There were four pairs of leopard leggings, fourteen vintage floral dresses, three lady-turbans, one set of gold and purple fingernails, one pair of glittering harem pants, four heads of platinum and blue hair, and—despite the rainy day—only one pair of old fashioned Wellies.
This was the scene at the Independent Fashion Bloggers conference on Wednesday in New York, where more than 300 hundred professional and aspiring bloggers gathered at Milk Studios on the eve of New York Fashion Week. There they listened to a litany of panels; met, photographed and tweeted each other; and, most of all, looked really stylish while doing it.
When it comes to blogging about fashion, one thing is clear: as Gypsy Rose Lee would say, you gotta getta gimmick. You can’t just be a plain old fashion blogger who posts pictures from the runways, reacts to fashion news, and opines on the latest collections from Milan. Now, it’s about choosing a theme and sticking with it. There was Penny Chic, which styles outfits with clothes from Walmart; there was the Ghetto Fashionista, which “keeps a pulse on the runway and the hood,” and the Idiosyncratic Fashionista, for “women of a certain age.”
As young girls teetered around the room in heelless leopard platforms and booty shorts (Irene who?), a general mood emerged: this conference, and blogging about fashion in general, depends largely on standing out. These are talented young writers and citizen journalists who are captivating audiences with their unique writing voices, expert picture-taking, and creative styling, but there’s an underlying pressure to be unique. How you theme your blog, what you name it, how you write, and what you wear to the Fashion Bloggers Conference in New York City are all components of standing out—and establishing your personal brand.
Every single person in this crowd of 300 is trying to build their personal brand, as are the countless more aspiring bloggers watching the conference via livestream at home. But is there really room for everyone? “It turns that corner when it stops being special and starts to be the norm,” said Joe Zee, creative director at Elle magazine, in the conference’s keynote address. “It started out where that girl was special; now there’s a lot of clamoring for that position. That’s my opinion.”
Indeed, the pressure to stand out in a sea of standouts can be overwhelming. “Most of these girls take a picture of themselves every day and put it on their blog,” one blogger in the crowd told The Daily Beast. “When you put all of those people in one room, it’s crazy. It’s hard not to feel like a number.”
Among the scores of fashion bloggers there are, of course, a few standouts: some have found fame and are now received as celebrities by their peers. Take Tavi Gevinson, the now-15-year-old author of Style Rookie, who has collaborated with Target and now has released a new online magazine, Rookie. (She was nowhere to be seen at IFB.) Bryan Boy, an equally well-known style blogger from the Philippines, wasn’t at the conference either, but tweeted about it while Joe Zee spoke on the panel. The biggest blogger-stars in attendance this year were The Man Repeller, a 23-year-old from New York named Leandra Medine who has made a name for herself for her acerbic tone and penchant for granny collars; Susanna Lau, of Style Bubble, and Coco Rocha, the model-turned-blogger behind Oh So Coco.
Many of these popular bloggers have successfully parlayed their sites into lucrative projects—among them endorsement deals, modeling and styling gigs, and “affiliate programs,” whereby they make a commission off sales that are driven through their sites. “It’s possible to make a decent living on a blog,” said Jennine Jacob, the conference’s organizer and the founder of IFB. “If you sell four Equipment shirts a day, you would probably make $80 a day. And that’s $40,000 a year.”
Successful examples in the crowd included Jasmin Rodriguez of the blog Vintage Vandalizm, a style blog dedicated to 1940, ’50s, and ’60s pinup culture, which has driven her business as a stylist, model, and hair and makeup artist. Similarly, there’s Sammy Davis, who has gained popularity in the last year for her blog Sammy Davis Vintage, which curates “vintage looks for less.” She said she’s begun “brand sponsorships” and is actively pursuing “brand extension” as she “grooms myself for TV.” Said Jacob of bloggers making a living: Fashion bloggers have reached a moment of truth. “As an industry, we’re still figuring what our model is. I don’t know if it’s ‘selling out’—we’re just trying to reach a sustainable business model.”
But throughout the day, an overwhelming message did emerge—that yes, even though it feels like everyone and their mother has blog, you can still be unique. “If you have something solid to say, say it!” prodded Joe Zee. “Have a voice! Have an opinion! If you’re true and authentic to who you are, people will buy into that.”