They came to the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica wearing spring's flourescent bright colors, floral jeans and sky-high wedge sandals, their rainbow-manicured hands clutching iPhones at the ready to tweet, Pin and Instagram tidbits to their fashionable followers over the Internet.
Their goal? To learn how to make it--not in Hollywood, but in the fashion blogosphere--and earn up to $20,000 a month doing it.
"I want to help you quit your day job." That was Lucky editor-in-chief Brandon Holley's message in her introduction to FABB, the Fashion and Beauty Blogger conference, a meeting of old and new media hosted by the glossy on Monday. "And I want you all to subscribe," she said in a pitch for the Conde Nast magazine about shopping that launched in 2000. (Holley took over last year with a vow to transform Lucky into a "social shopping experience" by bringing bloggers into the fold.)
"In the magazine, we don't do head-to-toe looks. We are inspired by you," she said, explaining that it is precisely because so many magazines are still stuck in the old mindset of expensive, head-to-toe designer dressing that more and more women are seeking out fashion advice from blogs.
The event attracted nearly 150 attendees who came to hear panel discussions and conversations with blog stars such as Brit Morin, founder of HelloBrit and the self-proclaimed "Martha Stewart for the Digital Generation, and Sophia Rossi, co-founder with Zooey Deschanel of HelloGiggles, a self-described "online summer camp" experience. The roster of speakers also included Hollywoody digital mom-trepreneurs (Jessica Alba and the Honest Co., Soleil Moon Frye and Moon Frye) and fashion insiders (designer Zac Posen, "Mad Men" costume designer Janie Bryant and J. Brand founder and Chief Executive Jeff Rudes).
One of the more interesting panels, "Ways You Didn't Know You Could Monetize," got into the nitty-gritty of how the blog sausage is made.
One way bloggers make money is through affiliates, or links, which allow them to earn commissions of 12% to 20% on purchases made through affiliate websites.
"We have bloggers who make more than $20,000 a month," said Amber Venz, president of RewardStyle, a company that helps set up affiliate deals for bloggers to earn commissions like personal shoppers do, for purchases made through their blogs with brands including TopShop, Net-a-Porter, J. Crew and Zappos.
"Getting money for stuff you're writing about, does anyone think that's not kosher?" Lauren Sherman, executive digital editor of Lucky, asked the panelists. (According to FTC laws, bloggers must disclose when they are paid--in cash, products or perks--to write about a brand.)
"We're blogging about what we want to blog about, not what an advertiser wants us to blog about," said Kelly Cook, co-founder of Snob Media, which encompasses several blogs, including BagSnob and ShoeSnob. "I'm going to find something to blog about and chances are we'll have an affiliate to click and buy it."
Vanessa Flaherty, director of brand development for Digital Brand Architects, a New York-based agency that represents bloggers, emphasized how new media darlings can build their careers beyond the digital space, through TV, book, licensing and manufacturing deals.
To that end, Cook and her partner Tina Craig talked about a line of handbags they designed for DKNY. "We came up with the styles, the hardware and the story boards," Cook said of the BagSnob for DKNY collection. "And the experience allowed us to be better reviewers of bags."
When it comes to blog content, most panelists echoed the importance of "showing things in a positive light" and "not responding to haters" who comment negatively. But interestingly, the BagSnob DKNY deal came about as a result of founder Craig's negative review of a DKNY bag, which prompted a response from @DKNYPRGirl on Twitter, that led to a conversation, a meeting and eventually a design deal.
Another juicy discussion, featuring representatives from OPI, Neiman Marcus and Benefit Cosmetics, centered on "How Brands Work With Blogs," and the possibility that some successful bloggers could be pricing themselves out of opportunities to model, style and write about products.
Neiman Marcus' VP of Corporate PR Gabrielle De Papp complained about escalating fees for hiring top bloggers to generate content. She even mentioned an instance in which she had hired a blogger to style and appear in a fashion shoot, only to find out that person had recently completed a similar project with a competing department store.
Aimee Song, who founded the blog SongofStyle, fired back that some brands are demanding too much for too little. "There was an instance in which a brand wanted me to model, photograph and style clothes and put them on my blog, and they thought gifting me the item was enough," she said. "If a brand is willing to hire a photographer, a stylist and an editor for a shoot, than they should pay the same amount to bloggers," Song said, eliciting applause from the audience. "They get a bigger outreach from hiring us than some random model."
"But not everything should be transactional," warned Geri Hirsch, founder of BecauseImAddicted. "If everything on your blog has a monetary value, your readers will recognize it and you might see your traffic go down. We must be mindful of the tipping point."
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Top photo of Lucky magazine editor-in-chief Brandon Holley at the FABB conference at the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica. Bottom photo of Jessica Alba at the conference. Credit: Donato Sardella.