Dressed in a red top, fuchsia pleated skirt and fluffy boa worn on the shoulder, fashion blogger Beatrice Balaj poses for pictures in her front row seat at a New York catwalk show. She is among a number of bloggers who use the internet and social media to cover the biannual womenswear events in New York, London, Milan and Paris, as well as everyday fashion, and whose power to set trends has grown to rival that of traditional glossy magazines.
"We basically show people our lives on-camera and off-camera, and people are interested in that and want to know more," said Balaj, whose Instagram feed carries images from a number of once-exclusive fashion week shows. "We're very influential because people fall in love with our personalities rather than what we do."
Reaching consumers via the web or social media platforms, Balaj and other bloggers post snaps of their outfits and images from the shows and may collaborate with brands that sometimes dress them.
"(Bloggers) belong to a fashion system that ... has been literally reshaped," said Tommaso Aquilano, creative director at Italian fashion brand Fay. "Influencers and bloggers at the end of the day are the mirror of what people are in everyday lives." But relations with the established fashion media can be frosty. Last year, fashion bible Vogue criticized bloggers in an online post about Milan Fashion Week, with one writer accusing them of "heralding the death of style" by changing into "head-to-toe, paid-to-wear outfits every hour."
The bloggers said that was hypocritical, as magazines borrow designer clothes for shoots and dedicate large spaces to brand advertising. [Additionally, editors are guilty of benefiting from some of the same types of brand-paid for opportunities as bloggers, as we investigated not too long ago].
Italian fashion blogger Carlo Sestini says the two sides help each other, and that "fighting will just not lead to anything." Grazia Italy magazine editor Silvia Grilli also said press, bloggers and influences "can work together very well," serving different audiences in different ways. Magazines, for example, offer trends while bloggers share and speak more personally.
"I think everybody serves a very different purpose ... You talk about somebody who reaches somebody in an instantaneous way. Editors have a different level of veteran experience," said Joe Zee, former Elle magazine creative director and now editor-in-chief at Yahoo Style. "I think we have so much fashion right now ... and there are so many angles to come at it that there is room for everybody."
Fashion fans say both sides have their strengths. "I feel like magazines are awesome for visual inspiration but bloggers have a certain truth to them," London student Ella Light said. "They get paid sometimes, but I feel bloggers are a bit more real and you can relate to them a bit more."
(Additional reporting by Alicia Powell in New York,; Marie-Louise Gumuchian in London and Cristiano Corvino in Milan; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Catherine Evans)