Given the surge of backlash against fashion bloggers in recent months by self-appointed gatekeepers like Anne Slowey, Joe Zee, Simon Doonan, among many others, I was gobsmacked by Anna Wintour’s rather positive comments on the subject at the Pratt Institute last night.
We love as much coverage of fashion as possible. We don’t care at all where it comes from, and we embrace bloggers and video and social networking, and anyone that’s talking about fashion is a good thing . . . what’s interesting to us with this new phenomenon that ‘everyone’s a fashion editor, everyone’s a fashion writer’ is that all of that actually helps Vogue.
To be sure, Wintour is not putting forth a populist perspective on bloggers nor is she really advocating the democratization of fashion writing. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. What I find fascinating (and frankly, impressive) is her clarity about the assimilative operations of popular culture within the context of consumer capitalism. While the gatekeepers continue to hand-wring and carp about the devaluation of professional fashion journalism by amateur bloggers, Wintour understands that, as with many marginal practices and bodies throughout the history of commercial culture, fashion blogging is being absorbed and incorporated into the mainstream. Historically, this absorption and incorporation has been the process by which mainstream institutions of popular culture maintain, secure, and expand their dominance. The assimilation and commodification of fashion blogging (which unevenly benefits some bloggers) works to contain the threat of difference through a depoliticized mode of liberal tolerance and pluralism. As such, it is to the economic and cultural advantage of fashion stalwarts to be magnanimous about fashion bloggers.
And anyway, many bloggers blog not because they want to overthrow the powerhouses of the fashion industry – they want in.