As Fashion Week cracks down on the number of bloggers invited to this once-exclusive event, a veteran pulls back the curtain on a world of web writers gone wild, from screaming matches in the photo pit to selfies with the stars.
The photographers’ pit at New York Fashion Week is a two-feet by three-feet musty trench in front of a few rows of risers. You have to pack in so tightly to accommodate everyone who needs runway pictures that veterans say, “If I can put a fist between you and I, we are too far apart.” It is the pirates crew of the fashion kingdom. Here, the biggest, burliest, most weathered cameramen rule. I am a five-foot-seven female — when I wear six-inch heels. In the pit, I wear clunky boots to protect my toes from being trampled. I’ve dodged screaming matches between photographers, as well as an avalanche of press who lost their footing and went tumbling down on the risers.
Often, to get the shot, I’ve squeezed myself between the legs of another person’s tripod while balancing my Canon EOS 50D camera. There is an unspoken etiquette among the seasoned professionals covering Fashion Week: Don’t block people. Don’t be bitchy. We all know that photographers from Getty Images and Vogue will be let into the pit first, and they will get the prime real estate before the rest of us. We respect that. Then, it’s a mad dash to find a position. Last year, I smuggled individual serving-sized boxes of wine for sipping in the pit and traded them to other shooters to bargain for a better spot.
I am a fashion blogger with a passion for runway photography. In 2010, I walked away from a high-paying corporate job to launch my blog, Ms. Fabulous. I was part of the early wave of fashion bloggers to break into the field, using my industry connections to earn cred. My blogging has led me to being hired as a runway reporter for the embroidery magazine Stitches, and then fashion and digital marketing director of the luxury consignment site Hello La Mode. The latter has landed me on the front page of The New York Times’s Style section and in television interviews on ABC.
Nowadays in the pit, the word “blogger” is spat with disgust.
In recent years, “fashion blogger” has become associated by some designers with the image of a fame-seeking narcissist in possession of dubious writing skills. With platforms like Instagram and Tumblr, you do not even need to write in order to be a blogger. Yet many of these fledgling self-identified fashion bloggers score invites from publicists for fashion shows anyway. In their heyday, fashion bloggers were viewed as mass influencers in style. Some of us added fresh, informed voices to conversations initiated by designers and fashion journalists. Just two years ago, star bloggers were as sought after as celebrities in the front row of Fashion Week, and designers were scrambling to have them wear their products. But the new generation is defined by the selfies taken in front of runways by bloggers trying to cast themselves on reality television shows.
These newbies have made it rough for the rest of us. Earlier this year, IMG, the company that runs Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, made organizational changes to keep out as many fashion bloggers as possible, and instead allow better access for “real” journalists. In a Wall Street Journal article, organizers cited designers’ complaints, and that they wanted to make “invitations once again an exclusive pass for true fashion insiders,” instead of wannabe bloggers and people looking to photobomb the scene. In short, as one fashion insider noted, “It was becoming a zoo.” The fact that IMG now considers “blogger” and “fashion insider” as mutually exclusive exemplifies this new reality. Bloggers have fallen from front-row darlings to outsider villains.