How The Number Game Has Affected Fashion Blogging in India
I started writing this fashion blog 6 years ago in 2009 when I was pursing graduation in fashion design from NIFT New Delhi. The Indian fashion blogging scenario back in 2009 was something similar to how it was in the west further behind in 2005. Fashion bloggers were relatively new then and we would write without having to think about how a certain fashion designer or fashion brand would take it when we didn’t necessarily write favourable reviews. Personal style bloggers would write about what actually belonged to their wardrobe rather than writing about what fashion brands sent to them for free. Freebies did follow eventually and I am not going to get fake and complain about freebies. I was a poor fashion student who’d be broke by 15th of the month and yes, I did love freebies. They were token of appreciation that brands sent to us for collaborating with them. They were never sent to us with a list of ‘deliverables’ like it’s done now. In late 2000s, Fashion brands have just started to collaborate with Indian fashion bloggers and social media numbers didn’t matter much. Content was the king. People would write. Fashion bloggers had an honest point of view and would write the good, bad and ugly back then. Like in the west, fashion bloggers eventually did grace the Indian fashion runways and we’d tweet brutally honest reviews which were published in national dailies.
At times when fashion blogging as a whole was completely new thing, it goes without saying that there were barely any MALE fashion bloggers. There was Manou of Wearabout, Santu Misra of Devil Wore, Style Rug and… that’s all! I did spot Riaan George of Urban Eye sometime later in early 2010s. Forgive me if I missed out names of other early men’s fashion bloggers in India. Fast forwarding to present, in 2015, I discovered several new men’s fashion bloggers at a recent fashion event. I also happened to meet a newbie blogger, who called himself the first Indian men’s fashion blogger, quite unaware of all the names I mentioned above. Well, that’s really how ignorant fashion bloggers have increasingly become!
While the number of fashion blogs has significantly increased over the years, the quality has remarkably gone down. Now we have every rich kid tying up with a photographer and calling him/herself a fashion blogger when they barely understand what style is. We have fashion blogging clones that are mere modelling portfolios with photos, photos and just photos. How many fashion bloggers of today can pull off a 2000 word article on fashion? If all that you wanted to write about was how the floral print dress is ‘chic’, what brand it is and how much it costs, an Instagram account is more than enough, why own a blog? How many fashion bloggers have the genuine understanding of a particular style or trend? What they lack is a voice, a genuine voice with quality which only comes with understanding basics of fashion and related terminologies and etymology. Everything they wear becomes ‘chic’, ‘smart’ and ‘nice’. Lol. Even nice is no longer nice. If you cannot distinguish between boho & tribal or cannot differentiate tartans from plaids, well, take it easy and educate yourself before you call yourself a fashion blogger. You folks are the reason why fashion industry is stereotyped as the industry of bimbos/dumbos.
The so called ‘fashion bloggers’ now attend fashion weeks only to take photographs of their outfits and share it on Instagram profile. The fashion bloggers who have nothing to do with business of fashion or fashion trend cycle, take it from me… you don’t deserve to be there at fashion weeks. You are merely overcrowding the space. Dear PR agencies, you don’t get a bunch of style laggards clad in expensive clothes crowding the seats of nation’s prestigious fashion events in trade for couple of social media posts. The numbers are increasingly attributed to ‘paid’ followers and you might as well do the payment yourself to gain those fake followers instead.
Thanks to easy money opportunities through fashion blogging, the whole fashion blogging scenario has been reduced to mere number games. Brands want to collaborate with bloggers with big numbers irrespective of if the blogger has a flair for personal style or how those numbers were acquired on the first place. Paid followers can never have the same trust on a blogger’s voice than the genuine organic following that’s built over years. Several fashion websites and magazines churn out a list of ‘best fashion bloggers’ merely based on numbers just so that the bloggers will drive traffic back to their own website. How many of these brands or ‘best-blogger-lists’ even give a fuck about the quality of the content? Don’t get me wrong but I am more than happy that brands are opening up to bloggers or the fact that mainstream media is increasingly promoting fashion bloggers. But I also despise how the focus is on quantity and not quality. PR agencies or brands are undeniably instrumental in growth of a fashion blogger. Hope they learn to look beyond mere number games and contribute to the growth of quality fashion bloggers rather than those behind easy money.
Of course, not all bloggers are clones. When I first met TJ of Blueberry Blackout, I could instantly sense his flair for personal style. Uday Shankar of Stranger in Suede is yet another niche voice and his blog goes beyond those beautiful visual diaries. There’s Dimpy Kapur of Delhi Style Blog. Veteran Indian fashion blogger Ruhi Sheikh of Republic of Chic. Roxanne D’Souza of Head2Heels. Style File. Fashionopolis. Aakanksha Redhu. Plus sized blogger Sonshu. I recently met Aurelie of Surface85 in Chennai and she’s brutally honest to her personal style. Rhea Gupte of FUSS. Ritu Arya of Razzle Dazzle Pickle. Big Hair Loud Mouth. You can add good 20-30 names or probably more to the list. What’s unfortunate is the staggering 100-150 blogs which don’t fit in.
When I had a one-on-one conversation with Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist for a news report for India’s national newspaper “The Hindu”, he rightly stated that, “A lot of bloggers don’t know the basics of fashion. I suggest they take more time. A lot of them could know more. Take your time and have a real point of view on fashion.”
If bloggers are as passionate as they claim to be about fashion, they should all take the time and put in efforts to learn the basics and form an educated opinion about fashion – as an industry and art form. That way, fashion bloggers can collectively bring out content with better quality that what it is now.