The degree of depth and specificity that take place in the discussions on internet fashion forums, not to mention the honesty and critiquing of the industry, make them an incredible valuable resource, argues Susanna Lau, aka Susie Bubble, founder of blog Style Bubble.
“In the age of Instagram and Snapchat, they may seem like antiquated artefacts of the late 1990s or early 2000s. But fashion needs them more than ever,” she writes for The Business of Fashion.
She gives The Fashion Spot as one example, a site containing nearly 10 million posts on it to date, and the one known as a go-to hub for discussion since its launch in 2001. “The grain of the conversation… is often frank, no-holds barred and pointedly critical of the industry. That’s because members aren’t beholden to their IRL identities. In a forum, you can truly be anonymous and express the sort of unfiltered opinions that are sorely lacking in the general discourse in a fashion world still dominated by big brands.”
She says the sort of depth to the conversations, whether it’s about fashion schools, the cut of a Hedi Slimane-era Dior Homme jacket, 1990s-era Prada advertising campaigns, the rivets on a certain designer bag and the friction this causes with clothing, also can’t be found in mainstream media publications or social media platforms.
“Forums will always be a valuable source of information and discussion for people who want to go beyond fashion’s surface, and those people will always exist,” says Eugene Rabkin, founder of StyleZeitgeist, another well-established forum. “The social media cater to the part of us that wants immediate and easy satisfaction. But at some point, a stratum of audience becomes dissatisfied with such superficiality.”
Importantly, Lau explains, the commentary on forums isn’t always music to designers’ ears, but that often makes it something they pay attention to. She cites the likes of Rick Owens, Joseph Altuzarra and Dries van Noten as all turning to them for honest feedback on their work.
In the Spring 2013 print issue of Style.com, then-editor Dirk Standen said: “As one PR exec told me recently, the designers he works with are more interested to hear what the anonymous commenters on TheFashionSpot.com have to say about their collections than the mighty critics.”
“Forum members have nothing to lose; they are certainly not making money from fashion,” Rabkin explains. “Forums are an incredible source for honest criticism. It is true that you have to have a thick skin, because sometimes the criticism is brutal, but in turn the praise is honest and therefore truly deserved.”