People crammed into the Coach leather goods store on Madison Avenue during Fashion’s Night Out on Sept. 8, sipping wine and champagne, eating hors d’oeuvres and hoping to catch a glimpse of “Saturday Night Live” comic Seth Meyers as he tended bar. One fan, Fallen Klug, slipped Meyers her resume as she took a photo with him.
Yet the main attractions at the Coach store were the seven bloggers that Coach had invited to help promote the re-release of the company’s 1973 duffle bag. Fans circled and took pictures of the bloggers, each of whom sported a duffle bag of her very own. There was Hanelli Mustaparta, who is also a contributing photographer at Vogue.com; Emily Weiss, who classifies herself as a beauty blogger rather than a fashion blogger; Glamourai’s Kelly Framel with her green duffle, who designed another bag for Coach; and Chriselle Lim, GENLUX magazine’s new fashion director. Natalie Joos, who is known for her blog about vintage clothes, posed for a photo with the other bloggers. Leandra Medine of “The Man Repeller” talked with a few fans, while Zandile Blay sat on the edge of the room deep in conversation with Coach’s publicist, Cara Dorr.
A high-end purse company that prides itself on being one of the oldest in the industry, Coach has caught on to the blogger craze. This isn’t the first time that the company has used bloggers, either. In the past, Coach has asked bloggers to model in promotional campaigns and even to help design new bags.
Mustaparta, whose site is www.Hanneli.com, was just one of the writers that Coach contacted. After she agreed to the collaboration, Coach sent her a free duffle bag in the color of her choice and asked her to take a picture of herself with it and post it on her blog. Mustaparta said she chose brown since it “worked with the outfit that I imagined myself wearing,” a combination of beige and white, a reflection of the outfit she wore to the event that night.
“I loved the opportunity because I really liked the product,” Mustaparta added.
Bloggers have often been hailed as the next generation of fashion journalists, giving their readers up-to-date news when they need it most, yet they seem to have escaped the same criticism that journalists face when it comes to accepting free products. All seven of the bloggers at the Coach event received a bag worth over $300, which they happily promoted. There were no posts that criticized the bloggers for their actions, and none of their readers seemed to have a problem with the fact that they received free bags. As long as the bloggers would have promoted the product anyway, accepting it as a gift seemed to be fine. Reader comments on all of bloggers’ posts were more interested in the composition of an outfit shown than in journalism ethics.
“Honestly, I get requests to promote products nearly every day, but I decline the vast majority of those,” said Framel. “I am truly only interested in talking about brands and things that I personally adore, things that I’m excited about wearing myself.” She was more than happy to participate in Coach’s event: She has worked with the company in the past, doing everything from designing her own bag for the brand to modeling in one of the company’s holiday campaigns.
“I love working with the brand because they genuinely respect bloggers,” said Framel.
Coach isn’t the only company to capitalize on the blogger brand. Several other companies also used bloggers during Fashion’s Night Out. Miu Miu, Phaidon and even Madewell hosted blogger-based events to help promote their brands. And companies using bloggers isn’t limited to Fashion’s Night Out.
Izzy Grinspan, Editor of Racked, a fashion news blog, said she’s seen an increase in fashion brands using bloggers.
“Blogs have become so much more mainstream,” Grinspan said, who recently wrote an article listing the top ten blogger events for Fashion’s Night Out.
“Apparently there are even agents that represent fashion bloggers,” she said. “There are actually jobs that exist around bloggers.”
One of these agents is Danielle Wiley, founder of Sway Group, a company which connects bloggers and brands.
“All these studies keep coming out that show bloggers have influence over purchasing,” said Wiley.
More and more talent agencies for bloggers are beginning to appear, including Digital Brand Architect, which focuses on fashion bloggers, and FitFluential, which connects fitness bloggers to prospective companies. Brands see the benefit of having a spokesperson who already has a large following.
At Coach’s event, the bloggers all happily sported their duffle bags, and most of them said that they planned to hold onto them far into the future.
“In real life, I’ve been using my Coach duffle constantly, so it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll be seeing more of it on the blog,” said Framel.