The whole experience was nauseatingly self-indulgent but very fun all the same; it's no wonder so many people want in. For most, of course, it's a pretend job.
Anyone with pants and a smartphone can be a fashion blogger. Put some clothes on, take a photo of yourself, upload it to Instagram (tagged with #OOTD for easy clarification), and follow it up with a picture of some ladybug nail art or a bottle of aloe vera juice. There you go: you did it! You're basically Tavi Gevinson!
If you really want, you could always round that off with a vlog of your latest department-store haul and a $20 lip-loss giveaway, and you'd be well on your way to 8,000 Twitter followers and a paid Mooncup banner ad.
However, that side of fashion blogging is essentially just pointing your iPhone at a mirror. Where it gets slightly trickier is managing to disseminate your personal brand onto blogs that you don't operate yourself—blogs run by people who write guest columns in weekend supplements and splash the best part of their fee on camera lenses they don't really need.
Ahead of Fashion Week, I set myself a challenge: spend £10 ($16) a day on the dumbest outfits I could put together, and see if I could get papped by one of those people. Granted, Fashion Week is the largest annual gathering of street style bloggers, so the chances of having your photo taken are tripled by merely turning up and loitering near the Vitaminwater fridge.
But my thinking was that if I—a 22-year-old who accessorizes with Lord of the Rings paraphernalia and yellowing festival wristbands – could make my way onto a fashion blog, then so could anyone.
On the Friday morning, Henry—the photographer—and I went on the hunt for outfits. Turns out charity shops in my neighborhood aren't cheap. We drained a whole day's budget on a fake Liverpool jacket, some vanilla New Look heels, and a few crispy pairs of men's socks.
But once we got to East London's Brick Lane, and its abundance of Bangladeshi mini-marts and off licenses, our luck changed. There was a bunch of bargain-bucket stuff that I'd never seen under one roof before—plastic handcuffs, bindis, imported intimate wash. Cultural appropriation can come at a staggering cost, but here it was pocket change.
After picking up some shimmery silver material and a roll of pink and purple synthetic fur—both of which I intended to turn into something vaguely wearable—we were fast running out of cash, so we checked some dumpsters for freebies. Lucky for us, people just don't seem to care about broken neon glasses and barely functioning alarm clocks as much as they used to, so into the bags they went.
On top of Henry's roof, the wind in my fur, I looked the worst I'd ever looked in my life. Like a bloated Furby at a Shitdisco concert.
Still, I had a job to do, so I spent the entire tube journey to central London imagining we were off to the launch of a new Peruvian restaurant (very fashion, according to some of the blogs I'd researched) in an effort to get into character.
Walking through the arches to the Somerset House courtyard, it was exactly as I'd imagined: flustered PRs waving clipboards, bewildered European tourists and lots of well-dressed people pretending to check their phones, glancing up any time someone with a DSLR came within snapping distance.
As I trotted around, a few photographers began to perk up. "Are you a blogger?" they asked. "Yes," I lied.
Some asked where my pieces were from. I told them most of my outfit was vintage Vivienne Westwood, because she's the only one I know. They all nodded enthusiastically, and one man said, "Oh yes, I remember this bag. A big one that year."
I know women's lifestyle mags always harp on about statement pieces, but I could never have predicted the reaction my plug necklace got. Everyone wanted to know where I'd bought it, and most seemed genuinely impressed when I told them I'd made it myself.
'This fashion business is very strange,' I thought, as someone handed me a free bottle of "beauty water" that supposedly contained collagen and looked a bit like the glitter body sprays I used to buy from Claire's. I had a sip. I didn't feel any more beautiful, but it did make my mouth foamy.
I was pleased with the first day's progress; people were taking me seriously, despite the fact that I was wearing one knee-length golfing sock and holding an alarm clock. But with only five or six portraits under my belt, I knew I could do much better.
On the Monday (I skipped Saturday and Sunday, because the weekend is for sleeping and avoiding central London) I had no real statement pieces to catch anyone's eye—just some thigh-high socks, short-shorts and very old football gear.
However, I'd been researching some blogs for posing tips and was confident enough in my newfound ability that I didn't have to resort to the traditional hallmarks of an online couture queen, like England beanies or wearable plug sockets. All I had to do was tilt my head down, smile coyly and slump, with my hand resting wherever felt sassiest.
It worked like a charm as soon as I arrived.
These two really took to my socks, presumably not noticing the well-baked stains that were scratching away at my thigh.
For the whole time I was there, I felt like bonafide blogger royalty, as gross as that sentence is. Twice as many people approached me – perhaps because my outfit wasn't quite as shit (I've seen people actually dressed like this in Camberwell and Clapton)—and when I got back to work everyone said I looked cool, which never happens.
By the final day, I'd decided to go all out. No more fuzzy DIY jumpers or Sports Direct archives; on Tuesday, I was all about high fashion. The one black glove was something I thought might be cool in the fashion world, before realising (on arrival at Somerset House) that it's probably not cool in any world.
Henry thought I needed black lipstick, but we didn't have any budget left for Barry M, so I used my Collection 2000 liquid eyeliner instead.
Stepping through the arches for the last time, a PR for a large chain of high street hairdressers recognized me and took me aside. Thirty minutes later, I was out of my brief VIP experience with a goodie bag full of stuff and some weird, temporarily dyed hair.
Drunk on the free prosecco rolling around my empty stomach, I went for a walk around the cobbles.
Multicoloured hair and silver capes are clearly in right now—photographers were flocking to me like hungry freelancers around the canapés at a press launch.
In fact, the only time I ran into any problems was when people started asking for my blog address. Thinking on my feet, I swatted them off with some incomprehensible mumbles about copycat accounts and advertising issues, and asked them to just tag my Instagram account instead.
Around this point, as a man got very close to my face to shoot "some detail," a passing boy in a leather cloak called me a "wannabe cunt." Which I didn't think was very fair. Frankly, by now I was anything but a wannabe; at least 30 photographers thought my $16 outfits were proficient enough to justify pointing a camera at them.
Though it did make me wonder, did anyone actually think I looked good, or were they just pretending to get it? Was the guy sashaying shade in my direction right—a sartorial truther blowing my lies wide open?
Whatever the answer to that very important question, I know one thing for sure: that the whole experience was nauseatingly self-indulgent. But very fun all the same; it's no wonder so many people want in.
For most, of course, it's a pretend job—a façade to bolster their online validation, to trick their Instagram followers into believing they regularly receive goodie bags full of revitalizing hair mist and Givenchy tote bags, or whatever it is these people get excited about. That said, become one of the blogging elite and it might be your ticket to a branding/PR/DJ gig that could fund your Friday nights until you're at least 25.
Unfortunately, doing that is slightly harder than I first thought. Which obviously makes a lot of sense—I neglected the whole setting up a blog and building a fan-base thing, and focused far too hard on perfecting my resting bitch face in the hope that someone established would take my picture, allowing me to just rise through the ranks off the back of that. But for all the photos people took of me, I couldn't find one on any of the blogs I'd set out to make. Turns out people who've spent eight years running highly successful blogs have some kind of editorial policy that excludes anyone clearly fucking with them.
So what did I learn about the world of fashion blogging? That it's a pastime no different from any other I've come across. Believe your own hype, and you can be anyone you want to be.