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Fashion Journalism: Beyond its glossy pages

fashion journalism

Just a little something I did for a University assignment about the Future of Fashion Journalism. Enjoy :)

Since the 19th century, indulging in the glossy pages of the latest fashion gossip has been a glamourous escape for all fashion fanatics. Fast-forwarding to the age of digital, it seems that both the production and consumption of this past time has evolved into a multi-dimensional vessel. Fashion journalists once stood fully qualified with a notepad and pen in hand. Now they stand as bloggers with cult-like followings and smartphones in their pockets streaming up-to-the-millisecond fashion content across the globe. By adapting to this digital landscape and embracing this blogging phenomenon, the fashion industry is tested with one pivotal question; will the existence of fashion journalism persist beyond its glossy pages?

The Circus of Fashion

Looking down the runway at Fashion Week all attendees are spotted clutching onto their smartphones for dear life. This device has ushered into this digital era by morphing into our own Swiss Army knives; becoming the ultimate weapon for a new army of fashion writers known as bloggers. Described by QUT Fashion lecturer and designer, Alice Payne, these style mavens are “powerful taste arbiters that have for the last 10-15 years emerged as figures to both rival and compliment magazine editors.”

Figure 1: A comparison between a fashion journalist and a fashion blogger (infographic made by Piktochart)  [12]

Flocking the front rows of Fashion Week and jet setting off to exclusive events, the blogger is perceived by many as a figure of admiration. The rise of such influencers has seemed to however democratize and demystify the discourse of fashion. Once a closed shop for the elite is now a mass sport – a form of journalism with no prerequisites that can now be pursued by anyone, anywhere. (See Figure 1) Acclaimed fashion journalist, Suzy Menkes [1] ridicules this twist of journalism as “The Circus of Fashion” – a survival of the fittest in a world where people are not known for their expertise but for their online identities. Throughout the years, fashion journalists and editors have expressed criticism around the ‘blogger’, raising questions based upon their lack of expertise and genuine vision of the fashion industry. Despite this appeal, bloggers are continuing to take full advantage of the developing platforms in journalism, adapting to society and enriching the online sphere through a range of dynamic skill sets. Responsible for writing, styling and photographing, it seems as if these fashion guerillas have remodeled the definition of fashion journalism as an entirety, both supplementing and potentially undermining its traditional rule of thumb.

Are fashion magazines still in fashion?

Many have taken the view that the world of fashion simply doesn’t exist without the glossy pages that serve it. They have defined the industry, chronicled its most timeless moments and reviewed its most prestigious products. But in a world that is becoming dominated by digital innovation, it seems that our local newsstands are withering in dust. In the latest report from the Australian market research company, Roy Morgan Research [2], fashion magazines appear to have in the last year suffered a spiraling decline in readership. With respected names such as Harpers Baazar losing 23.1% and Marie Claire plunging 31.5%, (shown in figure 2) it is becoming clear that the future of these publications is endangered due to the fresh online content curated by no one other than fashion bloggers.

Figure 2: Readership Decline in Australian Fashion Magazines (infographic made by Piktochart)  [2]

Unlike the strict guidelines of print, bloggers create content that is both unrestricted and uncensored. Ultimately overriding the elitism of publications, the blogging platform subverts the ideologies of the fashion industry in an interactive, intimate and authentic approach, integrating the roles of the consumer and producer, where fashion meets real life. In the book, Fashion Journalism by Julie Bradford, [3] Journalist William Oliver, explains that bloggers, “…may offer different perspectives on fashion to the ones we are historically used to, but they highlight the excitement felt by real people who actually wear, or want to wear, the clothes featured.” With the growth of diverse international style networks, in different ages, different styles and different platforms, there are now influencers for everyone.

Such appreciation and excitement over the catering of an individual’s personal style is what has lead publications to harness these influencers into their marketing strategy. Blogger Susanna Lau of Style Bubble [4] is now a freelance writer, with written pieces on her resume for acclaimed publications such as Elle and London Fashion Week Daily. This attempt to subsume bloggers within the magazine industry to profit off their cultural capital continues to ensue, as these influencers are hired as brand ambassadors and invited to report on international fashion events.

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A paperless future

Despite the uniting of forces between the blogger and the magazine, print fashion publications have upped their online presence in an attempt to resonate with modern readers and adapt to the evolving digital landscape. If you’re a Vogue reader in 2016, you may not pick up their magazine but instead look at their online content to get your fashion fix there. To be modern, a digital presence is absolutely integral.” Statistics from the non-profit media organsiation, Alliance for Audited Media [5] show that digital magazine editions continue to be a small but growing portion of the total magazine circulation mix. Statistics from Roy Morgan further support these findings in their Magazine Cross-Platform Audience report for 2016 [6]. When compared to print, digital readerships are slowly but surely increasing as the world’s leading fashion title, Vogue seized nearly 100,000 more website and app readers than their print edition. This notable boost in digital readership comes after Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief, Edwina McCann’s statement in 2012, [7] that although increasing print sales remain a priority, the key trend for fashion publications continue to be digital, “I would like obviously to get print sales up but digital is very much a focus—digital is the long-term future.” 

The gram

When looking for style inspiration in 2016, it is extremely easy to fall down the black hole of Instagram; the photo sharing mobile application that documents our picture perfect Kodak moments. For the past six years this storytelling app has acted as the fashion industry’s most influential platform, one that feeds the style hungry through the grids of an influencers account. Business of Fashion journalist, Lauren Sherman [8] says that, “Instagram has emerged as fashion’s social media platform of choice” and additionally, its transparency has played a role in capturing the industry’s ethos and spirit through a screen. In a report conducted by visual marketing platform, Curalate, [9] Instagram was found at the center of the New York Fashion Week’s 2016 runway – attendees giving the online world VIP access to runway footage and behind the scene action. Analytics showed that this semi-annual designer clothing parade generated more than 113 million engagements over 427 thousand Instagram images, its top eight images by total engagements belonging to bloggers and influencers. Furthermore, a survery [10] conducted for research on this topic reported that 78% of fashion consumers resort to Instagram for style inspiration. (See figure 3) Senior editor of the Coveteur, Emily Ramshaw [11] suggests that the popularity of Instagram style ‘inspo’ is due to its immediacy and magnification by just the hit of a follow button. With a harnessed 3G connection a consumer can view fashion, talk about fashion and buy fashion by just the swipe of a finger.

As well as this discovery, it was recorded that 40% of these consumers can’t remember the last time they read or sourced style inspiration from a fashion magazine. (Shown in figure 3) However as fashion publications such as Vogue and Elle launch smart phone apps, a majority of consumers flock towards these platforms to satisfy their fashion desires. Such statistics sculpt the value and shift of fashion journalism in this current social media culture, reinforcing the diversification and swift nature of this industry.

Figure 3: Personal sources for fashion journalism (infographic made by Piktochart) – Survey conducted by Chelsea Cosgrave [10]

Fashion magazines are a romantic escape – a sensory experience that for many cannot be matched. But as the online world continues to flourish with new creative liberties, the media is losing control, leaving consumers to be the ones to gain it. These consumers turned influencers have revolutionised the fashion world; molding online editorial content and enhancing every fashionista’s style experience through an authentic voice on interactive platforms. As they now cater for both print and digital, they are adapting perfectly to the influencer sphere. The working relationship between these two platforms will ensure success in both paths. Like all models of journalism, fashion reporting is adapting to a change of seasons, one wear fashion journalists must slip on a new outfit and conform to the industry’s latest style, whether it be in print or beyond its glossy pages.

Word count: 1604

References

[1] Menkes, Suzy. 2013. “The Circus of Fashion” Accessed May 15, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/t-magazine/the-circus-of-fashion.html

[2] Roy Morgan. 2016. “Austalian Magazine Readership, 12 months to March 2016” Accessed May 23, 2016. http://www.roymorgan.com/industries/media/readership/magazine-readership

[3] Bradford, Julie. 2014. Fashion Journalism. 2014. New York: Routledge. Accessed May 20, 2016. http://www.qut.eblib.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=1775318&echo=1&userid=RipkO9wW2cJ%2bykdE5Zr31A%3d%3d&tstamp=1464273763&id=759687302535DD27496F07F3450F523F5C048F77

[4] Lau, Susanna. 2016. “Style Bubble” Accessed May 24, 2016. http://stylebubble.co.uk/

[5]Audited Media. 2014. “Top 25 U.S. Consumer Magazines For June 2014” Accessed May 20, 2016. http://auditedmedia.com/news/blog/2014/august/top-25-us-consumer-magazines-for-june-2014.aspx

[6] Roy Morgan. 2016. “Magazine Cross-Platform Audience, 12 months to March 2016” Accessed May 23, 2016. http://www.roymorgan.com/industries/media/readership/cross-platform-audiences-magazines

[7] Jackson, Sally. 2012. “Editor thrilled to be back in Vogue” Accessed May 25, 2016. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/media/editor-thrilled-to-be-back-in-vogue/story-e6frg996-1226359368580

[8] Sherman, Lauren [Business of Fashion]. 2015. “Inside Fashion’s Instagram Wars” Accessed May 26, 2016. http://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/fashion-tech/fashion-instagram-brands-social-media-proenza-schouler-calvin-klein

[9] Goodman, Stacy. 2016. “Instaglam! An Instagram Analysis of New York Fashion Week” Accessed May 26, 2016. http://www.curalate.com/blog/an-instagram-analysis-of-new-york-fashion-week/

[10] Cosgrave, Chelsea. 2016. “Sources for fashion journalism”. Conducted from May 16, 2016 to May 23, 2016. http://www.freckleculture.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Personal-sources-for-Fashion-Journalism.pdf 

[11] Ramshaw, Emily. 2016. “Is this the end of Fashion Week as we know it?” Accessed May 25, 2016. http://www.thecoveteur.com/2016/03/15/shop-the-runway-fashion-week/

[12] Nelson-Best, Kate. 2010. “Fashion Journalism”. Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion. Accessed May 20, 2016. doi: http://dx.doi.org.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/10.2752/BEWDF/EDch8031

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  • Carmen Santaella

    This post is absolutely great. I am a fashion journalist myself and I’m on a personal fight against influencers, but only the ones who know nothing about fashion and just pose for money and clothes. Thank you very much for all this info, will keep it all in mind for my next article! Thanks!!!!!

    • Ah thank you so much, I’m super glad you like it – means the world! (especially coming from a real life expert in the field like you!) Hope it gives you some inspo for future writing! Much love <3