Fashion’s New Establishment

Once a stepping stone to print, blogs are now a destination unto themselves

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In 2009, Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana made news by filling its front row—typically the sole provenance of A-list actresses and Anna Wintour—with fashion bloggers, even equipping them with laptops. Among those bloggers was Scott Schuman, creator of street style site The Sartorialist, who, in a recent profile in GQ, made no effort to hide his indignation over that show. “[Dolce & Gabbana] got a humongous amount of press. … ‘Look, we brought the bloggers in and gave them the front row. Look at the dancing-monkey bloggers!’ ” He then added, “I could barely bring myself to sit down.”

But since then, style blogs like The Man Repeller, Into the Gloss, Style Rookie and Bryanboy, aka Bryan Grey Yambao (look for him judging the next season of America’s Next Top Model), have become assigned reading among the fashion set—and you’d be hard-pressed to find them missing a single Fashion Week. In just a few short years, fashion blogging has evolved from something of a novelty into a legitimate career, and one that might even be preferable to writing for a big-name glossy.

Just ask Nick Axelrod, a former news editor at Elle. Last month, he announced that he was leaving to become the editorial director of Into the Gloss, a beauty blog started by Emily Weiss, a friend and former fellow assistant at Fairchild Fashion Group. “Almost two years ago, when Emily launched the blog, I remember saying, ‘Oh really, another blog?’ and giving her a skeptical eye,” Axelrod recalled. But after realizing the site’s potential for growth, he said, he was converted.

Other print vets embracing the digital-only fashion world are Derek Blasberg, an editor at large for Harper’s Bazaar, who’s built a personal brand outside the magazine with his Mr. Blasberg blog; and Lucy Yeomans, who quit last March after 12 years as the editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar UK to edit Net-A-Porter’s online magazine.

(The company's men's site, Mr Porter, boasts former Esquire UK editor in chief Jeremy Langmead at its editorial helm. He left the magazine in 2010 to make the jump to digital.)

Leandra Medine, creator of the tongue-in-cheek blog, The Man Repeller, was studying journalism in college when she started the site in 2010 as a side project. “I definitely didn’t think [blogging] was a sustainable career, and I think that’s why I did so many brand partnerships and interviews,” she said. “I thought, ‘I’m going to get everything out of this that I can because who knows how long this is going to last?’” But that publicity—which led to collaborations with hip designers like Gryphon and Dannijo—made her a household name among young fashion addicts and led to a book deal.

Still, for every Sartorialist, there are hundreds more bloggers whose hobby will remain just that. “I think there are a very, very select few bloggers that can make this a lasting career,” said John Jannuzzi, a contributing digital editor at Lucky who runs the magazine’s Style Collective, a blogger network. “Everyone out there has some kind of expiration date. What happens when a personal-style blogger wakes up and she’s 35 and not the cute 20-year-old girl in Brooklyn anymore?”

That’s where expansion comes in—namely, building a site to include new writers without losing the voice of its creator. (For a recent successful example of this, see teen blogger Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie Mag, a popular online site for young women that grew out of a personal blog, Style Rookie.) Axelrod is in the early stages of hiring contributing writers for Into the Gloss, while Medine is auditioning new talent and “parlaying Man Repeller the blog into Man Repeller the website,” which she describes as a cross between Vogue and Jezebel.

As they expand and become a more integral part of the fashion community, bloggers are also getting greater support from advertisers. “As brands are seeing the blogs' reach and their influence grow, they’re getting better and better access and becoming more visible as a whole,” said Amy Odell, writer for Buzzfeed Shift and formerly of New York magazine's fashion blog, The Cut. “If you can deliver the impressions, you can play the game,” said Jannuzzi. “Leandra has a ton of traffic. There’s no reason why she can’t have great advertisers, and she does. Scott [Schuman] has Net-A-Porter, a big campaign with Tiffany’s. They’re proof that you can get to that point.”

Three years after Schuman’s Dolce & Gabbana experience, it’s hard to imagine any top blogger feeling out of place at a fashion show. “I remember at a couple of shows last season, I would be seated front row center, and across from me would be big editors that I’ve admired for years sitting second, third row,” said Medine. “I felt a little like, ‘Who am I to be sitting in this seat?’ But the more I think about it, I realize we as bloggers have these super independent voices, and it’s important for us to be out streaming whatever is going on to our Instagrams and Tumblrs. I don’t want to say that it’s normal and I deserve to be front row … but I guess I do.”

@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.