During the past months, the PublishingLab, in collaboration with the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, has been researching how fashion publishing has changed in response to the emergence of social media and the rise of bloggers onto the runways of the most prestigious shows. As we delved into our research, the rapid development of bloggers brought forward numerous question, in particular, issues around online identity, monetization of user engagement, and the deterioration of editorial prudence in fashion journalism. As a result, we emerged from our research with the probing question: “How do Fashion Instagrammers strategically curate their branded identities in order to monetise their user engagement?”
In order to showcase our research, we created a web page that mirrored the navigation and design of mobile applications, an appropriate framework considering the prominence of Instagram within the fashion industry. It begins with an introduction, that explains the characteristics and history of the platform itself. Afterwards, the information was divided into two sections: empirical and theoretical. In the empirical part presented our small data inquiry, with the outcomes of our blogger analysis visualized. The small data inquiry consisted of analysing the 100 most recent pictures of three Instagrammers, each representing the diverse landscape of fashion bloggers (Susie Lau, a pioneer, Chiara Ferragni, one of the most popular, and Claire Rose, a newcomer). After collecting the photos, we wanted to explore how each bloggers negotiated the balances of private and public personae, and to see if we could find a measurable difference in user engagement, calculated through Likes and Comments. And, as our results show, intimacy is closely related with increased levels of user engagement, with themes of motherhood, friendship and romance gernaterting elevated levels of audience activity among our bloggers.
In the other part, the theoretical research was divided between four areas, with each exploring a specific theme that emerged from our research. This section complemented our small data inquiry, and brought forward important underlying issues with Fashion Instagrammers, including online identity, the precarity of digital labour, the cultural value of authenticity, and social media’s economic architecture.
During our presentation at the Labfest, this research was presented, and many attendees were intrigued by our research question and curious about how our small data inquiry hoped to explore our probing research question. For many, the industry of fashion blogging was distant and foreign, however, the discussions we had brought forward many contemporary questions, and interestingly, people left intensely engaged into this marginalized industry. And this sentiment is probably our most resounding, that while fashion blogging appears to be far removed from the general public, its underlying politics and history raises indelible societal questions, and intimately sparks the social media climate we are surrounded by.