The business of blogging: Still wow, or fading now? Here’s what the experts have to say

Designer Rina Dhaka with actor Rhea Chakraborty at the recently-concluded fashion week organised by the Fashion Design Council of India.

Fashion blogging as a medium of expression and documentation is not new. But, over the years, it has evolved to become more than just a tool to voice an opinion. Terms like fashion influencers have cropped up, with online platforms like Instagram playing a massive role in driving the commercial aspect of having a blog. So, in this new scenario, does blogging continue to have the power of an independent voice? Or, has it just become a mechanised play of giveaways, designer wear and followers? When bloggers like Tavi Gevinson and Chiara Ferragni started out, it seemed to serve a very different purpose than today’s blogs. But, is that really bad, considering changing times ask for changed practices? Or, is the real ‘aim’ being defeated? We strived to find out when we visited the recent fashion week in Delhi, organised by Fashion Design Council of India. Here are what bloggers, fashion experts have to say.

Naina Redhu (@naina)

Blogger, photographer Naina Redhu has been blogging since 2004, and her work takes her around the globe. But, has she even been criticized for having access to luxury destinations or designer wear? “Not to my face, no. I don’t see why there would be criticism in any case. I put out barter collaboration proposals on my social media platforms throughout the year. I work transparently. Best to work with a designer brand professionally, wear the garment, get photographed, return the garment and get paid for doing so. And what about those who say that anyone can become a blogger? “Anyone can become one, yes, because there is almost no barrier to entry. I think that is great because it keeps us on our toes.” And how much does she earn? “ROI (Return on investment) for me, as an entrepreneur, is hard to calculate. My revenue can vary from ₹1 to ₹3 Lakh per month. It’s a long-tail investment and returns can be zero to minimal in the early years. Showing up, meeting people (regardless of who they are ), doing the work. Not every update / post is paid for. You need to have your own visual language and content.”

Surbhi Suri (@surbeesuri)

Fashion blogger Surbhi Suri says that no matter how commercialization pans out, the brand one endorses won’t ‘influence’ if the post doesn’t have a backbone. “You represent yourself in a way that influences people. They like your content and start following you. Influencing is very personal; you can’t force a product. I started writing about trends on a blog in 2011 and people liked it. It’s an economy in itself. ROI is happening now as brands have started acknowledging bloggers and our power of influencing and they want to pay us. It goes up to ₹70k-₹80k (per month),” she says. Suri adds that it’s not like followers don’t understand the changing dynamics of blogging. “The followers understand when something is sponsored, and they also know that the blogger knows the brand inside-out. I cannot endorse a product if it doesn’t have a connect with me.”

Prabhav Gautam (@prabhavgautam)

Gautam started blogging a little over two and a half years back, and he feels that not everyone can become a fashion influencer. “A lot of people buy followers. Whatever you see on Instagram is not very genuine, as was the case before. It takes a lot of effort. People perceive it is as sitting, posing and clicking pictures, but it’s a lot of work. We usually generate revenue by promoting brands and designers. Some brands pay a lot, some don’t, but they work on barter. It also depends on the number of followers. At the end of the month, a blogger can earn up to ₹20k, depending on the following and how they personally work.” Gautam is also of the opinion that one can’t underestimate the understanding of a follower. “Even if it is a sponsored post, users know it. I think it is better to mention it. People are not dumb; they only follow content that is up there.”

Raghav Gogia(@stylehighness)

Gogia’s blog is not even an year old and he makes up to ₹1.5 lakh a month — but there are some who can make even more. “An influencer can earn anywhere between ₹1 to ₹3 lakh in a month, which is mostly through brand collaborations,” he says. To be an influencer, one has to be confident. “Clothes don’t define you; you define clothes. The way you style them is what makes you unique. Also, when they say anyone can become a blogger, I won’t take it as criticism. If you are hardworking, you can be anyone you want to be. Fashion events are for socialising and meeting new people. This not only gets us more business, but helps us make contacts and friends, too.”

Karishma Kambo (@martinionheels)

Don’t underestimate the work that bloggers do, urges Kambo, who has been blogging for almost two years now . “Would they collaborate with just any fashion blogger? No, they are choosing people depending on the work the blogger is doing. It’s not fun and games; it’s a lot of hard work,” she says. When a style influencer wears a designer creation, she feels it gives their followers confidence to wear those clothes. “We are not skinny or size zero, so they are able to relate better,” she adds.

Gaurav Gupta

Designer Gaurav Gupta is of the opinion that fashion influencers are part of the fashion business. (Amal KS/HT)

“Fashion blogging is a very recent phenomenon in the world and especially in this country. The country hasn’t seen that kind of serious fashion journalism itself over the years. Very few bloggers (a) have an identity, and (b) are fashionable. Having said that, the few that are there, are making the right kind of choices and making the right kind of noises. I’m quite excited to see what the future brings in,” adding, “Fashion influencers are a part of the fashion business. All kinds of celebrities and people who create aspiration in people, they affect your business, it’s as simple as that. Today, people are hooked on to their phones and Instagram, they are not seeing that much print. So it is obvious that the influence is rather shifting to online,” he says.

Nida Mahmood

Designer Nida Mahmood feels that having an opinion is what’s most important.

It’s important to separate the serious ones from the ‘copy-pasters’, believes Mahmood. “Because it has become a trend, everyone is calling themselves a blogger. I have seen people who don’t necessarily have an opinion, and are just copy-pasting information that a designer is providing in the concept note. A blogger has to have an opinion. People follow a blogger basis the opinion they have. My only take is: have an opinion, otherwise it’s a pointless exercise. While agreeing that blogging is not an easy thing—it takes a lot of ingenuity and effort—I also feel that a lot of them jump on to the bandwagon without understanding the relevance of it. I have a lot of respect for a lot of bloggers. You need to be educated about the trends in the world to be able to speak your own language—this is lacking with most of them. It’s a responsible position, use it wisely.”

Rina Dhaka

Designer Rina Dhaka says that there are no shortcuts to success. (Raajessh Kashyap/HT)

The designer says that hard work as an ingredient is essential, when it comes to blogging. “I know a lot of young people who are caught up with this rave to be quickly there. They become bloggers; In fashion as you know, you have to work very hard. It’s not about getting dressed and looking hot and going to parties. One can get caught in that rave.” On whether blogs can impact brand sale, she says, “Yes, bloggers who have a big following can impact it.”

Namrata Joshipura

Designer Namrata Joshipura feels that the bloggers need to be relevant, and their content, original/ (Yogen Shah)

Designer Namrata Joshipura, says, “Social media, in addition to being relevant, doesn’t have any barriers to entry. So anyone who has an interest in fashion starts blogging. And in our day and age, you can buy everything—from followers to likes. The authenticity of an influencer or a blogger totally depends on their content as opposed to their following. I am not against them at all because in the current scenario they are very relevant, but for me personally, I would follow someone if their content appeals to me.

Does endorsing impact sales? “I like to believe, yes, but to what extent, I don’t know. A lot of these bloggers are young millennials and for a very established brand who caters to slightly older people, I don’t know how that’s going to impact. But for something like a Gucci, if a blogger endorses a product, then of course, it’s going to have an impact. The bottomline is they have to be relevant and their content has to be original and it has to be interesting.”