Daniel Saynt, a 24-year-old blogger who fancies himself the “Perez Hilton of fashion,” is planning on crashing Christian Siriano’s Fashion Week show on Feb. 19 at Bryant Park. Since sponsor IMG hasn’t invited him to attend, he’s just going to barrel his way in, with a crew of crony bloggers in tow.
“Yeah, let Fashion Indie educate you in the art of the crash,” Mr. Saynt wrote on the event page of his blog, FashionIndie.com. But is showing up uninvited really the best way for bloggers to gain entree to the orderly, hierarchical fashion world?
Web entrepreneur Yuli Ziv thinks not.
“The image of bloggers is so off—online and offline,” explained Ms. Ziv, a model-tall brunette with a sharp middle part who’s in her “early 30s.” She was sitting in an Italian cafe in the Flatiron district last week, letting her tea go cold while discussing her five years in the trenches as a fashion blogger. For the past two seasons, she has been reporting on Fashion Week at MyItThings.com, an online, user-generated fashion and trend magazine, which she co-founded in 2007. Ms. Ziv said it’s easier for her to get into shows, but that most designers and publicists are still hesitant to grant pesky bloggers access, thanks to folks like Mr. Saynt, because they’re worried Web writers will post inflammatory reviews or stir up a scene for some cheap Web traffic.
“It’s easy to be nasty,” Ms. Ziv explained. “You can take the negative handle and you can survive for a while, but you’ll only get to a certain point. Eventually you have to change.”
That’s why Ms. Ziv recently co-founded the Style Coalition, an organization of independent fashion bloggers that will set new ethical and practical standards for independent Web writers, and also serve as a social media consulting group for ad agencies and brands. Ms. Ziv has some help, of course, by partnering with her MyItThings.com co-founder and COO Saar Paamoni; and stylist and writer Jean Vouté Pratt and marketer and chief technology officer Michael Pratt—the husband-and-wife team behind GiftGirl.com and StyleObserver.com.
The Style Coalition will serve as an umbrella for a collection of blogs, like a more intimate version of Glam Media, a content network of more than 900 Web sites geared toward women and fashion; or the Sugar Network, which is comprised of lifestyle and entertainment sites, including PopSugar.com, BuzzSugar.com and GeekSugar.com. But, more importantly, it will serve as a “guild,” Mr. Pratt said, like the American Bar Association is for lawyers. Only this one will be made by fashion bloggers for fashion bloggers.
According to Ms. Ziv, who has tried to negotiate with IMG to upgrade events with more places to connect laptops and upload videos and pictures, Fashion Week is still a tough place to be a blogger. But the Style Coalition has plans to change that. Their first step is pushing for a physical space for InsidetheTents.com, a Style Coalition–sponsored site where posts, tweets, photos and videos from about 50 independent bloggers are aggregated into one online space, once Fashion Week moves to Lincoln Center in 2010. “I don’t want to call it a ‘bloggers’ lounge’—that doesn’t sound fabulous enough for Fashion Week,” she explained. “But you get the idea.”
However, Mr. Pratt said, organizing a blogger presence in the fashion industry “isn’t without some feather-ruffling.”
“The whole industry is going through a metamorphosis, and it’s very painful for it,” he said. “Some people will feel like their empire is being encroached upon, and fashion is queen of exclusivity,” he added. “But clearly, it’s getting out of their hands. A designer can become very successful without any blessing from the big folks.”
Mr. Pratt added that New York’s fashion industry, from print editors like Anna Wintour to designers like Vera Wang, will eventually have to start paying attention to their Web critics, even if they’re “kicking and screaming into the modern age,” he said.
To hold their hand along the way, there’s Ms. Ziv, who has been quietly building a reputation as a tech ambassador for fashion. Since December 2006, she has organized a Fashion 2.0 Meetup, which brings together a panel of women in fashion and technology to share ideas and experiences, and was also recently appointed to the New York Tech Meetup’s Community Committee, which will work to build bridges across all sectors of the city’s start-up scene. “All we want to do at the end of the day is help them out,” she said of the bigwigs. “We just want to cover their events, and help them understand the opportunities in social media. That’s what frustrates me sometimes, that we have to fight for everything as bloggers. I’m only doing this because I love fashion.”
Born in Russia and raised in Israel, Ms. Ziv served a stint in the Israeli Army before studying graphic design and visual arts at Tel Aviv University in the late ’90s. She graduated in 2001 and got a job in the creative department for hotbar.com, an adware service that added skins and themes to browsers and email clients.
In 2003, she moved to New York and worked as a creative director at hotbar.com, an adware service that added skins and themes to browsers and email clients, while going to school full time at the School of Visual Arts for a computer art degree. She went on to work for digital marketing agency 360i, and Innovation Interactive as a creative director. In 2005, she earned a “fashion forecasting” degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology, and two years later, she decided to break out on her own with MyItThings.com.
The Web magazine invites its readers to contribute their own articles, pictures and photos; share shopping lists and even submit some of their own designs. Ms. Ziv said she hopes to turn the site into a “virtual design house” by experimenting with social media and letting users decide what will be the next fashion craze. For instance, last May, MyItThings.com launched the Next “It” Designer Contest, which was like a “Project Runway, curated online,” Ms. Ziv explained. She invited independent designers to submit five designs. Users voted in online polls and chose 25 semifinalists from hundreds of entrants; then, a panel of judges—including Ms. Ziv, former Project Runway contestant Malan Breton and designer Keith Lissner, among others—narrowed the contest down to three finalists. In October, they showcased their work in runway shows at Lotus Space in Manhattan, and the winner, a young Japanese designer named Wakana Koike, received the grand prize of $5,000. Her line of billowy, intricately patterned blouses and dresses will be sold this spring in 2009 on MyItThings.com.
Ms. Ziv said the online designer contest is an example of how brands like the Gap or Target could interact with social media and give their shoppers the power to vote for what they wanted to see in stores. “In the fashion industry, it’s so hard for them to predict what is going to sell,” she explained. “Here, we kind of found that if a million people voted for this designer and they want to see their clothes, there’s a big chance they are going to sell well.”
On Feb. 17, Ms. Ziv and the Style Coalition are hosting “Digital Moda,” a mixer for bloggers and people in the New York fashion industry. Guests will include Sex and the City and Confessions of a Shopaholic stylist Gilles Montezin, and Sylvia Heisel, the Turkish designer who serves on the Council of Fashion Designers in America.
Through these “wired experiences,” Ms. Ziv hopes publicists will give online writers just as much respect as print editors and journalists—or at least a few more spots to plug in their laptops at Fashion Week.