Monday, 2 March 2015

We Need to Talk About Blogging

Photo: Dvora for 

Photo: Elena Molina for The Upcoming. Here you can glimpse my glorious Ops&Ops flats that I was wearing around Somerset House. Their new collection is released on March 4th. More on them soon...

Photos: Simbarashe Cha for Lord Ashbury

Why do I blog? I’ve asked myself this at various points since I began – often at times when it has seemed like a struggle to keep up with posting, or when I've experienced frustration at the way page views have diminished slightly in recent years. Maybe it’s classier not to acknowledge the challenges. But it’s certainly more human, and honest.

Plus, the answer that I consistently come back to is this – I blog because I love it. I blog because I adore great clothes and dressing up and interesting ideas and online conversations. I blog because, really, very little beats the satisfaction of knowing I’ve written something I’m pleased with (that doesn’t have to be passed through an editor, or given a news hook). Those evenings where I sit down in a fizz and flutter of thoughts, rapidly working my way through a first draft of three or even four posts in a row – oh, they’re the best.

Plus there’s the added satisfaction of occasionally meeting people who visit this little corner of the internet I’ve carved out for myself. I’m still kind of surprised whenever it happens. Sitting in front of a screen, you end up creating stuff in a weird vacuum-style space – not quite sure who (if anyone) is seeing it and responding to what you’ve flung out online.

I’ve now had this blog for a significant portion (more than a quarter) of my life – something I was reminded of when I spent a day at LFW recently, and got talking to various (very wonderful) people I originally met there, aged fifteen. That first time/ season, I’d taken my mum along – a detail that plenty of the photographers still remember, and they continue to ask after her. Some of them told me that I had made a bit of a stir on the street style circuit at that time. Although I was aware of the attention from cameras, everything felt so new and exciting that I just kind of took it for granted. I was from a tiny village. Suddenly having all this appreciation for my outfits was a form of both adventure and validation.

Many of the other bloggers I first met then have since turned their blogs into full-time careers, with huuuuuge followings, brand collaborations and brightly lit photos a-plenty; while lots of the the street style photographers are working for amazing publications. Fashion has sped up. It’s about the instant, the insistently ‘now’, the Instagram post put up quick-smart. Essentially, the relationship between social media, PR, the fashion industry and blogging has evolved beyond measure in recent years.

It's easy to fall into hard-line camps when discussing that evolution though. Innovation or frivolity? Creative or commercial? Airheads or clever business heads? Revolutionising the fashion industry or transforming it in damaging ways? Exciting growth or unsustainable pace? (I mean, yeah, it is definitely the latter with that one). It's easier to retreat into the realms of generalisations rather than interrogate these divides with any sense of depth.

Besides, you're allowed to hold two conflicting views in your head if you so wish. By way of example, I'm not the biggest fan of the kinds of style blogging now overwhelmingly celebrated (or at least gaining the most exposure) - slick, brand-led, frequently featuring white, model-slender figures. In fact, I've discussed the lack of diversity in the upper echelons of fashion blogging before – as well as giving an overview of what’s changed in recent years. Yet, despite all that, I can still respect the ways in which often relatively young women have built themselves up from scratch, working damn hard to get to the point where their blog becomes a business. They are usually enterprising, driven and very committed. That deserves to be applauded. I must admit, I admire it that little bit more if they weren’t already super-rich and very well-connected (isn’t that the same in all creative industries though?) Oh, and I DEFINITELY reserve the most respect for those bloggers who are genuinely nice and relatively uninterested in pulling rank. I mean, that’s a general life thing too, but it’s worth holding onto.

However, there's rather a lot of continued handwringing about commercialisation - as though the very presence of ads or collaborations completely undermines all sense of veracity. But bloggers do have bills to pay too. It's a time-consuming endeavour. Most of us dive into this online realm because we love clothes or conversation (or, for others, cupcakes - and beautiful food), but there's no harm in transforming that platform into a career - in fact, it's pretty impressive if you can manage it, and orchestrate your online presence into something lucrative.

There are some very interesting posts written by bloggers on this very topic that offer thoughtful insights. First, Olivia’s on why it’s ok to earn money from blogging. Also Emma’s, now a few years old, on the blogger/ writer divide and Kristabel’s on her answer to people asking her ‘So what do you do?’ All make immensely salient, smart points.

If we’re talking business though, this Texas Monthly piece is… eye opening to say the least – raising plenty of questions about transparency, the creative/ commercial divide and what ‘authenticity’ actually means now. I personally found it a pretty disheartening (but very compelling) read, reflecting a blogger ‘industry’ that’s so consumer oriented that there’s little mention of joy in dressing up, or approaching style as something inventive or intelligent. There are lots of exceptions to the rule, like Leandra Medine, but, well – they’re still exceptions. Plus, the article reflects a rapacious rate of consumption, with that persuasion to buy, buy, and buy some more buggering up our environment and leading to big worker rights problems.

I pretty much missed out on the first stages of the social media revolution – keener to focus on my blog (and to apply to uni!) than build up a following on lots of new platforms. Now, having belatedly hopped on board I spend a tad too much time on Twitter and Instagram, but enjoy them both on my own terms. Maybe one day I’ll use affiliate links, although that would be somewhat problematic given that most of my wardrobe is sourced second hand…! If I ever do though, I won’t feel guilty, because I know how much energy I pour into not just keeping the integrity of the blog, but keeping it going – full stop.

But I had a real moment post-LFW of wondering what might have happened if things had moved differently; if I’d monetized my blog, worn more ‘labels’, gone to a London-based uni and fully launched myself much more into the fashion industry? Where would I be now? Would I have tens of thousands of Instagram followers? Go to lots of parties? Measure my worth and professional standing just by page hits?

However, then I remembered that all my choices have been active ones, and that this is an immense privilege. Just as others have made canny, active business decisions, I’ve chosen to make room for the things I want to engage in while I’m still in full time education; before I have to earn a monthly income I can live on. For me, this has meant time spent in intellectual engagement and improvement; a huge focus on writing; assembling an immensely diverse social group; developing a span of aspirations that range from performance poetry to modeling to working on books. There are so many crackling ideas to develop and experiment with. There’s time to form an identity that isn’t predicated on maintaining an online profile; time for a working life where blogging is a part, rather than the whole, of my output. Space to muck up, make mistakes, and take chances.

This is about as subjective as it gets. Not a judgment on other blogging paths, but rather a recognition of what was right for me. Dipping back into the chaos of LFW for a single day this season was special. It allowed me to reflect a lot on how we define success and status, as well as to dwell on the experiences I was beyond lucky to access as a younger teen. But it also let me know that things are doing ok as they are – and that there’s still so much time ahead.

Thanks to all the lovely, lovely photographers who took my photo at LFW. Wonderful to catch up with Dvora and Craig in particular - and there was a fabulous moment of serendipity as the day drew to a close and I bumped into Simbarashe, having posted an old photo of his on my Instagram that very morning! 

I was wearing a hand-made vintage 60s/70s dress from Rokit, a green vintage coat that once belonged to my mum, a second hand shirt, my great-grandma's necklace, and a hat that first appeared at LFW in September 2011 (Craig and Dvora took my photo then too!) Both the bags were from charity shops. If anyone happens to see any other photos of me floating around, I'd really appreciate you letting me know.

It's been a busy month. This weekend just past was pretty momentous for all sorts of reasons (mostly to do with the book I've been writing) - all to be properly revealed soon. Take a look at my Instagram for some clues though. 


Na z said...

I love your blog! Great to see you've come a long way

Hannah McManus said...

Really interesting post! I completely agree that there's no denying blogging has changed a huge amount over the years, and sometimes I question whether aspects of it have been destroyed as a result. I think creativity is dulled as a result of the 'perfect' images that bloggers often produce, as these are what we're told are to aspire to create. In that sense it's a shame, but as you mentioned, these people are definitely to be applauded for their hard work and dedication, and they've definitely changed the fashion industry! Love your outfit by the way, that green and blue is one of my favourite colour combinations!
Hannah x


I agree with you that there is a lack of diversity in blogging, especially in the higher caliber in general. I recently saw a site that did a "best of blogger inspiration" post featuring international bloggers, and it was the same top tier bloggers that are always featured. But, I also find it fascinating with many bloggers who have such a massive following in such a short time of blogging ... some post only outfits, some post about other topics, but in far less captions and paragraphs. Although, I have a small following, I guess blogging at that magnitude was not for me to have. Then again, I only blog when I can and when I feel that I have something to share instead of on a four to five days a week type of schedule or for the sake of posting. Blogging in general takes a lot of hard work, so if you can make it a business, more power to those who have done so, especially those who also had full-time jobs in the process.

Closet Fashionista said...

1. Love that outfit, you look so amazing!
and 2. Yea, sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I jumped head-long into monetizing my blog. I do little things here and there when people contact me (and use RewardStyle when I can) but I don't make a huge effort to make money off of it. It's more for the enjoyment and to be able to look back on everything I've worn and how my style has changed.

Francesca Rose said...

I find most fashion bloggers really boring now. There are only a few that I really stick to. You're one of them. I love what you do with your blog because it's refreshing. It's more about the words than 'oh look what I'm wearing' and even when focusing on the clothes, it's all second hand rather than trends etc which I completely adore!


Sofie Marie said...

This is a really great post (as usual), with a lot of good thoughts. Very much sums up my own attitude to blogging- whilst semi tired of 'samey blogs', I can recognize worth in them as well and generally get bored of extreme arguments on either 'side' of the argument. It's all much more blurry, and I also think it's maybe more useful to think about why a particular blogging climate exists, rather than whether it's worthwhile or not.

I too read the Texas article (because of you're tweet, yup small world) you've mentioned. It was a little disheartening but I think this was also due to the very biased writing style. I would have loved to hear more from the bloggers that were described in the piece, so that they didn't just become these objects who only care about followers (aka money) though I realise that wasn't the intention of the piece. Anyways, always lots to think about.


Ivana Split said...

I'm really impressed with how many aspects of blogging you have managed to cover in just one article. You're absolutely right, we need to talk about blogging in a more intelligent way. Usually, people just tend to generalize too much and just make a cliche out of everything.

Blogging means different things to different people and fulfills different functions. However, whether it is a hobby (as in my case) or a job (or even something in between), it takes both time and effort so it makes sense to ask ourselves that question: " Why do I blog?". There is no right answer to that one, as it varies for everyone, but ultimately we should be able to ask ourselves that and be content with the answer...or else what's the point?

You look so lovely!...Your sense of style is always impeccable! and how interesting to see you trough different lenses!

Lola Byatt said...

Well, isn't this timely! I almost sent you an email today as I wanted to bug you on blogging and what keeps you going. You've been blogging from a time where blogging was a much different thing to what it is today and so was curious to know. I abandoned a few blogs from the beginning and have been sticking to the one I have now for 4 years but I often do get side-tracked by what's going on with other blogs and it's so easy to fall into the traps of mimicking the "successful" blogs. I still rate twitter and will probably forever rate it but instagram I have become disloyal to (or at least not as eager as I was). This might sound incredibly harsh and I am not sure if I'll even be brave enough to hit the publish button once I've finished typing but doesn't it seem like social media sites provide a safe haven for narcissism to thrive? It feels really over the top using the word narcissistic but it does seem that a lot of people are only interested in posting every detail of their life. I get it, I get that there are people who know all the tricks (everything's staged and prepared for to give off the view of the most natural, perfect life) and they are the ones who are benefiting from it. But to me, there is more life than having the perfect breakfast set up or having the most perfect skin. I was absolutely aghast when I learnt that people (maybe mainly at the top) photoshop their pictures on their blog and then equally astonished when I learnt that the same goes for Instagram… the people that are supposedly "keeping it real" and started out as being a different kind of role model to younger people (she's just like you!) are now going down the same route that we see in the glossy magazines. So, when we compare ourselves to these blogs (because I know I certainly have done) we are feeling bad about not having this "perfect" life which is completely unattainable anyway.

I also think we have developed a society of young people (at least online) who are only interested in the way someone looks which makes me sad. Like take for example the recent “bring back our girls” campaign, various celebrities supporting it and raising awareness. Emma Watson posts a picture of her holding up a sign with the hashtag bring back our girls. Firstly it frustrates me that celebrities are constantly being used to make news important, because if there wasn't a celebrity associated with it, no one would be interested and secondly when celebrities are associated it....people are not responding to the news, they're responding to "how pretty" she looks in the picture not to the topic itself.

There are people who bend the rules and are the exception but I think success in blogs come mainly from body size and looks. I'm surprised someone hasn't just hired a model and started a style you think that could be a thing in the future? Like a blogging deal. Feel I'm going really off topic now.

You look wonderful! I absolutely adore your hat and coat


Lola Byatt said...

whoops slightly worried one of my sentences might be lost in translation

when i said "the people that are supposedly "keeping it real" and started out as being a different kind of role model to younger people (she's just like you!)"

Just to clarify, I'm not referring to you, lovely Rosalind. I mean that brands work with these girls because they're "real" "relatable" and have access to a certain group of girls. They're picked so we can subconsciously think that these girls are our age and they're just like us...hence the "she's just like you" comment so we can be lured into buying all of the stuff they wear.

Vix said...

Firstly can I just say how gorgeous your outfit is? I bet your Mum looked spectacular in that coat, too. How kind of her to pass it on.
Blogging, we do need to talk about it.
I get incensed by people who assume I'm loaded 'cos I blog. I blog because I love to write and certainly don't advertise or accept freebies from companies. Over the years I've seen girls change from second-hand aficionados with blurry photoes to producing glossy, magazine type posts full of clicky links and I stop following them. I want real-life, if I wanted to be bombarded with adverts and unrealistic airbrushed images I'd buy a magazine. xxx

Melanie said...

I'm with Vix - gorgeous outfit. And yes, your mum would have looked stunning in the coat with her incredible hair.

If you had wanted to go for numbers you would certainly have been top of the pack. But taking the road less traveled will feed you for longer in every sense than money from a few clicks online. Your uniqueness, your writing and your love of vintage will appreciate over time.

I have asked myself these same questions often. Plus-50 bloggers have the same issues except mainstream popularity also often encompasses interior decorating, (grand)mother talk, gratitudes, retirement, and discussion of appropriateness. (I'm running for the bucket...)

Alice said...

Just the other day, I was reading a thread discussing whether or not money ruined style/fashion blogging as it originally began; seeing your post soon after was such a funny coincidence.
I've spent more time than I would care to admit thinking about my comment. I've read your words multiple times and gone through the other comments, trying to give myself some time to sort out the many thoughts that sprang to mind upon my first reading. While I can't say my thoughts are any less muddled than they were when I began, I think I'll take a crack at trying to verbalize some of what's going through my mind.

Blogging and everything that it encompasses have been on my mind a lot lately as I've been asking myself whether or not I want to start blogging again after a hiatus. I've been asking myself that same question: why do I blog? At first, it was fun interacting with people who liked similar things, being creative, doing something just because I wanted to do it. After a while, I started realizing that blogs were changing. Money and sponsorships were involved, photoshopping was getting ridiculous, personal touches gave way to bland "professionalism" of a sort. That was when I grew disenchanted with blogging and stopped reading blogs because, as Lola mentioned, I could go read a magazine if I wanted to see ads and trend-following.
Stephanie from High Stitched Voice wrote a lovely response in regards to a question regarding blogging. I'll leave the link here if you'd like to read a more eloquent verbalization of some of the things I'm trying to say.

Before I finish my massive rant, I do want to touch on a point that you (Rosalind) made. You mentioned that you respect the young women who have worked hard to build themselves up and to turn their blogs into businesses. To some extent, I also respect them for that reason. Yet, at the same time, I cannot deny that I am infuriated by some of the means bloggers have used to manage their successes. Write me off as just another jealous hater if you'd like, but one really does need to question the ethicality and--in some cases--legality of some bloggers' actions. While I do respect the dedication and integrity of certain bloggers, it's hard to forget that others are less commendable.
Part of why I've enjoyed reading your blog on and off for the past few years is that you always seem like you're blogging because you truly enjoy it, not because you're being paid to or because you're looking to make a quick buck off readers. (For what it's worth, I also like that you wear lots of secondhand clothing and that you write interesting things beyond the usual trivialities.)

There's plenty of things I didn't cover with my comment--for example, consumerism and impacts on the environment and other people--but I think I've said enough as it is. My apologies for the wall of text.

Fashionistable said...

Good Morning, Loved this post. It is always a treat to come here to hear your voice. You are such a wonderful writer and I fully understand the freedom this platform allows. No editors to interfere with your vision.
I know it has been a while since I have been here, or even on my own blog. I loved my blog and what it has allowed me to achieve. I feel the platform has not kept up with the changes that are happening around it. I would still post here but it is restrictive in layout for me now and I am searching for a new look more than anything. Also my reach is so much greater on instagram than it ever was here and is allowing me to communicate with so many more people.
I was so happy we managed to meet at all during LFW and look forward to catching up properly soon.
Love D Xx

Lydia Armstrong said...

I've struggled with my blog in recent years, mostly because other creative pursuits take up most of my time compared to when I first started blogging and it was my main project. I have considered quitting the blog about a million times, but I never do because I too love it. Even if no one else ever reads it, even if it never exists for anyone else on the internet but myself, it's this special little place where I can manifest things that appear in my mind and visually explore my aesthetic and style and thoughts and feelings. I could not imagine giving it up, even when blogging becomes as dated as tape cassettes.

Helen Le Caplain said...

Fabulous outfit - that dress and coat combo is amazing!

Keep doing your own thing because I, and a helluva lot of other people, really enjoy it.

If you could make a little cash then great, but I'm with Vix - if I'd rather see your blog for the great writing and great pics :)

Citizen Rosebud said...

Years ago, I had stumbled across your tiny piece of the interwebs via the following search words: red shoes. You were a whisper of a girl acting out a fairy tale in a meadow under the watchful lens of your pops, and the pictures were so lovely. I swiped a few and added them to my RED SHOE inspiration folder. More importantly, I quickly became devoted to reading your blog.

Still, now one of my all time favorite fashion/style bloggers, and while your future could have gone so many ways in bloggerdom, I have hopes your genuine, warm and thoughtful spirit are enjoying a fearless abundance of opportunity today.

You're a peach.

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