After graduation, many of my friends who pursued a degree in journalism like me, have found amazing opportunities in sectors of all sorts. But not all of us are really doing hard news journalism, and many of them have mentioned to me, “this is something I never thought I would be doing.”
Then it got me thinking. I was lucky enough to have gotten into the industry that people think I would be most suitable for, or even I thought would be my destined career. After a short three months of water testing, I have done many things that always remain unseen from how fashion is presented to the general public. It was a great learning and eye-opening experience for sure.
This week, I caught up with the beautiful and intelligent Ms. Susie Bubble in Hong Kong at the Yoox Y.E.S award. It just happened to be the day after “ Essena O’Neill’s quitting social media” broke the Internet. So I couldn’t help but inquired Susie’s opinion on the sustainability, the degree of saturation, the seemingly “unseen” truth, and what “fashion blogger” have derailed from its original concept in today’s age.
Essena O’Neill’s quitting Internet has drawn a bit too much attention in the past week. The 18 year-old Queenslander girl, who started blogging, Instagramming and Youtubing since the age of 15, has gained her tremendous amount of virtual attention. Her reason for quitting at the hype of her career that perhaps every teenage girl has a secret place for, is that she has lost the sense of living in real life. She claims to have spent all her hours posing and making sure that her image presented online is the most perfect version, while most of the time it is not really just “candid life”.
“I think there is a degree of ‘reverse self promotion’ in Essena’s moves to ‘quit social media’.” Commented Susie Bubble. “The ‘truth’ that Essena revealed about fashion bloggers has almost become an open secret to the public. They know that bloggers are paid to attend events, paid to wear that dress, and paid to always look fabulous. Therefore, how much are we really hiding from the public, or hiding the reality of our real lives?”
It has also happened to me personally, when a horrifying visa run to Hong Kong accidently turned into a “relaxing weekend getaway” from the three well-lit brunch pictures and a landscape of the city presented on my Instagram tricked my followers.
In the Chinese social media platform—Wechat, even though the pictures posted here are merely for the friends you have actually met in real life, unlike other social media platforms where unknown people could also become your followers, people still have the need to gain the approval and acceptance that you are living a good life. They spend hours fixing the flaws on their faces, adding the most applicable filters to their lives, but no matter how hard they try, they would never become a “fashion blogger” to get sponsored. Then why do they keep doing it? To me, it is really just about seeking comfort and acceptance in the virtual world that draws billions of people into doing so everyday.
Essena posted on her twitter, “I used to be obsessed with people obsessing with me. I was addicted, and the more people liked me, the more I wanted to be admired. But slowly, I started to realize that social media has become my only identity, and I wouldn’t know what to do without it.”
Essena received much support for these comments. But on another note, we are indeed living in a world where the superficiality of the internet guides us to be more competitive, and gives us the driving force to live a better life. Sharing the most beautiful moments of your life to others is nothing evil, it is a healthy and uplifting idea. But the degree of control we can apply to ourselves is the boundary here. One who is kidnapped by his/her work, and finds no time to enjoy or live a full, meaningful life, is not one who I would admire. Everybody has the needs to become the most perfect version. Without such thoughts, one would be morbid. Therefore, the Essena incident should be looked at from two different angles.
When asked about whether the market for fashion bloggers is saturated, Susie, one of the grand masters and cult originators of this career said, “It cannot be more saturated. Especially in Asia, we have seen more and more of these Asian influencers attending shows in Paris and Milan, and they all seem to have a unique character in their appearances which bring a breeze of fresh air into the international fashion scene. But I still believe that you should really promote what you love, what you truly admire, and what you have actually gotten to know in details.”
Fashion blogging has become a multi-million dollar business. With virtual values that they generate for brands and businesses that are looking for channels to advertise to their targeted audience, fashion bloggers receive a lot of benefits from posting a perfectly curated picture. One of my blogger friends has told me, to be a good fashion blogger, you must be ruthless in believing your own values. Only by believing that you are worth a million dollars would a brand buy into your potential values. I do not agree with this entirely, but it does state a fact that these people are eager for recognition in the fierce competition today. Therefore, they would not turn down a brand offer that may seem completely off the image they were originally portraying, or even took the tactic to not be too distinct to fit into the spirit most brands are looking for. Versatility is key.
“There are indeed many bloggers all over the world doing very similar things to attract brand attention. And that has taken away the individual spirits and characteristics,” says Susie Bubble, “some of them could be attending an event of a hundred-year-old Swiss watch brand, and then head straight to the opening of Moschino, only because they are paid.”
In Asia, there are in fact less and less bloggers who can stand out distinctly to be recognized for one thing. Susie has always been the color-matching guru, who champions all crazy print-mixes and pulls off anything with her witty personality and signature bangs since 2006, where the concept of blogging was still at an earlier stage. But Susie is also an incredibly friendly and intelligent woman, who empowers people to think below the superficiality with her insightful words and progressive vision. How many of these do we see today? Most of the bloggers are posting exactly what they receive from the press releases of brands, or simply saying “I Heart” in front of it. The power of media is impressive, but also terrifying.
Susie Bubble has always been credited for her impeccable skills in matching different bold color patterns
Is the public really stupid enough to buy in whatever these “Opinion Leaders” say they “heart”, when we all know they are paid to “heart” it? How is this marketing strategy still adopted by many historical luxury brands? The self-conflicting images bloggers are creating with endorsing products that cannot traditionally be associated with one another, is a sign that brands are all trying to reach out to younger generation. But is it truly on-brand for them to do so?
Interestingly, there are many popular bloggers in China today, who gained huge popularity with their sassy “brand-bashing” or critiques on the latest fashion news. This movement of speech perhaps kicked-started from the rising of “gogoboi”, one of the earlier Chinese fashion bloggers who is famed for using a witty, or sometimes vulgar language to comment on fashion shows. You may think that this is a self-destructive move to be sponsored by brands and make a living out of it. But interestingly, their bashing and critiques have enabled people who were probably not interested in the fashion world to pay attention, as criticism and negative opinions are unusual in China. Therefore, many brands or businesses are even paying to be mocked by these bloggers, not enough to destroy its own reputation, but just enough to leave a strong impression in the readers’ minds.
At the Y.E.S award, an up-and-coming brand called FFIXXED STUDIOS took the first prize. FFIXXED was started by a the cutest Australian couple—Fiona and Kain, who have their out-of-place studio in the Wutong Mountain area in Shenzhen, a city bordering Hong Kong in the mainland, also where I am from. This unexpectedness of being based in a city where people don’t usually associate largely with fashion, and on top of that, in a beautiful mountainous area where I used to go hiking as a kid fascinates me a lot.
FIXXED STUDIOS utilize a range of high-quality natural fibres and highly personalized production techniques to address, transcend and stimulate a variety of social and domestic situations, or sometimes the natural scenery of Wutong Mountain. They recently put on a beautiful show in Shanghai Fashion Week with a Spring/Summer 2016 collection inspired by the relaxed summer off-duty vibe. Also selling at Lane Crawford and now YOOX.com, the label is bound for an even bigger success.
Susie Bubble was wearing a look from the special capsule collection FFIXXED STUDIOS created for Yoox. Not only did Susie spoke in great details of the brand, she even visited their studio in Shenzhen a year ago, and discovered the real vibe and spirit the designer duo aim to present. Coming from a journalistic background, Susie pays much attention to the story behind the brands she supports, and utilizes her power of speech to promote new and inspiring design in a genuine way.
The responsibilities of fashion bloggers is decaying today, and how many more of these bloggers with their own fashion integrity are still popping out of the scene today? I couldn’t help but wonder.