Street style photography, once the online mecca of originality, spontaneity, and independence in fashion has now become an outdoor step-and-repeat, with sponsored outfits, brand placements, and pay-for-play deals for the trendy and internet-famous (mostly of the fashion blogger breed), according to an article published yesterday in the New York Times.
The paparazzi (more specifically known as street style photographers) now swarm the steps, sidewalks, and cobble-stoned streets as fashionable bloggers trot in and out of shows — it is they who are now the new sought-after living, breathing billboards — a role that celebrities long held, as the article notes: “'These girls are definitely billboards for the brands,' said Tom Julian, a fashion branding specialist in New York City, one of a handful engaged in a particularly stealthy new form of product placement. ‘People still think street style is a voice of purity,' Mr. Julian said. ‘But I don’t think purity exists any more.'”
The article also adds input from Daniel Saynt, a partner in Socialyte and its marketing aspect, Trendsparks, a company that manages approximately 200 placements for 18 brands and retailers (including Pink & Pepper, Vera Wang and Pour La Victoire) — and that's simply just for Fashion Week. “Few people realize that certain bloggers and seemingly random posers are modeling for a fee,” he said to the Times. “But even those who are aware don’t always understand the degree to which we orchestrate these placements.”
Furthermore, the article more specifically points out,”Branding consultants estimate that popular bloggers and other so-called influencers can earn $2,000 to $10,000 for a single appearance in their wares.”
So when did street style become synonymous with commercial plugs? When did parading around outside of the tents become more of a celebrity-sighting-type spectacle than the actual catwalks? With the rise of social media and accessibility of the internet, there's clearly been a parallel rise in the notoriety of the fashion blogger in the past 5 years; and in an industry constantly looking for the next “it” thing, with fame comes the appropriately placed advertisements, marketing schemes, and PR ploys.
But there's a major piece missing from the New York Times article: Where is there a blogger admitting to getting paid to show up in an outfit? Where is there a brand stating specifically which bloggers they hired and paid to traipse outside Milk Studios in their designs? The real burning question is: WHO IS GETTING PAID $10,000 TO SIMPLY STAND OUTSIDE OF A FASHION SHOW AND IS NOT KIM KARDASHIAN OR KANYE WEST?
Now, that being said, fashion bloggers have long been involved with brands with gifted items, sponsored posts, and advertisement campaigns. That's nothing new. Contracts and deals are contrived with stipulations and deliverables — among which may involve appearances, tweets, blog posts, etc.
But if bloggers are simply wearing outfits for an hour or two for money, without any kind of notation on their blogs or public statement (like celebrities do), is that ethical? Should bloggers be considered more as public figures or more in a realm of writers and journalists? Or neither? Is this just the “new” way of branding, advertising, and marketing?