By Laura Ellner of OnTheRacks
The Rise of the Professional Blogger:
Anyone can start their own blog — but it's the rise of the professional blogger that has the fashion world captivated. How did they start? How did they become recognized? What's the secret? Well, this panel was designed to address all of these questions. And here is more from the mouths of the professional bloggers themselves — Yvan Rodic, Karla Dears, Chaira Ferragni, Wendi Lam, Faran Krentcil, Josh Rubin, Karen Robinovitz, and moderator, Josh Jannuzzi.
What are the pros and cons of being a professional blogger and having professional representation to connect you to brands?
Karen: Half of her agency (Digital Brand Architects) is connected to blogger management — they are about understanding the bloggers and their goals. With the goal of connecting them to the right brands and helping them get paid for their work.
Faran: It comes down to what you want out of your blog — did you start your blog to be famous or because you want to be a writer and develop your voice? “There is nothing wrong with wanting to be Witney Port, but there's also nothing wrong with wanting to win a Pulitzer Prize.”
Karla: She likes the back end of things — working with projects that don't put her “out there” too much. Having an agent is useful in finding projects that fit you and what you want. It is about finding a manager that you feel comfortable with.
Do you think it is possible to navigate this world of professional blogging without a manager?
Faran: Yes. You need to get to a certain place — develop your content and develop your goals before you may be ready for a manager.
Yvan: At some point you realize that there are people who want to pay you. If you want to focus on the creative aspect of your work you need someone else to focus on the “boring stuff”.
Chiara: The real important thing is to never do something you don't like and only work with brands that represent you. The blogger first and foremost needs to be true to their followers and themselves. Over time you understand what you really want to do, and it is important to find someone who can help you.
Wendy: Still treats blogging as a hobby — no assistant, manager, or agent. With overwhelming emails it becomes important to have someone to help you out. Whether it is an assistant, boyfriend, etc.
At what point do you decide that blogging is going to be your profession?
Josh: It was less about money and more about the opportunities and doors that were opening. It is about audience and the overall ecosystem that you're participating in. If you are making a mark in the world you're trying to reach, that's when you're on to something. Even if it is a small world — keep pushing forward.
Yvan: It was a momentum — 6 months after he started taking pictures, he came to NY during Fashion Week and received an email from Mensstyle.com suggesting they collaborate. He covered Fashion Week for Mensstyle.com — getting paid to do something he just did for fun was an exciting thing. “It became possible.”
Karla: Started in April 2008 and nobody paid attention. It was momentum — a wave — just like any trend. It is important to develop relationships and stay true to those relationships. “You just keep learning, just like anything in life.”
Faran: If you want to have your own fashion company, you should have a day job in the fashion industry first. You should see how it works, learn the etiquette, find mentors and people who you respect. It's not because bloggers aren't a legitimate voice — it is just great to have multiple forms of reference. You quit when you are ready.
There is a huge disconnect btw what a brand expects from a blogger relationship and what a blogger expects from a brand relationship:
Karla: The brands are realizing that bloggers have a strong influence on potential consumers, and that's why they are linking up with bloggers. That is why they work with bloggers. They can track hits and visitors and determine whether or not it is successful. Brands expect bloggers to show their product, advertise their product — it is all about doing projects that fit your image and blog.
Yvan: There are brands that know the blogging world, and those who don't know so much. He works with brands that can give him his freedom — if they don't let him do his work it won't resonate with his followers.
Faran: Bloggers are on the edge of something really special, but you only get one first chance to work with brands. If a big brand approaches you for the first time, you have one chance to impress them and be professional. You also only have one chance to show your readers what kind of a brand you are. Be selective.
Chiara: It is important that the brand recognizes that the blogger must do what is best for their fans. You need to be able to discuss and decide what works together.
Wendy: It is very important that you have freedom. You need to have a say — there has to be some kind of way that you can work together and do something that makes sense for the blog. You need to be able to talk to each other and make things work.
Josh: Say no to jobs that don't compel your audience — even if it is a great opportunity… it has to fit your brand identity. Find a way to take a different perspective and compromise with brands to find something that works for both the brand and the blogger.
How can a blogger determine their value?
Karla: There are CMP deals and CPA deals — some you get paid per click and some are commission-based. You need to determine what ads fit your site.
Karen: Most luxury brands are hesitant and afraid to work with bloggers. They should't get so caught up with traffic, but rather sites with a niche audience that will convert. You could have the biggest traffic in the world, but if your audience isn't going to shop luxury, it makes no sense for that brand to work with you. You have to go where the market is.
WHAT THEY WORE:
John: brown loafers, cuffed denim, striped sweater over striped button-down
Chiara: red leather pants, black suede stiletto boots, brimmed hat.
Josh: pink knit sweater, white button down, dark denim
Wendy: black dress, electric blue platform stilettos
Karen: Black patent stilettos, red trousers, black blazer, fur scarf
Faran: Striped dress, black tights, black patent boots,
Yvan: light blue button-down, denim suit
Karla: beige patent platform pumps, black trousers, army green blazer, chambray shirt
Keynote speakers: Jack and Lazaro — Proenza Schouler
Proenza Schouler is the cutting-edge designer label that you know and love — is it or is it not every bloggers dream to own something Proenza?! I mean, really, it doesn't get much better than the PS1…
Today, Evolving Influence offers a deeper look at what's behind the luxury brand. Imran Amed of The Business of Fashion moderates a discussion with Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez — the creative masterminds behind Proenza Schouler. And so we begin…
“What we do between checking emails and freaking out over missing samples, is read blogs.” –Proenza Schouler
Proenza Schouler has always been a celebrated brand in NY, but not the most open, accepting brand. What has changed for you that has made you more engaged with blogs and social media in general?
They are a small company without the resources for traditional advertising. Blogging allows them to share with their fans in a big way — it gives them an outlet. It is a way of getting the message “out there”, and share the ideas that are in their heads on a large scale.
You were one of the first brands who started live streaming, and offering a “click-to-by” option. How has that impacted the business you are trying to run online?
In launching e-commerce, it just made sense for them to reach out to blogs. It has had extraordinary impact on the business and gaining visibility/growing brand awareness.
They've always been fashion-obsessed. They'd try and sneak into shows and get kicked out. Then brands started streaming live, and they offered this incredible resource.
Launching e-commerce has opened and broadened the market. They can now offer their handbags to consumers in middle-America who don't typically have access to stores that carry their products. It is about being inclusive.
How are you managing your social media voice — between working on a collection, traveling, etc.?
They have help! There is someone who works in their office and is very present in the whole social media process for them — she has essentially taught them what social media is in the few months that she has been with the company.
Facebook gives them more creative control — they don't have to worry about third parties editing images and ideas. It reaches a broader audience and gives them the freedom to show what they really want to show to their consumers.
How do you use the internet as you are designing?
They used to go to the library to find inspiration. After a while they realized they could find the same things online — now they “google image their faces off”.
“We're not dissing libraries — there is something about a book that can never be replaced.”
Research can now be done online — Jack and Lazaro call it lazy, but admit that it gives them a lot more access to the things they're looking for.
When did you first start looking at fashion blogs?
LOVE magazine did a story on Tavi — this was the first time they were exposed to blogs (3-4 years ago). Then everyone realized the influence of blogs simultaneously — that was the beginning and it has been growing ever since.
Do you ever look at the blogs of established editors, such as Cathy Horyn?
Now it is all instant — Cathy is tweeting about the show and the review comes out immediately. You hear about things right away instead of waiting a few days for feedback.
You have started creating content specifically for the internet: Specifically, your video with Harmony Korine — some people reacted negatively, what are your thoughts?
His movies are about some sort of outsider. Jack and Lazaro shared ideas, and wanted to filter those ideas through Harmony's eyes. They thought it was incredible — even though it did evoke some controversy. They were thinking about “awkward adolescence” and Harmony took that idea and created his version of that. They agree that it is really great to create this kind of dialogue. Fashion can be looked at in these alternative ways.
Overall, what have you learned in the last 18-24 months as you started opening up the brand. Tell us a little bit about the lessons learned and the opportunities you see for the future…
They never plan ahead… “People think we're pre-meditated… we're not.”
Jack and Lazaro are still trying to wrap their heads around the whole idea of blogging and social media, and taking things as they come.