This week, several senior Vogue editors and critics reflected on Milan Fashion Week before heading to Paris, alighting on a general consensus: The collections were fabulous, but the peacocking bloggers and street style maelstrom were unbearable.
Paris Fashion Week thus began with a delicious feud between the self-serious Vogue staffers and the “bloggers who change head-to-toe, paid-to-wear outfits every hour” and, according to Sally Singer, Vogue.com’s Creative Digital Director, are “heralding the death of style.”
Longtime, top-tier fashion critics and editors have been openly contemptuous of bloggers and influencers for years now.
In 2013, Suzy Menkes kicked off a similar debate in T Magazine about street style blogs perpetuating a “celebrity circus of people who are famous for being famous,” prompting thoughtful rebuttals from wildly successful bloggers like Leandra Medine (Man Repeller) and Susie Lau (Susie Bubble).
The disdain was laid on thicker this time around. Taking cues from Singer, one Vogue.com critic sniffed about the “horrible” scrum of bloggers and photographers outside shows and the “pathetic… desperate” women who dress up to be snapped. Another turned down her nose at the “sad” women who “preen for the cameras in borrowed clothes.”
Still another compared looking for street style stars in the “bought-and-paid-for (‘blogged out?’) front row” to “going to a strip club looking for romance.”
She found it all “ridiculous” and rather “embarrassing,” frankly, especially in the context of “what else is going on in the world. (Have you registered to vote yet? Don’t forget the debate on Monday!)” Here was a bit of political grandstanding, lest we think that Vogue writers only care about fashion.
Frankly, the runways outside the runways are ridiculous. The scene outside fashion shows is a kind of theater of the absurd.
The most eccentrically dressed resemble exotic birds or otherworldly creatures, draped with swathes of fur and feathers and toting large bags that look like art installations.
Street style has evolved from snaps of stylish unknowns outside the shows (think Bill Cunningham and the early days of Scott Schuman’s The Sartorialist) to staged photos of “off-duty models” and—yes—bloggers and influencers like Susie Bubble, Leandra Medine, Chiara Ferragni, and illustrator-turned-street-style-darling Jenny Walton.
But Vogue.com’s hypocrisy is that many of these bloggers and influencers are routinely snapped by the publication’s in-house street style photographer, Phil Oh—frequently alongside Vogue editors themselves.
Indeed, their tone-deaf commentary was just as absurd as the scene they were deriding. It’s no wonder bloggers like Susie Bubble and Bryan Boy hit back (the latter called it “schoolyard bullying, plain and simple”).
“What shocked me was how nasty and biased the comments were—they clearly weren’t getting enough sleep,” Zanita Whittington, an Australian model turned popular blogger who has been featured on Vogue.com, wrote in an email to The Daily Beast. (She also posted a lengthy rebuttal on her blog). “Frankly I wasn’t surprised they might think these things, we’re all guilty of a bit of gossip and I know how certain editors feel about the outside chaos. But to publish it?”
She also thought it odd that, while dissing the whole scene, there was no acknowledgement of how much that scene is “valued by magazines and designers, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many photographers making incomes out of it. [Fashion publications] are the ones supplying the demand. That’s the definition of hypocrisy.”
Vogue’s critics may be presenting themselves as the ones who care about the art of fashion. But as both Susie Bubble and Bryan Boy pointed out, bloggers who wear gifted designer clothes to fashion shows aren’t that different from fashion editors who feature certain designers’ clothes in editorials (and show face at their shows) to please their advertisers.
The main distinction, Susie Bubble argued on Twitter, is that “bloggers sadly don’t have the prestigious titles/publications to hide behind and represent themselves solely.”
To be sure, Singer and the others who participated in the blogger pile-on are all talented writers and editors.
Their criticism of the shows is consistently smart and observant—not easy when you’re reviewing back-to-back collections for weeks. (Film critics surely feel the same strain during festivals.) And, as one of them felt compelled to point out, they are indeed politically and culturally savvy.
That’s part of what made this particular commentary so surprising: They seemed more entrenched in the fashion bubble than ever, despite being desperate to prove that they’re not part of the fashion circus.
This is nonsense. Anna Dello Russo, editor-at-large of Vogue Japan, was one of the original street style stars. And, whether she likes it or not, Singer is a reliable fixture on Vogue.com’s own street style blogs.
Yet one of the harshest, most out-of-touch remarks came from Singer, who advised the professional peacockers and influencers to “find another business.”
The irony is that many of them have built successful businesses. Some have landed big advertising contracts (Jenny Walton is the face of a new Mansur Gavriel ad campaign) and others like Leandra Medine and Susie Bubble have become their own brands. Bloggers are hugely influential in the business of fashion.
Vogue.com has contributed some of the best coverage on the changing fashion industry, from the rise of see-now-buy-now collections to social media-savvy supermodels like the Hadid sisters and Kendall Jenner.
The website posts hundreds of street style photos from all four fashion weeks every season.
Perhaps what happened this week was an old guard letting out a cri-de-coeur about the changing nature of its power leveled at those who have forced, and continue to influence, that change. The fashion world, of course, is big enough for both camps—even if the all-important front row may not be.