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The New Front Row and the Longtail of Fashion Blogging

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Another Fashion Week has come and gone. Wipe the lipstick off the champagne glasses, fold up the chairs, catch up on the prettiest Instagram feeds, and read yet another story about how fashion bloggers took over the front row. The same story has been recycled since 2009 when Gawker declared ‘I hereby declare the fashion bloggers’ ‘front row’ trend piece over.’ Clearly, the media world did not heed Gawker’s call.

There is a story here. Fashion is an influence-driven industry where the opinions of a handful of connected writers and designers in New York, Paris and Milan drive billions of dollars in product. It used to be that those writers resided exclusively at the headquarters of magazines like Vogue, W and Elle.

As we all know from reading regular stories about the new power center emerging online, things have changed. Digital denizens are gaining access, collaborating on designs and influencing purchase decisions in a meaningful way. They’ve brought welcome new perspectives into what was once a cloistered industry.

But, things haven’t changed that much and the rise of a very select few online-only creators hasn’t replaced the traditional influencers. Anna Wintour, Caroline Roitfeld and Robbie Myers are still front and center. The ones sitting next to them is what’s new. The arrival of these newcomers has created new stakeholders that brands must cater to in order to reach their targeted audiences consuming fashion news on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

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To reach those audiences, brands should be careful not to lump all fashion bloggers together. In the past five years, fashion blogging has split between the front row and the peanut gallery.

The ones actually sitting front row represent less than 0.1 percent of fashion bloggers. This is rarified air. They might be represented by Next Management, which was primarily a modeling agency until it started taking on bloggers such as Andy Torrest of StyleScrapbook, Rumi Neel of FashionToast and Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad. They might be part of NowManifest, the Conde Nast-owned blog and ad platform for creators such as Elin Kling and Neel. They might be the upper crust of a larger grouping of bloggers represented by Say Media, which reps Tavi Gevinson of Rookie, or DBA, which reps Jamie Beck of Ann Street Studio.

For most of these top fashion bloggers, their blogs have become an afterthought. It’s how they started but is now just a means to the invitations, junkets, free swag, product collaborations, speaking gigs, book contracts, paid social and content placements, television shows, and front row seats, of course. With a few notable exceptions such as Emily Weiss’ Into The Gloss, Tavi’s Rookie or Erin Kleinberg and Stephanie Mark’s The Coveteur, this top-tier creator class is not trying to build the next great digital publication. Instead, they’re using their sizable social channels as a more powerful distribution method than their site-based one and accepting the creative constraints inherent in social channels in exchange for the lower overhead.

In truth, 99.9 percent of fashion bloggers get nowhere near the front row. The closest this group gets to the celebrities and big magazine editors is what they see Man Repeller post to Instagram each September. These bloggers – which comprise the longtail - are passionate, authentic writers and photographers who love clothes, accessories and shoes. They have small but rabid followings. On their own, they don’t move the needle for a brand. But, taken together, they can be a potent complement to a campaign seeking a social component or niche targeting. To address this need, platforms such as Fohr Card have emerged to aggregate and organize fashion bloggers and then connect them to brands.

A few will graduate to the front row in the coming years. A small handful may launch sustainable digital publications. Most bloggers, however, will write for a few more years before moving on to something else. But, don’t fear. Another passionate and literate fashionista will emerge to take their spot. You see, in the world of high-fashion, everything eventually comes back into style.

Josh Jaffe is Vice President of Media and Business Development for Say Media.

[Image credit: Instagram]

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