that you're an important enough blogger that brands are paying attention to you. It's actually a status symbol for bloggers to get free swag and brag about it -- so much so that some bloggers lie and say they've gotten things for free when they've really purchased them. "Confused about bloggers buying shit and pretending it’s free swag. Kinda like sending yourself flowers, no?” said Tina Craig (of a blog called The Bag Snob) on Twitter.

In her article, Medine acknowledges the slippery slope of gifting and expresses remorse. "We never should have accepted gifts in the first place," she writes. "We shouldn’t have bragged about the free trips, and cool events and recognition from our industry heroes. We’ve painted a picture portraying the circumstances of blogging that is inaccurate." And, of bloggers who will do anything for swag, she writes: "How can we really assume that we will cull the respect we think we deserve if we don’t respect our own brands?" Indeed, things need to change for fashion bloggers -- and Medine should be the one to lead the way.