6 Ways to Get Products You Actually Want to Review for Your Fashion Blog

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I love writing reviews. Every week, I write a review on Eat, Sleep, Denim about a different pair of jeans. It's a great way to get content useful content about fashion on your site, while still interjecting your own personal flavor to it. The thing about reviews that's different from posting gifted items, is that the purpose of writing the review is to give your honest opinion (good and bad) about the product, while posting gifted products don't necessarily even have to include any information other than a credit to the brand.

While getting freebies is nice, it's not always optimal for reviewing product.

While getting freebies is nice, it's not always optimal for reviewing product. My friends always think that getting free product is a huge perk of my job, and it is, but free product isn't really “free.” When you aren't shelling out money, you do have to give love to the brand– good if you really love the product, not so good if you have issues with the product. Even the best intentions can cause an awkward situation; I've never successfully been able to publish the flaws of gifted items without catching grief from the publicist.

The other problem with relying on gifted items for reviews, is that more often than not, the brands that everyone wants to know about rarely give products for review. In in the Elle August Issue, Joe Zee noted that fashion bloggers get “free designer duds” which kind of upset me, until I realized it was kind of true. I mean, do you see Celine or Proenza Schouler doling out products to fashion bloggers? Heck, even J. Crew doesn't gift!

So, how do you get your hands on products for review?

Buy The Product

You can always start off by buying the product, or by reviewing items you already own. Really review them. Discuss the fit, the make of the fabric, the designer. Everything you think your readers will care about. If you own the product, you can say whatever you like about it without dealing with the brand. Some bloggers use this method to start building affiliate income off their reviews to make the investment worthwhile. I personally feel that products purchased with my own money generate the most thought out reviews. Mostly because I've agonized over whether I should buy the piece. Then again, usually if I bought it, I REALLY love it.

Buy and Return Items

If you want to style your product for a shoot, but don't have the deepest pockets in the world, or don't want to end up with 200 pairs of jeans in your closet. Buying and returning items also can work well for your blog. That way you can add in unique content (your unique photos) to your site to set your review apart. Buying items yourself also keeps a level of authenticity to your blog, in my experience, I wouldn't buy something even with the intention of returning it, if I didn't really love it, or was genuinely curious about it. Also, I have to have the money in the bank to float, so my budget for reviews often matches the budget for my wardrobe. If I can't float the money for Chanel, my wardrobe isn't luxury fashion.

Clarification: The places I buy/return with I have an agreement with. Personally I like it, in case I decide to keep an item it does not affect the impartiality of the review.

Work Out a Deal with Retailers

When I first started out, I made friends with several local retailers who would welcome me to their store so I can test out clothes and style them for my blog. This can work at all levels of blogging, and many retailers are happy to do this (provided you're not asking for free product all the time).  Some retailers even have product programs for bloggers. While some bloggers may think this type of work should be done for money… remember this is EDITORIAL work you are doing for your readers, NOT promotional work you are doing for the brand.

Check It Out at the Store

Even experienced bloggers will pop into a store to get a first hand look at a product before writing about it. If you just need to take a look, test it out, maybe snap a pic or two, just head down to the store. This method has probably the least amount of commitment and relationship building to manage.

Visit Showrooms

If you're lucky enough to be located near a showroom or a brand HQ, this is a great option. The only problem being the showrooms don't have the same products that are in the stores. So you will probably have to work months ahead of schedule, or your readers don't mind reading about items they can't buy for months. Either way, visiting showrooms is a great way to get first looks at items and a chance to let your readers know what to look out for.

Request Samples

Requesting samples is how traditional media gets clothes for their photo shoots and reviews, and rarely can they keep the samples. You can request samples for review, many times samples are in sample sizes so unless that happens to be your size doing a proper review this way may not always be an option. Luckily I am “sample size” in the denim world so it's proven to be a great way to test out brands and styles I may not have access to because they're not on the market yet.

What other ways do you get products for review?

 

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36 Responses

  1. Ashley Robison

    I really love the emphasis on buying the products. It seems like, especially among fashion and beauty, that that often gets lost. The truth is, I’m very much the same way – the pieces I love and review are often much more well thought out, much more personal, and get a better response. And *I* feel more valuable in the content I’m producing, because I know that the pieces, brands, & company earned *my* money…

    Reply
  2. Michelle

    Not sure how I feel about buying something an returning it but I think a great idea might be using Bag Borrow or Steal for handbags and jewelry. Espeically if you are wearing it for a special event, or something. You rent it out, wear it, and post it on your blog. You could probably “review” the item if you wanted to.

    Reply
  3. Stacey

    I think it’s pretty dang dishonest to buy a product with the intention of returning it. I mean, if you style it for a shoot, you bought it and are wearing it, therefore you shouldn’t return it. I liked everything else in this article, I just kind of feel like buying it and returning it after wearing it is basically stealing.

    Reply
    • Jennine Jacob

      Hmm I didn’t realize that it was “dishonest” since I was focusing on the honestly of the review and not having ties to the brand. I do it, but I don’t wear the clothes any longer than I would trying them on. The retailers I do that with, I have an agreement with. So not sure where the dishonesty is.

      Reply
      • Ruins Barry

        Wow!!! You give some really great ideas. How exactly do you go about having an agreement with retailers. I’m pretty sure they won’t do it with just any blogger.

      • Stacey

        yea, my issue isn’t with the stores you have an agreement with, it’s the things you talked about in your second tip, but I see you’ve clarified that. I just didn’t like that at first you made it sound like you should just buy things, wear them and return them. I even knew girls who did that to prom and always felt like it was dishonest to the stores who were trying to make an honest buck. I’m glad you clarified that, I just didn’t want this article to encourage girls to go buy clothes, wear them all they want and return them.

  4. Knowstyle

    I am not sure about buying and returning an item, but all for building relationships with fashion retailers such as ourselves. Happy to send out samples and receive feedback.

    Reply
    • Jennine Jacob

      The stores I do the buying/returning I have an agreement with. It works out, I do not wear items any longer than it would take to try on and they get the benefit of links to items in stock.

      Reply
      • Adri Reynoso

        I don’t buy and return but I am in agreement to this because you are just wearing it to promote their product, which if they had to pay you it would be more than the actual “cost ” of the product itself. Great tips. Thanks!

  5. Gouldylox

    Yeah, I’m not sure that buying with the intent of returning is the right thing to do. Granted, I write about beauty, so once I test it, it can’t be re-sold. (I would never return something, even if I disliked it. Since I’ll write about it and earn affiliate money from sales.) However, it is a little dishonest when you think about the FTC disclaimer requirements. You PURCHASED the item, so there is no reason for readers to think you are shilling for the brand. After all, it’s your honest opinion and no one sent it to you. But you have no intention of KEEPING the item…It’s not quite buying and it’s not quite gifted. I guess it’s all how you work it out in your own head and how the readers respond.

    Reply
    • Jennine Jacob

      But what about journalists who are not allowed to keep the items they review? Most reputable product reviews are not personally purchased and kept. Larger publications have the luxury of having those relationships with PRs to request specific items, but as a blogger, I saw that I was always subject to what the PRs wanted to push. I guess it’s the “haul” mentality where bloggers are assumed to just show what they own. Where as reviewing items, you have to keep impartiality to have an honest review. I don’t think you need to own something to give an honest review of it.

      Reply
  6. Seppy

    I love the idea of reviewing items that I already own because like you said, it’s probably things that I LOVE and want to share. But the challenge with that is to have a unique and interesting spin on it that will draw readers and maybe catch the attention of the brand in question!

    Thanks for the article! Gave me an idea for a post that I’m going to try and do this week!

    http://www.seppysmontreal.com

    Reply
  7. june

    How do you acquire an agreement with the brand? Just wondering. I’m a blogger but work in retail full time, so I’m on both sides of the fence. I would very much dislike someone to purchase/return regularly, especially since my employees are commissioned.

    http://www.ajuneaffair.com

    Reply
    • Jennine Jacob

      They actually aproached me about it, which seemed logical to me. I only worked in retail for a short time so I didn’t think anything about it. Maybe people are still trying to figure out what works because the current pr model of simply gifting bloggers doesn’t always work?

      Reply
  8. Oh K

    I get what you’re saying about the buying and returning. Maybe it’s not for everyone!

    But yeah I think my favorite lesson I’ve learned from blogging is that it doesn’t hurt to send out an email! For example, if I am extremely interested in a company that doesn’t publicly offer an affiliate program, I just send an email. Even if they don’t respond, at least you’ve been exposed to them! 🙂

    doitfortheirony.blogspot.com

    Reply
    • Irina Dorn

      Very true! It helps being proactive and reaching out to companies, not waiting for them to come to you!

      Reply
  9. Lani Love

    Great piece, Jennine! Helpful tips and call out to best practices.

    P.S. You look great. Love the shoes & hair. You’re such a stylish mom. 😉

    Reply
  10. Chelsey

    This is a very useful post. My biggest hurdle is getting over that feel of not feeling “large enough” to send e-mails to brands. Reviews are always my most popular posts traffic-wise, and like you, I find reviews of things I already own to be the most natural. Also, I feel like the process of debating whether or not to spend your own money on something really influences your thoughts on how much you like. I think it makes you a tougher critic.

    Reply
  11. Sharelle D. Lowery

    I also need to work on not feeling “entitled” to receive stuff. I dont know when it happened, but when I started get paid for my “opinion” I sometimes found myself getting all pissy if I just got sent stuff-without a check attached. This blogging thing that we do runs such a fine line with having purchased opinions. Because if somebody sends you a $500 check and product, most bloggers are not going to report on poor fit, even if its the case, especially if they(we) need the money.

    Reply
  12. Mimi

    Like Chelsey…I struggle with being a new blogger and feeling like a I am a very small fish in a big pond. I think I just have to get up the nerve to contact more companies that really inspire me and feel fit my style and image. For now, I review and feature products I own and truly love. That feels natural and unbiased. I have had one local designer reach out to me as she has seen me wear her product and that made my day. I hope this continues in the future. But this article has helped me think about reaching out more and at least trying! Thank you.
    http://callmemimi.com

    Reply
  13. debiparna

    well i always learn and try to apply things you talk about, specially ones which help generate money for bloggers without burning a bigger hole in the pocket. the thing is it is difficult for Indian bloggers to do some of these things. several high end affiliate marketing platforms do not yet welcome Indian bloggers and this sort of tie up with retailers is unheard of here. i wouldn’t even know who will start laughing first, me or the retailer. I worked on a style post for a brand I love, and they were good enough to send me coupons to get something from their store a few weeks after the work was done, i didn’t expect anything in return to begin with. when i went over to purchase something from them they inspected the coupons for about 8 mins and asked me where i got them from. they were polite and doing their job, i get that, but it was embarrassing as if i was trying to dupe them or something with fake coupons.

    Reply
  14. Eva Bajema

    A really good article, I want to review moe things for my blog but I see it when some other blogger write’s fake reviews just to make the brand happpy. I think , as a blogger, you should just be honest about the product you are revieuwing.

    Reply
  15. Rosemarie Rawlins

    I love the tips that you have offered here. I can see that some people are missing the point though. I thought it was funny about the buy and return items. If the post is honest and says exactly why you don’t like it and then you return then I see no problem. It’s whatever works and that you’re more confortable with.

    Reply
  16. Ashe

    The discussion about buying and returning is really interesting to me.

    I do a majority of my shopping online. I shop for me, without an agreement to a brand. Say I order 5 dresses from ASOS. If I try them on & decide I don’t like any of them — but I want other plus-size women to know what the dresses look like, and my thoughts on them, how is that wrong? Especially if I’m talking about what I do or don’t like? We all make those judgements shopping — it’s just a matter of whether we choose to share them online.

    Another example that comes to mind: I often see many bloggers who go to places (like when Target does a designer collab) and will do fitting room selfies + a review. Again, there’s no purchase + return process, but it’s about providing information.

    The only real difference in my mind is a) the opportunity to do better photos to really showcase the product, b) your ability to share information with your readers.

    I’ve worked in retail for 6 years – so I understand not wanting to encourage people to buy, wear for a day, and return. (I know many independent, local stores who have “No Returns” policies for this reason, and don’t encourage it.)

    It’s just really interesting to see the continued double-standard we impose on ourselves vs. journalists. Do car review magazines keep the cars? Do tech bloggers REALLY buy & keep all of the products they buy? I doubt it– that’d get expensive fast!

    Reply
    • Meaghan

      Very good point Ashe! I never even considered doing this before and I’m still not sure that I would. But you are definitely right about the techie/car reviews.

      Reply
  17. Brittany Engler

    I never thought about putting in a sample request before. That’s a great idea. How does that work exactly? When you request a piece, are you allowed to wear the item out for a shoot? For example, If I was writing a piece about date night attire. Could I wear the sample piece out to dinner (taking photos of it of course), or should I simply take photos of the clothing at home?

    Thank you for the article, it really had a lot of great tips!

    Brittany

    Reply
  18. Matthew Pike

    I keep my eyes and ears open on social networks. As a menswear blogger I’m slightly more niche so I often get recommended or tweeted at via people I’ve met, suggesting me for things. Being a fella can work in my favour in this sense.

    I find visiting stores regularly, that you like and building up friendships does really work too.

    Reply
  19. Donna George

    This is very helpful. I love your post. Do you have other articles on this topic? I have a lifestyle post and launching a fashion blog in a few weeks, looking for product……

    I have extensive retail background in the junior biz and the content is no issue, but the clothing supplier has me nervous. Can you advise me?

    Donna :))

    Reply
  20. Amanda White

    This is most interesting. I am nothing to do with fashion but could certainly review other things for my website. Ideas gratefully received!

    Reply
  21. Ashley

    Wow!! This is such an awesome article! I just started my blog a month ago and I have all these questions and you answered quite a few of them. I love how you say you shop on a budget because I totally do as well if I have a name brand on myself it was either a gift, I really did buy it at an outlet, or got it at TJ MAXX, Marshalls, or ROSS. Thank you so much for this article. It definitely answered some of my questions!!!

    <3 Ashley

    Reply
  22. valerie

    I would think to do an honest product review, you would need to actually try the product for more than a few minutes or a few hours. So, buying the product, then taking it back and writing a review about said product would be dishonest in my book.
    I actually try out every product I review. For days and weeks and even years, not minutes/hours. Not enough time wearing/using product to give an honest review. IMO

    Reply
  23. Edward

    Nice article with some good ideas on options. A variation on the buy return method is to buy items and use them for the review then sell them later, disclosing that they were used for review. This minimizes cost and allows the blogger to keep their hands on new products.

    Reply