#TheNYTimes: The New Icons of Fashion

Anna Dello Russo in Paris during Fashion Week in October

 

 

Anna Dello Russo lives in a glass house — the virtual kind — her subtlest

 gesture or sartorial quirk scrutinized by her legions of fans. Pecking at their

 keyboards, those online viewers wax effusive. “She is like Coco Chanel to me,” one

 admirer exclaimed on The Sartorialist, the popular blog. “Isn’t she fabulous … so

jolie laide,” gushed another on The Fashion Spot; a third posting on Ms. Dello Russo’s

blog, to her: “I love when you wear pink.”

 

 

 

 

“They want to choose my outfit, to dress me like a doll,” said Ms. Dello Russo,

the elastic-limbed editor at large for Vogue Japan. “I’m thinking I’m a Barbie

of the Internet.” Not that she is complaining. Ms. Dello Russo and her raffish

style-world cohort, who populate the mastheads of the fashion magazines,

represent a new breed of Web-based reality star. Cyber idols like Carine

Roitfeld and Emmanuelle Alt of French Vogue, Kate Lanphear of American

Elle and Giovanna Battaglia, lately of Italian Vogue, are hardly household

names. But as the heroines of influential fashion blogs like Jak & Jil,

Who What Wear and Citizen Couture, they are casting a spell, their comings

and goings relentlessly tracked by a new generation of aspiring style savants.

“Editors and models have become the new fashion icons,” said Tommy Ton,

the Toronto-based publisher of Jak & Jil, a photo blog that charts stylists’ and

editors’ progress to and from the fashion tents. Their look and quirky glamour

have, in fact, inspired a flurry of advertising campaigns, product introductions and

fashion lines. “Even celebrities follow their lead,” Mr. Ton maintained. They do,

in fact, seem to be wielding an influence that is, ironically, poised to outstrip that

of the magazines they serve. “You’ve got people interested in fashion in Middle

America going to these Web sites and studying these people,” said Gregory Littley,

a social media and branding consultant in New York. They are “using the blogs

as a resource with which to educate themselves. “To parts of America that

aren’t exposed to Paris, New York or Milan,” Mr. Littley added, “those sites

are a bible, a window on the culture that they take as gospel.” Indeed, the

widening appeal of a cluster of high-ranking stylists marks a kind of sea change.

 

 

“Today, if I were to stop a young girl in the street in Stockholm and ask her,

she would probably know who Carine Roitfeld is,” Jens Grede observed in

Industrie, the London-based magazine that he co-edits and that caters to fashion

insiders. “Five years ago she would never have known.” Style-struck viewers

might identify Ms. Roitfeld by her form-fitting dresses, dominatrix footwear

or the swag of dark hair that falls over one eye and grazes her finely etched

cheekbones; they could as readily pick out Ms. Dello Russo by her theatrical,

straight-from-the-runway looks: big shoulders, big furs, baroque accessories

and cascades of drapery; and Ms. Lanphear by her platinum boy bob,

 spiky jewelry and biker coat. And they might know Ms. Battaglia by her

offbeat classicism — back-swept hair, creased trousers and breezy, trend

-proof dresses. Would-be insiders themselves, those blogophiles already are

more than glancingly acquainted with a handful of fashion stars who invade

their living rooms each week  by way of shows like “Project Runway.” They

formed a sizable part of the audience for “The September Issue,” a film

documentary that made an unlikely pop star of Grace Coddington, the creative

director of American Vogue. And some can parrot the sayings of Rachel Zoe

the Hollywood superstylist who is given to breathing “I die” in broadcasts

of “The Rachel Zoe Project” on the Bravo network. Stylists who dress

celebrities or direct fashion shoots and put together runway looks for

prominent designers, were once fashion’s unsung worker bees. “They have

been inspiring designers for years,” said Andrew Rosen, the chief  executive of

Theory, a fashion brand that featured a roster of prominent stylists in a

recent store and Web campaign. “Now they’re inspiring consumers.”


Fashion professionals and civilians alike are drawn by the editors’ evident passion,

 said Ms. Lanphear, one of Jak & Jil’s most popular subjects and the heroine

as well of several fan sites devoted exclusively to her racy look. “They

communicate that passion by wearing runway pieces styled in new ways, in

everyday situations,” she said. “That’s what’s so inspiring.” (Elle.com is capitalizing

on Ms. Lanphear’s visibility by featuring her on its site, where she shares her

insights with readers.) The fashion idiosyncrasies of stylists certainly appeal

to Tiffany Fung, a senior at Oberlin College in Ohio, and a devotee of blogs

like Face Hunter, Lookbook and Styleclicker. The women photographed on those

sites “are presenting fashion masterpieces,” Ms. Fung enthused, “and, for the

most part, my job is to try and interpret their ideas for myself.”   Maya Chayot,

a communications major at the State University of New York at Purchase, routinely

scans the blogs for photographs of models and stylists she admires. Those people

offer a glimpse of fashion that is “more authentic and eclectic than the fashion

magazines,” said Ms. Chayot, 21, one that is “more obtainable for me.”

Updated weekly, or even daily, the blogs themselves are “much more current than

other mainstream media outlets,” said Mr. Littley, the branding consultant. They

are providing their audiences with “an instant window to the fashion world —

one they don’t read about in Us Weekly.” Or, generally speaking, in the leading

fashion publications, which have traditionally attracted readers over 30.

Though some have sought to capture a younger readership, offering a

smattering of cover subjects scarcely out of their teens, such efforts

have gone largely ignored. Between 2000 and 2010, the median age of

female readers of fashion magazines stayed fairly steady, according to GfK

MRI, a media research company, climbing only slightly, from 34.2 to 35.4

at Vogue, from 40.6 to 42.6 at Harper’s Bazaar and from 32.3 to 32.6 at Elle.

But style professionals say that the fashion glossies carry little weight with

women in their teens and 20s. As Mr. Grede of Industrie noted, “a substantial

part of the global readership has been migrating online.” Ms. Fung is typical.

“I rarely look at Vogue or Bazaar,” she said. “But The Sartorialist

is synonymous with my morning coffee. It is close to religion for me.