Seattle bloggers make their own fashion statements
In recent years, the number of style blogs has exploded. There are now niches, communities and sub-communities, covering a range of ages, races, budgets and body types. It's led to a democratization of fashion and even affected the way the fashion industry operates.
Style blogs from around here . . .
It's My Darlin: www.itsmydarlin.com
Seattle a La Mode: www.seattlealamode.com
The Emerald Closet: www.emeraldcloset.com
Lindsay Living: www.lindsayliving.com
Bora Bora Style www.boraborastyle.blogspot.com
Hey Pretty Thing: www.heyprettything.com
. . . and elsewhere
Style Rookie: www.thestylerookie.com
The Sartorialist: www.thesartorialist.com
Garance Doré: www.garancedore.fr/en
Style Bubble: www.stylebubble.typepad.com
The Man Repeller: www.manrepeller.com
Fashion Toast: www.fashiontoast.com
ANGIE COX, stylist and fashion advice dispenser, laughs as she recalls how she got into style blogging.
About five years ago, she and her techie husband, Greg Cox, were on a flight from New York to Seattle when he turned to her and said: "You should start a blog."
She did, after all, have many years of experience in the international fashion industry.
"Great!" Angie replied brightly to Greg's suggestion.
Then: "What's a blog?"
That the Coxes, who live in the Madrona neighborhood, now have a website called YouLookFab that gets more than a million page views a month tells you how far things have come — not only for Angie but for style bloggers in general.
In roughly the past five years, the number of style blogs has exploded. There are now niches, communities and sub-communities. There are personal-style bloggers and street-style bloggers, the avant-garde and the mainstream, the high-end fashionistas and the budget-conscious frugalistas, the short and tiny and the big and tall, and people of various ages, races and religions.
It's led to a democratization of fashion, with a far broader range of voices, points of view and self-expression through style than has been publicly accessible before. And it's even affected the way the fashion industry operates.
A few of the more influential style bloggers have collaborated with design houses or retailers. Fashion magazines and ad campaigns are featuring more street-style photography. Industry stalwarts and events like the Council of Fashion Designers of America and New York Fashion Week are now incorporating bloggers into what they do.
It wasn't so long ago that bloggers were, "by and large, seen as outsiders, infiltrators, wannabes," says Catherine Moellering, executive vice president of Tobe, a fashion retail-trend consultancy based in New York City.
"Oh, how times have changed," she says. Now bloggers such as Tavi Gevinson, a 15-year-old from suburban Chicago who started her Style Rookie blog at age 11, are "sitting arm-in-arm with Anna Wintour and Kate Lanphear," editor-in-chief of American Vogue and style director of U.S. Elle, respectively.
In Seattle, too — not exactly known as fashion central, though it's probably fairer to say we're practical even when fashion-conscious — style bloggers are making their presence felt.
The Coxes, who started with Angie's simple blog five years ago, have turned their site into more than just a blog. It's become an interactive community, complete with a forum where members from around the world, along with Angie, give each other advice. Members in various cities have met in person for swaps and shopping trips.
Blogs like It's My Darlin, Seattle a La Mode and The Emerald Closet document Seattle-area street style.
And there are enough personal-style bloggers — those who post photos of and talk about their own outfits — that in the past year a group called Seattle Style Bloggers has formed, its members gathering periodically for fun and fashion talk.
"What I didn't know about blogging before I started is that 75 percent of the joy is the community," says Lindsay Bradley, 28, a teacher whose blog, Lindsay Living, houses the information for Seattle Style Bloggers. "I was getting to know (other bloggers) online and thought what fun it would be to get together. Once we started searching, we found more and more people."
WITH HER blonde pixie do, chic specs and polished-with-an-edge attire, Angie (née Angélique) Cox, is, at 41, the very picture of style.
She is warm and energetic, dispensing advice with supportive enthusiasm and a British accent acquired from attending British schools in Hong Kong, where she was born.
Her blog and forum reflect her personality and experience. She studied design, spent 14 years as a fashion buyer, and several more years as a trend consultant and fashion stylist.
YouLookFab originally started as just her blog. Greg, her software-engineer husband, suggested adding the forum.
To Angie's amazement, within the first hour, the forum's front page was filled with posts.
"I had no idea that people would be so open and honest about their feelings and that they would share their challenges," she says.
These days, the site gets about 150,000 unique visitors a month from around the world. It brings in enough revenue through ads, sponsored posts (labeled as such) and other streams that Greg was able to leave his Microsoft job last year to focus full-time on building the site. Angie still has personal-stylist clients in addition to working on her site.
There's even a YouLookFab iPhone app where a woman can take a photo of herself, say, while in a dressing room trying to decide whether to buy something, post it online and get instant feedback from other forum members.
Angie calls it a learning site, with advice on, for instance, how to adapt a season's trends to suit various body shapes. Take this fall's trend of midi skirts where the hemline hits somewhere between the bottom of the kneecap and the bottom of the calf — a tricky length for many women to pull off without looking stumpified. Says Angie: Try tucking a top into the skirt or wearing it with a cropped jacket or cardigan to lengthen the legline. But only if you care about nonstumpification. Because she has just one rule for fashion: Have fun with it.
Though Angie is also interested in high-end fashion, the site focuses on more mainstream looks and fashions — things that will be of practical help to the most people. Site visitors range in age from the teens to the 70s, with many falling between 35 and 55 — primarily working women and moms.
"Fashion magazines and the fashion industry in general are all about one body type and almost all one age — at least who they show clothes on," she explains. "Being a buyer gives you a glimpse (of a wider range), and being a fashion stylist gives you more. There isn't a body type or age group I haven't dressed."
THINK BACK some 10, 20 years. Were we as conversant about fashion as we are now?
Could we have rattled off who the then-equivalents of Peter Som or Christian Louboutin were?
That many of us now can is part of a larger pop-cultural phenomenon.
TV shows such as "Sex and the City," "Project Runway" and "America's Next Top Model" have made us far more fluent in the language of fashion than past generations were.
"This sense that 'Karl Lagerfeld is way up there' that I subscribe to — many consumers don't buy it now," says Moellering of Tobe.
Blogs didn't create this shift but are a strong part of it. And they, in turn, are influencing the fashion industry.
Among the multitude of style blogs these days, a few have risen to prominence.
The Sartorialist and Garance Doré, with their discerningly observed and artfully shot photographs, have inspired many a street-style blogger. Not to mention designers, magazine editors and ad-campaign managers. Labels including DKNY, Club Monaco, Hermès and Moschino have done street-style-type ad campaigns, with some companies even hiring Scott Schuman, the photographer behind The Sartorialist, and Doré, to shoot some of their campaigns.
Susanna Lau, aka Susie Bubble, the whimsically, colorfully dressed Londoner behind Style Bubble, was among the first personal-style bloggers. She's been credited with exposing her readers to up-and-coming designers and has since styled a window for Dolce&Gabbana, appeared in a Gap ad, and consulted for design and retail companies.
Leandra Medine, the harem-pants enthusiast behind the exuberant and funny The Man Repeller blog, has been featured in photo shoots and been interviewed by Simon Doonan, the man behind Barneys New York's window displays.
Rumi Neely of Fashion Toast has collaborated with retailer Forever 21 on an ad campaign, designed a collection with jeweler Dannijo, and is featured as part of a blogger ad campaign for a Ralph Lauren fragrance.
Gevinson, the smart, idiosyncratic teen Style Rookie, had already, by age 13, been invited to sit in front rows of fashion shows. She was cited as an inspiration by designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy, who tapped her to film a behind-the-scenes video for them when they launched their Rodarte for Target line. Gevinson now has plans for a book and a website for teen girls.
All of which has, well, created some decidedly mixed feelings among longtime industry insiders.
"It definitely raises a few eyebrows to see a 14-year-old from Illinois sitting next to Anna Wintour," Moellering says. "For someone who's spent years or decades in the fashion biz, it's easy to feel a little like, 'Hmm, why is she here and why should we listen to her? Is this a fad or is this something too important to ignore?' "
Moellering's take is that, like it or not, bloggers now have the ability to influence tastes and consumers, build brands and sell products. "It's the old saying: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."
Fashion magazines have embraced that, featuring style bloggers in articles and incorporating them as guest editors, curators or "ones to watch" in their pages and on their websites.
Designers and retailers, from Tory Burch to Nordstrom, now have their own blogs.
Two years ago, the Council of Fashion Designers of America started including select bloggers in its nominating process for the CFDA fashion awards.
It's a recognition of the increase in the number and influence of style bloggers, says CFDA Executive Director Steven Kolb, "and their integration into actually being part of the fashion community."
WHERE THE fashion industry hasn't changed as quickly is in the diversity it shows, in terms of age, race, body types and voices.
Enter the style bloggers — including an array of local ones.
Abiola Akanni, 23, of Everett, started her blog, Bora Bora Style, last fall after returning from a trip to Nigeria, where her parents are from.
In Nigeria, she says, she got to "experience fashion from my culture — a lot of African-inspired fashion."
She has always loved fashion. But not seeing many African Americans, not to mention curvy women, featured in fashion spreads "sometimes made me insecure: 'Why am I not represented in something I'm so passionate about?' It made me wonder how I would find my niche in this."
It all came together after her trip. Akanni realized she wanted to get the word out about fashion and high culture throughout Africa — topics she saw so little about in the U.S.
Now, in addition to working as creative assistant for Vu, who owns The Vutique, a vintage boutique on Capitol Hill, she blogs. Her outfits are typically a mix of vintage and out-there finds, purchases from Ross and T.J. Maxx, and personal favorites such as clothing made out of Ankara fabric, popular in Nigeria.
"I look for authenticity to me," she says. "I don't follow trends."
Carolyn Yuen, a 23-year-old intern at Seattle Magazine, has her share of Lanvin and Dries Van Noten shoes. But she does the popular high-low mix, pairing black Givenchy calf boots and a black Alexander Wang blazer with gray Anthropologie shorts and a neon orange Gap belt, for instance. She prefers pieces with an element of surprise, like a classic navy trench coat with raw edges and no lapels.
Yuen started her blog, Hey Pretty Thing, after a conversation with a friend, during which they wondered if anything could be "beautiful just for the sake of being beautiful," she says. Her blog is a collection of the pretty things she loves.
Though she began blogging because she wanted to engage an audience, what surprised her was how personal her readers were willing to be and how they turned to her for guidance. One girl, for instance, asked Yuen about how she deals with self-image and body-image issues as a fellow Asian American.
That personal, intimate, singular voice of a blogger is what makes readers return again and again. After all, people can turn to any number of sources for the latest runway news or trends. But it's the personal perspective of the blogger — her unique take on style and on life — that forges a connection.
And for bloggers, too, that sense of personal connection — with readers, photo subjects or other bloggers — is what many find so rewarding.
Eve Tai, 50, a Seattle fundraiser, photographs passers-by whose styles catch her eye — from kids to 90-year-olds — for her Seattle a La Mode blog. She started the blog after sitting on a bus one day, bemoaning the sea of dreary black and gray on those around her. Did Seattleites really not have a sense of style, she asked herself, or was she just not seeing it?
After challenging herself to look for stylish people, "I started seeing really amazing looks," she says.
What she loves: "When someone's face lights up because someone else noticed the work they put into their style."
Dana Landon, 28, a Seattleite who works in data management, started her street-style blog It's My Darlin about four years ago. The most enjoyable part, she says, is interacting with the people she photographs: "When I see someone with a good outfit — good proportions, interesting style — I get so excited. It's so aesthetically pleasing."
At the same time, those she photographs get excited because "they're super-pumped about their outfits."
It all goes to show how much fashion can unite people, says Angie Cox of YouLookFab.
"It's hard to think of a topic these days that is cool and cuts across all different demographics," she says. "I think fashion does that."
Janet I. Tu is a Seattle Times staff reporter. She can be reached at 206-464-2272 or email@example.com. Ellen M. Banner is a Times staff photographer.
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