Bloggers’ delight

If you’re a fashion blogger or have any interest in the future of fashion blogs (which I’m guessing you are/do as otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this), you must read this compelling article by Nicola Copping in the FT about fashion bloggers and brands. One of the points it flags up is the attention bloggers are getting from brands keen to engage with them and how a blogger handles the seductive nature of being courted. Once a brand starts paying you attention, showering you with compliments and offering you freebies products for ‘review’, it can become increasingly hard to maintain your integrity. Brands and PR agencies are now hosting blogger meet-and-greets in order to build relationships with bloggers in a similar way to the PR-journalist relationship. But blogs aren’t magazines and bloggers don’t *have* to follow a code. However, in reality it’s very hard to be impartial about a brand or product if you have met and liked its representative, it makes you feel like a bit of a bitch if you have a negative viewpoint.

The answer I’ve found is to take a step back. Apart from anything else, if you find you’re spending all your time writing product reviews, it’s taking you away from the spontaneity of your original blog posts. And chances are, it’s the honesty and originality of the pre-PR-pitched posts that brought your blog to your readers’ attention in the first place. I’m stepping away from the competitions and product reviews unless it’s something I really like and concentrating on keeping things personal and honest. It’s better for the blog and less stress for me.
[Pic:, I’d love to see the thought bubble coming out of Susie Menkes and Michael Roberts’ heads!]

Art of the Trench

Yesterday saw the launch of Burberry’s It’s a free-standing website dedicated to the Burberry trench and showcases dozens of stylish Burberry-wearers photographed by The Sartorialist. It’s not just a vanity project though. Burberry has made it a social networking site where you can upload pictures of yourself in a Burberry trench or add comments as well as sharing on Facebook and Twitter. It’s kind of fun, lovely to look at and simple to navigate.

In the press release blurb is this quote from Christopher Bailey:
“ celebrates our iconic trench coat, capturing the emotional connection behind our distinctive outerwear heritage. Everybody has a different story related to their coat or the first time they came into contact with one – I love the idea that people from all over the world can share those stories and images with each other and all the different attitudes and expressions of the Burberry trench coat and the people who wear it.”

As it happens, I do have a story that relates to buying my first Burberry trench. It was a few years ago and the first properly snowy day of the winter. The inclement weather was a coincidence, I had been toying with the purchase for days and finally bitten the bullet. That February evening was to be the first big awards night for the magazine publishing company I worked for at an impressive London venue. It was also payday and bonus day and I’d left the excited hubbub of the office that lunchtime to trot over to Bond Street and treat myself (well, it’s not every day you buy a Burberry trench and this was before the days of casually dropping £500 on a pair of Loubs). As I did the ten minute walk from my office to the Burberry flagship I could feel the adrenaline rising, just as the first flakes of snow landed on my Alpha MA1-clad shoulders. It was that nice kind of excitement when you know you’re buying something totally worth it, as opposed to that underlying anxiety when deep down you know you’re being crazily frivolous. It was my ‘this coat will change my life’ moment. Finding the trench – classic black, narrow-shouldered and knee-length – trying it on (I knew it would fit, I’d already tried it on umpteen times) and handing over my card took mere moments and once that huge navy blue carrier bag was in my clutches, I couldn’t wait to get it back to the office. I walked out into a veritable blizzard.

The coat stayed in the bag, locked in the fashion cupboard overnight as I wasn’t prepared to cart it to a black tie dinner in the snow. As the blizzard continued to rage, we changed into our finery, me in a black silk 30s-style Stella McCartney for Chloe gown and Miu Miu barely-there heels. Topped off with my army-style padded jacket which I kept on in the freezing heritage building, a cashmere scarf tied round my feet as the awards were handed out.

And then to my utter shock I heard the nominations for one of the main awards and my name being called out. And then my Oscar moment as my name flashed up on a screen and I sat open-mouthed and unable to move. And then when I finally did get up to go on stage and collect my award, I had to swiftly lose the anorak and the woolly scarf. The prize was a luxury holiday which I used for a trip to New York (staying at The Plaza no less…a story in itself). And finally, when the night was all over, the whole of London covered in its own thick coat of snow, not a taxi to be found for love nor money, we staggered home delirious with cold and champagne-fuelled cheer.

The very next day, the Alpha jacket was given its marching orders and the Burberry unwrapped. Since then, the trench has come out for every smart occasion – meetings, interviews, lunches, parties and every type of weather. And each time I’ve worn it, it’s taken me back to that snowy, somewhat magical and most definitely memorable day.

What makes a ‘fashion designer’?

I wasn’t going to comment on Sarah Mower’s scathing critique of Henry Holland’s show but in light of the hullabaloo* surrounding the Lindsay Lohan/Ungaro debacle, I couldn’t resist.

Question: what is a designer? Is it someone who has an understanding of the entire design process, who cuts their own patterns and pins their own toiles? Or is it someone who has an eye, is good at styling and can tune into the zeitgeist despite not having a design background? What I’ve learnt from the last few weeks is that fashion is subjective and there is no cut and dried answer. I sat through the Kinder Aggugini show, non-plussed at what I was seeing – ‘derivative… Galliano…not quite there’ went my scrawls while post-show I listened to Hilary Alexander and Michael Howells praise him as the next big thing. Henry Holland’s show (below) was pretty much laid into by’s Sarah Mower which was weird as she also has a role at the BFC to promote emerging British talent and Holland is one of her fledging designers. Mower’s beef with Holland was that his shows have become media circuses that revolve around his celebrity playmates and his design skills are little more than jumbling up a few eighties references without much finesse. Her concluding line was, “perhaps it would be cleverer to quit the runway altogether and throw parties instead.” Ouch.

Can a ‘designer’ who didn’t study design or train as a designer rightfully call themselves a designer? Well, that brings me to Luella. She came from a similar journalism background to Holland (although hers was Vogue to his Sneak) and if truth be told, it is the styling and clever pop culture references that keep her brand at the forefront of British fashion. There’s really nothing new in terms of design innovation at Luella and yet she is considered a real designer against Holland’s marketer-posing-as-designer.

And so to Lohan. Where to start with this? The girl is an actress who has made music and then decided she wanted to have a go at fashion. And who could blame her? The celebritisation of fashion means that everyone has had a play at ‘fashion designer’ and from what I know, her leggings line has sold well. But to install her as creative director of Ungaro, a luxury house of forty-odd years standing. Really? I didn’t buy it from the beginning and I’m glad it failed. According to WWD, it was “quite simply, an embarrassment“. Yikes, don’t hold back WWD!

A designer has to take the job seriously, they have to live and breathe the role and if they don’t it shows oh-so-clearly. Where do things go from here? I am really hoping this will be the end of the celebrity-as-model, celebrity-as-designer, celebrity-as-author trend. It won’t happen overnight but this could be the catalyst.

*new fave word