Native Dress

Lauren Sherman checks in on the place of sponsored content in fashion blogging:

[W]hile fashion has been slow to adapt digitally in so many ways, it was one of the first group of marketers to embrace native advertising. When fashion bloggers emerged in the mid-2000s as the new influencers, brands developed “gifting” programs to seed their products. A handbag line, for instance, would send a top 10 blogger the latest style in hopes that she might write about it, or post a photo of it on her blog with a link back to the brand’s e-commerce site. It wasn’t so different than the business of celebrity placements, when brands give a star a pair of jeans or a leather jacket in hopes that she’ll wear it in a well-publicized paparazzi photo.

However, as blogs transformed from diaries to media properties, bloggers began asking for more.

If they were going to post about the product, they wanted to be compensated for the post as well– in addition to the commissions they were making via affiliate links. Today, native advertising can be quite sophisticated. One of my all-time favorite examples of native advertising is a Juicy Couture-sponsored video, where stylist/Glamourai blogger Kelly Framel interviews Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele [seen above]. This was soon after “In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye” had come out: Cerf de Dudzeele waxed on about why she loved track suits, and Framel — a genuine fan of the famous stylist — asked her the right questions. Sure, it didn’t save Juicy Couture from combustion, but it was a nice little Hail Mary moment. Nars’s video series with Garance Doré and the Man Repeller are more recent examples of likeable native advertising. Both Dore and TMR founder Leandra Medine are believable Nars customers, which makes the already fun videos — watch them here and here — all that more compelling.

But as more and more bloggers find their audiences fleeing URLs for other platforms — namely Instagram — and brands have begun to think harder about what they want from these partnerships, frustration has bubbled up on both sides. Bloggers argue that brands aren’t upfront about what they’re looking for in terms of tangible results, and brands argue that bloggers are unable to deliver anything tangible. The champagne might still be flowing, but the party is wrapping up for unhappy brands and frustrated bloggers.

Fashion journalism, of course, has always been less a conflict of interests than a mashup of them. But it’s all so subjective that any idea of objectivity is remote. Nonetheless, it’s always great to find a writer who is indifferent to all this payola, whose taste is her own, whose prose caters to no subsidy. But how on earth can they make a living these days? The internet lets a thousand flowers bloom, but, in the end, only a handful get the water and the fertilizer, let alone the care and attention of the experienced gardener/editor.