Forget actresses and models. Fashion companies that wish to appeal to a broader audience should focus on fashion bloggers. The takeover of the bloggers' network Fashion Networks International (FNI) by Fairchild Fashion Media (FFN) - a Condé Nast subsidiary - confirmed a growing trend. What started off as a hobby for fashion lovers who wanted to showcase their outfits on internet has turned into a serious marketing tool, providing plenty of opportunities for brands and (online) retailers.
Suddenly they were everywhere: the Isabel Marant sneakers with built-in heel. A typical example of a trend that was created because fashion bloggers were writing about it, generating a buzz that led to endless waiting lists and remakes by high street chains like Topshop. Twenty years ago only a fashion magazine such as Vogue or Elle could have unleashed such a trend, but in recent years the baton has passed to bloggers. Bloggers are real women who actually wear the outfits they choose to portray, as opposed to the contrived fashion shoots where models sport the latest catwalk looks set against some idyllic island backdrop. And that is something consumers can more easily identify with.
Fashion companies have also discovered the influence of bloggers. Brands send them free clothes and shoes, invite them to their fashion shows or use them to front an advertisement campaign, in the hope that they will write about them in their blogs. Thousands - and in some cases millions - of fashion blog readers are between 15 and 35 years old, have an above average interest in fashion and a corresponding budget. In short, they are the ideal target
audience for a fashion company with growth plans.
Just like Isabel Marant, US fashion label Proenza Schouler enjoyed a spike in sales thanks to fashion bloggers' coverage. "The fact that blogs have written about us and those articles have spread over the internet has had a remarkable impact on our business," said a spokesman for the brand. When Marc by Marc Jacobs featured Swedish blogger Elin Kling as the face of a campagne and advertised on Nowmanifest, of which blogs by Kling, Rumi Neely and Bryanboy are a part, the brand's website enjoyed an additional 94,000 hits in the space of one week.
More and more retailers are also joining the fray. Net-a-porter recently asked Kling to front a campaign photographed by world renowned photographer Patrick Demarchelier and the blogger has also launched her own fashion line in collaboration with Nelly.com. The first collection sold out completely last fall and the second collection was recently launched. Fellow bloggers Angelica Blick and Sandra Hagelstam have also joined forces with Nelly to work on new collaborations. The webshop enjoys working with bloggers, because they are trendsetters. "They signal new things and are the voice of the people: they know exactly what the general public likes and what it wants to buy. Many women first consult the blogs to see what they think of clothes and shoes, before they go out and buy it themselves. That makes our goal - selling clothes and shoes - much easier," says Peter Lindholm, spokesman for Nelly.
Besides the usual press events for traditional media, Dutch high street shoe chain Sacha even organises special events for fashion bloggers. The shoe retailer views bloggers as a way of getting close to its target audience. "Through them we have a direct line to our target audience. The effect of having bloggers write about us after an event is noticeable. The number of hits on our website increases as a result of blogger coverage," says Sacha spokeswoman Nathalie Gadeyne.