We bloggers (creatives as we have come to be known as) have become almost synonymous with the internet, or people who make a living off digital platforms. We sat down with Shauna Voon from Silhouettes of Chic the other day to talk about all things digital, fashion and creative.

Nicole Fang (NF):  We (as bloggers/influencers/online media personalities etc.) have famously been know to have perpetuated the stereotypes of how young girls behave on social media with the evolution of the Internet becoming a sharing platform. People like David Clarke who wrote for The Guardian at that time believed that blogging was another form of “cyber-onanism”. He claimed that his statement about bloggers was his bid to bring some attention of quality control to this community that he has described to be anarchic. He was one of the very few voices that stood out to me when I first started out, and I have to admit – dampened my resolve in pursuing this full-time. Because it made me feel like that was all the public could see and will ever see not matter what facet of the industry I am talking about. The public being people like my parents, close friends whom I never explicitly shared or admitted to pursuing this and instead passed this off as an excuse that I was exploring a hobby in photography. Until I read about IMG’s decision in 2013 to redesign venues for that year’s New York fashion week to create more exclusive passes for “true fashion insiders”. They believed that there was an overflow of fashion bloggers, street style photographer and fans (journalists and celebrities not included).

So that brings me to my first question. In times like these, why are these fashion bloggers immediately deemed as inferior or less important in situations like these? Who are the “true fashion insiders?”

Shauna Voon (SV): We are only talking only about the supposed problems the digital community poses in general right now, but what they fail to realise is that everyone is gravitating towards faster paced channels like the latter and e-commerce on a social level. And you have to take note that in every business or industry, there will always be a group of people who will want to hop onto the bandwagon that they perceive as something that can benefit them on some level. Like fashion. Not necessarily because they are in it because they have true intentions of interest when it comes to enjoying fashion. When you look at more well-known individuals – Margaret Zhang,

Susie Bubble or BryanBoy – you usually just see from a third party’s point of view the luxury aspect of their lives. And with some people interested in this industry, this aspect appeals to them. The tendency to associate this line of work with the high fashion community is easy to assume that blogging is a stepping stone to a rags-to-riches story. They think it’s exclusive. Being able to go to fashion shows and having fun etc. they think that is a means to exclusivity. But what they don’t realize is that the online community is already extremely over saturated. And that their view of the online fashion community for personal style can be quite confusing to understand even with more traditional platforms in fashion like editorial prints and magazines. You can be an Instagram blogger. Or an actual blogger. Or someone who does editorial fashion. So majority of the time, 90% of the whole industry is made of up that saturated community of bloggers that usually communicate just through visuals, or people who are in it because getting free things in exchange for brand exposure or online content to say how everyone should buy from them appeals so much. For that New York fashion week scenario, I understand and empathize as to why IMG decided to do what they did. It’s because an industry like this tends to attract people who want to be part of that community, but don’t necessarily demonstrate much respect for the traditions and what this community does. Something in which the digital community can sometimes be mistaken for doing. With Clarke’s statement I understand his point of view as to how blogging then was more for personal gratification more than anything else, a space that anyone could create for themselves where they could be themselves and express their views on anything and everything. But I guess that right now because we are in an era where the freedom of speech is for everyone globally, it doesn’t matter where you come from. It’s getting to a point where blogging today offers something different if you want to express certain visuals, promote yourself or your portfolio. That’s why people think that –

NF: – that blogging is just talking about yourself?

SV: Yes exactly! It’s a highly misunderstood industry I think, but what the general public has yet to understand is that blogging or creative content in general does not only encompass yourself. Or that blogging or working on the Internet is something that is entirely substantial, if it ever is. Yes it probably is, but only for those select few who are talented enough to be able to successfully market themselves and garner a huge following around their personal brand. For creatives on the other hand, they are the ones who are looking into the industry from another point of view or outside the industry altogether. Creatives who do respect the industry and go beyond just wearing and talking about pretty designer clothes, these creatives encompass about 10% of the community that really care about what designers or other fashion insiders are really doing from a more artistic or economic perspective. Between individuals that genuinely just love taking photos of themselves versus others who actually are in it because they want to learn and understand the artisanal aspect of fashion in general. This exclusivity stunt that IMG pulled? I think that it’s good to keep things in control, but communicating such sensitive and ambiguous topics do require the involved parties to take a more delicate approach. Because with the freedom of speech comes the freedom to believe that they have a right to be included in this industry – who determines that then? And it kind of comes across as bashing and hating the online community when they put it like how they did.

NF: I think it was just their abrupt response to the situation – who is in this circle and who doesn’t belong – that didn’t rub off very well with a lot of people.

Because with the freedom of speech comes the freedom to believe that they have a right to be included in this industry – who determines that then?

SV: Yeah but you have to admit that the majority of what makes up the online industry is not the people you think are in respect to the industry itself. You know what I mean?

NF: How would you categorize this entire community or industry then?

SV: I would say that this majority are influencers than actual Fashion Creatives. Because the fashion community is very specific at the same time. Wearing designer things, talking about what you are wearing or what you did for that day, and you get the engagement from people all around the world. People look up to you. They love what you wear and sometimes take a page from your style book. Hence the term name, “Influencer”. But you aren’t technically a Creative.
I honestly think that there are worth and deserving influencers out there too. Because it takes skill, talent and patience to influence a large crowd. You see young men and women with large followings and engagement all over social media, but not necessarily just in fashion or entirely about fashion. Their pages serve more as inspirations or a portfolio of lifestyle and fashion recommendations translated into a more generic commercial and consumer level.

NF: Sometimes more to do with lifestyle or even food specifically.

SV: Yes, and it is a formidable skill to know how to market yourself! I would say that people like these for example can be theoretically defined as Creatives in the aspect of fashion, but influencers do exhibit an aspect of fashion or style in their work along with other components to portray an idealised social persona according to trend. Because fashion itself is a trend, an Influencer usually goes hand in hand because of that.

NF: I tend to see Influencers as personal brands. Say what you want, but if you are marketing yourself, you are a product and a brand that you personally curate and develop over time no matter that you do. Even if you do ootd’s at every interesting wall you see or photograph your cup of coffee every morning, you are still a product and brand that the general public still views and decides if they like you enough to be emulated after.

SV: And whether if you take it seriously or not, you have a certain following. Those are the people who are that much closer to believing what you have to say. It all comes down to belief. People come to you for more personalized advice on how to improve themselves.

NF: I understand that being able to quantify the social hierarchies in the fashion industry (like what I just got you to do in the diagram above) for the online fashion community has always been a prominent theme for many individuals within this industry we exist in. I’ve been trying to read more about the lesser discussed topics about the fashion industry came across Amy Odell. I loved her articles on Buzzfeed and her book, Tales From The Back Row. She stated that to get into this very tight-knit community of high fashion, everyone has to know everyone there. To get into this community, to get that golden ticket of opportunity, you either make it or you don’t. That concept of rags to riches is throughly played out in scenarios of due dates, or fighting to constantly stay ahead of the curve with many of them. And that was initially what made me so curious about the dynamics of the industry in question.

Having a more removed perspective in such a complex industry can be a good thing too. And like what you said, its cool to get free shit and go to events where you dress up and get photographed – those are the perks of being in that industry that not everyone has the luxury to take advantage of. But it’s gotten to a point where that is all what the general public thinks we as creatives and influencers do. And they don’t realize that blogging, writing, creating content, that is just a side thing for the most of us. We have jobs and companies to run, some have kids etc. What is your view on people in the online fashion community who really does this as a full-time commitment?

We chose different interests and passions; everything is self-curated with higher risk opportunities.

SV: Well definitely I really applaud them for doing something like this. If you are freelancing in this industry, you have to ensure that you are getting constant work everyday. It’s harder in general in comparison to a 9 -5 job. Because at least with that kind of job, you are guaranteed an income for a short while at least, you have a regular income. Not like a freelancer in this industry where you have constantly pushing yourself and creating something new. Once you become stagnant, (snaps fingers) that’s when you have to start worrying because you’re not financially comfortable and everyone knows that. Chasing after jobs and whether or not if your clients are the best people in the world, or the horrors you may encounter with different people in the industry, you owe it to yourself that you are working as hard, or even harder than people in those 9 – 5 jobs. But then again, I’m not saying that 9 -5 jobs are the cushiest. It’s just that we chose different interests and passions; everything is self-curated with higher risk opportunities.

 part 2 coming soon
images taken from Shauna Voon