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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Tumblr goes to fashion week

The blogging site is courting fashion designers and models in a way no other social networking platform has done
The Straits Times - September 16, 2011
By: Kayleen Schaefer
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Tumblr goes to fashion week Fashion photographer Jamie Beck, who has 150,000 followers for her Tumblr blog, was hired to shoot a cinemagraph campaign for Juicy Couture to begin this month and will be photographing a story for Tory Burch during New York Fashion Week. -- PHOTO: THE NE

When Mr Rich Tong, fashion director of popular blogging platform Tumblr, learnt that the model Coco Rocha had started using it, he e-mailed her to say hello.

She later dropped by Tumblr's offices in New York, where he introduced her to Ms Jamie Beck, a fashion photographer with her own Tumblr blog,

The two set up a photo shoot. Mr Tong asked Oscar de la Renta, one of the first luxury fashion brands to have a Tumblr blog,, to provide the gowns.

The resulting photographs, animated images that Ms Beck calls 'cinemagraphs', featured an elegant Rocha in her New York apartment flicking her kohl-lined eyes or letting a breeze tousle her hair. They were posted on Rocha's blog,, reblogged or 'liked' about 40,000 times and viewed countless times.

'For the most part, it's great having things online,' Ms Beck, 28, said of the high-fashion shoots she posts using Tumblr. 'It can be shared. Ninety per cent of my work isn't a super masterpiece, but if I can reach people who can appreciate it, then it's successful.'

Tumblr, founded four years ago, has reached out to the fashion community in a way no other social networking site has. For the second time, it has brought users to New York Fashion Week as reporters, paying for their trips and giving them access to the shows.

Their coverage is being posted on a dedicated channel,, made up of posts from 20 bloggers picked by Tumblr's staff, along with contributions from magazines that have their own Tumblrs, like Vogue, GQ, T Magazine and Glamour.

Formerly a pile-up of profanity-laced teenage ramblings and partly expressed emotions, at least to an outsider's eye, Tumblr has become an image-driven platform of importance to fashion photographers - like Mr Terry Richardson (who uses it mostly as a diary) - brands and bloggers, who have made it an integral part of their online lives.

Tumblr hired Mr Tong, who had previously founded, a community for those who chronicle their outfits online, as fashion director in December 2009, the first full-time position of its kind in the social networking sphere.

'When Tumblr took a look at the thousand blogs with the biggest followings on the platform, it found that 18 per cent of them were fashion-related,' he said.

'My role exists because of what they wanted their competitive edge to be. Facebook and Twitter are generalist communities. They're not trying to support the creative community. We thought, 'What can we do to support this community?' That's where they saw the light.'

But this month, fashion brands and marketing agencies criticised a Tumblr proposal for brands to sponsor the site's Fashion Week content. According to the proposal, Tumblr asked for US$150,000 (S$185,000) to sponsor the page for the week and US$350,000 to sponsor Tumblr's general fashion page,

It also requested upward of US$10,000 for private events with the Tumblr-selected bloggers, not including the venue and other costs. Brands could also be guaranteed product placement in each of the blogs for an unlisted sum.

Marketing professionals said the cost of the ads was outrageous because Tumblr does not provide the analytics to justify them.

Fashion brands did start Tumblr blogs seemingly en masse, following the start of Oscar de la Renta's, written by the brand's vice-president for communications, Ms Erika Bearman, in December. McQ, Kate Spade and J.Crew began using the platform, as did Thakoon and Jason Wu.

Ms Beck says: 'I had no idea that people would be paying me to shoot stories on my blog.'

She adds: 'I don't like it when I meet people and they don't have a Tumblr.

'That's the best business card.'





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