When I was searching the New York Fashion Week shows and browsing the #NYFW hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, I was surprised to see how many more posts were about what the attendees wore rather than the shows themselves. Even the great Suzy Menkes published an essay about the “peacocks” outside the shows distracting from the action inside. Our obsession with street style is what has made many fashion bloggers famous and increasingly commercialized.
The creator of street style photography is widely accepted to be Bill Cunningham, the fashion photographer for The New York Times. The now 85-year-old Cunningham started photographing women on the street in the 1978 and continues to do so today. His column only publishes untouched, authentic images of New York style. He is famously private but has remained a fixture in the industry for decades. There is even a documentary about Bill Cunningham (on Netflix!) called Bill Cunningham New York. We are all so obsessed because these photos show average women how other average women are actually dressing, not like the posed and photoshopped images we see in magazines.
The street style trend started popping up in other parts of the world as well. In 1997, another photographer in Japan by the name of Shoichi Aoki was inspired by how the women around him dressed. He started documenting Japanese street style when he noticed the interesting outfits in Tokyo’s Harajuku area (the same women that inspired Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B. album and “Harajuku Lovers” line). He created FRUiTS magazine to publish these images which is still in print today. The magazine is generally considered to have launched street fashion in Japan.
After the launch of massively successful fashion blog, The Sartorialist, in 2005 and the takeoff of social media, we’ve been overwhelmed by images of street style. While Bill Cunningham’s images are still depicting the fashion diversity of normal women around New York, The Sartorialist and other fashion blogs that started popping up started leaning towards photographing posed, glamorous women: a model on her way to a fitting, socialites, the women attending fashion events, etc. Fashion bloggers like The Blonde Salad and Bryanboy gained so much internet fame that high profile brands began sending garments to be featured on their posts as they realized these blogs were reaching audiences as large as those exposed to their print magazine ads.
We’ve reached a point in fashion history where the most popular images are staged and sponsored. These fashion bloggers now dress like the “peacocks” Menkes speaks of in order to be photographed and gain notoriety in the fashion industry. The photos are getting closer and closer to the edited magazine images that street style originally rebelled against. While some photographers like David Luraschi and Alex Sturrock are attempting to combat the trend with candid fashion photography, most people are still drawn to commercialized images.
Let me know what you think on Twitter or Instagram (@amymboone) and check out next week’s post on the life of Oscar de la Renta.