The future h of the blog
As the blogosphere booms, NAYANTARA KILACHAND ponders the state of home bloggers
When asked me to write a piece on the future of fashion blogs in India, my first thought was, “Wait, we have fashion blogs?” My daily online media binge involves roughly 20 to 30 blogs or websites, of which roughly half a dozen fall in the fashion/design field. Of those, exactly zero is Indian. One of the downfalls of working in the web media world—i run a city website called mumbaiboss.com—is that I, like my compatriots in the industry, am often called upon to answer for the entire field. “Where are our Sartorialists and Cool Hunters?” some people whine. “Indian fashion blogs suck,” others, less eloquent, offer up.
To understand why we have no pint-sized blogging prodigies of our own, I turned to the terrifically smart Nishant Shah. Shah is the eloquent co-founder and director of research at The Centre for Internet & Society, Bengaluru, which ponders such inscrutable things as “digital pluralism” and “pedagogic practices”. In short, Shah is the ombudsman of the Indian Internet world, able to decode the Orwellian online policy legislation that is being drawn up in India today. “Most of Indian scale on broadband only happened around 2005-06,” he says. “By which time blogging was dying its natural death. Many people who came online skipped blogs and went straight to Facebook and Twitter, so that particular aesthetic of publishing, essential to initial bloggers, was not even considered by users here.”
Indeed a quick look at popular fashion blogs —High Heel Confidential, Wearabout, plus a few random ones started by north-east hipsters —reveal that they’re decidedly low-rent when it comes to design and ingenuity. Of the suggestions offered up by our followers on Twitter, only Republic of Chic by Bangalore-based sisters Ruhi and Faiza Sheikh, seemed to embody the slick, pop-collage self-styled aesthetic favoured by their compatriots in other parts of the world, such as precocious teen bloggers Jane Aldridge and Tavi Gevinson. But as Shah pointed out, we skipped over an entire period of self-learning which would have enabled us to muck around with tools like Blogspot and Wordpress. Which is not to say we’re not able; after all, most of Web 2.0 which we’ve embraced (Twitter at its core is a micro-blogging site) is predicated on blogging not only as a type of content but also as a publishing protocol.
Today, popular fashion blogs in the US and Europe are reflective of the adaptable nature of its form—they’re able to bring together the informal
Even bloggers who were once lauded for cataloguing street fashion earn today in the range of SIX figures a year
diary-esque feel of an old-school blog and match that with the visual sophistication of magazines (Polyvore and Instagram allow you to do that) and sometimes the commerce savvy of e-retail sites. As this happens, the lines will become increasingly blurred between what’s been ‘paid’ or ‘promoted’ and what’s independently reviewed. And as that happens, blogs, once viewed as the subversive alternative to traditional print reportage, may face the same backlash; readers may well wonder whether Tavi, now sitting in the front row at fashion shows, fêted as fashion coverage’s new frontier, is any longer a ‘trusted’ voice.
Even The Sartorialist and his girlfriend and fellow blogger Garance Dore, who were once lauded for cataloguing ‘street fashion’ have veered into high fashion territory; their respective blogs reportedly earn them somewhere in the range of six figures per year. All this has pushed US legislators to pass a law stipulating that even bloggers must now state to their readers if they’ve been paid to review or endorse a product. So what of Indian fashion blogs? Can we expect to see a homegrown Bryanboy? Or even a Business of Fashion, the influential industry blog and aggregator? If blogging were a sustainable business, then perhaps; most start off as passion projects before they become viable career choices. In India it’s still a pipedream to be a ‘full-time’ blogger, which is why you see many half-hearted attempts. But the field is wide open; so if you’re 14, have a laptop and know your Kawakubo from your Kenzo, this could be your golden moment.