Archive: The Downfall of Street Style

Since at least the Spring/Summer 2013 shows during New York Fashion Week (and after the February 2013 shows, as well), there has been quite a bit of buzz about the over the top street style and about "street style" blogs in general. One thing is for sure, when compensation is involved, things get more complicated than your average street style.

When a blogger is paid to write a blog post or is compensated (whether it is with money or clothes, etc.) for wearing a certain designer's wares, this is considered an endorsement. Because endorsements are an important tool for advertisers and can be persuasive to consumers, they must be disclosed. So, how does this fit into the overall concept of street style (namely, the photos taken of individuals by other bloggers and/or photographers and subsequently posted on any one of an array of websites and labeled as "street style")? It appears as though it doesn't.

The FTC Guidelines make it clear that bloggers should not accept compensation for a post and fail to disclose it. However, it gets murky when a someone is compensated for wearing a certain designer for the purpose of being photographed in it and has his/her picture splashed all over other blogs, fashion websites, and social media accounts (which have certainly replaced the most traditional forms of media as a key source of information, and thus, as a place for advertising). Because so many of the "street style" pictures are taken as people scurry into shows, there is no talk of who is sponsoring what. As a result, the images are posted and printed without any disclosures.

So, are readers being duped into thinking street style is real style? Fashion writer, Amy Odell would argue yes. In her own post, she said: "People who have a following now have sponsors ... who bank on them getting photographed. This doesn't bother me as much as how we don't always know when these people are wearing things just because they're getting paid to wear them." Others are just as skeptical. Take International Herald Tribune fashion critic Suzy Menkes, for instance, who took to the publication to share her thoughts on the state of street style and personal style bloggers, in an article entitled “The Circus of Fashion.” She wrote:

We were once described as 'black crows' — us fashion folk gathered outside an abandoned, crumbling downtown building in a uniform of Comme des Garçons or Yohji Yamamoto. 'Whose funeral is it?' passers-by would whisper with a mix of hushed caring and ghoulish inquiry, as we lined up for the hip, underground presentations back in the 1990s. Today, the people outside fashion shows are more like peacocks than crows. They pose and preen, in their multi-patterned dresses, spidery legs balanced on club-sandwich platform shoes, or in thigh-high boots under sculptured coats blooming with flat flowers.

The New York Times’s Ruth La Ferla has taken on the topic, as well. Of street style stars, she writes: “What they are parading as street style — once fashion’s last stronghold of true indie spirit — has lately been breached, infiltrated by tides of marketers, branding consultants and public relations gurus, all intent on persuading those women to step out in their wares.” Interestingly, La Furla spoke of a true rarity on her article, a disclosure: "Natalie Joos said her wispy lavender dress was by Karla Spetic, an Australian designer, and acknowledged that it was lent by Ms. Spetic’s showroom."

So, what do the street style icons have to say about this? Leandra Medine, the force behind the Man Repeller, took to her blog, writing: "Fashion week is becoming a circus and street-style elicited outfits may have something to do with that" and "What I predict in the coming years is one long string of backlashes—toward the internet, toward technology at large, toward fashion, and toward the excessively accessible cues of personal style." Susie Bubble, another big-name blogger took on the topic, as well, saying:m "Yes, I am a blogger. Yes, I dress in a way that can be construed as peacocking. But I have also worked at a publication." As for her outfits for the February 2013 shows in London, she wrote: "I think about all the outfits I’ve worn this week at London Fashion Week - Jonathan Saunders, Meadham Kirchhoff, James Long, J.W. Anderson, Simone Rocha – things I’ve bought with my own money or someone was gracious enough to lend me knowing that I genuinely wanted to wear it."

What do you think?

This article was initially posted on September 19, 2012 and subsequently updated in February 2013.