Yay, it’s finally the Christmas holidays! Designed by yours truly. Reminds me of my I am Fashion days, when HG and I would brainstorm every half a year about what our banner should look like. Those were some very handy Photoshop skills I developed then! Can you believe that I took this picture using my iPhone4S? No editing needed. This is a close up pictures of the train displays they have sprinkled around Landmark in Central. Not bad, right?
I know I’m usually remise in my blog posts anyway. But in case you’re wondering, it is because I’m out of the country until the end of next week, with only a super slow mini laptop as my only mode of communication with the rest of the world. It’s been a painful adjustment.
Paris so far has been fun. I must say, it is actually a lot more fun coming as a tourist vs a student. I love a good hotel breakfast. Lafayette is a tourist zoo, I much prefer Le Bon Marche. It is also a good idea to get in through the SIDE entrance at the Louvre when the line to the main entrance is a mile long. Oh and the Lido show was a bit disappointing. Do NOT go for the full meal, because the food sucks. The show itself was a bit like Cirque de Soleil, except with more scimpily clad performers. There was water, ice skating, a real horse, juggling and lots of synchronized dancing. Ironically though this is the FOURTH time in my life there and I’m only in my early twenties.
Going to visit the temple of Balenciaga tomorrow. Can’t wait!
We were just sitting at the bar, enjoying ourselves and chatting with Andrea and Amanda (the lovely hostess and chef of the establishment) when he and his friends walked in. Andrea greeted them and called him Jason. They started talking, and my friend M suddenly whispered to me that he kind of looks like the Jason from Jason Bonvivant, the famous Hong Kong food blog that we both love to stalk. Since I never studied the tiny picture he has on the corner of his blog, I scoffed at the idea and reasoned that it couldn’t be. What are the chances?
But then Andrea started telling us that Jason knows all about food and that he even has a blog. . . and we couldn’t help but ask, “Wait, are you THE Jason from the Jason Bonvivant blog???” When he confirmed, we were all starstruck and started crowding around him and bombarding him with questions. Luckily, he was super cool about it and didn’t seem to mind even after we kept him from his raspberry sorbet for well over 15 minutes. We didn’t even realize how embarrassing we were being until we excitedly recalled this experience to our friend and she observed that we sounded like a gaggle of crazy teenage fans. Whoops 😛
I’m off to Tokyo. Be back in a few days!
I’m a bit slow on the news, but apparently hauls are the next big thing since blogs. Hauls are basically a Youtube version of your conversation with your girlfriends after a shopping spree. They are approximately 10 minutes long and their makers are typically attractive young women. Some of the more popular vloggers have over half a million viewers, and with advertisement partnerships with Youtube and sponsorships, can earn up to$1000USD a month. Some vloggers have gotten so big, they have their own agents and dropped out of school to be “home schooled” so they can concentrate on their vlogs.
When I first found out about all this, I was intrigued. There is something to be said about seeing something in motion instead of looking at its still picture and reading about it. But then I saw a few hauls by the Fowler sisters and was baffled. I just couldn’t relate to them and failed to see the attraction. It struck me as a 10 minute video of a teenage American girl babbling on and on about well… nothing in particular. And by teenage American girl, I mean the “omg!-Mean-Girls” kind. I thought it was just a stereotype people overdo to make fun on TV, but I guess they really do exist!
Don’t get me wrong, as a teenage fashion blogger in my not so distant past, I do get that cheerful ditzy-ness sells. And admittedly they present themselves very charmingly. But I’m just not very interested in knowing that they got scented candles and shower gel for their birthdays and what they have in their bags- not in such a babbling long winded kind of way anyway. I personally prefer it fun but straight to the point. I do have more constructive things to do with my time, like watch a video teaching me how to put my hair up into a complex French braid nest.
On the other hand, I can definitely see the symmetry between hauls and blogs. At the end of the day, bloggers too blog about random things in our lives, like virtual birthday presents, things we bought, what’s in our bag and how we clean our brushes etc. We’re not all fashion insiders after all. Maybe I’m just getting too old to appreciate hauls or I’m watching the wrong hauls.
What are your thoughts on hauls?
I was walking along Pacific Place and was star struck again by Susie Bubble– except this time by cardboard versions of her outside the Joyce Boutique!
I grew up with Joyce being one of the premier boutiques in town (think Browns in UK). So when I saw Susie on display at Joyce today, I felt oddly proud. It was like seeing one of my own (kind of, though she’s a much more reputable fashion blogger than I am) on the cover of Elle Magazine.
Today I was star struck by none other than Susie Bubble from Style Bubble. I actually stopped in my steps for a moment and just stared at her. Yes, Susie. That girl who was blatantly staring at you today outside Cova in Pacific Place was me. I was tempted to creepily follow you into the bathroom and introduce myself, but alas I thought it would be too stalkerish. I already felt decidedly blah next to you. Me in my hastily thrown on jeans and cardigan, and you in your floral top, edgy fringed pants and heels. Plus, I really didn’t know what to say! Instead, I went to our table and immediately called HG to gush. She was super excited to hear about my sighting too! Somehow it was even more exciting than accidentally stumbling into the Asia Film Awards last night and walking into a random Hong Kong movie star.
Many fashion bloggers started their blogs hoping to get discovered and become glamorous overnight. Indeed, Manolo from Manolo’s Shoe blog reputedly earned a six figure annual income from blogging. Susie from Style Bubble got a job within the industry because of her blog, and is now a frequent guest at international fashion events. Jane, a regular Texas girl from Sea of Shoes, was even invited to the annual Crillon Ball in Paris as one of the twenty four debutantes along with the likes of Stanley Ho’s granddaughter and Princess Diana’s niece. Free samples, fashion shows, magazine and newspaper features, maybe even a book deal- it was all within a few clicks of the mouse. The upside in fashion blogging seemed limitless relative to the low cost of entry. But you can’t expect to simply arrive in Hollywood and become a superstar. It takes a bit more to reach stardom.
In 2004, since the idea of blogging about clothes and accessories was still fairly new, it was relatively easy to establish yourself amongst the handful of fashion blogs out there. Sign up for a free user-friendly blog account, churn out a few blog posts, exchange links with other fashion blogs to make yourself known and you are a fashion blogger. You didn’t need to be in the industry or even be terribly fashionable- that was what magazines were for. You just needed to be interested in fashion, have an opinion and a voice that readers can relate to and consistently publish up-to-date posts. There is nothing more detrimental to a blog than a blogger who disappears for weeks. No matter how much they like your blog, they will not come back to a fickle source.
Eventually, traditional publications started to take note of this growing community. Published articles, like the New York Times article titled “Online, Feisty Critics” in 2005, helped jump start interest in these blogs and contributed to the rapid growth in the fashion blogosphere. For brand managers, it was a whole new channel for fashion marketing that they fully intended to take advantage of it. Fashion bloggers were flooded with press releases, advertising inquiries, invitations and free sample offers, all vying for a spot on their blog. Towards the summer of 2007, even big international brands that had previously scoffed at fashion blogs started paying attention. Chanel offered to fly select fashion bloggers from around the world over to Paris, for an all expense paid trip to view their collections and tour the private apartments of Coco Chanel, in an effort to promote their brand in this new media.
But if glamorous perks and fame are considered as an abnormal profit, then it cannot be expected to be sustainable in the long term. With the cost of entry into the fashion blogosphere next to nothing, infinite would-be bloggers and the transparent nature of blogs, the only thing differentiating each blog is its unique human capital. As with all such monopolistic competition market structures, eventually abnormal profit will attract more producers to enter, creating competition that will drive down the abnormal profit. And indeed, that was what happened.
Not only were there more independent fashionista’s trying to get a piece of the glamour, but fashion insiders as well. Fashion magazines launched fashion blogs, featuring real editors mimicking the friendly and down to earth tone of bloggers, providing readers with first hand insider news and analysis. Some even adopted this style of writing in their magazines. Fashion brands, especially the lesser known ones, also introduced fashion blogs in an attempt to promote their products. The fashion blogosphere exploded, making it increasingly difficult for new bloggers to differentiate themselves from other blogs and reap abnormal profits.
Established fashion bloggers benefited immensely during the boom. They easily expanded their readership from a few hundred to a few thousand hits per day, through incoming links from magazine and newspaper features, blog networks and newly set up fashion blogs. With popularity came more popularity, as their ranking in search engines also improved. More traffic was organically directed towards them from keyword searches, which is a powerful source of traffic. If you Google search “Fashion Blog” right now, you will find that I am Fashion, a blog that stopped updating early 2009, still ranks number five in the search results, despite their inactivity. Newcomers on the other hand, do not have this competitive edge.
The only recourse for new fashion bloggers without the financial backing of large corporations to buy them search engine rankings and publicity, is to find increasingly innovative ways to set themselves apart. It is not enough now to simply have a relatable voice and opinion. You must have a unique selling point. Manolo from the Manolo shoe blog for instance, writes in the third person. His witty yet brutally honest observations makes readers return for more of his distinctive brand of humor. Alternatively, the Sartorialist, a man of few words, is selected as one of Time Magazine’s top 100 design influencers. The focus of his blog is photographs of stylish people on the street that caught his eye. His talent for capturing these people at their best, most inspirational moment keeps reader coming back for more. Then there is Jane from Sea of Shoes, a seventeen year old blogger from Texas, who is arguably one of the most successful newcomers coming in towards the end of the boom in 2007. Her unique sense of styling, inspirational home-made photo shoots and charming commentary won her a loyal following. After all, not many teenager girls can make an ancient granny sweater look stylish.
Apart from standing out, new fashion bloggers must also work harder to gain the reader’s trust. Previously, one of the charms of blogs was the way bloggers expressed their opinion, unconstrained by advertisers and sponsors. Now, the commercialization of fashion blogs has put the writer’s integrity into question. It provokes readers to wonder whether a fashion blogger is promoting something because they believe in it, or because they derive some sort of incentive from it. Some fashion bloggers try to use honesty to gain their reader’s trust, telling them in advance whenever a potential conflict of interest is involved. Most leading independent fashion bloggers however, choose to keep their advertising to a minimum, and try to generate revenue from other sources that do not compromise their integrity and the visual of their blogs. The author of The Sartorialist for instance, has only one advertising banner on his site. He generates most of his income through guest blogging for Style.com and a monthly page in GQ. Still some fashion bloggers, like Jane mentioned previously, choose not to advertise at all. Instead, Jane blogs for the pleasure of blogging and enjoys the perks that come along with reaching stardom. But then few bloggers can afford that luxury when maintaining a popular blog is almost a full time job.
With the explosion of the fashion blogosphere, glamorous perks are becoming much rarer. There are simply too many fashion blogs out there for brand managers to effectively identify which one suits their target demographic best. Consequently, firms previously offering free samples, now send out mass electronic press releases instead. Affiliate programs were introduced, where fashion bloggers are paid by commission when a customer directed to the parent site makes a purchase, instead of by the amount of traffic directed. Traffic based advertisements are typically more profitable, because consumers usually do not buy big ticket fashion items online. Companies specializing in blog advertising were also launched trying to bridge the gap between advertisers and fashion blogs. The intermediary fee charged by these companies took yet another bite out of the abnormal profits previously enjoyed by fashion bloggers.
Once the idea took hold, it didn’t take much to foresee the rapid growth of the fashion blogosphere. But like most up and coming industry with low barriers to entry, there was inevitably competition that drove out the weak and forced the survivors to move forward and evolve, even at a lower profit margin. As Warren Buffet recently said in the Berkshire 2009 annual report:
In the past, it required no brilliance for people to foresee the fabulous growth that awaited such industries as autos (in 1910), aircraft (in 1930) and television sets (in 1950). But the future then also included competitive dynamics that would decimate almost all of the companies entering those industries. Even the survivors tended to come away bleeding.
It seems that the fashion blogosphere is no different.
* This article is obviously a generalization of the fashion blogosphere and is not a complete representation of all fashion blogs/bloggers. There are also areas of fashion blogging that I have missed out on, simply because it didn’t really flow well with the main theme and lack of time. Hopefully, I’ll touch on those some other time. If you do get through reading this whole article, your thoughts would be appreciated!
 Online, Feisty Critics: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/08/fashion/thursdaystyles/08BLOGS.html?_r=1
I went Artjamming recently, which is a 2 hour session where they provide you with all the tools you need with music jamming in the background, and this is what I ended up with:
Given my limited artistic capabilities and unimaginative nature, I decided to go with a simple shape and work on the color and texture. As simple as it looks, I’ll have you know that I probably spent a little over a hour working on the texture of the heart to get it to look like this. It turns out that texturizing is much harder than it looks and if you are not careful, you will over work it….
….and it’ll end up looking like this, which is neither here nor there. It looked much better in my imagination. It’s a good thing I took a picture of it before I decided to be done with it!
But yes, Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my readers for sticking around in the last year. It’s officially been 1 year and 14 days since I started to blog alone. I was so busy cramming for an exam on Feb 1st that I completely forgot until now. I know there’s been ups and downs, and quite some bit of inconsistency, but I appreciate your patience and I’ll try to do better this year. There’s been quite a lot of changes lately i.e. I finally got tired of Chicago and moved back to Hong Kong, but hopefully it is all for the better. I love you all!