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Fashion: Bloggers In Bed With Brands ...

Jul 28 2011

BipLing:Forever 21

Isn't it ironic that fashion bloggers, once plucky outsiders who were unafraid to speak their mind honestly and hold brands accountable for their missteps are now eagerly embracing business opportunities with those same brands? Fashion blogging has obviously come a long way. The latest high-profile blogger/brand alliance features controversial US-based high street fast fashion chain Forever 21 and UK-based blogger Bip Ling. The latter is fronting the media campaign for the opening of the chain's first UK store.

So what if Forever 21 has built a business on the coattails of designer fashion with little or no regard for the finer points of copyright law, sources its products from suppliers who are alleged to have dodgy employment practices including unfair business tactics and wage violations and has a record of using legal intimidation to silence critics? Business is business, right?

I mean no ill will towards Miss Ling but I do wonder about her decision to align herself with the controversial high street chain. Can she really be unaware of the chain's practices given that it has been the subject of numerous news reports and is featured in an award-winning documentary ("Made In LA")? Bloggers intent on developing their personal "brand" beyond the proverbial fifteen minutes of fame might want to take as much care in selecting their business partnerships as they do their style choices. There is considerably more to being a brand ambassador than launch parties and photo ops.


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Thank you! I am so sick with this along with "free give aways" and c/o'd garments. Granted hey, this turns a past time/time otherwise wasted in potential income which is rather attractive to us young girls so I don't exactly blame them. However this makes for a very dull fashion blogosphere, one totally lacking in imagination, authenticity and interesting discussions. I'm so glad I stumbled onto your blog!

I think Helene has a point that F21 does have copyright issues, while it's true that fashion recycles itself every once in a while, blatant copies is another issue. F21 has been sued many times over for outright copying, especially over printed patterns. So to say that it's "absurd" that this isn't true, is well - absurd.

The conundrum of fashion in general (including fast fashion) goes beyond the retail shops when it comes to employment. Which of the lesser two evils will you side with? Putting thousand people out of work or keep them working in exploitive conditions and questionable management? And let's not forget of the MASSIVE waste that fashion produces, another issue to contend with.

As for bloggers siding with brands, I think it hits a particular nerve because they are singled out as individuals rather than a fashion journalist or editor working for a magazine. You don't see Suzy Menkes and Cathy Horyn be the face of a brand, eventhough I'm sure they've made their preferences clear on who they admire most over the years. But I agree, bloggers becoming the face of a brand is like celebrity endorsement, for any person plucked out of the darkness and given this massive PR opportunity, it's an incredibly tempting offer. But I'm afraid this blogger endorsement will become such a norm like celebrities that the public will eventually forget them when the next blogger will come to replace them. I mean, who can tell me who was the face of Versace in 2004? And do we really care who was the face of Versace in 2004?

It'll be an unfortunate turn if bloggers go this way. I'm hoping for something more intellectual that could arise from bloggers, like congregating to create a new media stream of intelligent articles and critiques and having the industry recognize them as such instead of mere puppets to endorse. Independent Fashion Bloggers are working to create such a forum with their conference, I've seen a lot of good posts arising from them.

Helene, I'm glad to see that people have been struck by your post. Please do continue, and enjoy Italy!

If TopShop is brought into the conversation, soon it'd also need to include Zara, HM, Primark, whatever. And even the ``prestige'' brands as well, because all of them outsource exploitative labour practices to subcontractors in countries such as Peru, China, India, Thailand, etc.This is not an issue of elitism vs fashion for the masses; it is about ethics that matter in this (and every other) business.
Especially in fashion, because a number of brands are hitching onto the `green' and `fair trade' movements.
It is as necessary to call out a masstige brand that lays false claims to handmade techniques, as with a fast-fashion entity that puts a very tight grip on labour costs.
The point of Helene's post is not to pick uniquely on 4ever21 but, as the headline makes clear, concern about the trend of using bloggers to address the crowds.
It is her two cents worth and whether we agree or disagree, should not descend to an ad hominem attack of calling someone `pompous', etc.

Susie have you ever worn TopShop? Helene? I believe wearing a brand is pretty much the same thing as getting into bed with a brand. I smell something fishy.

Dear Andy:

Perhaps I might be more inclined to take your impassioned defense of Forever 21 and/or Ms. Ling at face value if you were to make your status clear. Are you just another UK consumer or, are you in fact a paid representative for either Forever 21 and/or Ms. Ling?


F21 also work hard in one of the most competitive markets around and have enjoyed success. No one doubts that they have tried to resolve their problems somewhat imperfectly and I'm sure when they reflect they would be inclined to agree that they could have done better. But name me one successful fashion business who hasn't experienced problems with staff and suppliers that at times has not got messy. If its true that Korean Americans struggle with a sense of humour - something you might understand - is it any surprise that F21 don't like having an unaccountable blogger endlessly take the piss out of them?

F21 create employment and on trend clothes that are at a price point that young fashion conscious girls can afford. Whilst you may hate 'Fast Fashion' there are plenty of girls who love it and are priced out of Matches, Browns, Selfridges, Harvey Nics et al. To begrudge them this and Miss Ling's popular appeal because it doesn't fit your Holier than Thou agenda strikes me as mean and sanctimonious.

What would be the greater evil to fall on their sword with the cry, 'we are not worthy', News of The World style and tell everyone to go home or keep going in the face of fierce competition?

I trust you are enjoying the Emilia-Romagna sun. I'm heading down to Oxford Street to buy something pink with sequins all over it.

A più tardi!

Reading your short post, I appreciate the opening up of a critique of this growing practice. I have also been troubled by this blogger/brand trend. The appeal of blogging, at least for myself and a few of my friends, came from the fact that everyday life could be used to discuss clothing/fashion/style in ways not represented in major, corporatized magazines and their endless ads. But nothing can be pure, or is pure in terms of ethics.

It's important that instead of upholding ideas of morality, that we think about and question the already existing connections each of us have with practices, business or otherwise, that we find reprehensible.

In response to Andy (whose initial post struck me instantly as a PR response from someone at F21 -- I mean, the line about "bringing employment..." with no acknowledgement of wage, working conditions, labor rights, treatment of workers... from the sales floor to the factories...) I felt compelled to point out that it's only through reasonable discussion, thought, and investigation that things can change. Defending the status quo is what is truly tired, old news, pompous, and dumb.

Dear Andy:

I work hard to make this blog a forum for discussion and debate. You are entirely welcome to disagree and challenge my ideas and opinions all you want but please keep to the issues and refrain from making it personal.

Many thanks,


There you go again..... Hélène if you don't mind me saying you take yourself v. seriously..... but good to see the Cavalry arrive in your defence. Hello John, if you can hear me up there where the discourse is pure and everyone as faultless as faux fur !

Dear Hélène, your replies in the comment section of this post confirm what I already knew: you're a classy lady. So often in our modern world, the public discourse is rude, disrespectful, and uninformed. All of us have to find a way to rise above it. It's not always easy when we're seemingly being confronted with hostility at every turn, but we all have to try.

Your fan,

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