Book Review – Style Diaries: World Fashion from Berlin to Tokyo

Scrolling through the endless list of fashion bloggers in my Google Reader, I’m often left hazily trying to remember the “who’s who” and the “who wore what” of the fashion blogosphere. Outfit photos are updated daily, new bloggers are constantly emerging, and the images and clothing we love on one day become ephemeral, disappearing into the sartorial black hole we call fashion blogging. Simone Werle’s Style Diaries attempts to pin down the inherently fleeting nature of the “daily outfit shot,” fossilizing these images between cover and spine. The pocket-sized book serves as an interesting freeze frame of indie dress and culture at a particular moment in time and, of course, as seen through Werle’s lens. In just short of 400 pages, Werle profiles dozens of fashion bloggers, who she claims make up “the most visible arm of the indie fashion scene.” While these profiles are predominately made up of striking images ripped straight from the archives of each blog, each blogger is also introduced with a short blurb of personal facts.

In one fact sheet, 20 year old Zoe Demruis Portia Flood notes that her blog is “not a place where [she] post[s] the same pictures of models and clothing that are unobtainable to the public.” And while this begins to touch on the power that these bloggers have within the fashion industry, insights — or beginnings of such — are rare within each blogger’s description of themselves. Most remain fairly surface, mentioning things like their careers and favorite foods, which would be fine if not for Werle’s declaration in the introduction of the book which states fashion blogging is “a cultural phenomenon that show[s] just how quickly established structures can be broken down.” To make such a declarative statement about how these bloggers are breaking the established — and often exclusive — structures of the fashion industry, only to follow this with a blogger informing the reader that they prefer guacamole on their vegan burger, leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I would much prefer that Werle push each blogger to consider their influence and responsibility as bloggers in the fashion industry, rather then try to lure obscure and niche facts out of each contributor. In addition to this both the images and bloggers chosen by Werle fail to represent a breaking down of the narrow conceptions and standards of beauty that the fashion industry propels, and that Werle claims — and perhaps with a different curator this could be proven — fashion bloggers hold.

Instead, flipping through the pages of Style Diaries felt like an extended Nylon photo spread, full of tall, slender, white, American-looking twenty-somethings in concaved poses. I will admit that there are a few exceptions that creep into The Diaries. Croatian blogger Ljupka Kohorta is one of the few included in the collection that I feel even comes close to the breaking down of established structures that Werle raves about in the book’s introduction; she is not 5’11 and rail thin, like the models we see on runways or her peers who flank her in The Diaries. While I thoroughly enjoyed her photos — it was a pleasant break to see clothing on a body type that didn’t herald images of Kate Moss — she seems to stick out amongst the cattle call of stick-thin style bloggers doing their best ‘vogue’. This fact crystallizes the lack of diversity or of challenging Western conceptions of beauty that seeps through the book as a whole. While I can appreciate the personal style of each participant, it would have been nice to see some variety, especially when the jacket of the book claims to “offer access to a vibrant community of people.”

Style Diaries: World Fashion from Berlin to Tokyo by Simone Werle, Prestel, 2010

review by Casie Brown
photography by Valentina RossMottley

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