• Tavi Gevinson
It can take years to work one's way from standing room only to the nosebleed seats, before finally arriving at a seat close enough to spot the models' split ends. These chairs tend to be reserved for the bony bottoms of an elite few, namely the editors of the world's biggest fashion magazines.
Only in recent months there's been something of a front-row revolution. Alongside the grandes dames of fashion – including Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune, Hilary Alexander of the Telegraph, Michael Roberts of Vanity Fair and, of course, Anna Wintour – and the ubiquitous high-profile celebrity fans, a few fresh-faced upstarts have been taking their places in the most powerful seats.
They are fashion bloggers, and they're revolutionising the industry, receiving the ultimate stamp of approval in the form of a spread in the March issue of US Vogue.
In a world that's perceived as inaccessible and closed off, fashion bloggers have been battering down the doors. These are ordinary people for whom fashion is a way of life, a passion, even an obsession, and they're more than happy to share their musings with the world. For a while the traditional fashion press were able to ignore their presence, but those days are over.
Fashion bloggers' influence is extensive and wide-ranging, be it a blog devoted to the individual dress sense of punters on the street, a blog following the comings and goings on the red carpet, or one devoted to scrutinising every move of a particular designer. Updated on a daily basis, they satisfy our appetite for a constant stream of information and instant content.
They might be penned from a coffee shop or a teenager's bedroom, but they're definitely not written in the environs of the fashion magazines themselves. The bloggers have become so quick their reviews of fashion shows are sometimes posted online before the models have even lit their post-show cigarettes.
The smarter sections of the industry have embraced these blogs with open arms. There are the designers who reference them for inspiration. Companies with big advertising budgets, such as H&M and Gap, now buy space on the blogs, and, as a result, fashion houses make sure that the biggest bloggers get an invitation to their shows.
Why? Precisely because of their reputation for speediness. News tends to break on the blogs first these days. Additionally, with everyone pinching the pennies, there's more of a focus on personal style (on a budget, even) than on clinical, cyclical fashion. Their opinions, no matter how flighty or inaccurate, are read by millions of people and float around the blogosphere forever. And finally, as old media cuts back during the recession, blogs are thriving. Therefore, there were more seats reserved at the most recent round of fashion weeks for online editors than there were for regional press.
Finally, there's the sense that these blogs democratise a notoriously elite world. The people who write them don't (initially at least) have much access to the fashion world or much money to spend. They're not going to criticise a stranger's fashion-backwards outfit, but rather suggest an accessory that might pep it up a little.
They've got a fashionista-next-door feel that appeals to a younger generation. It's no wonder that bloggers have the fashion world quaking in its Givenchy boots.
IT IS the case with many fashion blogs that the blogger is almost more interesting than the clothes dissected in his or her posts. Nearly 200,000 people log on to Bryan Boy's site every day to read his catty musings on all things fashion and to check out the pictures he uploads of himself wearing his favourite fashion finds. A twentysomething from Manila, he worships at the altar of fashion and is finally getting some of that reverence back, with the fashion world bowing down at his Raf-Simons-encased feet. Marc Jacobs has named a handbag after him, and the blogger was seated in the front-row at Dolce & Gabanna last season – just two seats from US Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Fendi even referenced his signature pose (hips jutting to one side, arm dangling down on the other) in one of their ad campaigns.
Part of his appeal is that he lives and breathes fashion and refuses to apologise for some of the more controversial elements of the industry (real fur, super-skinny models). Once described as "like Paris Hilton reincarnated as a gay, Asian twink", he makes no concessions to those who don't fit the fashion mould. His intensity makes for addictive reading.
FASHION has no age limit and the proof of that is 13-year-old Chicago-based Tavi Gevinson, pictured with designer Yohji Yamamoto, who writes one of the wittiest and most insightful fashion blogs around. The pint-sized fashion fan is obsessed with the labels Rodarte and Rei Kawakubo, and confounds her classmates by pairing her eccentric vintage finds with fabulous freebies from her favourite designers when she dresses to go to school. She writes a guest column for Harper's Bazaar and sits in the front row at the most exclusive fashion shows, too. For all her tender years, Gevinson can be found rapping about Commes des Garons, appearing on the cover of Pop magazine and writing about fashion as if she's been in the industry for decades.
However, despite the fact that those modelling the fashions she loves are often little older than she is, many in and out of the industry refuse to believe that her slick blog and acute observations can be the work of a teenager and insist she's had some adult help. Anne Slowey of Elle magazine has said: "She's either a tween savant or she's got a Tavi team," adding that her blog is "a bit gimmicky". Prominent fashion writer Lesley M M Blume writes off Harper's Bazaar's hiring of the adolescent as "a smart marketing move". Either way, Gevinson insists her work is all her own, and her blog is a fun diversion for fashion fans.
GO FUG YOURSELF
IN AN age where the general public love nothing more than picking on a celebrity's bad clothes/sweat stains/crazy hair, Go Fug Yourself is the ultimate guilty pleasure. Run by Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks, it picks up on celebrity red carpet fashion mistakes, describing them as "fugly", a state worse than ugly.
Despite being undeniably amusing, Go Fug Yourself hasn't been embraced by the fashion industry, in part because of it's bitchy nature, and also because it tends to put down anything high fashion and experimental in favour of super-safe red carpet looks. For example, Marion Cotillard looking rather fetching at last week's Critic's Choice Movie Awards in borderline-edgy Dior came in for a verbal battering, while Ashley Olsen in a (much applauded within the fashion world) blue Erdem dress at the recent Golden Globes was described thus: "That angle made it look like she was wearing the skin of a bloated smurf, and the shoes smelled a bit of dyed-to-match pumps you'd see walking up the aisle next to some dude in a tux who is really hoping at least two of the bridesmaids are single." Not the best place to go for cutting-edge fashion inspiration, then, but perfect for a bit of a guilty giggle on your lunch break.
WITHIN the world of fashion blogs, there's a prominent and popular offshoot that celebrates not the individual style of models and celebrities, who you'd expect to be turned out nicely, but of impeccably dressed everyday Joes on the street. Dubbed "street style" blogs, they are created by photographers with a keen eye for style and the guts to stop fashion mavens on the street and ask to take their photograph before posting the images online for comment.
The founder and undisputed king of the street style blog movement is Scott Schuman, pictured right, of The Sartorialist, who photographs men and women of all ages and from every socioeconomic group, and with a focus on style over fashion. He might feature a man in dirty overalls one day and an old woman in priceless couture the next.
Today, Schuman travels the globe in search of the world's most stylish people, posting snaps from style capitals such as Paris, Milan and New York. He cites Peru and the Outer Hebrides as places he's keen to visit with his camera.
Time magazine named his blog – visited by three million people a month – as one of their top 100 style influences, and as a result, he now picks up regular work with Vogue, GQ and Burberry, among others. Log on yourself and you'll quickly understand his approach to style as a way of life.