Fashion bloggers make their mark
Imagine a job where you can stay in your pyjamas all day - maybe even stay in bed - but target a potential market of millions of people, with no boss to report to?
And how about jetsetting around the globe to attend fashion shows?
Last month Canadian blogger and Kiwi expat Casie Stewart was flown business class by Air New Zealand from Toronto for New Zealand Fashion Week (NZFW). As an international VIP, Stewart was put up in a five-star luxury hotel, showered with gifts, driven by a chauffeur, and shown around town by a personal minder.
During her stay the sassy blonde was spotted sitting front row at NZFW shows and schmusing with the media, designers and celebrities.
Her blog Casie Stewart: This is My Life (casiestewart.com) is popular with readers around the globe, attracting 25,000 unique hits a month.
Stewart posts regularly - at least once a day - with brief diary entries and photos showing readers what she's been up to and what she's wearing.
Bloggers are taking over as the new "it" celebrities at fashion shows around the globe. Many report straight from the catwalk, updating Twitter, Facebook or their website blogs via mobile phone or laptops.
For those who are addicted to instant news and want to be on the cutting edge of trends, blogs are as relevant as newspapers or television bulletins.
Bloggers say their writings are immediate, and reflect a certain world view.
"I live, I love life, I blog," says Stewart.
"My site is a lifestyle blog where I promote and share a certain lifestyle that is fun, happy and often backstage or VIP."
She began blogging in 2005 to keep memories, but her web presence began taking off in early 2009.
Stewart says her job is "spreading happiness".
On her blog are photographs of everything from Air New Zealand aeroplane food (Skippy cornflakes and fruit for breakfast) to glamorous photos and commentary from the catwalks of Huffer and Twentysevennames.
But being watched by the virtual world of net-surfers can be tough grind, she says.
"(It takes) hard work and dedication. In order to be well-known you really need to create your presence by being active in communities online and offline."
Stewart says she writes about everything she attends, including "parties, events and products I use".
She gets paid to blog about events and products, but she says she only blogs about things she actually likes to "keep with being authentic".
Although blogging is a hobby for many, Stewart has carved a career out of it, consulting on social media for agencies and brands who want to get online and connect with their audience.
New Zealand fashion blogger Isaac Hindin Miller, a snappy dresser who has built up a career as a fashion journalist through his blog Isaac Likes (isaaclikes.com), started blogging for two reasons.
"One, I felt like I had something to say and I wanted a platform to enable me to say it. Two, it was a reaction to what I saw as a lack of critical or honest fashion writing in New Zealand," says Hindin Miller. "Everywhere I looked, the newspapers, the other websites were regurgitated press releases. I thought somebody needed to tell the truth."
Known for his "uniform" of beige cotton pants, tailored blazers and sneakers, Hindin Miller attends fashion shows around the world, and has broken several major industry stories.
He believes his success comes from the original content of the blog.
Hindin Miller says he delivers stories other writers may hesitate on, which have landed him in hot water. In 2008 Hindin Miller was dismissed from AGM's Urbis magazine where he worked as a market editor, for blogging ACP's plans to close its website Runway Reporter.
Hindin Miller now earns his living from advertising, web syndication and freelance work. He collaborated with New Zealand menswear label Little Brother on their Spring/Summer 10/11 range, helping to design two pieces.
Being a blogger has its risks. "You don't have a large media organisation to back you up with legal issues or support - you're on an island," says Hindin Miller. "You've got to rely on your own courage, ethics, integrity and persistence. Sometimes you fail miserably, sometimes you win. For a blog like mine, the highest traffic generally comes when you break a story."
Kiwi fashion blogger Emma Gleason of Rag Pony (rag-pony.blogspot.com) also attributes her success to the quality of her writing. "I make an effort to have clarity and thought show in my work," says Gleason, a 22-year-old AUT fashion design student. "I also have a great respect for and interest in history and nostalgic popular culture, which I think gives my blog depth, substance and integrity. I also only write about things I love and that inspire me, which I think makes my blog a positive place and makes the quality of it high."
Gleason began blogging about two years ago, but she is already turning heads in the fashion industry for her sharp eye. Her blog gets around 1000 hits a day.
While she does not earn money from blogging yet, Gleason admits blogging does take up a lot of time. "I treat it as a job basically, slotting several hours every day to it," she says. "It's a lot more time, energy and emotionally consuming than people realise."
Gleason says the blog has also provided her with amazing opportunities and experiences as well as insight into the fashion industry.
She tries to keep a balance between writing about collections, editorial, inspiration and herself to keep the readers interested.
Her tips for a successful blog echo those of Stewart and Hindin Miller. "Hard work and drive, dedication, a point of difference, an appealing aesthetic, involvement in the blogging community. And above all, patience," says Gleason.
"Good things take time, you won't get thousands of followers in the first week. But keep going and keep your standards up."
Former Hamilton woman Megan Robinson runs online fashion magazine thread.co.nz - one of the first New Zealand fashion blogs.
Launched 10 years ago, Thread gets more than 5000 page views a day, and is a source for fashion, cultural and beauty news, with articles and giveaways.
Robinson, now based in Auckland with a young family, says her path to thread.co.nz was obvious. She used to run Victoria St fashion store Sun in the 1990s and her passion for fashion translates online. "I enjoy shopping and looking at interesting stuff on the web, so thought that others would enjoy it, too," says Robinson. "I talked to various people and had an overwhelming response. I had the site developed and it became a reality."
The mother of baby Lily, Robinson says it is great to be able to work from home on the website. But she says it's also a disadvantage to have to upload articles at all hours, day and night. She has contributors around New Zealand covering events, and gets people emailing her most weeks about writing for Thread.
To improve your online presence, Robinson recommends getting other sites linking to your site and paying attention to the keywords used in the text.
She has been using social media heavily in the past year to promote her website.
"Facebook and Twitter have been invaluable in developing online community and interaction with our readers, as well as driving traffic to the website."
Tips for a successful blog
- Update your blog regularly - be consistent
- Focus on writing well - with original content
- Be passionate about what you're writing - it will shine through and make readers want to come back for more
- Make the layout and graphics appealing - good visuals and photos will hook in readers
- Be patient - it takes time to build an online profile
- Link your website to others in similar field or genre
- Use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to promote your website
- Make friends with other bloggers - networking is key
Some fashion blogs and sites to check out