can haul videos ever replace fashion shoots?
What does it mean for the fashion industry when some fashion vloggers have more followers than magazines?
To enter the world of haul vloggers is to surrender yourself to a stream of the everyday, glossed up and re-packaged for you via perky twenty-somethings from their bedrooms. After spending an hour in the world of Zoella, the 24 year old vlogging phenomenon, I, along with her 7 and a half million followers, know her boyfriend's favourite colours (past and present), her preferred pizza order and how to apply festival chic makeup with precision.
If you're willing to upload the innermost workings of your life onto YouTube, there's an audience for it. Vloggers gain followers and earn cash by documenting the inconsequential but interesting. Hit videos have titles ranging from the seemingly useful but grammatically incorrect How to put on a Tampon (7,247,636 views, Weylie Hoang) to the more mainstream My Shoe Collection: High Heels (7.5 mins and 857,828 views for Niomi Smart).
There is no denying the power of these online marketeers, by allowing their dedicated fanbase to witness personal moments they become trusted sources of information. These are online oracles to millions of young followers, big brothers and sisters offering worldly advice: how to tackle daily obstacles and what you should be wearing whilst doing it. Brands have taken notice of this, this band of vloggers have democratised fashion and beauty. These are not high fashion shoots, they are accessible and easy tutorials and for high street brands, they are a golden ticket. If you're a label with a target market of Millennials, why trouble yourself with the effort that goes into gaining a page of fashion editorial in a magazine with a circulation of 150,000, when you can reach over a million viewers through an online look book shoot with Zoella?
Brands like Topshop and Urban Outfitters have learnt to harness this power, opening up to partnerships with fresh faced online stars to stay relevant to younger consumers. They work on seasonal haul videos, allowing their brand to be seen through the eyes of an on message vlogger - Urban Outfitters' recent pair up with SunBeams Jess, a relatively new face on the scene, has garnered a not unimpressive 68,000 views in one week and a living editorial for their Retro Sportswear line. This is imagery that will continue to be watched for months after the launch, constantly generating revenue for the brand. And it's not just content creation that makes these stars so bankable, they inspire some serious fan-mania. A Topshop insider revealed that the first year beauty vlogger Tanya Burr attended their show, she had as many social media mentions as Louis from One Direction, who was sitting slightly further along the front row. These guys have fans and they know how to use them.
Luxury labels have been reticent to infiltrate the world of online hauls. Their success being based on an idea of exclusivity, a joining of a club that's not open to everyone, somewhat at odds with the come one, come all attitude of the video haulers. Aside from their mass appeal, vloggers are notoriously protective over their content, there is no room for brand approval. This is something that designers can cope with when dealing with trusted stylists and photographers, less so with a 22 year old from Silicon Beach, as the Brighton vlogging scene has now been christened.
The way in which we view and consume fashion is changing but as much as we crave a quick sartorial fix with the click of a mouse, this will never replace the value of fashion editorial. Bloggers and vloggers can sell us outfits but this can't supersede the creation of an image by a perfect triumvirate of stylist, model and photographer. These videos are clever, incisive online marketing, money making tools that rely on turning the everyday into the extraordinary for their millions of subscribers, before moving onto the next. Theirs is a world where the question 'what's in my handbag?' can be asked and answered multiple times, with descriptions taking up to 13 minutes. There's unlimited space on the Internet for this kind of content, which is essentially a combination of cataloguing, confessionals and tutorials. They may be popular but vlogs are not a thing of beauty, they are rooted in dreary reality, and while this may sell product, it cannot beat the moments of total and dreamy escapism that the best fashion shoots offer us.
Text Nadia Bean