She rounds the corner of Eighth Avenue and 33rd Street, and stops. In a split second, an almost imperceptible transformation occurs. Her facial expression changes. Her jaw tightens. Her gaze sharpens. She takes a quick, deep breath, and when she starts walking again it’s with a new stride, like someone who’s just stepped out on stage.
As she approaches the mass of people crowded in front of thick velvet ropes further down the street, around thirty camera-lenses turn simultaneously on Elin Kling, like moths to a lamp in the dark.
Flashes clatter. Photographers crowd.
“Elin”, shouts someone. She switches her stiff photo-face into a smile, puts her hands on her hips, and offers one last pose before disappearing through the door, to the fashion show that’s about to begin.
“Who was that?” asks a photographer in the crowd.
“Elin Kling, a Swedish blogger with her own magazine”, answers a colleague before catching sight of Russian It girl Miroslava Duma in military uniform and neon accessories, and scurrying off.
None of the photographers outside the show seem to be taking notice of Suzy Menkes, Herald Tribune’slegendary fashion writer who, with her signature hairstyle – a rolled up fringe, reminiscent of a rockabilly haircut – is waiting for the chaos at the entrance to end.
Just when the show’s about to start, Carine Roitfeld slips past. French Vogue’s former editor-in-chief has just launched her own magazine, CR Fashion Book. The photographers jostle.
“Carine! Carine!” Shout the photographers, but she ignores them.
“I LOVE your skirt!”, screams someone who, in a last, desperate attempt, lands on the startling, light-blue fringe-skirt that the Joan of Arc of the fashion world has chosen to honour the event with. She makes a dramatic red-carpet turn.
“It’s Balenciaga!”, She shouts over her shoulder, before disappearing into the show.
It’s New York Fashion Week, and the atmosphere is hysterical. Street style photographers have turned into paparazzi, and bloggers and fashion editors are now the city’s most sought celebrities. The pressure for invitations to shows has never been greater, but it’s on the street that it’s all happening.
When the fashion elite have seated themselves, and the doors are closed, the camera lenses are directed at each other. The photographers, bloggers, poseurs, and aspirants who remain outside begin to snap each other. ”Where’s your outfit from?” ”Can I get a picture of your shoes?”
Australian ex-model Candice Lake stands in the middle of the street, and happily poses in a floral dress in front of a gang of Asian street style photographers, conscious that in just a few hours it will have a big spin-off effect on her own blog.
The street has turned into a market, which doesn’t just give birth to new stars, but also has its own financial systems.
The pictures taken here will soon be whirling around all the major international magazines’ websites, and on blogs all round the world. For entrepreneurs like Elin Kling, exposure is purely about business.
“Everything is super strategic. I think about what to wear to get them to shoot me. I think about how I move. I know what they want”, she says.
The photographers can sell their best pictures for between 200 and 1,000 dollars each to the biggest magazines, according to Imran Amed at The Business of Fashion, the fashion world’s online trade magazine. Some photographers from the street become stars themselves: like Tommy Ton, the photographer behind photoblog Jak & Jil. Now he sits in the front row and shoots big campaigns.
Yvan Rodic, best known under his blogging name Facehunter, is one of the pioneers of the blogging, street style photographers, and today receives a million visitors each month to his blog and has nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram. For almost seven years, he’s been constantly touring the world’s fashion weeks. Now he stands, leaning against a stone wall a short distance from the chaos, and looks bored, with his camera slung over his shoulder.
“The street style scene has lost its freshness. In the last three or four years, street style has become fashion-week style. There’s not so much genuine style anymore, it’s more about fashion editors and writers going to a show in outfits they received from the designer who’s putting on the show. And you see magazines all over the world that publish pictures they call street style, even though they’re just styled girls who go to the shows”, drawls Yvan Rodic in a French-English accent.
Street style, fashion photography from the street, has been around since the early 1900s. The three Seeberger brothers – Jules, Louis, and Henri – didn’t have access to the fashion world’s fancy salons, so instead began to capture French society at the race-track and on the streets of Paris, and the photographs were then bought by the big fashion magazines.
But the man most often cited as the father of modern street style photography is Bill Cunningham, the New York Times photographer, who has dedicated his life since the ’60s to cycling round and documenting New York residents’ style on the street.
But the ’00s was the decade when street style photography exploded in the new web-based media industry. What’s happening on the street has become, in some ways, more important than what’s showing on the catwalk. Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, where many of the shows are held during Paris Fashion Week, has been nicknamed “the bloggers walk” in the industry.
“Sure, there’s been a kind of democratization; it’s easier to have influence and gain access to the shows now than it was before the digitization of fashion. But at the same time, blogging has become such a big deal that it’s created its own icons, who stand above the other bloggers and have become stars, presenters, and advertising models”, says Yvan Rodic.
In front of the crossing outside the next show, stands the fashion world’s beloved street style photographer Scott Schuman, ‘The Sartorialist’, ready with his camera. He’s worked in the fashion world since the 1990s.
“It’s much more fun now. It’s nice that people feel they can be a part of this world, like a football match everyone can go to. Previously the shows themselves were the thing, and everyone saw what just a select few fashion editors chose to talk about. Now you can sit at home in Indiana and see the shows, and what’s happening outside them, in real time. You can get it all, see it all, take part in it all – wherever you are”, he says.
The pictures taken on the streets are, together, more widely spread through the world than most of the catwalk pictures and fashion reporting. The fashion companies have made sure this gets utilised.
There are no “real” street style pictures anymore, claimed brand specialist Tom Julian in a controversial article for The New York Times during fashion week. The pictures have simply become pillars of the advertising industry, he said, and provoked debate about the transparency problems of bloggers. Under US law, bloggers must say which products they’ve received as gifts or been loaned. But there aren’t many who do so.
In New York there are agencies that specialize in negotiating between fashion businesses and sponsored trendsetters.
“Few people realize that certain bloggers . . . are modelling for a fee, . . . But even those who are aware don’t always understand the degree to which we orchestrate these placements”, revealed PR agent Daniel Saynt in The New York Times article. The compensation a popular fashion personality can get for being seen in an outfit ranges from (the equivalent of) between 10,000 and 50,000 Swedish krona. During fashion week, Saynt has employees on location outside the shows to watch that the bloggers follow their agreements, and are wearing the right products at the right time in the right context. But mostly, the pictures are arranged in advance.
“It often takes hours just to find the perfect street corner”, he said. “We use stylists, we do color correction and Photoshopping, we scout locations every day.”
Product placements with popular style-icons gives more than traditional advertising, because they have the readers’ trust and directly reach out to the intended target-group. In addition, companies can measure its success directly – through social media.
Elin Kling goes home to the apartment she’s renting in Greenwich for a quick change, and to get ready for the next show. The doorman, Ari, greets Miss Kling cheerfully, stopping her as she rushes in, to hand over a packet that’s just arrived. There are 479 apartments in the building; Mr. Ari knows the names of everyone who lives here. But no one gets so many packages as Miss Kling.
The story of Elin Kling’s journey from the countryside outside Mariestad to the fashion world in New York takes an inevitable and decisive detour through Stureplan in Stockholm. This mythical stronghold of decadence was the stage for the ’00s’ glittering glamour-culture with brats, hipsters, fashion bloggers, and princesses in the cast. Stureplan became a place that was loathed, that attracted, and that provoked all over the country – even by those who’d never been there.
Stureplan’s unobtainable image was managed chiefly by nightlife website Stureplan.se. The gatekeeper was Alex Schulman, then editor-in-chief.
“Our hope is that people out in the country will think of a visit to Stureplan as like a visit to the moon”, he explained to culture journalist Björn af Kleen. Elin Kling became one of this culture’s most successful products.
It was here at Sturecompagniet, in Stureplan’s pulsing vein, that Elin Kling was caught up as a club hostess and then as a fashion blogger at Stureplan.se. The then 23-year-old girl from Mariestad had a short modelling career behind her, and an even shorter career as an administrator for the subsequently bankrupt finance-company Acme. Her fashion blog took her on to assignments for the magazine Solo,and Expressen Fredag where her sister was editor, and with a serious increase in salary, the blog soon moved to Kanal 5. In the digital democracy, the blog generation grew quickly and found profitability in what they did. And it was the young women who were most successful. In Stockholm, an informal network of female fashion-bloggers grew. They linked to each other on their blogs and, in doing so, put together an even larger readership.
“One worked for Dagens Nyheter, another at Metro, a third at Aftonbladet, and I was at Expressen”, remembers Elin Kling.
“Some worked in television as well, but all of them worked in the media. We became friends because we worked in the same industry, not because we blogged. But at the time, you wrote a lot more about your daily life. If we ate lunch, we later linked to each other”, she goes on.
Bloggers were used to technology, unafraid, and from a generation that didn’t wait to be discovered. And in the fashion world, which has been an authoritarian, closed world with clear hierarchies, the fashion bloggers caused anarchy.
“The whole meritocracy was taken out of the running. Earlier, you’d have had to earn your place”, says author and fashion journalist Salka Hallström Bornold.
“As an international stylist, it’s been the case that you’ve had to start as the eighth assistant, going on to become the seventh, then the sixth: scrambling like a dog to earn your place. And it’s not just about sitting in the front row, but about getting yourself a position at all. And it’s extremely irritating for these people, of course, that others turn up who are still wet behind the ears, and just write a lot of shit, and don’t know anything. Fashion builds on history and knowledge.”
Above a little cafe in the middle of Soho, sits Elin Kling’s office. Inside the glass doors, along a long corridor, sit young entrepreneurs, building companies in spaces the size of wardrobes.
Furthest along sit Elin and her assistant Emilia, each with their laptop in front of a brick wall. From here, and actually from around the world, she manages her projects. She blogs, she makes collaborative-collections for multinational fashion companies, and she has her own fashion magazine in Sweden, Styleby – named after her blog Style by Kling – together with editor in chief Jonna Bergh. So what’s with Elin Kling?
“Elin Kling became the biggest because she was one of the first who actually made a qualitative fashion blog. Even more importantly, she has a feeling for style that appeals to loads of women, and she is a super-lovely personality, which I thought she managed to convey in her blog from the beginning. She is a the modern age’s media personality – untraditional, sharp, a world citizen, accustomed to thinking in new ways, and working in new ways”, says Jonna Bergh, who contacted Elin Kling when she was commissioned by Bonnier Tidskrifter to think up a new magazine title for young women. During the first year, Elin was on the cover of every issue.
“It was just looking around and seeing what worked – it was Laila Bagge’s perfume, Pernilla Wahlgren’s hair dye, Per Morberg’s grills, Amelia’s magazine M . . . Personal brands interest people, and I wanted to see if it was possible to do it in a fashion magazine form.”
Many people have taken an interest in Elin Kling’s personal brand. She’s just launched her own collection for American clothing giant Guess, and was recently the face of e-commerce site Net-a-Porter’s advertising. But the latter was an exception. Elin Kling’s greatest horror is making an appearance as just a bought face.
“What really burns me up is when people think I don’t work, that I’m just some kind of doll. When my Guess Collection became official, a daily newspaper made fun of the fact that I was just the face that was bought in so I’d blog about it. But I’ve worked really hard for six months on this and been involved with every seam”, says an indignant Elin Kling.
She feels that she’s always been an underdog in the fashion world and has had to work hard to be taken seriously.
“It’s all I know. I’ve had to prove myself for five years now”, she says, and leans back in her office chair.
Elin Kling felt that a lot of the opposition, especially from the fashion world, changed after her H&M collection.
“Above all, internationally. H&M has the kind of position that people think: if they want to work with me, then it must be alright. It was as if people understood that I know things too”, she says.
It was last year that Elin Kling became the first blogger to collaborate with the clothing giant, in a similar way to how the large fashion houses did in the past. But just a year before she won the fashion world’s respect, she was the stylist on Idol, and became a part of popular culture. Shortly afterwards, she was asked to take part in Let’s Dance.
“At first I felt like, ‘Oh no, what do they have to ask me for!’ It was a lot of fun, but how was I ever going to get respect in the fashion world if I did something like that? But then I thought ‘So what?’, and said yes”, she says.
At 29 years-old, Elin Kling has managed to get a lot done. Stureplan is still central to her story. Because it was there that Elin met Christian Remröd and built up the small blog empire that was soon to attract American media-giant Condé Nast’s attention.
New York’s fashion week enters its final, trembling days. Outside the Lincoln Center, between Columbus Avenue and Amsterdam Avenue, construction workers lean against scaffolding in the late summer sun, with rolled shirt-sleeves and red, yellow and green helmets. In silence, they study the safari taking place before their eyes.
Long-legged Asian girls in glittering shoes are photographed by a long-haired photographer in neon-coloured clothes. A woman, in a red hat and leopard skin trousers, stops to allow the fashion editor of Vogue Japan, Anna Dello Russo, to pass. Like an exotic bird, she glides by on high heels in bright yellow dress, sparkling sunglasses, and arms full of enormous, brightly coloured jewellery. The eccentric accessories are her signature, which have meant that she’s just got to design her own accessory collection for Swedish H&M. She’s one of the stars that have grown big from inside the fashion world by building her profile outside the magazine she works for.
Together with international fashion celebrities like Harper’s Bazaar editor Derek Blasberg, Swedish Elin Kling, and Filipino star blogger Bryanboy, she blogs on Nowmanifest, Elin Kling and Christian Remröd’s blog portal which last spring was purchased by Condé Nast.
In the US, there was nothing resembling the system that had been established in Sweden, with the group portals for fashion bloggers. When Nowmanifest with its international bloggers was launched in 2011 in the US, the site overtook Vogue in three months. A year later it was bought up by Condé Nast. Then it had 1.2 million visitors per month; now the figure is up to 1.8 million. By comparison, Swedish Rodeo.net, with several popular blogs, has according to the KIA-index about 120,000 unique visitors a week.
Eight floors up in one of magazine giant Condé Nast’s newspaper buildings in midtown, Christian Remröd sits at his desk behind a big porcelain leopard. The walls are covered with pictures of new projects, and on a bench lie two magazines: Style.com‘s first paper magazine, and technology magazine Wired, two of the publisher’s many titles which also include Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, and W.
When this spring Remröd, together with Elin Kling and the other shareholders, sold Nowmanifest to Fairchild, the section of Condé Nast that includes Women’s Wear Daily and Style.com, he was employed as “general manager and creative business development director”. A title he can’t manage to say himself, but that involves developing Fairchild digitally.
Christian Remröd looks down on the hectic street traffic from his window in his workroom, and observes that some trees would be nice. Right now he’s staying in the West Village, but would like to move somewhere closer to nature; he saw enough concrete during his youth in Rinkeby outside Stockholm. It’s the first time he’s been employed. From the time he began to buy and sell socks in the stairwell as a twelve-year-old, he’s had his own business.
“My favourite magazine was the Yellow Pages when I was little; I could buy and sell stuff there. I grew up with a single-mother and was always taught to economize”, he says.
After the street selling, his businesses have included everything from running a restaurant and a jewellers, to selling hip hop clothes and being a DJ. He was recruited to Icon Medialab, one of the largest internet consulting firms during the dot-com bubble, but soon stopped in order to begin as sales chief for social media site Playahead, where he stayed for eight years till it was bought up by MTG.
When Christian Remröd met Elin Kling, he was MD of Stureplan.se and Elin blogged for the same site. The man-of-parts from the suburbs saw something of interest in the Mariestad girl who drew readers to the site by posting pictures of herself in self-styled JC outfits while others were blogging about designer handbags.
Over lunch at Riche, the idea was born to create tools so blogging girls could be more visible online.
“I thought it was interesting to find a way to give these girls a collective voice, not only for their readers, but for the entire online economy. Partly because they were jeered at editorially for what they did, but also because they were economically exploited. We created a system that was both profitable for bloggers and for us, and gave the bloggers greater security”, says Christian.
The business concept was to secure advertising sales for the bloggers, while taking part of the revenue. It started with the site Minoutfit, which collected the day’s outfit pictures and was open to all bloggers. Soon after, it started Freshnet where a number of “specially selected, talented, and reliable” bloggers were chosen and grouped under the same portal. And with shopping site Seconds, which is a trading site for clothing where each vendor has their own little shop, the circle was closed. Within it, they had created their own little ecosystem under the company Fashion Networks Europe. “Show the clothes on Minoutfit, sell them on Seconds, and write about them on Freshnet”.
“Suddenly the bloggers were taken very seriously by editors, because they were acting collectively”, laughs Christian;
“In retrospect, it sounds like we started a union for bloggers!”
The business model had proved to be successful. Fashion Networks Europe, according Christian Remröd, is expected to turn over 20 million Swedish krona this year.
“We were noticed internationally because of how we’d managed to raise the perception of local bloggers in Sweden. Many people came to us and asked how we could help them. Then we began to think about starting something internationally”, says Christian.
Elin Kling remembers the fateful evening at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm. She’d invited Bryan Grey Yambao, better known by his blogging name Bryanboy, to a meeting. He’d been blogging for seven years, had had a bag named after him by Marc Jacobs, and is considered one of the world’s most influential bloggers. Now he was in town during Stockholm’s Fashion Week.
Elin and Christian took Bryanboy to the Cadier bar at the Grand Hotel and ordered champagne. They sat in the sofas and started talking about their idea. Bryanboy sat quietly, listening. They refilled the champagne. It felt a bit sycophantic”, says Elin.
“But suddenly he just said, ‘Guys, relax! I’m in’”.
Erik Torstensson and Jens Grede, who’d started the London-based advertising agency Saturday, with customers like H&M and Zara in its portfolio, came in as a partner in the new company Fashion Networks International. They contributed fashion and business contacts in the US, and yet another Swedish IT model was ready for export.
At the same time as Nowmanifest was being launched internationally, the first issue of Elin Kling’s and Jonna Bergh’s fashion magazine Styleby was coming out. And she was also to be the first blogger to release a collection for H&M. Christian moved to New York, and Elin came after.
A year later, they sold the company to Condé Nast after four months of negotiations. But what they sold it for, they won’t say.
“We could maybe have got more money if we’d sold to someone else. But to have it on your CV that you’ve sold a company to Condé Nast, that means so much more”, says Elin.
After the sale, Elin Kling and Christian Remröd still have fashion label Nowhere, and Fashion Network Europe together.
Shortly after the sale to Condé Nast, Dagens Media wrote that Christian Remröd had been accused of tax fraud through false invoicing, and his assessed value raised by 1.5 million krona. According to the Swedish Tax Agency, he has also put in invalid claims for exclusive men’s clothing for nearly 70,000 krona. He’s even tried to claim for the repair of a watch for 157,000 SEK, and for visits to a shooting school filed under mental training.
“Me and the Swedish Tax Agency quite simply disagree on a number of issues, and I will comply with their decision, that’s my only comment”, says Christian Remröd, who has appealed the decision.
One floor up from Christian’s workroom is Style.com‘s editorial office. We go into the lift and through a clean, open-plan office that’s completely deserted. It’s Fashion Week, and the editorial staff are working flat-out in the field. At the far end sits editor-in-chief Dirk Standen behind a half-open door. In his grey suit, he looks more like a city executive than the editor-in-chief of the fashion world’s most important online portal.
The room is considerably more exact than Christian’s. The walls are bare except for a Style.com poster. Standen relates how Nowmanifest has just been integrated with Style.com, which now links to the blogs. Style.com has 2.6 million visitors a month.
“The fact that Fairchild has bought Nowmanifest is a sign of where we’re headed. Individual bloggers have become very important, that’s the new thing”, he says with emphasis. “On Style.com, we try to balance a kind of authority with the speed of the web. We have to make sure we’re always serious and have authority, while the bloggers can play on their personalities. And that’s what Nowmanifest can contribute, a more personal side. Now we have both sides, which means we have more to offer our advertisers”, he says.
The acquisition of the blog portal has shown it’s a profitable business. It’s an important symbol, confirming the place of bloggers in the establishment.
“Just a few years ago, bloggers weren’t taken seriously. No bloggers were sitting in the front row at Chanel five years ago”, says Christian Remröd. “And I still don’t think Chanel want them sitting there, but they’ve realized they need to adapt. We were early in saying that these are relevant voices that need to be listened to. And the best way to show that is to get companies like H&M and Coca-Cola to pay to be seen in these contexts. There’s a kind of validation there. And by selling to Condé Nast, I think we have achieved the greatest legitimacy our world has. Now bloggers are officially a force to be reckoned with”.
The story of the success of the ’00s’ Swedish fashion blogs perhaps doesn’t so much begin with the already mentioned Swedish fashion miracle, but with a successful technology policy.
Direct broadband grants made Sweden an early IT country. In 1998, Carl Bildt ran for election under the banner of “Broadband for All”. And according to Harvard’s Berkman Center, Sweden, together with South Korea, is still top in the world with one of the world’s fastest, cheapest, and most widely available broadband. The 1990s’ IT policy paved the way for success. The home PC reform made Sweden into one of the most computerized countries in the world, early on.
The foundations for fashion blogging were actually laid before blogging itself really took off in the mid ’00’s. With appalling figures and the looming death of print-media snapping at the heels of both newspapers and magazines, who were also feeling growing pressure from their advertising departments, fashion was a welcome valve for both the market and editorial.
“Fashion has acted as a manifestation of commercialization. It started with Ebba von Sydow. Suddenly, everyone should have a blonde giving tips on shoes”, says Salka Hallström Bornold.
From being something exclusive, fashion has become mainstream. And even if the new blogging fraternity met initially with skepticism from some parts of the fashion elite, they still had a function.
“Fashion bloggers haven’t succeeded through their own effort. It’s because the old media have demanded them. Because they want them, and the fashion industry wants them. They have a function, precisely because they’re not real journalists, and therefore you can make money on them. The Swedish media in particular have launched fashion blogs themselves”, she says.
Because fashion is about consumption, it’s in the very nature of the industry that the editorial border lies close to the commercial. The main institutions of fashion coverage, the fashion magazines, have themselves never been completely free. They’ve always had a dependent relationship on their advertisers.
In an industry already driven by advertising and constantly accused of corruption, bloggers disturbed the balance because they completely ignored the editorial filters.
Even if many bloggers have never claimed to be journalists, they have become powerful, and power always requires responsibility.
When Anna Dello Russo, fashion editor at Vogue Japan, and Elin Kling, fashion editor at Swedish Styleby, blog under their own names and collaborate with fashion houses, the borders get blurred, even for them.
“I see myself very much as a target for the industry, where they can pick on me if they want. I come from this generation, and I sometimes find it hard to decide what’s right and wrong. There’s no manual. So it’s interesting when the subject’s taken up for discussion in the trade press, like Resume and Dagens Media”, says Elin Kling.
The first issue of Styleby came out at almost exactly the same time as her H&M collection was going to be launched. She’d worked on it for almost a year before the magazine project got started. Bonnier Tidskrifter knew nothing because the collaboration was secret.
“It may not have been completely clear. It seemed strange that the editor of a magazine comes out with an H&M collection. But I think that you just need to be open about it”, she says.
Vanessa Friedman is a fashion writer at the Financial Times, and she has no problem with this kind of cooperation.
“It’s not a problem because they’re not fashion critics; I couldn’t do it, it would be inappropriate. But for them it isn’t a problem. If they fail with their products, everyone can see it. I don’t think they’ll be more tied to H&M because of it”, she says.
That this concerns a general commercialization of fashion in the media world is also noticeable in the collaborations many editorially-linked fashion personalities have done with companies: Aftonbladet’sSofie Fahrman has done adverts for JC; Ebba von Sydow for MQ, when she was editor-in-chief of Veckorevyn; and Damernas Värld’s editor-in-chief Martina Bonnier for Åhléns.
Vanessa Friedman is most worried by the dominant tendencies in the fashion industry, that it’s not the bloggers cooperation with companies which threatens fashion journalism, but that the entire industry is heading that way.
“Many magazines have shopping sites and sell stuff on the web, or have links onward to items that they then get a percentage of the sale price from. It’s a general industry trend that is very disturbing. You can’t make a completely independent choice when you get a part of the sale, it’s always in your own interest to make more money”, she says.
There are already examples of magazines, like Condé Nast owned shopping magazine Lucky, where you can immediately click on and buy what you see on the net. But it’s not just magazines that have shopping sites; shopping sites have their own magazines. E-commerce site Net-a-Porter’s founder Natalie Massenet has had an explicit ambition to make the site into the modern fashion magazine with integrated online shopping.
On 3 November 1999, the era’s most ambitious internet shopping-site for clothing, Boo.com, was launched. Behind it were Patrick Hedeflax, Ernst Malmsten, and Kajsa Leander. According to the company’s generous estimates, it was expected to sell clothing worth 300 million in the following year, and with the help of investment bank JP Morgan, they found 100 million of start capital. But in the spring of 2000, the dot-com bubble burst, and the investors’ money went up in smoke. Boo.com was one of the first victims, and became a symbol of the dot-com crash.
Swedish entrepreneurs had taken the lead during the dawn of e-commerce – but perhaps it was too early? The same year that Boo.com went under, today’s most successful fashion-industry IT-pioneers started their businesses.
From London, Natalie Massenet launched luxury e-commerce site Net-a-porter; and from Milan, Federico Marchetti started his site Yoox, which sold leftover designer clothing at lower prices. Yoox turned over 2.5 billion last year, and when Natalie Massenet sold Net-a-porter for 3.7 billion krona, ten years after its launch, to Richemont, she made a profit of 500 million krona.
During the ’00s, e-commerce matured, and would come to revolutionise the fashion industry and consumption as much as the first department stores did in the 1800s. “Fashion was about exclusivity, and the internet democracy. Fashion was for the elite, and the internet for the masses. Someone was forced to join these two worlds together”, Yoox founder Federico Marchetti told The New Yorker.
The digitized world of fashion, where shows stream straight from the catwalk, the audience tweets from the front row, and e-commerce breaks new records, has led to an increase in the production rate in line with demand. In the spring, e-commerce site Moda Operandi was launched, whose business concept is to be the first to receive and deliver orders directly from the catwalk.
“Many fashion houses are producing more collections all the time, in addition to the spring and winter collections shown during fashion weeks. Dividing the year into seasons no longer works in a global world”, says Vanessa Friedman.
Today fashion weeks supply another function. In a world of Twitter updates, Instagram pictures, and Facebook tagging, fashion weeks have become even more important. The exclusivity is no longer just seeing the show, but to be a part of it, on the spot.
In the new fashion world, the stars are a hybrid; the watchers and the watched have become one and the same.
The sun is low over the Hudson when the crowd pour out of Diesel’s big show in a warehouse by Pier 57. The show draws many editorial staff, not because the clothes are considered particularly interesting, but because jeans brands are big advertisers. It’s crowded at the exit, and photographers have spread themselves out to catch as many famous faces as possible. Elin Kling goes up to the crossing, finds a gap and sets off. Under her pointed, patent-pumps the asphalt’s a catwalk. The afternoon sun’s yellow light dazzles her, like headlights. She squints. On the other side of the street, cameras clatter as she walks towards them. When she’s crossed the street, she’s surrounded by photographers and their assistants, who want details of where each of her garments comes from. She replies politely, then continues walking. But the car that’s collecting her hasn’t arrived yet. While she waits, photographers direct their lenses at new stars on the crossing. Elin Kling stands at the roadside and, annoyed, rocks on her heels. She doesn’t want to be standing here alone, fishing for attention. She wants to get off-stage. The car arrives and Elin, relieved, jumps in.
“You have to play a little hard to get too”, she says, and slams the door.