Once upon a time, if you wanted to know what was stylish or what to wear during the coming season, you opened GQ, Esquire, or Harpers Bazaar. You went to a cool store, or flipped through fancy catalogues. The content of these glossy pages and shops was determined by an elite group of buyers, editors, and photographers. They went to fashion shows twice a year in New York and Europe to decide what you wanted and what you could buy. They picked everything for you.
Sound like Meryl Streeps monologue in The Devil Wears Prada? It more or less is. The movie was released in 2006, just before Garance Dor picked up a digital camera, stood outside of those fashion shows, snapped pictures of what she saw, and posted them on her eponymous blog. Over the next decade, Dor would create the template for what became known as street style blogging, open the world of high fashion to the masses, and eventually usurp the very fashion world she documented. “She established quality blogging,” says Yvan Rodic, a fellow blogger known as the Face Hunter. “She was the beginning.”
She established quality blogging. She was the beginning. Yvan Rodic
This week, as models stalk catwalks in Paris, Dor celebrates the 10th anniversary of garancedore.com and her emergence as one of the highest-profile style arbiters in the digital (and real) world. Its hard to believe that she only picked up a camera because she felt bad about her wardrobe. An illustrator by training who started a blog in 2006 to showcase her work, Garance moved to Paris from Marseilles in 2007 and suffered a rude sartorial awakening. “I was probably one of the most stylish girls in Marseilles, but I got to Paris and I was the least. It was a disaster!” she says with a laugh. “And then one I day I decided I wanted to document style and learn about it.”
She began photographing women whose style she admired. “I was seeing all these cool girls,” Dor says. After asking permission to take their picture, shed post the photos on her blog with dreamy narratives about the woman’s look and attitude. She also posted things from brands she loved, encouraging readers to enjoy the beauty and design without worrying about the four- and five-figure price tags. Within months, “the blog became super popular in France,” she says, and not just with readers. She remembers how brands and stores would report, Oh shit, Garanceyou talked about those pants and we sold out the same day!”
Ten Years of Street Style
In September, 2008, Dor decided to “keep the energy going” and flew to New York for fashion week for what she calls personal research. “I was very interested in the American sense of style,” she says. When she arrived outside venues to photograph the fashionable types flocking to the shows, she encountered a handful of street style shooters like Rodic and Scott Schuman, who went by The Sartorialist. “There was not so many people shooting,” says Rodic. “Blogging was not yet a thing. People were quite surprised to be photographed outside a fashion show.”
It was during that season that I encountered Dor for the first time. She was a shy French girl who asked if she could take my picture between shows. I was holding an apple and wearing Keds with a neon pink sweater. She liked that I had an apple. (“I remember precisely the photo I took of you,” she says eight years later. “How you made me feel.”) She called the photo “Pink Apple,” and it’s this emphasis on feelings that helped distinguish Dor. Her contemporaries (at the time, all men) largely favored a photojournalistic style. Dor was a storyteller. She was more connected to the French style of blogging at the time, “which was all about your personal diary,” she says.
Paul Martineau, a photo curator at the Getty Museum, attributes Dores success to this approach. “What strikes me about Garances work is that its not overly self-conscious,” he says. “That makes it feel very fresh, natural and easy. And I think people are comfortable looking at these pictures. They think, ‘I could wear those clothes, and be in that place.’”
Dor also knew Photoshop and learned HTML, which helped her enhance the site. “You remember in the beginning images were super small? My blog always looked better. It was so easy!” WordPress was, and remains, her platform. Dor also made sure to publish her blog in English and French. (This required a translator every day, almost in real time.) This exposed her to a much larger audience. Her real feat of determination, however, was insisting that the comments on her site from both languages meet in the same place. “For me,” she says, “blogging at that time was really about people having a real conversation.”
Conversation was not something the fashion industry was in a position to offer. Magazines worked top-down. (See: Prada, Devil Wears.) So too did communication between designers and their customers. Of course, clients could vote with their wallets—but that was so far down the line, and so slow, and so expensive.
Street style blogs at first and then social media have really broadened the sphere of influence past fashion magazines.Scott Schuman
On the Internet, Dor learned, having a voice is free. “Street style blogs at first and then social media have really broadened the sphere of influence past fashion magazines, says Schuman, who became Dors companion for a few years. Back then, there were really just fashion magazines and people really only talked about Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. But after that it really spread out. And you had a lot of different voices and a lot of different people that the general public was interested in. So where before you had just a few voices, now you have a lot—a lot, a lot of voices.”
Before long, Dor and her fellow street style blogger enjoyed followings larger than those of magazines that had been in business for decades. Major fashion houses did the math. Within a few seasons, these outsiders found themselves moving from the periphery of the most important fashion shows to the front row, rubbing shoulders with—and, in some cases, replacing—the fashion royalty whose styles they admired and captured on the street. Dor, the fan girl with her digital camera, became the establishment.
Her fiercely loyal, and fast growing, readership followed her wherever she went–via tweets, Facebook updates, and blog posts. “I dont believe in duplicating content,” she says of her various platforms. “They are all coordinated, but they tell different stories.” The fashion houses banked on her loyal following. Eventually, designers and retailers paid for access to Dors audiences, and those of her fellow bloggers. Compared to an ad page in Vogue, bloggers were a deal. Plus, their connection to their readers was much more direct, personal, immediate—and effective in starting conversions. Dor and her pioneering street style bloggers created an entirely new space, offering readers access to the world of high fashion and turning an exclusive closed experience into a broadly accessible one.
This doesn’t come without a cost. If Dor and her contemporaries left the door open for other digital influencers, platforms like Instagram blew the door off its hinges. “Instagram has revolutionized fashion, making new celebrities and creating new powers,” she says. “A lot of it is real, a lot of it is not.”
With extreme variations in quality, content and motivation, “its a double-edged sword for photographers like Dor,” Martineau says. “Its all been opened up to just about anyone, so how do you distinguish yourself among the hundreds of thousands of images that are cropping up everyday? Its more democratic, but its more difficult to have lasting attention.
Yet here is Dor, celebrating 10 years. She now employs a studio with 10 employees, including a photographer, to spread her work across different platforms. She is working on her second book, about Wellness, and she hosts the podcast series Pardon My French.
“Its a good moment,” she says, “to have a stronger voice than ever.”
Street Style Timeline
October 6, 2010
Read more: https://www.wired.com/2016/09/garance-dore/