From the Archive: On Fashion Blogging and Global Style

Originally posted by Lucy Collins in 2009

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As Fashion Week begins in NYC, followed by similar festivals of fashion in London and Paris, I’m beginning to wonder about the whole idea of international style centers. Is there really such a thing as a distinctive style that differentiates runway fashion in London from that of New York? When fashion critics and magazine editors write about seasonal trends, aren’t they referencing global, universal trends rather than trends specific to any particular place? These questions remind me again that the fashion industry actually spawns a sort of phenomenon of uniformity — creating a global “look” and and a cross-cultural fashionable elite, members of which cannot be easily assigned to one country over another.

So what are the reasons of this kind of wholesale leveling of ethnic or culturally definable fashion? Two primary causes immediately come to mind: the development and proliferation of global department store chains and the internet.

On one recent trip to London, I realized that there really was no article or brand of clothing I could buy in London that I couldn’t get in the United States. In fact, even the uber-hip store Topshop, which used to be available exclusively in the UK, was opening a store in New York City the very same weekend I was in London. Of course the three most notable examples of this international chain explosion are the Gap, Zara, and H&M, all of which have locations around the world.

It certainly goes without saying that the internet has created a global economy. The effects such a global marketplace has had on fashion are tremendous. Along with providing accessibility to all variety of clothing items, the web has created a platform where any number of frantically-typing, photo-uploading fashionistas can create a name for themselves. This very week, weardrobe is sponsoring a conference exclusively for the crème de la crème of fashion bloggers. [Now, although WT is most certainly a blog about fashion, I don’t think we would consider ourselves “fashion bloggers” in the sense that the term is most frequently used. (Sea of Shoes is a perfect example of a fashion blog.) Fashion blogging per se usually refers to girls who either track themselves in some sort of photographic online diary or who comment upon and critique the latest runway shows and/or fashion magazines.]

And although many of us are benefiting from the breakdown of walls between fashion and academics, we are now left with some confusing terrain to navigate. A conference for fashion bloggers? What does this such a thing indicate? Is it that conferences are to be taken so lightly or is it that fashion blogging is to be taken so seriously?

The phenomenon of fashion blogging really has thrown the traditional idea of “style centers” on its head. Similar to the slow disappearance of regional and ethnic style of dress, the notion that there are actual places that could be more or less fashionable is becoming a little obsolete. Because now, it seems, the MOST fashionable “place” to be is in cyber-space.

Yes, the playing field has been leveled and any girl with a camera, a local Goodwill, a computer (ok, and maybe a little innate style) can become the next “it” girl to watch. These girls really are changing the shape of fashion as many of them do in fact turn up on the front row at the most important fashion shows. And their word, or idea of what “works,” is almost more valuable than many of the magazine editors’ opinions.

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Does it say something, though, that one of the most significant bloggers on this scene is “stylerookie” Tavi, a 12 yr old.? What does that say about fashion? That it appeals to the whimsy and imaginative desires of children — that we are all just playing dress up — or that style and expensive clothing aren’t necessarily to be earned with age and insight?

Or perhaps it’s just that Tavi is a witty, precocious young thing, whose seeming grasp of some of the silliness of the industry is actually enlightening. And the way she manages to both make light of it and take it very, very seriously is simply a refreshing, even if contradictory, attitude.

Maybe we could all take some cues from these blogging ladies and learn that it is possible to have both critique and appreciation in mind when approaching the world of clothing and design — because in the end, serious reflection and creative inspiration are not mutually exclusive.

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