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Fashion world turns to bloggers to get the word out

Many designers are bypassing traditional media in search of Web audiences devoted to style and their products.

June 07, 2009|Emili Vesilind

When Joel Knoernschild, designer of cult men's brand KZO, wanted to break the news of his collaboration with fellow L.A. label Unholy Matrimony, he skipped over big newspapers and apparel trade publications and went straight to his favorite blog, Trend Land .

"After it was posted on the site, all the other fashion blogs and websites picked it up," said Knoernschild, adding that KZO's inbox was soon flooded with requests for the new line.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, June 09, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
Fashion blogger's name: Freelance writer and blogger Erin Magner's last name was misspelled as Manger in an article about fashion websites in Sunday's Image section.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, June 14, 2009 Home Edition Image Part P Page 2 Features Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Fashion blogger's name: Freelance writer and blogger Erin Magner's last name was misspelled as Manger in an article about fashion websites in the June 7 Image section.

The Santa Monica-based fashion and culture website -- which runs chatty reviews of designer and fashion collections-- is among scores of relatively new websites and blogs based in L.A. that are reshaping the tumultuous media landscape. As designers, advertisers and readers increasingly seek them out, these rising arbiters of style are rapidly gaining clout and cachet.

Independent brands and retailers have come to consider the Web an integral part of their marketing efforts, having seen established style websites like Daily Candy (dailycandy.com) and Fashionista (fashionista.com) help launch many a fledgling line.

"We were the first to write about Rebecca Minkoff's [top-selling] Morning After bag," said Daily Candy's L.A. editor, Crystal Meers. "We get to see a brand turn into something a lot bigger -- and sometimes things literally start as, 'Can you come over and see some samples in my garage?' It's exciting."

Los Angeles-based designer Jenni Kayne, who shows in New York each season, says that though she doesn't read many blogs, she makes sure reporters from the major ones, including L.A.'s WhoWhatWear (www.whowhat wear.com), are invited to her events. "Inviting the right bloggers is as important as inviting the bigger publications, and maybe even more important soon," she noted. "Magazines are getting smaller and smaller."

And the universe of the online fashion-obsessed seems only to be expanding. When Corinne Grassini, designer for L.A.-based Society for Rational Dress, was in Dallas earlier this year on a tour promoting a capsule collection she designed for Barneys New York, she made it a point to meet with Jane Aldridge, the precocious 16-year-old blogger behind the breathless online fashion chronicle Sea of Shoes ( www.seaofshoes.com). A blurb Aldridge posted early this year on the brand resulted in a rush of people signing the guest book on the label's website.

"These blogs are to be appreciated, for sure," Grassini said. "As an independent designer you don't always have huge advertising dollars. Bloggers are a less 'spendy' way to get your name out there."

Teen-focused mass brands and retailers have boasted souped-up websites for years, but the wise ones are also targeting blogs in their marketing efforts. One of the first campaigns for Quiksilver's new women's contemporary brand featured a gaggle of SoCal's independent fashion bloggers as models on the company website.

"Blogs are the new wave of marketing," said Catlin Rawling, marketing manager for Quiksilver's women's division. "We want to start forming those relationships and inviting them to events. These bloggers are reaching all these girls we're trying to reach ourselves."

The bloggers featured in the campaign are part of a groundswell of model-esque young SoCal fashion fanatics who post photos of their daily outfits online -- creating a kind of wardrobe diary. Among them, Taghrid Chaaban (see accompanying story); Rachel Nguyen (thatschic.net), a 19-year-old Orange Coast College student whose blog's motto is, "All you need is love, but a glossy Vogue is a glorious substitute"; and Krystal Simpson (whatisrealityanyway.blogspot.com), a 26-year-old professional model and Chloe Sevigny twin whose photos look as if they were ripped out of Nylon magazine. Krystal Simpson

The sites are thin on commentary, but fat with fashion experimentation and unadulterated enthusiasm -- something fashion insiders can hardly ever muster.

Still, these are niche destinations for a narrow audience -- namely, other fashion-obsessed young women.

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When the focus shifts to harder fashion news, the number of voices drops. But those who have embraced the task of digging it up and disseminating it have found a ready audience.

Racked LA, which is owned by the Curbed Network in New York, has quickly become an authority on all things retail in L.A. since launching in April last year -- stalking empty lots and storefronts in hot pursuit of the next retail opening.

At Racked, getting the goods first has always been top priority. "The speed of how things get disseminated is what makes blogs stand out," said Erin Manger, a freelance blogger for the site. "We'll have a notice for a sale up within five minutes of hearing about it."

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