Fashion bloggers making waves

They operate from their bedrooms and dress in charity shop finds, yet style bloggers are fast becoming the most influential people in the fashion industry.

• Style blogger Sally Jane Vintage

It's a sector that's considered particularly difficult to break into - it's notoriously elitist and nepotism is rife.

However, a new generation of fashion fans are logging on to the internet to share their opinions on everything from the couture shows to the most appropriate length for a turn-up on a trouser cuff.

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And if the page impressions, Twitter followers, Facebook fans and front-row seats at the Fashion Weeks are any indication, their power and influence are growing every season.

A new book, Style Diaries: World Fashion from Berlin to Tokyo by Simone Werle looks at the phenomenon of style bloggers across the globe, focusing more on the individuals behind the blogs than the blogs themselves, with multiple images of each very stylish blogger accompanied by a set of bullet-pointed facts titled "things about myself", along the lines of "I love big bows on my head" or "I would never wear white jeans."

So what do these fashionistas have in common? They tend to be young, are usually working with a tight budget when it comes to their own clothes, and they make themselves very visible on their blogs, often posting images of themselves in their latest ensembles. Surprisingly, many come from relatively small towns, far from the world's fashion capitals, and they use the internet as their gateway into the heart of the style community.

In some respects, it is their distance from the industry's top catwalks which gives bloggers the edge. They are not - initially, at least - friends with the designers. The are not beholden to advertisers and for the most part they're not being courted with freebies.

In a world of air-kissing sycophants, they write whatever they want, and it's the pursuit of style, not fashion that they're interested in. Most are not fawning over the latest catwalk trends, but rather showing off their quirky vintage finds.

"Not so long ago, the fashion thing was cut and dried," writes Werle.

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"Trends were created four times a year on the world's most important catwalks and then delivered to the public in glossy fashion magazines.

"For the last few years, however, the fashion network no longer extends only to Paris, Milan and New York. Fashion is everywhere. The ingredients to this revolution in clothing are rather simple: a blog, a camera and a healthy dose of personal style have proven to be more than enough for the democratisation of fashion."

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Not everyone is particularly taken by the phenomenon of style bloggers, however. As their popularity has grown, designers have become increasingly keen to court them, which means awarding them front-row seats at fashion shows, which were once reserved for experienced magazine editors. Indeed, at New York Fashion Week, more seats are kept for style bloggers than for regional press.

This year, 14-year-old fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson sat front row at some very high-profile shows, while cross-dressing Filipino blogger Bryan Boy sat just two seats along from US Vogue's editor-in-chief Anna Wintour at Dolce & Gabbana, a place that would normally be reserved for a fashion industry stalwart. The response from the fashion editors who had spent years working their way to the front row from the nosebleed seats was frosty to say the least.

What's more, many "street style" bloggers - who trawl the highways and byways looking for ultra-stylish people to photograph and post on their blogs - have skipped a few rungs on the career ladder, landing big jobs shooting campaigns for brands from Gap to Burberry.

Even some designers are wary of the rise of bloggers. Scottish designer Christopher Kane has expressed his concern over the power they have in the industry, saying: "No one who wants to read a serious review of a show is going to look at what a 14-year-old thinks. But it has become more critical; people can say what they want about anyone on a blog, without consequences and that's quite scary. There are real repercussions for a designer if a photo of something is leaked by a blog; it can be copied in a fortnight and that can really harm a business."

Like it or not, however, bloggers seem to be here to stay. Anna Wintour - who once asked her staff to come up with an alternative word for "blog" - gave in to her scepticism and featured a group of influential bloggers in US Vogue earlier this year, giving them a timely stamp of approval from the print media. Brit fashion powerhouse Burberry allocates 40 per cent of its marketing budget to online media, while some of the biggest blogs make up to 10,000 a month in advertising.

Merle Brown runs beauty and style blog - - from her flat in Edinburgh, and has readers from across the globe. A London-based collective, Handpicked Media, sell advertising space and sponsored posts on her blog on her behalf.

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"Things have really moved on from people just blogging about what they're wearing to blogging being big business," she says. "Designers look at blogs for inspiration now, trends emerge on them, and big fashion companies such as H&M sponsor them. But there's also a great sense of community with blogging and you get to know other style bloggers whom you might not have connected with otherwise. I like that it's brought a bit of democracy to the fashion world. Anyone can write a blog from their mobile phone these days, which I think is pretty cool."

Style Diaries features bloggers such as Susanna Lau aka Susie Bubble, the London fashionista who chronicles her own quirky ensembles; a mix of high street, designer and vintage, naturally. Then there's Edward Honaker, a high-school student from San Diego with an impeccable sense of style and Zoe Deluge, a model from LA who never buys anything that costs more than $25.

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What they have in common is that they are the stars of their own shows. They pose, wide-eyed and pigeon-toed in charity shop finds, and their thousands of fans leave comments congratulating them on their innate sense of style. Many of these bloggers are personalities in their own right; Marc Jacobs even named one of his handbags after Bryan Boy.

Other bloggers prefer to stay behind the camera. Among the most famous is Scott Schuman, aka The Sartorialist, who set up a street style blog in 2005. Photographer Mario Testino described it as "The place to be seen!" and certainly you're no one in the fashion industry until you've been photographed by him, crossing the street nonchalantly in your most stylish ensemble. His candid, paparazzi style shots have been copied by bloggers around the world, and now most big fashion publications have a street style section on their websites.

Other blogs examine everything from the comings and goings on the red carpet to vintage style and quirky subcultures such as the Gothic Lolita trend in Japan where schoolgirls appear to be channelling Wednesday Addams. And with the number of style blogs floating around online running into the thousands, the influence of these young upstarts is only growing, whether the doyennes of the old media like it or not. Their democratic nature, youthful energy and style-on-a-budget approach are endearing themselves to fashion fans who've grown tired of expensive trends and flashy labels.

"At a time when the collective attention span is shrinking and there is a greater yearning for real signs of authenticity, fashion blogs might not (yet) be the biggest stars on the fashion firmament," writes Werle, "but they are certainly the brightest."

Style Diaries: World Fashion from Berlin to Tokyo by Simone Werle is published by Prestel, 16.99.

Catherine Kallon

Londoner Catherine Kallon set up her site after being made redundant. She has a keen eye for celebrity red-carpet style, even spotting that Angelina Jolie was wearing a Max Azria dress back-to-front.

Bryan Boy

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Nearly 200,000 people log on to this acid-tongued twenty-something from Manila's site every day. His gender-bending take on high fashion has fashionistas hooked.

Tavi Gevinson

Gevinson gives a witty take on the fashion world through the eyes of a precocious 14-year-old. She has some high profile fans, from Karl Lagerfeld to Anna Wintour. Her take on style on a pocket-money budget is charming and insightful beyond her years.

Scott Schuman

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Time magazine named Schuman's blog - visited by three million people a month - as one of their top 100 style influences. His concept is simple; he snaps the stylish residents of the world's fashion capitals.

Susanna Lau

Britain's biggest style blogger, Lau gets 300,000 unique users a month. She posts images of herself in various eclectic ensembles, always a mix of high street finds and vintage, with the occasional designer accessory.

Joe Sinclair and Katie Mackay

The premise of this blog is simple; Mackay wears a different outfit every day for a year and her partner, Sinclair, photographs it and comments on her great sense of style.

This article was first published in The Scotsman, 18 December, 2010