When I attended Net-a-Porter’s infamous Denim Boutique launch back in June, one of the nuggets of news I picked up was its prediction for the Next Big Jean Shape. Denim and casualwear buyer Ben Matthew’s description of J Brand’s Gigi was “a cropped kick flare that hits just above the ankle before flaring out slightly”, which I have to say, did not appeal. It sounded a bit too much like Celine’s icky, tricky flood-length pant to me.
But how wrong I was. Just launched, the J Brand Gigi is a mid-rise skinny cut with the weeniest hint of a flare. Really not ‘booty’ at all. And I can see it looking very uptown with my Rupert Sanderson nude patent Veritys (the only heels that I can walk in) or ancient vintage Charles Jourdan little black kitten heels – plus a little boy shirt and my black pebbled Chanel tote. Apparently there’s a waiting list already. Of course there is.
Just as we get nicely comfortable with the idea of fashion for all, the goal posts shift again. Fashion’s Night Out was a fabulously jolly affair with customers, celebs and designers all happily sharing the same breathing space. This round of fashion weeks will have more brands than ever live-streaming their shows, while a number of designers and CEOs also tweet from behind the scenes (hello @vbfashionweek, @MarcJacobsInt). Marc Jacobs’ tweeter, CEO Robert Duffy has also been giving away bags and surfboards (eh?) to lucky tweeters, creating quite the fashion frenzy. Very caring, very sharing.
But just when it was getting so cosy and democratic – BAM! – all change. Yes Burberry is live streaming its show online and broadcasting it on screens in-store but those in-store iPads aren’t just for any old civilian. No, the in-store treatment is for a select few privileged customers, so while they get to watch, shop and quaff champagne in the luxe surroundings of Burberry’s serene-but-sexy temples, the rest can press their noses against the window and like it will have to make do with their iPad at home on the DFS with a cup of PG Tips for company.
Tom Ford made his much anticipated and (not-very-well-kept) secret comeback yesterday during New York Fashion Week and what a to-do there was. No live-streaming for Ford. Instead there was a small salon-style show where only a handful of VIP press were present and they were strictly instructed that “all photographic and recording devices are prohibited. Thank you.”
Ford introduced each outfit modelled by an all-star cast including Beyonce, Lauren Hutton and Julianne Moore. How thrilling! And the outfits? Well we won’t be seeing those for quite some time, the official pictures were taken by Terry Richardson (allegedly for French Vogue) and are embargoed until next year. Blimey, New York Fashion Week has never been this exciting. Ford has clearly decided that all this ‘fashion for everyone’ guff has reached its tipping point and is leading the charge in the opposite direction. At his preposterously luxe end of the market, he’s making a case for super-exclusivity, the kind where customers are more than happy to pay for the privilege of wearing something that’s not been seen on every other Tom, Dick and Sharon.
Is Ford onto something here? It was noted recently that Chanel has scissored its sample sale guest list. The Chanel sample sale invitation is already one of the most coveted perks in the fashion and beauty business and invitations are like gold dust. The culling of the list sent out a firm message; for all that they may be embracing bloggers, setting up etail sites and interacting on Facebook, there’s no doubt that exclusivity still has meaning for luxury fashion brands. Just ask Tom.
Digital strategist, Agata Seidel from Fashion’s Collective invited me to write a guest post about 5 influential fashion blogs that brands should be paying attention to. It wasn’t easy to come up with 5 ‘top blogs’ that weren’t the obvious Bryan Boy, Tavi, Susie Bubble etc so I went for my ones to watch that I thought had cornered a niche. The crux of my post was that it’s important to own your category while giving it a personal spin. The five I came up with were Sophy Robson, Fred Butler Style, 00o00, Coco’s Tea Party and That’s Not My Age.
While some of these have quite high traffic, they’re not necessarily that well known to brands or outside the UK. What I like about these blogs is that they have made their blogs into a brand (cheesy I know but hey) which has a clearly defined subject, voice and opinion. When bloggers ask how to get more traffic or followers, the standard answer is to have original, engaging content. Here I have gone into a bit more detail of what that means.
That’s Not My Age
It worries me when people think blogging is the sole domain of young people. Brands who ignore the fact that plenty of older people blog are missing out on crucial knowledge and insight. Wake up! There are thousands of fashion-aware thirty-somethings writing and reading blogs and one who has cornered her market in the UK is That’s Not My Age. This ‘style for the over 40s’ blog is written from the perspective of a consumer (although her background in fashion gives her added authority). Her wry observations, tip-focussed street style reportage and general musings on fashion after 40 have amassed a loyal following which allows for much debate and interaction. For brands looking to engage with this newly fashionable demographic (let’s face it, many have recognised that 40 is the new 30), insight from a blog like That’s Not My Age is of immeasurable value.
Fred Butler Style
More and more fashion professionals are launching blogs as their own personal day-to-day PR news feed. These bloggers talk about the projects they’re working on and the things that inspire them. It’s a clever way to engage with the public and also secure more business. The unstoppable accessory and prop designer, Fred Butler is a prolific blogger who has reported on her own projects and those of her London fashion and art friends for the past three years. She has perfectly utilised the power of social media to propel her brand. From her blog you get a clear sense of what she’s about as a designer and a nose into her rainbow-hued life as a young creative.
Another fashion creative documenting her work in blog form is Sophy Robson. An in-demand nail artist (her clients include Tom Ford, Chanel and Louis Vuitton), this blog is a brilliant example of how a creative can promote their work in a way that shows their talent and personality. I think it’s absolutely crucial that a blogger opens up and lets their character come through as that honesty and spirit is essentially what the reader responds to. Sophy has also made the most of her authority in this niche by peppering her product reviews, industry insights and fashion shoot imagery with Youtube tutorials, which push her brand even further. Not only do Youtube videos bring a great deal of traffic to a blog, they allow the reader to get to know the person behind the blog.
Coco’s Tea Party
Coco’s Tea Party is an example of a celebrity fashion blog done really well. Blogger Ella has a discerning eye and chooses the most important and up-to-date celebrity pictures to analyse, giving her own personal take on the outfits. Her tone is engaging without being snarky and her love and understanding of fashion and celebrity style come across as genuine and relatable. The success of the blog lies in its editing – each post is well researched and written and high standards are maintained throughout. It’s a filler-free zone. I don’t follow celebrities but on the occasions that I need to know who wore what, Coco’s Tea Party is the obvious destination. Woven through the celebrity posts are commentary on catwalk shows, ad campaigns and magazine editorials, giving us more of Ella’s personality and individual opinion.
As the men’s fashion industry grows, so does the number of menswear blogs. 00o00, written by a London fashion enthusiast who works in the City, merges luxury and high street menswear commentary with the number-crunching business of fashion. Again, bringing a personal perspective to fashion means he has carved a niche for himself and people know what to expect from his blog. For me, the main selling point is his tone and understanding of business. He makes the business of menswear entertaining and informative and, although he keeps his identity secret, his approachable personality comes through to allow a two-way conversation with his audience.
What are your favourite niche blogs and why do you love them?
For more on fashion, luxury and social media, check out Fashion’s Collective’s excellent blog.
I have written about the blurring of boundaries in menswear and womenswear before. Not being a curvy girl, I tend to prefer the cut and style of menswear – unfussy details, minimal surface decoration, utilitarian fabrics and military shapes are all what I gravitate towards. (I then get my girly kicks from Margiela dog-shaped handbags and mimsy charm jewels).
I’m noticing bolder steps being take with the unisexualisation of fashion. In the same week, I’ve been alerted to the new Pringle campaign (thanks 00o00) and the LN-CC (Late Night Chameleon Cafe) concept store.
Pringle has used Tilda Swinton to front both its womenswear and menswear campaigns for AW10. If anyone can rock a mens suit it’s definitely Tilda so there’s no denying she looks wonderful in the clothes, but would a man want to buy them? Pringle has already shown itself to be an innovative brand by utilising both Swinton and art-photographer Ryan McGinley in its campaigns. This latest experiment with androgyny suggests Pringle is yet again giving us something to think about and discuss.
This week has also seen the PR campaign wheels turning for concept store LN-CC. Launching its East London space in October, the store will be a mixed bag of fashion, music and *licks lips* art books curated by book dealer Conor Donlon. Co owner John Skelton told Dazed Digital, “LN-CC was created just to please ourselves. We have been looking to progress and develop our feeling and concept for such a long time so this just felt like the natural thing to do. The concept is not just focused around a store, it’s more an overall feeling and lifestyle that we live and wanted to share with anyone who might be interested. This feeling has been spread over a number of different platforms from our product and e-commerce through to parties, exhibitions and installations.”
I love that they are thinking beyond product and making the retail experience more of an event. But I’m also loving that LN-CC will stock clothes based around a concept of unisex styling. As well as menswear lines from Rick Owens, Sasquatch and Unused, there will be forays into womenswear by menswear designers who scale down their ranges exclusively for LN-CC. As Skelton says, “I really wanted to offer the more turned on girls something in our more masculine flavour as opposed to the high heels and handbags that seem to dominate the premium end of womenswear.”
While the physical store doesn’t open for a couple of months, its online arm will launch later this month. I’ll report back…