Blogging, Branding, and Business: Transforming a Fashion Blog into a Successful Business

As fashion consumers continue to stray from traditional fashion magazines—pushing the media landscape further into the digital realm and into the hands of independent fashion bloggers—burgeoning bloggers have experienced new opportunities to establish themselves in the industry and build their own businesses by creating an initial online editorial presence.

These independent fashion bloggers have quickly metamorphosed into “front-row” socialites sitting alongside photographers and editors from major fashion magazines at runway shows, and have successfully earned their place among the fashion elites.  They have revolutionized the fashion industry by asserting themselves as potential advertising platforms, powerful consumer influencers, and popular fashion icons in their own right. Most importantly, they have become formidable fashion industry entities by cleverly turning their blogs into brands, and finally, into full-blown businesses with promising potential for growth.

 An illustration by French blogger Garance Dore, first used as unique editorial content for her self-named blog, differentiating it from photography-heavy competitors.  Illustrations like this are now being sold on her online boutique.

An illustration by French blogger Garance Dore, first used as unique editorial content for her self-named blog, differentiating it from photography-heavy competitors. Illustrations like this are now being sold on her online boutique.

Among the most prominent independent fashion bloggers, the path from establishing a blog with a substantial following, to strategically developing a brand and, finally, to capitalizing on industry opportunities, has generally followed a consistent course of action.    The most popular fashion blogs began as nothing more than earnest attempts to create outlets to express unique creative philosophies through words and images.   Kevin Ma, founder of the streetwear-inspired blog Hypebeast, began his blog as a destination for sneaker and street style enthusiasts to browse through photos of urban-inspired shoes and apparel.  The beloved blogger-turned-fashion icon Leandra Medine, founder of The Man Repeller, launched her blog as a site for quirky high-fashion aficionados to browse through her comical commentaries and personal style looks consisting of unconventional designer pieces typically considered “repulsive” by men.  Her offbeat yet undeniably likable tagline appropriately reads, “The Man Repeller is a humorous Web site for serious fashion.”

Like Kevin Ma and Leandra Medine, the most distinguished fashion bloggers also attracted their initial followings by creating unique and specialized content targeted at niche audiences.  The process of creating distinct content based on compelling concepts easily differentiable from other fashion blogs not only serves to attract loyal readerships, but also serves to mold fashion blogs into brands with unique identities and dynamic personalities capable of crossing the boundary from editorial into business.

After relying on word-of-mouth communication and social media mentions to raise initial awareness, and on strategic branding to create loyalty and differentiation, the most distinguished bloggers-turned-entrepreneurs relied heavily on traditional banner ads, sponsorships, and collaborations to generate early revenue.   Scott Schuman, founder of the photography-based fashion blog The Sartorialist, began generating profit by selling banner ads to retailers like American Apparel and Net-a-Porter, and then to bigger companies like Coach and Tiffany & Co. as website traffic increased.   Sponsorships and collaborations with mega fashion brands have also been a major strategy in not only generating revenue, but more importantly, in increasing brand awareness and creating powerful associations with established industry leaders.  After appealing to advertisers, the popular beauty blog Into The Gloss, founded by Emily Weiss and Nick Axelrod, caught the attention of cosmetic giant Lancôme which collaborated with the bloggers to create sponsored content promoting Lancôme’s new lipstick line. Similarly, Leandra “The Man Repeller” Medine  collaborated with Michael Kors on a video to help launch a new store in 2012 and later partnered with jewelry brand Dannijo to increase sales by producing videos and blogging about the company’s new collections.

Photo featured on the blog The Sartorialist by Scott Schuman. Street photographer Scott Schuman differentiated his blog from other fashion blogs by blurring the line between fashion and photography and focusing less on trends and apparel than on capturing the "essence" of his subjects.

Photo featured on the blog The Sartorialist by Scott Schuman. Street photographer Scott Schuman differentiated his blog from other fashion blogs by blurring the line between fashion and photography and focusing less on trends and apparel than on capturing the “essence” of his subjects.

By capitalizing on opportunities to sell advertising space and collaborate with established fashion brands, fashion bloggers have been able to generate the capital required to expand their blogs into new spaces like publishing, designing, and e-commerce.  Both Leandra Medine and Scott Schuman have published best-selling books based on their fashion blogs.  Medine has additionally collaborated with fashion designers like Aimee Cho of Gryphon to create exclusive clothing lines, featured on The Man Repeller of course.  Kevin Ma, founder of Hypebeast, ventured into e-commerce, first selling apparel from several up-and-coming brands and then moving onto luxury designer labels such as 3.1 Phillip Lim, using an integrated approach to combining editorial content with e-commerce to create a unique shopping experience.  Similarly, French blogger Garance Dore, founder of her self-named blog offering aesthetically striking editorial and multimedia content, has also expanded into e-commerce through a small online boutique selling her illustrations.

As changing consumer behavior and the new digital media landscape continue to provide fashion bloggers endless opportunities for growth and expansion into industry sectors like e-commerce,  the power and prestige of leading fashion bloggers-turned-entrepreneurs is expected to rise among fashion industry elites. The rise of blogs as potent advertising platforms is a truly revolutionary phenomenon in fashion, which opens the doors to talented young entrepreneurial creatives with limited capital but limiteless drive.

As reported by the blog The Business of Fashion, Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist comments, “You can really make a living out of this. It’s tough, but if you work really hard you can create a business, if you’re smart about it and have something real to say.”

by Chelsea Olivera, JHU junior

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