Forget what’s happening on the runway; these days, it’s the show outside the show that’s far more important. Tamsin Blanchard on the rise and rise of the Instagram-friendly fashion blogger
Once upon a time, the fashion world was small and elite and ever so refined. At the Paris shows oh so grand fashion editors, all dressed in black, would sit in small salons, sketching away in their notebooks.
How quaint it all seems now. These days you can pretty much forget what’s on the catwalk – the pictures are all zapped to your smartphone within minutes of leaving the show anyway. What’s really important is what’s happening off the catwalk – on the front row and outside the venue.
Forget the designers. Forget the models, even. The real stars of fashion week are Eva, Susie, Gala and Hedvig. Wherever they go, so too do their thousands of social-media followers. If a designer invites Giovanna Battaglia, an Italian fashion editor who always looks as if she is on the way to the most fabulous party in town (whatever the time of day) to their show, they are effectively extending the invitation to her 412,000 Instagram followers.
These fashion-pack leaders are the walking, talking, living embodiment of what is now, current, the thing you should be wearing. These women (and some of them, refreshingly, are over the age of 40) don’t just wear fashion, they are fashion. Many of them make a very good living by blogging about their fabulous lives, recording what they are wearing, where they are going, and what’s on their shopping lists. Some of them even report on the shows. A few of them have old-school jobs working for magazines. And some of them just are.
Take Eva Chen, 35. Her influence is so huge on Instagram that, after a stint as editor of Lucky magazine, she was hired by Instagram as head of fashion partnerships.
It is hard work being on fashion’s front line. The planning that goes into those wardrobes is on a military scale. A typical day at the shows might involve several changes of dress (hence the absolute necessity of having a car with a driver). It is important to show support for your favourite designers (especially if you want them to lend/give you clothes to be photographed in next season). Juggling all those outfits for exactly the right moment can be a bit like having too many boyfriends on the go at once. Like I said, it’s hard work.
The Brits are cool but more laidback than their Italian or American counterparts. The look? A slightly messy, pick-and-mix style.
Consultant and co-founder of the ultra cool brand Être Cécile, Yasmin Sewell has 84,000-plus fans on Instagram, who are as interested in what catches her eye as what she is wearing. She might mix a straw hat with a chintzy dress and sharp jacket with a belt over the top. Needless to say, the cameras love her.
Then there’s Susie Lau, whose blog Style Bubble is one of the few that is taken seriously for its content (rather than simply what she is wearing). Lau has an eclectic style. The only constant is her razor-sharp black fringe.
And then there’s Caroline Issa of Tank magazine. She is about as polished and groomed as the Brits go. She is at home wherever she goes. (Her Chinese mother and Lebanese-Iranian father gave her a look that crosses geographical boundaries.) A regular on the best-dressed lists, she launched a fashion line with American retailer Nordstrom.
For the Americans, it’s all about a bare leg and a perfect shoe (they always talk about their clothes in the singular). Anna Wintour has been known to wear a bare leg and a Manolo sandal in conditions that would have most of us dressed in Ugg boots and fleeces. But to get on in fashion it is imperative that you dress like a page from your glossy at all times.
The Instagirls are no longer confined to London, Paris, Milan and New York. Gala González is Spain’s premier and lone fashion blogger star. At the end of August, she was busy picking her favourite outfits with her new styling app from designer website MyTheresa. For the first day at New York Fashion Week, last month, she wore a black and white body-hugging leather outfit with holes cut out of it by Emanuel Ungaro, with a pleated peplum on top. I know what she was wearing because you simply have to tap her Instagram picture to get the credits. It won’t be long before you can buy the look direct – two taps and kerching!
Oh yes, they have a lot of power these women. They can sell a brand’s product like no one else. And that is why the photographers’ scrum is no longer at the end of the catwalk. In Paris, wherever there is a show there is an army of photographers, papping exuberantly dressed women in the street. These girls dress up for the show, but in reality they are the show: life is a photo opp.
Even in Paris, crowds stare in disbelief at the gangs of photographers crowding around a girl posing in impossible heels, wearing something that is more suited to a red carpet than a cobbled street.
The show outside the shows is getting bigger and more international. Moving up the ranks this season are Norwegians Hedvig Opshaug (68,000 followers) and Irina Lakicevic (29,200). London-based Opshaug has a blog, The Northern Light, where she might wear a Gucci dress and Chloé bag, brought to you in collaboration with Net-a-Porter. She is in competition with Swedish blogger Elin Kling (219,000 followers and rising).
Lakicevic describes herself as a digital journalist/art director/full-time dentist. She has messy hair, a blog called A Portable Package and the photographers love her.
And of course, there are the Russians, the ones who lead the most gilded lives of all. Some are the daughters and girlfriends of oligarchs. Many of them have their own fashion lines. The three to watch are stylist Natasha Goldenberg (170,000 Instagram followers), Miroslava Duma (1.2 million), fashion editor at Russian Vogue, and Elena Perminova (1 million), who has a fabulous lifestyle. Goldenberg, who designs a natty collection of haute turbans, didn’t even let her pregnancy get in the way of her rococo style, while Miroslava Duma likes to wear designs by her friend, the equally glamorous designer Vika Gazinskaya. The Russians have a slightly folky aesthetic – always offset with a distinct air of serious money.
Between them, these bloggers, vloggers and international fashionistas have more clout and authenticity about the way they communicate to their millions of followers than the mainstream media. And you can pinpoint the general mood of fashion in a matter of minutes by simply running through their Instagram feeds. No wonder the designers want them to wear their clothes; they have undoubtedly stolen the limelight. Perhaps next season – as Riccardo Tisci did with his show for Givenchy in New York last month, in fact – the designers should think about moving the catwalks outside. That way, everyone would be happy.