By Matthew Murray and Anna Too
A funny thing happened in the fashion world circa 2008. As subprime mortgages erupted and Wall Street crumbled to the ground with hordes of trophy wives and international jetsetters mourning the loss of shopping trips to Barneys, an individual created a phenomenon almost overnight. His name was Tommy Ton. His blog Jak & Jil featured a plethora of glamorous women decked out in Dolce, glued to their Gucci, charming in their Chanel and sitting pretty in their Prada. Amidst headlines of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Jak & Jil showcased a world of fabulous creations untainted by the recession and as gilded as ever as they strutted through Manhattan and Paris in Balmain jackets and Balenciaga leather minis. Some called it a breakthrough in escapism – with the state of the economy, the street style blog was an easy way to flee to a world more glamorous than the nightmarish reality. Others called Jak & Jil a revolting portal into the ways ‘the rich get richer’ even amidst trying times. Call it what you wish, the website was a foil to a bigger movement exploding on the fashion scene and one that celebrated fashion in a time where women feared a single swipe of their credit card.
Launched in 2005, Jak & Jil was not the first street style blog – Scott Schuman’s The Sartorialist is referred to as the beginning of the street blogger epidemic – but it showcased a different and refreshing aesthetic in the fashion world. The blog featured women like creative consultant Anna Dello Russo and Parisian editor Carine Roitfeld – all bona fide powerhouses in the fashion world – that would not hide Loboutins in the closet simply because the economy was faltering. Tommy Ton’s blog reflected an aesthetic that was losing its grip in fashion – the idea of desire. It projected the need and wish for women to indulge in tough times to keep the glamour high and the depression low. The connection between a faltering economy and the rise of blogs was nothing less than a symbiotic relationship capturing global awareness and connecting reality with fashion fantasy. Says Vogue contributing editor Mark Holgate on the connection between the rise of blogs and the economy, “As the recession decimated stores, brands, and businesses, not to mention the desire to shop, bloggers were there; lavishing attention on fashion, cheerleading its relevance.”
Tommy Ton was not alone. A new generation of youthful power-bloggers ascended to pseudo-celebrity status, dominating a scene once deemed impenetrable for outsiders. They, like the stylish and revered men and women they featured, became the new ‘it’ crowd forcing a billion-dollar industry to take note. Blogging sensation Bryan Yambao of Bryanboy sat front row at a Dolce & Gabanna show next to, undeniably the most important person in fashion, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. The moment was a satirical showcase of the changing fashion hierarchy – in an instant, individuals with no prior fashion experience had become important enough to hobnob with the kings and queens of the industry. As if that weren’t enough, modern legend Marc Jacobs has even named an ostentatious ostrich-leather bag after Bryan with a starting price point of two thousand dollars (do not fear, Bryan was gifted the bag in every available color by the PR team). “Blogging can command a profile in the fashion world, bringing a certain kind of power and privilege,” claims Mark Holgate. Style snapper Garance Dore also became a member of the new legion of “super bloggers.” She now hobnobs with billionaires, consulted on high-profile David Yurman advertisements and collaborated with the GAP on a t-shirt line. Blogging, to be as cliché as possible, became the new ‘black.’
How, though? In an industry famously shrouded in mystery, how were bloggers given the key to a guarded door and allowed full access? Ironically, the answer lies in the question. The fashion world had long been relying upon a dated model of exclusivity and snobbery, perpetuated by dreamy fashion pictorials pushing the wealthy to purchase and the poor to salivate. To engage with fashion ten years ago, before Style.com was around to showcase every single runway look, consumers had to flip through the pages of magazines, which caused isolation, a drift from the creative process behind fashion. The rise of the Internet proved profitable for designers, although many feared the online shift skeptical of it penetrating and ruining the luxury of high fashion. Then, bloggers hit the scene. Bloggers struck gold in connecting fans to the fashion spheres of influence and, in exchange, helping to provide free publicity and advertising for designers. Fashion companies, formerly refusing the shift to the online world, all started lining down the block to woo and please the new gatekeepers of fashion, seeing the opportunity a bloggers’ loyal following could have on the company. Fashion had lacked personal connection with its customers and fan base and blogs had the power to provide instant access to the billion-dollar industry; an access that perpetuated consumer desire.
The economic recession may have lead to the upsurge of bloggers but the phenomenon still continues with daily posts driving hoards of followers to the pages of their favorite blogs. BryanBoy’s most recent post, at 7:35 AM on November 5th, is a post of him and Anna Wintour canoodling at the Louis Vuitton store opening in Omotesando, Tokyo. The caption reads, “Belated happy birthday, Mama Wintour! It was so lovely seeing you again.” He wears head-to-toe Vuitton next to the Chanel-clad Wintour. If that’s not a sign blogging is the new ‘black,’ I don’t know what is.