Street Style Photography Or Walking Blogger Billboard?

Digital blogging

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?

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17 Responses

  1. Ashley Garner

    I just finished reading that same NY Times article and couldn’t be more on the same page with your response. Although there are bloggers like Bryan Boy and Fashion Toast who are often seen wearing gifted clothes and their blogs follow through to support that “walking billboard” idea by having ads as their pages background screen. However the article went on to interview one of my favorite bloggers, Susie Lau of Style Bubble who stated that she only works/wears a brand obviously if she already has a relationship with the company.

    I think what this article is missing is the fact that many fashion bloggers are using or created their blogs as an outlet to express, explore, and share their interest in the fashion world in a way that they weren’t able to in their daily lives. These bloggers who are coming to the shows are also now working with brands in many other ways then just “blogging” about it. They become style ambassadors, journalists, photographers, stylists, and so on. The fact that the label they get left with at the end of the day as blogger is simply a matter of ignorance to the public eye.

  2. Sally Yunji Noh

    I think that with the rise in blogger influence in fashion, bloggers are now promoting brands that are in sync with their own styles and styling it to their own taste. The same clothes can be worn on hundreds of different people and it has the ability to change the look of it by how people chose to style it. If all fashion bloggers were just doing it for the money and free stuff, they would work with all designers and brands; in reality, most bloggers are very specific and picky with who they choose to work with. I have a great amount of respect to fashion bloggers because they’re influencing people with their own unique style and color.

  3. miss SLY!™

    Interesting and worth looking into. Fashion Bloggers, essentially style bloggers seem to be more and more public figures than actual content producers, walking that fine line between human billboards and passionate bloggers. They get paid to showcase designers brands, with whom they naturally have developed relationships, so it should come to no surprise to see them choosing brands that best fit their style and aesthetic, but ultimately there is a transaction aspect to what they do and that can’t be ignored. So shameless promotion or passion for fashion? We actually debated the issue on @FashionUnfold yesterday, and you can read what our panelists had to say on the question: Do share your thoughts.
    ps: It was nice finally getting to talk at the conference (Thx for the presentation on “Building your Media Kit”.

  4. Mr

    How interesting… thanks for posting. I’m pretty new to the fashion blogsphere, so I’m a little naive to these things. Since I’m not very fashionable at dressing myself, hopefully I’ll keep the street style photography pure 🙂

  5. Kholá

    I really wish street style would stay organic. The pay for play makes it less fun for me…..I suppose unless I’m the one getting paid. Double edged sword.

  6. Jennifer

    I think it really depends what bloggers are using their blogs for. Of course I want to be recognized in the fashion industry, but that’s because i want to work as a fashion jounalist. I want to be recognized as the editor of that great magazine or website WITH great style – not just the great style part… I hope to develop connections with fashion brands in the future so we can work together – not so I can be their IT girl of the month. I guess everyone will be discovered for their own personal talents though, be it style, personality, content etc. In the mix of all of this, I really just hope that good blog content is what stays at the forfront of what is important. It’s the fashion editorials that im worried about getting lost in the mix.

  7. justine

    So, the Sartorialist is actually just taking shots of hired models, placed and dressed, outside the shows? … When is everyone going to wake up to the fact that people in the fashion world are IN the fashion world – it’s their job to look like they do, on or off ‘the stage’.

    I used to like style blogs because they weren’t about the fashion world. Now, everyone wants to ‘make it’ by being invited to the shows, have a deal with a brand, or be photographed with an ‘it’ bag. Boring! Until I see a great blog that has nothing to do with NYFW, I’m taking a break!

  8. Kalyca Romeo

    Everything has its moment and some of those bloggers are milking their 15 minutes of streetstyle fame. Let them. If you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you take the gifted clothes, money, and strut your stuff for the day?  I support those bloggers who know what they’re talking about & sharing with us when it comes to fashion and style.

  9. ebey04

    I’m really glad this post made a lot of us think. I dont personally think the point was to say that bloggers doing paid posts were wrong, just that if they are not stating they are getting paid to wear something that it makes them questionable, at least coming from a journalism perspective. I consider myself more on the journalist side than public figure. But great thoughts and ideas!

  10. Wendi

    I just keep it simple and wear the same colours, at times people say if I really wear the same shirt everyday, to me I try not to worry about mundane things such as clothing.