Monday, February 4, 2013

No One Really Seems to Care about Indonesia, or, Why Place Still Matters in the Style Blogosphere

At Clothing Event, an indie fashion expo in Bandung, Indonesia
It's something of an axiom of the world of style blogging: do something other than what your blog is known for and watch your numbers go down. Just ask the numerous street style bloggers who hit New York Fashion Week twice a year. It's a big ticket event, but it's not YOUR big ticket event. Just 'cause people like your shots of leather-clad street urchins doesn't mean they want to see your less-than-magazine-quality pics of DKNY models walking the runway. I experienced something of this phenomenon this month, shooting street style pics in Indonesia, a place, no doubt, with some exotic appeal, but it ain't what Urban Fieldnotes is known for. And lo and behold, my pageviews went down. Not terribly. We're talking down to some 12,700 per month from a peak 15,000 or so in January, but still noticeably from this end. I'm not depressed about it or anything. I'm doing my best to retain something of the objectivity of a distanced researcher in this whole thing — that is, to the extent that such a thing is possible. But it is interesting, in terms of what it tells me about my readership. In truth, despite its research agenda and meta-street-style schtick, Urban Fieldnotes is a Philadelphia blog. Its readers are largely from Philadelphia; its subjects are Philadelphians. And my readers — simply put — don't really care that much about Indonesia, despite some initial excitement at the beginning of my trip. And that's OK. I don't hold it against you. The fact is Indonesians don't care that much about Indonesian street style either. They'd really rather know what's going on in New York or London. My friend and colleague Jeremy Wallach has called this "xenocentrism," a tendency to think the center of the universe lies precisely elsewhere.

There was a moment, probably around 2006 or 2007, when street style blogs appeared poised to overturn the longstanding domination of fashion's world cities — i.e., New York, London, Paris, Milan, and Tokyo — over street style. Exciting new blogs were covering cities no one had ever thought of as fashion cities before, whether Helsinki, Buenos Aires, Capetown, or even Jakarta. These cities, at least temporarily, became something like cool, and a crop of creative entrepreneurs stepped in to cash in on these cities' newfound cachet. Street style blogs were helping democratize fashion. 

And then something funny happened. Street style blogs got really popular. And as they got more popular, some even became profitable. Hobbyist bloggers became professional bloggers, and professional bloggers have to make a living. Many took on paid sponsors. Many started selling pics to magazines to make a living. And magazines, as you probably already know, want lots of pictures on a short timeline, and preferably pictures of established style icons. And so street style bloggers went to the places they knew would yield such results: New York, London, Paris, Milan, and Tokyo. And they didn't just go willy nilly. They hit up the events that stocked up on style icons just for them: the fashion weeks. 

So much for democratizing fashion. Fashion's old world order remains firmly intact. And for those billions of people who happen not to live in one of fashion's world cities, too bad. 

But there's more than one way to respond to the continuing domination of New York et al. You can pine for the great beyond, or you can work on developing your own fashion scene from within. Certainly that's what many Indonesians have done, developing a substantial personal style scene, a local independent fashion network. And more importantly for this blog, that's what Philadelphia has done. Philly is cultivating its own expansive community of fashionistas, including bloggers, designers, journalists, and connoisseurs. It's cool stuff, and it's been exciting to get back to it. I'm looking forward to hitting the streets — and events — of Philly again shortly. 

But first things first. This week is the start of New York Fashion Week, and I've got a research project to do. I'll be hitting IFBCon on Wednesday and Thursday before walking the cold cold streets with the style icon-hunting blogeratti. Look out for updates and pics here. And watch as my numbers plunge again.  


  1. I would not care so much about numbers and page visits! A lot of people, like me, subscribed via RSS. They are usually not counted as page visits. But it is interesting to read that this obviously makes a difference for your audience!

    I really enjoyed your pictures from Indonesia because they are showing a different world. Thank you for this! And by the way, I am a reader from Germany. Indonesia or Philly? Well, both are over the sea... ;-)

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Enno. Glad to hear you appreciated the pics from Indonesia. I don't care so much about numbers for their own sake, but for what they tell me about my audience. But point taken. It is hard, I admit, not to obsess about page views, even when I'm attempting to remain the neutral bystander and objective researcher.

  3. I enjoyed the trip photos very much. I love winter but my practical side has won out the last few weeks so I've focused on warmth over style. The Indonesians look so warm and relaxed by comparison!

    Fashion Week sounds quite daunting. Best of luck!

  4. I still read your posts religiously. I don't care whichever place the picture is from. It's good to see other side the world in your blog. I'm Asian so I think it's nice to see fashionable Asians in you blog.

  5. Hey there, living here in Jamaica I don't get to see much of the other side of the world style wise. I know you have to care about numbers but just know you have a few ppl that follow you that are out of the American landscape that enjoy anything and everything you post.

    Keep it up!

  6. This post has elicited more nice comments than any post I've done in a long time. I swear I wasn't fishing! But thanks so much, K. Anna, eyepolapol, beautifulmonday, and Enno. Your kind words are appreciated. And I'm glad you've enjoyed the posts from Indonesia. Please keep reading. It will only get more interesting from here. At least that's the plan.

  7. I, too, enjoyed the Indonesian posts!! and I live in the suburbs of Philly...we are stil reading!!

  8. I also really enjoyed the interviews you've been conducting in the last month or two- don't know if I commented on them or not, but they were fascinating from a cultural and virtual commentary standpoint.

  9. Trust me, one day you will hope you emulated them pal.


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