New York is filled with people who have, 'how'd you get that job?' careers. And street fashion bloggers may have one of the most unique gigs in the city.
The blogs offer a global slideshow of what stylish people are wearing and how they pull off their looks. There's millions of these sites worldwide. They're kinda like reading a daily online fashion magazine starring real people instead of celebrities and models.
But they seemed to have popped up from nowhere. So I got in touch with Phil Oh, who runs the blog streetpeeper.com, to find out what the appeal is. Turns out he's not exactly sure either.
Phil's been running the site for four years now, after he began snapping photos of hangers-on outside Paris' fashion week with, get this... a point and shoot camera (he's since upgraded to a Cannon 5D).
I spent the day with him seeking out subjects for his blog in Williamsburg and SOHO. He says it's hard to describe what it is he looks for...but it's definitely not someone who's in a trendy outfit, i.e., whatever the latest style craze is. Instead he prefers his subjects to take some sort of fashion risk.
Even though there's people everywhere, Phil likes to be personally inspired before taking any shots.
The whole thing seems like a sweet gig. The photography end consists of a lot of wandering or "hanging out," preferably on a nice day. He catches someone out of the corner of his eye, asks them if he can photograph them for the blog and takes their name and a general discription of what they're wearing or at least where they got it. The photos get uploaded to the site, filed under the city they were taken in. The blog allows Phil to travel to 20 different cities around the world to document their street style. Once the pics are uploaded, visitors to streetpeeper.com can cross-reference the pictures by styles (sequins), designers (McQueen) or even fabrics (wool).
The blog offers style inspiration as well as trend forecasting, and advertisers have started to take notice. Even some traditional fashion magazines have approached Phil to publish some of his blog photos. All this has turned the site from a hobby into a business. In addition to traveling around the world, Phil's also begun getting invites to fashion shows — and he's not alone. Street bloggers have been taking a more prominent position in the industry.
But Simon Collins, dean of fashion at Parsons, says they're great for entertainment, but maybe not as barometers for the business. Phil, like most bloggers, isn't necessarily trained in fashion — heck, he's not even a trained photographer. So the narriative of the photos on his blog are strictly his point of view. You could easily argue that's the whole point of a blog. But Collins says he gets concerned when the opinions of bloggers are given equal status as those of Cathy Horyn, New York Times Style Editor, or even Bill Cunningham (he's widely considered to be the orginator of the photography style so many street bloggers use. The only difference is his photos are posted to the New York Times website and not, say, BillCunningham.com.)
Regardless of the value that should or should not be placed on the street blogs, there is one undeniable contribution they bring to the fashion industry: free access to the organic creativity of regular people on the street.
And what artist whose work is specifically created to be used by people wouldn't want to know how they're using it?