December 9, 2015

On fashion blogging, in Wall Street

WallStreet.ro is one of Romania’s main business and economy resources. That’s why it was a great pleasure being interviewed for the business lifestyle section of the online publication. Here is the full content of the feature – I hope it will prove to be a profitable read! 😉

Janina Nectara Fashion Avec Passion Wall Street

The Romanian blogger writing for Vogue: Readers come for much more than a scroll-down on a couple of pictures

When you say ”fashion blog” you automatically think about colours, more or less wearable clothing, small articles on this event or that and plenty of comments from female followers. Romanian Janina Nectara is trying to keep away from the beaten path and this, combined with her drive to show that something else, something new really is possible has catapulted her into the role of Vogue journalist.

Janina Nectara has a marketing and political science background and, complementary, has taken classes at the Paris Fashion Institute, having fashion industry teachers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Yohji Yamamoto, Azzedine Alaia or Alexander McQueen. Her blog is FashionAvecPassion.com.

Among the publications that have written about the Romanian are Look Magazine, Le Figaro, Women Wear Daily, Elle Publications, Life Magazine, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, New York Magazine, NY Times.

How she went for fashion blogging

Five years ago, while working in Paris for the American press and being in the very midst of the fashion industry, ’’the place where the industry gets its coordinates. I used to attend runway shows, where I would meet the fashion critics’ elite, like Suzy Menkes (at that time with the International Herald Tribune, now at Vogue International) or Godfrey Deeny (then with Fashion Wire Daily and Financial Times, now at Le Figaro). I virtually came to grow surrounded by the people who, at that time and now, are leading figures in fashion media’’, she tells.

The blogging industry was then at its very beginnings. Her blogger friends, like Ingrid Chua Go and Bryan Boy, encouraged her to write about the experiences and stories gained while behind the scenes at Paris Fashion Week. This is how she came to write on FashionAvecPassion.com.

’’From the very beginning, I’ve wanted this blog to be something else, a content blog. Not as brightly coloured as a street-style blog, but highly viewed by international brands. Most certainly the environment I’ve worked in has been of a great influence.’’

The main challenge, as it often happens in business – time. Or, better said, its lack of.

Blogging tips

Maybe the most important angle to be taken on this field is that a blog should be regarded from the very beginning as nothing short of a full-time job.

’’Ideally, it shouldn’t be seen as a passion to go back to on weekends or whenever there’s a little bit of off time. It’s wonderful that way as well, but you can’t grow a business with this approach. If at the very start blogs used to be experimental digital platforms, that people with some spare time used to post guided by their interests, today well-managed blogs have become so influential they are getting bought by big international press conglomerates, and their founders make millions of dollars a year’’, points out Janina.

Basically, it’s quite clear, performance takes dedication and consistent and constant effort. Once the entrepreneur has realized that blogging is a profession in its own right, she sees him as being half-way to success. “The rest is fine-tuning…”.

What are the challenges of international blogging

The biggest dare of going international is that of every global business: the product! “What kind of product it is or what has it got to offer! There are maybe thousands of culinary blogs all over the world, thousands of beauty blogs worldwide, thousands of fashion blogs on the global map. They are all direct competitors, yet the task at hand takes on a whole new dimension if you come to think about the indirect competitors – magazines, TV etc. The real challenge is in building a blog that can stand out from among all of these categories, find a niche of its own”, adds Janina.

In Romania, maybe bloggers should try to better define their ’’mission’’.

“I wanted my site to have a strong word to say. Be influential. In this field, influence resides with information, with people that never cease telling interesting stories. Readers come for much more than a scroll-down on a couple of pictures. They come for compelling information, information that is relevant for the latest news and events in the industry that I, most of the time, attend personally. Yes, I’ve created somewhat of an elite following, that is interested in fashion, not just clothes. An audience that ask themselves questions and need to get answers”.

The easier route would have been that of going down the visual blogging path, she says, but she wanted more than joining the ranks of the thousands of blogs doing just that.

“In America this type of bloggers have been around for some ten years and, even if they have social media followers to match the entire Kardashian family, their influence tends to be 0. Why? Because they all do the same thing. I think we need to offer more than a series of photographs, meaning to also deliver relevant intelligent content. It’s the rough route, this one I chose to take, but not having taken the easy way out has reaped long term benefits”, says Janina.

When compared with the international press, Romania is still beginning, while showing great potential. “For now, blogging seems to be a twilight zone that I think the bloggers themselves should pay more attention to. It we look at fashion, for instance, as the highest impact field, many of those labeling themselves as «fashion bloggers», through their content, turn out to be lifestyle, shopping, street style, personal style or product promoter bloggers and the examples could go on”, thinks Janina Nectara.

“More than this, it’s essential for them to invest more in gaining industry expertise, in studying, cultivating a field-appropriate vocabulary and making sure they have a minimum of fashion knowledge to grow a successful blog. If in 2006 no fewer than 2 million fashion blogs were being considered as such (a genuine case of inflation caused by not filtering out those calling themselves otherwise than their content would justify), today, thanks to the evolution seen by the international market, only a few hundred are truly been regarded as such.

On the international market, maybe the most important aspect is that of knowing your identity against your competition, of clearly stating your claim, finding your place in the industry and, then, fuelling your individuality”, Janina advises.

As far as she is concerned, Janina put 4 years into education. “It wasn’t easy at all, because I had to start from scratch, after having already gained two majors, in Marketing and Political Science, and having worked in these fields”.

“Meanwhile, I tried to not only take in all of the necessary fashion knowledge I could, but also grow an experience to match. And I wanted to get it from the best! I worked 4 more years in Paris with Godfrey Deeny, the founder of L’Ummo Vogue and, additionally, took an internship in New York for Oscar de la Renta, the favourite designer of American First Ladies. So, I’ve been working tremendously these past years, in order to reach a position where I can formulate a relevant, fashion-wise valid opinion, one to rise up to meet Vogue’s demands and standards. I am both highly honoured and extremely proud that leading brands in the international fashion industry, that I used to look up to as a child and didn’t even dare dream of, have chosen to collaborate with me for various projects”.

Roberto Cavalli, Armani, Gucci, Burberry, Blumarine, John Richmond and many other have chosen Fashion Avec Passion to live broadcast their runway shows in Romanian exclusivities. A partnership that has been continued with most among these brands for more than 5-6 seasons.

“More than this, Giorgio Armani invited five international bloggers to promote his Emporio Armani eyewear line in a video made together with Grazia, the most popular women’s magazine in Italy. I was extremely happy that those managing the brand have wanted me to be one among those five”.

Today, Janina is Gucci Romania ambassador for the Chime For Change humanitarian project and has recently started collaborating with the most influential fashion magazine in the world, Vogue, the Turkish edition. As a matter of fact, these partnerships make for one of the main sources of income.

“In any field, constant, passionate and knowledgeable work continues making a difference”.

Marketing, marketing

“I think that the product spoke for itself. Back when it was launched, the magazines used to still be very strong, and the blogs were very few. So, I’ve been forced to deliver content more creative than that of the magazines that used to find information… surprise, online! The glossy magazine readers were becoming aware of an alternative. Rather than wait for a month to take the information they wanted from a magazine they had to pay for, they had the option of going online for instant and, also, free gratification”, says Janina Nectara.

Fashion Avec Passion catered personal information and experiences from the fashion world it was an active part of. “And because my stories used to demystify the intangible world of fashion that up to that point no one in Romania had had access to, I increasingly gained in audience”.

Janina was then advised to also start an English version for her site. She listened and the success came almost immediately. “Harrods London named the website Harrods Blog Of The Week right away, and the Fashion House collaborations were starting a new era for Fashion Avec Passion. Later, the blog became strong enough to be self-sufficient and matter to the brands. As such, I’ve launched, following readers’ requests, another page, this time in Spanish, the world’s second most popular language. Today, it’s a platform showing the complexity of an online magazine. And because fashion is in a constant state of flux, Fashion Avec Passion has changed its appearance a few times, undergoing several rebrandings”.

Her blog is part of TheDigitalGlamour.com, the blog integrator the Romanian thinks is ”an ambitious project, just as Fashion Avec Passion. Maybe that’s why I have a special affinity for Digital Glamour. On the long run, it will most certainly be a gain not only for the entire blogging community, but also for all of the industries that will want to work with the online environment”.

Janina is, also, the only Romanian to write for Vogue magazine. It is also the magazine of choice for fashion and luxury advertisers, being the publication featuring the largest number of ad pages on all of the markets it is present on. An ad can reach up to $ 150 000 a page, she says. “This is because it’s seen as the best, most prestigious and glam spot fashion and beauty brands can be represented in, and Vogue articles provide brands with the highest return on investment. Over half the readers reference back to the products seen in the magazine when going shopping and actually buying. So, the influence Vogue has is tremendous! Vogue readers are luxury consumers. 92% buy designer brands, and 93% own premium beauty products. More, Vogue readers spend on fashion more than those of any other magazine, such as Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, In Style, Elle, Marie Claire”.

Concluding this short interview, we’ve asked Janina to go for a dare – grade from 1 to 10 (where 1 = she totally disagrees, 10 = she completely agrees) the following statements and briefly explain her decision:

a) Your look, the way you look physically, matters a lot when trying to ’’ease your way’’ into this industry;

5 – The manner in which you carry yourself is bound to influence the way in which the others see you. It’s a given! But if you try to look flamboyant at all costs, choose goth makeup and shocking outfits, you risk looking like a little girl undergoing a personality crisis, screaming for attention. More than anything, balance is key, just like in any field. A balance between what’s on the inside and the way it is wrapped!

b) Much more than the way you look, it’s important to be well-prepared & informed;

9 – I love fashion, I promote fashion, but no one in this world has made history purely for being well-dressed! If this is the only ace up your sleeve I’m afraid that we are falling back on the cliché of the pretty girl you can’t wait to meet and who, when finally being drawn into a conversation, leaves you disappointed.

The ones to matter have always been those with a word to say. Blogs are part of the media, an industry relying on information. This is actually quite a frequent argument. A few days back I was talking about this very thing at Milan Fashion Week with one of the representatives of a famous fashion brand.

The most influential fashion editors have carefully balanced looks, some modest even. These people are surrounded by the most craved for collections, they could wear any runway ”new entry”. Some of them have chosen to do so (ex: Anna Dello Russo), others not (ex: Suzy Menkes). Still, brands court them more avidly than during the most romantic of eras. Because their influence resides in what they can convey, in how well-trained they are, like you were saying.

If we extrapolate, even the most talented designers have minimalistic looks (T-shirt and trousers, most often than not), and this doesn’t mean they haven’t managed to build genuine financial empires and the examples in the industry could go on and on.

On the other hand, in front of fashion shows’ closed doors, every year, there are hundreds of aspiring bloggers, who go all out when choosing their outfits, their ultimate goal being to get caught in a photograph that will have them looking as belonging to the industry. It’s a colourful show, part of the beauty and success of these events.

At the end of the day, though, things settle down. The brand representatives look at the type of content their blogs have, wish for the bloggers to be more than mere breathing, living hangers and want certain pieces of information to be extremely well phrased, they want more than mere images. Otherwise they wouldn’t be sending so many press releases every month. The main thing is to know which role you want to play on this stage. The role of the hanger or that of the content-maker?! Even if we are talking about fashion, a field in which they way you look is extremely important, there’s a new blogging trend at the horizon: the deflation of personal style blogs that are no longer getting the brand backing they used to. For instance, at Fashion Week, bloggers relying exclusively on image no longer get runway invitations, because they’re not being seen as representative for the industry (I say it again, there are thousands of such sites in the US alone, without counting Asia, Australia or Europe). That’s why, in order to gain access to such an event, they need to pin themselves to a content publication. Italian bloggers are famous for this trick recently pulled out of the hat. There are very few blogs that can stand alone. So, on the long run, relying exclusively on the way you look, is like taking a daily dose of sweetened poison. It feels good at the beginning, but ends up killing you. In fashion as well!

c) Video content is gaining ground in fashion blogging.

8 – Videos have the standout quality of being both visual and allowing you to add in verbal information. I’m sure they will be “the next big thing”. The smart phone apps to back it up have already surfaced.

d) Photos often draw in more than written content.

5 – For less sophisticated surfers, yes. Those who don’t bother with information are fast fashion consumers. Seen – liked – bought! Luxury consumers, because they make sales that count, are interested in learning more on the products they buy, on the season’s stylistic directions, on the stories behind the brands they admire and buy. The important thing is to know who you are talking to.

e) You can write 2-3 posts a week, it works as well.

Here there are two extreme options that, paradoxically, are just as relevant.

1 – Clearly no, if you see your blog as a business!
10 – Why not?! If it’s just a hobby, you set your own pace.

For the future, Janina says she has fashion plans that run alongside the blog, ’’that I will reveal as they come into being. In everything I do, though, I think globally. Never locally!’’