Burberry

Looking back at ten years of Disneyrollergirl



2007, the year of the iPhone, Fashionista.com and a new wee blog called Disneyrollergirl. Oh shit where did ten years just go?

Back in February 2007 I was living it up in the world of teen mags, those halcyon days when you had all the time in the world to plan and create and would wait days for your post-shoot contact sheets to arrive by courier. I would research online industry news from a little blog called Fashion Inc (an off shoot of now-defunct Conde Nast business site Portfolio, written by Lauren Goldstein Crowe) and read earnest fashion student musings on SHOWstudio forums (moderated by Penny Martin).

The only UK style blog I knew was Style Bubble, an eclectic stream-of-consciousness in which Susie would hold her camera in front of her face as she took pics of her Topshop bargains in front of her bedroom mirror. The Sartorialist was my weekend must-read, full of candid portraits of unselfconscious downtown New Yorkers. Then I discovered the delights of Jezebel, a pithy American site that pulled no punches in dissecting fashion news, trends and misdemeanours in real time, with real attitude. Next came Fashionista, another sassy site that unpicked news as it happened, with a conversational, conspiratorial tone. And then I found View from the Fourth Row, Liberty London Girl and Mrs Fashion.

The anonymous fashion insider blog was a niche that spoke to me. In my job I was privy to interesting insider access, conversations and insights that had no outlet. Teen mags at that time were light on fashion features and my freelance gigs were concerned with featherweight what-to-buy features and advice columns, not ruminations on emerging luxury markets and retail concepts. WGSN, the subscription trends service had a daily free news email that I devoured, which fed my appetite for detailed catwalk reports (by the brilliant Sue Evans) and business news.

On a whim I decided, heck, I’ll write my own blog! I could practice my writing, get my head around this new techy form of media and share my fashion industry discoveries all in one go. But I would do it anonymously as my Hearst bosses might not approve.

Disneyrollergirl old design on blogspot

Don’t judge the blog design guys – a black background was edgy in those days…

It was so easy! Go to Blogspot.com, think of a name and create your blog in three minutes. Bam, done. Admittedly, uploading images was a bit of a faff. (Well no one explained the small but crucial detail of image resizing, which would enable my pictures to upload in seconds rather than long painful minutes.)

What I loved was the immediacy of publishing. You just needed a title, a pic and a few lines of copy, then press ‘publish’. And people would read. And comment. They loved the industry musings and revelations, the more ‘insidery’ the better. I wrote all sorts of rubbish, I was just feeling my way, but if you go into the archive it’s all still there.

Having access to high street collections six months in advance meant I could review them and share. The brands and PRs soon got wind that someone within their ranks was out there blogging (rather *ahem* ‘honestly’) about their collections, but whoever could it be? Blogging 2007 was an innocent affair. Most bloggers had no clue about intellectual property, image rights, accuracy, traffic links or SEO. Social media didn’t exist, so the only way to drive traffic was to comment on other blogs and hope that would drive interest to yours. And it did. It created a fantastic community of global fashion enthusiasts, most of whom were writing about fashion rather than themselves. In that respect, it was the golden age of blogging, when we did it for the love of fashion, not the fame or the money. Even when I got made redundant a few months later, I carried on blogging and didn’t ‘out’ myself until a good three years later.

Louis Vuitton clog

I mean, come on, someone had to call out abominations like these…

What took blogging mainstream was the success of the iPhone. This little gadget allowed you to take high quality pictures and upload them straight to your blog. OMG, you could ‘live blog’ Fashion Week in real time! It also introduced a new game-changing concept: mobile apps. And later, social media apps.

Being able to spread your blog’s gospel beyond the boundaries of your Blogspot changed everything and put bloggers at the forefront of the social revolution. For traditional fashion editors, it meant they could join Twitter and reclaim some of their authority which by then was being usurped by – how dare they! – bloggers. And then of course came Instagram and the entire landscape shifted anew. It really became all about the images, styled and filtered to the max. By 2012 everyone was on Insta and in effect, everyone was a micro-blogger. Brands were thoroughly entrenched in this great marketing opportunity, in which fashion became a mere cog of the entertainment industry.

So ten years on, that’s where we are. Fashion and fashion blogging are – arguably – over-saturated, homogenous and over commercialised (Just ask Marc Jacobs) and I think we’re ready for another reinvention. I think we’ll see a slowdown in blogging and influencer marketing in their current forms and hopefully a return to something more authentic, relatable and individual.

I’m sensing a fatigue of the mainstream fashion media landscape as a whole (the click bait, the relentless pace, the samey ‘content’) and more interest in the niche and underexposed. But maybe that’s just me. In any case it will, as ever, be interesting to observe and analyse, whichever platform that happens on and whatever shape it all takes. Onwards and upwards with the next ten years then, but first a few blogging highlights…

That Burberry ‘Art of the Trench digital billboard campaign
Burberry Art of the Trench Navaz Batliwalla

Early recognition and support from some of my favourite luxury brands (who said they don’t get digital?), including the Hermes workshop visits and Burberry inviting bloggers to their epic return-to-London LFW show
Hermes handbag workshop Pantin

Co-hosting a talk at the Apple store with Vogue’s then creative director, Robin Derrick. I had never met him before and he invited me via Twitter DM (tres modern!). I was still an anony-blogger at that point and terrified at the prospect, but of course, how could I say no?

That time we all got featured in a pop ‘anthem’ about bloggers

Hosting umpteen panels, events, Google Hangouts and Periscope interviews, including the time I went straight from a LFW show to a studio on the back of a motorbike to discuss the Max Factor beauty look on a Google Hangout with a panel of experts. Yes, there was a major tech fail (isn’t there always!) and yes, I bluffed my way through it…

Meeting each and every one of the original UK blogging crew IRL – shout out to The Very Simon G, Ondolady, Liberty London Girl, Coco’s Tea Party, Fashion Foie Gras, Discotheque Confusion, Isabel O’Carroll, Mademoiselle Robot, What’s He Wearing (nee 00o00), Susie Bubble, Natalie Hughes, Vanessa Jackman, Random Fashion Coolness, Kingdom of Style. Happily, all but a couple are still blogging today

Publishing my book!
Disneyrollergirl book launch

Finally, a huge thank you to readers old and new for coming along and cheering enthusiastically on this rather long, fantastic journey. Please stay tuned…!

WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
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