Monday, 27 February 2012
Mary Fellowes, fashion stylist, blogs on The Woes of the Fashion Bloggerazzi
If power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, the same is true of fame. Whitney Houston is its latest victim - there have been countless others before her, and countless more to come. Its victims’ demise isn’t always as dramatic as Whitney’s - death is final and dramatic whether suicidal or accidental in celebrities, but the slow erosion and corruption of a character is in some ways just as sad.
Fashion has often crossed over with fame in the Venn diagram of entertainment and celebrity – more so than any other design form due to its relationship with glamour and the human form. And there is nothing wrong with recognition and achievement - or becoming a household name. As with any fame, the key to it is when fame and recognition has been earned. That makes it easier to live with - the inevitable symptom or by-product after years of coming up through the ranks, jumping through hoops, performing the endless monotonous rites of passage that others have done before to get to the top.
But what about when fame is not earned? What threats lurk within the psyche when fame has been bestowed instantly, in a heartbeat? There is no need to lament the victims of reality television during the last decade, as it is a given. But the rip-tide of instant fame is claiming new victims for itself: in the fashion world. The ‘bloggerazzi’ have turned fashion week into an ugly circus of attention seeking wannabes, feeding and fuelling egos of its subjects with flashbulbs for sustenance.
Out of nowhere in the last few years, an army of apparent nobodies has swelled in numbers, taking over the front line, making entering into a show like running the gauntlet. More often than not clad in outlandish and forced looking outfits, they have adopted the customs of the paparazzi but sadly they have none of the clout. Because outside of the microcosm of fashion, no one is interested in what Japanese Vogue’s Anna Della Russo (the bloggers’ favourite) is wearing.
Thanks to the bloggerazzi, a tragic parade now takes place in all the fashion weeks. Since the dawn of the international fashion collections, all of us in the industry have always seized the opportunity of fashion week to have a bit more fun with our outfits, but the presence of this battalion, emerging from their trenches with semi-professional cameras poised like shields, has generated a giant extra swathe of pretentious, attention seeking dressing up and poseur behaviour. Their incessant snapping away feeds straight into the ego and insecurity in each one of their subjects, giving them the illusion that somehow they are - well - famous.
Where is all of this imagery going? I wondered that when I got ‘papped’ for the first few seasons while the bloggerazzi was in its infancy. Did I play along with it? Sure I did, at first. But after a while, it becomes incredibly tedious. You go to fashion week, surprisingly enough, to work. The schedule is gruelling and the brain switches between overdrive and overload by the second, by the hour. And after wasting time posing for a group of self-important, self anointed pseudo opinion formers, you realise that so few of these images they shoot ever make it into a domain big enough to justify all the hype and chaos, that actually it is not really worth it after all.
It is not to decry fashion blogs per se. There are countless very successful fashion bloggers out there – Tommy Ton, Tavi, Bryan Boy, The Sartorialist, Susie Bubble, Liberty London Girl and so on. They are the democracy to fashion publishing’s autocracy. David takes on the publishing world’s Goliath and wins. But these pioneers are unwittingly thorough, they attend the shows and have a unique point of view that is worth hearing – and which is why Dolce and Gabbana made media history by putting them all front row several seasons back at their D&G show in Milan, next to super-snapper Mario Testino. And which is why some of them can earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a year in advertising and brand collaborations.
But it is the legions of street-style snappers, the bloggerazzi that ruin it for everyone else, that turn it into a cliché and a soap opera. Millions and millions of pictures of street style, filling up the world wide web’s vortex with junk and simultaneously creating the myth of fame for people who are otherwise regular people with full time jobs in the fashion industry. They are not performers or actors with immense talent that can reach out and affect the hearts and mind of the great public, they are actually store buyers, writers, editors and stylists. But all these people’s overnight status can escalate within the bubble of the fashion industry, giving them an illusion of disproportionate self-importance. The danger is that people could start believing their own hype and succeed above other more talented, less attention-seeking colleagues, purely because they gained a little fame in the fashion bubble – style over content, the book’s cover mattering more than its story inside. It feels as if Warhol is laughing all the way to the bank.
Mary Fellowes is a London-based fashion stylist. A former assistant to Isabella Blow at British Vogue, Fellowes currently works as a consultant to a number of fashion houses and her work is regularly featured in Vogue.