More Than Just Pretty Dresses – Behind the Glamor of Fashion Bloggers

When it comes to the perks of being a fashion blogger, enviable probably doesn’t even begin to describe how people would feel about their lifestyle. Having endless supply of designer items, jet-setting from tropical resort to another country manor, sitting front-row at fashion week runway shows with first-tier celebrities… these are just a few things that most of us can only dream of doing. Don’t forget that many of them get paid to do these things. Fashion bloggers typically make money through sponsored content, affiliated link programs, paid appearances on TV shows and interviews ( How Fashion Bloggers Make Money).  Top fashion bloggers in the world make over a million dollars per year by also starring in campaigns, fashion commercials and having their own product lines.
The most successful fashion blogger of all times is probably Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad. Born in 1987, the 28 year-old Italian fashion blogger & director for her own footwear line has over 4.7million followers on her Instagram page and over 1 million likes on her Facebook page. She is also the first fashion blogger to appear on the cover of Vogue. She ran her blog business so successfully, that Harvard Business Review published a business case study on her. ( The case is available for purchase at $14 here ) .
IMG_4062
(Chiara Ferragni on Instagram )

As glamorous as this may sound so far, the road to fame is not always as straight-forward as the runway in Bryant Park. In today’s overly competitive and saturated market,  it takes at least the following things for one to become a fashion blogger of impact:

Good Taste and Unique Point of View

The theme of a fashion blog or the personal style of a fashion blogger can largely determine its success. Whether it’s on-point fashion commentary,  useful product reviews, or inspirational fashion/lifestyle pictures, a successful fashion blog / blogger must have something unique to offer.

Time

Being a successful fashion blogger is a full time job. For many, this job may be more demanding than a regular full-time job in the office. The building and maintaining of the site can be a huge time drain – especially if you want to keep up an exciting presence. From spending hours on makeup and styling the look, striking the same post over and over again at different settings to picking and editing the perfect photo, a lot of work goes into that one final shot you all double-tapped on. During busy fashion seasons, famous fashion bloggers travel across continents to make appearances at different fashion events, often sleep deprived, jet lagged and starved. When the party is over, their day is barely starting – they need to edit and post the highlights of the day before their postings lose its timely appeal.
Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 00.27.28
    (Jean Wang, the author of Extra Petite, quitted her job at Deloitte to be a full-time blogger)

Large Upfront Investment

A lot of upfront investment is needed before a blog / social media account turns into a self-sustaining business. Typically for a fashion blogger, luxury clothing items and travel costs are the two largest, continuous sources of expenditure. This is also the catch-22 that stopped most bloggers from moving forward. Fashion blogger Bryan Yambao ( known as Bryanboy) mentioned in one interview that in his early days, he had to sleep on the floor of his friends’ apartments in Milan and Paris because he couldn’t afford the outrageous hotel rates during fashion seasons . Chiara Ferragni’s ex-boyfriend and business partner also confessed that they did pay everything out of their own pockets early on. However, they treated all their spendings as an investment with the confidence that one day they would recoup the cost. Many say that fashion blogging is “a rich girls’ game” to begin with, and this is mostly likely accurate for most players.

A dedicated team ( or at least a dedicated photographer) 

Behind each successful fashion blogger is a team of marketing and PR talents to help with the marketing strategy and day-to-day operation logistics. At minimum, even for someone starting from scratch, an excellent photographer is a must. For example,  Nicole Warne and Chiara Ferragni both started with their photographer boyfriend, and Zanita Whittington is a fashion photographer herself. Now as three of the most influential fashion bloggers in the world, all three girls have their own team(s) to help take care of their social media websites, clothing lines and their busy jet-setter schedules.
IMG_4065
(Zanita’s team at work)

Endurance and Flexibility to Adapt

As mentioned above, building a successful blog requires consistent investment of money, time and effort. It takes a long time for most people to reach that differentiation threshold in terms of quality of quantity of postings. Many blogs also face a plateau in KPI growth before it reaches their expected level, and this is when most people give up. Successful bloggers do not simply give up – they try to understand what works and what doesn’t, and adjust their strategy and content accordingly. When Chiara Ferragni first started blogging as a law student, she covered all aspects of lifestyle in her blog. It was only until she realized that people are far more interested in her collection of her own everyday looks that she decided to focus on being the “model” of fashion rather than a content curator.

The Risks and the Future

Even if you have all the determination, the unique content, the money and resources, there are still risks for being a fashion blogger. At late 2015, fashion bloggers as a group are losing the edge they once had. Fashion bloggers first came to the scene as a disruptive media force that changed the ways people consume fashion – they took the exclusive right of speech from industry “insiders” on traditional media and made it more democratic and interpretive. I still remember the hype back in 2008-2009 when first generation bloggers such as Bryanboy started live blogging fashion shows. However, as technology developed and people quickly adapt to the rhythm of new media, even the most old school brands and editors are becoming approachable on their social media accounts now. Everybody is tweeting, sharing and voicing their own opinions, and it’s getting harder and harder for new voices to appear.

For the people who are currently active in the fashion blogging scene, they also face the risk of the “burnout”. Despite the large number of self-claimed fashion bloggers, it’s only the few top players that are taking the larger slices of the pie. Referred to as the “fashion blogger brat pack”, the few familiar faces have been taking turns to endorse major luxury fashion brands. For some bloggers, every single post on their social media accounts is a sponsored post. I couldn’t help but wonder: how long does it still take for it to reach the tipping point where readers no longer know the difference and brands realize that the diluted message is not worth the effort? How would current fashion bloggers build a sustainable business model that generates continuous media presence , strong appeal to the audience and profit for themselves? Only time will tell.

IMG_4060 IMG_4059 IMG_4061

(Nicole Warne, aka, Gary Pepper Girl, posting sponsored content for Miu Miu, Chanel and Lancome on her Instagram page)

4 comments

  1. I think you make some great points about the not-so-glamorous life of fashion bloggers. A lot of people think online fame will happen overnight when it actually takes years to build a following and find your voice. One of my favorite fashion bloggers, DulceCandy, started her blog in 2008 while she was a mechanic in the army in order to add femininity to her life. Fast forward to 2015 and she’s traveling all over the world for events, has published a book, and started her own online fast-fashion store. You’re right – it’s all about timing and tweaking your strategy in order to figure out what works.

    People are so used to everything happening quickly that they don’t put the time and dedication in to see a project through… and may be giving up right before they hit their big break.

    P.S. I love Jean Wang. Her fashion/lifestyle posts are great and she does a nice job engaging with followers on social media. I just wish I could shop with her :-)

  2. I really enjoyed reading your post. As a PR intern the past couple of summers, I had experience with agencies who worked with many different fashion bloggers as a form of publicity. Although many (including myself) initially see this as a very glamorous job/lifestyle, I soon became aware that it was much more stressful that I could have ever imagined. You make a lot of good points, especially with time commitment. Many of the bloggers not only have to take the time to take pictures, write stories, work with companies to promote their products, etc., but they then have to transfer all of this work onto their social pages as well. They must make sure that their Facebooks, Twitters, Instagrams, and Pinterest accounts are all up to date and cohesive with each other for maximum exposure. We also then worked with many of these fashion bloggers for “twitter parties.” For those of you who don’t know, these are basically conversations via twitter that allow people to all use a certain hashtag to talk about a particular topic. This requires the “hodst” (blogger) to literally tweet out every 15-30 sec. for an extended period of time (typically an hour or 2) AS WELL AS responding to engaged users. Overall, it is a lot more work than people expect. Nice job!

  3. Hello Jennie, thank you for covering this interesting topic on fashion bloggers! Fashion blogging is a rich girl’s game, so it’s not surprising to me how many difficulties and challenges those initiative bloggers would suffer at the beginning of their career.
    As a young lady interested in fashion, I’m also a follower of several fashion bloggers. The market has been relatively mature and saturated, fierce competition from both peers and traditional ones makes a larger number of bloggers get harder to set apart themselves from others. On the other hand, customers are becoming more knowledgeable and demanding. As a customer, I’m not satisfied by only scanning beautiful pictures or reading instructive tips – I want more engagement and interaction between those bloggers and me. @soniamfurtado mentioned her favorite fashion blogger, Jean Wang, does a goo job on engaging with followers on social media. That’s exactly what I think is important for bloggers to differentiate themselves from others at this time, especially when more and more fashion bloggers tend to commercialize their contents with a variety of advertisements involved.
    Sponsorship is a necessity for expanding business for sure, but it’s always tricky to keep the balance. Customers may find it annoying to read a fashion post with an advertisement in the end. But there’re always some clever bloggers seamlessly and naturally mix advertisements into the context and evoke followers’ spontaneous curiosity to ask for more product information. Moreover, some bloggers reward followers based on the time of their comments, like the first ten commenters, or send sponsored products as gifts by raffling.

  4. Really nice post. I’ve followed the fashion bloggers through the years, mainly through fabulous posts/ presentations like these. I think its a fascinating business, and it’s been interesting to see it evolve over the years. Thanks for the update!

%d bloggers like this: