Floral prints and bralettes were not the only things making headlines at the recently concluded Milan Fashion Week. The breaking news from the fashion mecca was the turf war between fashion editors and bloggers. The tension came out in the open when four editors from the US edition of Vogue launched a scathing attack on bloggers, calling them "pathetic" and "desperate" people who "change head-to-toe paid-to-wear outfits every hour".
Back home too, the growing influence of bloggers has riled the old guard. Dimpy Kapur, who blogs at Delhistyle, says it's easy to figure out the reason for the resentment. "Bloggers are encroaching into their space, so they will feel hurt." Remembering her early days as a blogger in 2012, Kapur says she faced discrimination from established journalists and editors. "And the attacks were personal...I had come from London, a platinum blonde, it was difficult to find my groove," says Kapur who has 48.1k followers on Instagram. Today with more than 50,000 page views per month for her blog, Kapur is wooed by many designers.
For bloggers, the views and likes translate into hard cash. Product placement in blogs can cost between Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000, depending on page views and personal credibility of the blogger. Fifty thousand page views per month can help a blogger command Rs 30,000 for just attending an event, and up to a lakh or more, for a write-up. For many print journalists, that's a month's salary.
In September last year, Mumbai-based lifestyle columnist Namrata Zakaria wrote a scathing piece on bloggers. "Successful bloggers have built their businesses such that you have to pay them to attend your show or event, to write about it on their blogs, and promote you via their tweets. These entrepreneurs charge you per tweet. Do you get the news you want or do they get you by your eyeballs?" Zakaria wrote in Mumbai Mirror.
Shefalee Vasudev, fashion editor Mint and author of 'The Powder Room: The Untold Story of Indian Fashion', makes a similar point when she asks how a blogger can objectively review a fashion show when he/she turns up for the show wearing clothes gifted by the designer. "Fashion designers ?may be tempted to pander to a blogger who has been writing for ?a few months just as much as they will to a senior editor ?as fashion show publicity ??has mutated into a different beast — dependent on Instagram posts and tweets. ?
With their growing power, bloggers have invaded fashion's most sacred frontier — the front row. "Five years ago, the front row in the media enclosure would be occupied only by print editors, but now there are at least one or two bloggers seated in the front," says an event manager associated with the FDCI's India Fashion Week.
Apart from the politics of the front row, bloggers say editors feel threatened because fashion is no longer their exclusive domain. "International bloggers, like Susie Lau of Style Bubble, are flown around the world for events and shoots. Marc Jacobs named a bag after BryanBoy, the famous Filipino blogger," says blogger Rasna Bhasin. However, she adds that there's enough space for both. Bhasin blogs and also has a job with a fashion magazine in Delhi.
She says she doesn't earn from her blog, which gets 60,000 page views per month, but brands seek her out for product promotion because of her popularity. She recently posted a photo shoot with a new Gucci bag, and wrote a glowing review of the product.
While bloggers TOI spoke to insisted they do honest reviews, a quick scan of some recent posts were full of effusive praise for the brand being showcased.
While they are growing in number, Vasudev says she hasn't been able to find a single blogger from India whose views can be called influential or transformational. Many will agree with her, but fashion commentator and author Kanika Gahlaut offers a different view. She argues that magazine editors, like bloggers, are fashion victims. "I find it odd that American Vogue editors are now complaining, when they are the ones who started this trend of promoting designers at all costs...and not looking beyond Prada and Gucci," says Gahlaut.