Just in time for the season of giving, a flurry of articles have questioned the integrity of fashion blogs when it comes to freebies and gifts.
I have a few words – and a fun story – to share on the subject.
I think back on that day often, though the incident happened years go. At the time, I was reporting on fashion and style for the local affiliate of a major news corporation. The assignment? An article about a luxury cosmetic company’s newest launch.
On the day in question, I conducted a typical junket-style interview at NorthPark Center with a well-known makeup artist the company (which shall remain nameless) had flown in for this promotional tour. When I was finished, I gathered my notebook, and as I headed for the door, a young PR representative placed in my free hand a designer handbag sagging with the weight of its contents.
I demurred, but the girl insisted, and I wanted to be polite. This was an important relationship, and I was new in the game. I took the fancy bag, and when I was a reasonable distance away from the entrance to the store, I dared a peek inside.
Remember Marsellus Wallace’s briefcase in Pulp Fiction? It was kind of like that.
The tote practically glowed with at least a thousand dollars in swag. I spied full-sized premium fragrances, jeweled compacts, jars of skin cream, and more makeup than I could use in a lifetime.
Nobody needed to tell me that such a gift was inappropriate. Truth be told, I felt dirty. A detour to the Genesis Women’s Shelter donation center on my way home was the solution.
. . .
As I said, I think about that day often, and it came to mind recently when an article in WWD questioned the integrity of fashion bloggers – especially with regard to freebies and partnerships with brands.
Author Rachel Strugatz posed the question, “Bloggers sitting front row [at fashion shows] have become commonplace—as have partnerships with leading brands and fashion houses that often blur the nature of what they do: Reportage and criticism or marketing and promotion?”
The article went on to present brief sketches of prominent national fashion bloggers such as Bryan Boy and Susie Lau. Their blogs’ traffic and means of monetization were listed. The latter ranged from styling videos for international retailers to designing disposable razors.
It wrapped, surely not coincidentally, with an excerpt from Rumi Neely’s fashiontoast, in which the young blogger waxes rhapsodic about a Rag & Bone shearling vest that was sent to her for free.
Are your hackles up yet? Or are you yawning at this (hardly) breaking news?
The thing is, designer gifts to fashion bloggers aren’t anything new, and I think that we all know that the pretty young things rocking Prada’s newest pumps in their online photo diaries didn’t necessarily purchase those shoes.
The current issue is whether or not this discredits all web-based fashion reporting as mere schilling for swag? I say no, and here’s why:
First, there is a big difference between a website and a blog. While I am often called a “blogger”, the fact is, I am not. I am a reporter, as are all the contributors to this site.
Don’t get me wrong – I love blogs, and I read them often. However, a blog is usually characterized by a single author and a casual, personal tone. DFW Style Daily, on the other hand, is a multi-contributor, multi-media information source covering fashion and style in the Metroplex.
Second, articles like the aforementioned piece in WWD, and subsequent commentaries on Jezebel.com and Fashionista.com, describe blogger practices, such as submitting copy for PR approval, which frankly make my skin crawl. A reporter would never consider such a thing.
Third, and most important, we run DFW Style Daily as a business. As with magazines and newspapers, we rely on advertisers to generate revenue. And, as with such publications, we maintain separation between the editorial and publishing arms of our staff. In other words, my job as editor is as separate as possible from our business development director’s job to sell advertising. Further, we do not earn commission on product sales to our readers, nor do we edit those products we feature based on commission-based monetization programs.
Finally, know that when an advertising or advertorial partnership with a designer or retailer is made, I evaluate the quality of the product and its appeal to our readers. To be sure, these partnerships are never based on gifts.
. . .
In conclusion, I agree with Jenna Sauers, who wrote in her article for Jezebel, “…fashion as a whole pretty much runs on gifts, relationships, and favor-trading, and the media that cover it are, with very rare exception, more or less party to the system.”
I might expand on this statement and say that all good business relationships are built on mutual respect, an open exchange of contacts and connections, and many lunches picked up by a single colleague for the entire table.
I still receive many gifts, though few approach the level of that lavish cosmetic treasure bag. Most head right back out my front door in one way or another. Some of the quirkier items (crackle nail polish, disco-style leggings) I save for gag gifts. A select few are kept, like a treasured dress from a local independent designer. None, however, influence my work in one way or another.
As always, hit me up with any questions or comments at the address below.
My Best to You,
Editor, DFW Style Daily
(Photo credit: Sylvia Elzafon for DFW Style Daily. Dress by Varela + Brooks, necklace by Amanda Sterett – neither were gifts)