Since the rise of Web2.0, fashion blogs and social networks have worked hand in hand in democratizing style… I couldn't imagine blogging without social networks, both for research and for reaching out. Yet, I've always wondered how these networks are born, and how they intend bloggers to use them… if they even think about that at all. That's why I've asked ilikemystyle.net co-founder Adriano Sack to talk to us….
Prada wearing devils of all countries, unite!
My first experiences with a social network were short, intense and ultimately deeply disappointing. It must have been in 2002 that a friend sent me the link or invite to Friendster. As far as I could say it was something genuinely new: a website that was designed to meet people. I did some cautious steps into this world and it felt like the first day on a schoolyard. I wanted to find some kindred spirits. I wanted to get attention and avoid neglect. It did not make a lot of sense, but I was nervous and excited. At the same time I was not exactly sure what I was looking for on Friendster: I lived in a sexually and emotionally blossoming relationship and my social life suffered if anything from the lack of time to actually keep track of the friends I already had.
Nevertheless Friendster was totally addictive. The administrator sent me a notification every time another user replied to one of my messages, and I was absolutely incapable of NOT looking instantly into my Friendster Inbox. Back then I had a serious, pretty time consuming job as the editor for a big newspaper, and my new addiction kept me noticeably from getting this job done. Finally I had to delete my Friendster account. It had become a career risking addiction for me. Since then I have kept a healthy distance to social networks. I do have a MySpace account but I did not even chose my own background. I do have a Facebook profile but I never poked anyone, sent kisses or created silly groups (except for Otters International group). And on LinkedIn I have a network of ten (!) people. I have been a careful and skeptical user of social networks. Until I created my own.
The idea for ilikemystyle.net was born in a bar in New York’s Lower East Side. Between photo models with Kate Moss/Topshop-blouses, a bartender with a slightly ironic moustache and some exceptionally elegant lesbians nothing seems more natural than creating a network for people who love fashion and exposing themselves. A common social network like Facebook, to name the most successful one, seems like an entire city: it offers everything for everybody. ilikemystyle.net on the other hand should be like the most cutting-edge, happening neighbourhood of this city: it would be a platform, a catwalk, a forum for those who make an extra-effort to express themselves.
After roughly a year of experience, I have to admit: it works. It’s been the most time consuming and nerve-wrecking professional experience I made in a long time, but definitely the most rewarding. Our users constantly surprise me: with the quality of the photos, the wittiness of their comments, the intensity of their activities. And every other day you see a new photo and fall in love. At some point people on parties in New York introduced themselves with the words: “I know you from ilikemystyle.net“ and I felt we were on the right way. Not only to create a social network of a new kind but also to encourage a different conversation about fashion and style.
Not that the old conversation is over. There will always be tastemakers and editors that define and influence what’s relevant in fashion. Anna Wintour, the famous devil in Prada, may be on her way out, but Carinne Roitfeld, her potential successor, is already at least as influential and iconic, only few years younger, yet representing the sensibilities and passions of another generation. But the information and communication monopole of these people has been replaced by digital all-access-passes for everybody to literally every fashion show in the world. Any blogger can see any outfit created by any designer and come to his own conclusion and share his view with the world. Or at least with the part of the world that reads his blog.
What exactly can a social network add to this? Generally speaking: a social network is more than just the sum of its users. It is an constantly evolving organism that finds (and loses) its own voice, shape and subject matters.
Blogs have changed the way we consume media, improved our chances to detect propaganda and lies, enhanced the ways to express ourselves. But in a way they represent the old idea of media being a one way street of communication from the sender to the recipient. Even with a lot of comments a blog entry still remains the equivalent to an article in a newspaper.
A social network on the other hand blurs the line between exhibitionism (How many friends to I have? Who is writing on my wall? How many people rated my photos?), interaction (Friend requests/messages/style debates/flirts) and exchange of information (Who is wearing what and why? Why did Danish fashion designer Henrik Vibskov create strollers? Is Martin Margiela finally leaving his own house?).
This blurryness can be irritating. If you know exactly what you are looking for, there might be places in the internet that are more efficient. The complete new Prada collection is on style.com only few hours after it was shown on the runway in Milan. But on ilikemystyle.net you see how real people wear theses clothes, how they explain themselves, what reaction their looks provoke. The users might get distracted, sometimes even lost, but they most definitely have a good time. And they don’t necessarily find what they were looking for, but probably something much better.
We are currently working on some applications on our website that will enable and invite fashion bloggers to post their entries on ilikemystyle.net thus leading our users back to their blogs and at the same time making our site more interesting and appealing. Our project wants to grow into a playground for fashion lovers, a source of information and a digital fashion magazine.
We see fashion blogs as an amazing way of making the discussion about style more diverse, more democratic and more immediate. Yet we feel it would make this new voice in fashion more powerful if we could create a so called metablog, summarizing the knowledge, expertise, outspokenness of the global fashion blogosphere. There are currently approximately 20 000 fashion bloggers. As long as each one of them is fighting alone in the global eyeball war, the old media will remain more relevant and influential. A social network that unites the amazing talents out there can be the beginning of an interesting new power balance between fashion establishment and the new voices that want to and should be heard.
Fashion has been in the hands of some editors long enough. No matter how competent and iconic they are. It’s time for user generated glamour and a user conducted discussion about style, fashion and why they make our world a better place. Prada wearing devils of all countries, unite!