Fashion Bloggers, Posted and Represented
LINDSEY CALLA, the 27-year-old behind the fashion blog Saucy Glossie, sat in a Midtown cafe one recent afternoon and offered a guiding career principle: “You should work and make money.”
Simple enough. But for fashion bloggers like Ms. Calla, the two haven’t always gone hand in hand. When she started her blog two years ago, featuring photos of herself wearing clothes from inexpensive labels, or what she calls “style on a real-girl budget,” numerous brands asked Ms. Calla to model for them, do styling work or host events — without pay.
“Anybody that renders their services wants to be compensated,” Ms. Calla said. But she was “so afraid to talk about money because I didn’t want to ruin any relationships,” she added.
These days, Ms. Calla has someone to do the talking for her. Last year, she signed with Digital Brand Architects, a new agency in New York that represents fashion and lifestyle bloggers, brokering endorsement deals with fashion labels, signing up advertisers and, in some cases, booking lucrative television commercials. “If somebody else is handling the negotiation, you’re left to do the creative stuff,” Ms. Calla said.
The advent of agents who specialize in fashion bloggers points to the evolving influence of blogs. Once considered fashion-obsessed amateurs, style bloggers have matured into tastemakers and savvy marketers who can command four- and five-figure fees from brands. Even mainstream agencies are joining the action. This spring, the popular blogger Bryanboy signed with Creative Artists Agency, a Hollywood firm better known for representing A-list actors like George Clooney.
For its part, Digital Brand Architects is trying to position bloggers in the same category as stylists, makeup artists and photographers. “Bloggers aren’t just people who sit in a room and regurgitate press releases,” said Karen Robinovitz, who started the agency in August 2010 with Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, the former director of digital media for Ralph Lauren. “These are the next influencers.”
The agency, which represents about 50 bloggers who publish sites like The Glamourai and Bag Snob, operates out of a small office in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Like any talent agency, it takes a cut of its clients’ earnings, in this case 15 percent.
“We really approach this from the perspective that a literary agent would with an author,” Ms. Robinovitz said. “We’re focused on their talent.”
Before starting the agency, Ms. Robinovitz, 39, had no experience managing careers, other than her own. She was a freelance writer for many years (including, for a brief time, The New York Times) and is an author of the book “How to Become Famous in Two Weeks or Less.” She also started a beauty line, Purple Lab, that never quite took off.
But her clients, who are mostly young and female, say that Ms. Robinovitz knows about social media and is a strong advocate. “Karen is great at being able to build relationships with brands that I truly love,” said Kelly Framel, 28, who lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and started her blog, The Glamourai, three years ago while working as a designer for Naeem Khan.
The blog is a showcase for her personal style, her model good looks and a seemingly jet-set life (a recent post was sent from Milan Fashion Week). Since signing with the agency, she has been hired by L’Oreal to create looks inspired by a Ralph Lauren fragrance and has designed a razor for Schick that will come out next year.
Meanwhile, Ms. Calla of Saucy Glossie is branching into on-camera work. “I sat down with Karen a year ago, almost to the day, and she said, ‘What’s your dream project?’ and I said, ‘I want to be in a T .J. Maxx commercial,’” Ms. Calla recalled.
She’s now starring in a national television spot for the retailer as the new “Maxxinista,” a role that features Ms. Calla giving shopping tips based on her blog. Ms. Calla declined to say how much she was paid, but added: “It’s probably the same that anybody would get paid for a commercial. I don’t think they thought, ‘Oh, we’re getting a blogger cheaply.’ ”
Until recently, fashion bloggers were paid with free merchandise, if they were paid at all. But that started to change as their influence grew. Now fashion bloggers are “right up there with editors in helping to mold what the consumer is going to buy,” said Alexis Borges, director of Next Model Management, an international modeling agency.
Next has signed 11 style bloggers, including Rumi Neely of the blog Fashiontoast, in addition to its stable of traditional fashion models. “It’s definitely a growing division,” Mr. Borges said. “We’re treating bloggers as the next generation of people who will be used for advertising.”
Frankly, running a blog is work. Some bloggers need to hire assistants to keep up with the constant emails and tweets and comment moderation. It's work and work should be compensated.
"The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for." Maureen Dowd
There was a time when celebrities were useless to advertisers and the fashion industry. They turned up on red carpets in their own clothes, booked their own flights on commercial airliners, paid for their own hotels, and neverdidtheyever appear on the cover of a magazine. Now look what's happened. Where would a perfume ad be without a celebrity endorsement? How would we know which bottled water to buy without Jennifer Aniston??
"shhhh, don't think about how much I'm getting paid for this..."
The same thing is happening with bloggers. Magazine covers are not far away.
There is always a price for having a price. Whenever I see "courtesy of" in an image tag I immediately discount the boggers' opinion on the product just as I discount the opinion of a waitress on a dish or a sales associate on an outfit. It doesn't mean it's not their real opinion, it's just not worth as much to me.
"If you don't take money, they can't tell you what to do. That's the key to the whole thing." Bill Cunningham
Some bloggers provide substantial services outside of the website including styling, hosting, and writing for external magazines and papers. I see no problem with compensation for services rendered. Blogging is the future. The fashion industry will follow suit or they won't have the exposure they desire. It's just the nature of the beast and nobody gets anything for free.
As for that last little bit about bloggers trumping up their worth...
"Being powerful is like being a lady, if you have to tell people you are, you aren't." Margaret Thatcher