The Dream Factory
Garance Doré’s mantra for life – and what undeniably attracts the mega 70,000 unique visits each and every day to her street style blog-cum-online personal diary-cum-cultural phenomenon of sorts – is a simple one. It’s classic American ideology really, but a concept people will always respond to universally. Poursuis tes rêves, Doré’s blog seems to sing. Follow your dreams. Indeed, just as she has.
Would it would be fair to say many people look at blogs more consistently throughout the day now than they read the news, eat a meal, brush their teeth or embrace their lover? Blogs are cementing themselves as a priority on many people’s start to the day regardless of their industry. They are the channel of information many use to translate their understanding of popular cultural events, movements and trends. For their authors, the medium is fast becoming a profitable one and their sites can be a means by which to leverage capital as well as artistic expression (if you’re talented enough). This, perhaps, is what fuels the attempts. Technorati have 1,250,446 blogs listed as existing online alone at present; 4,623 of these being fashion-specific. To actually garner an audience though the size of Doré’s is another story and is what distinguishes her as a real tour de force and her life as a dream come true.
The fashion industry has been transformed by the phenomenon of the blogger. Somewhere along the way, having an online presence became vital to success for fashion folk and newsworthy to those who are intrigued by it. Doré’s blog has played a huge part in this transformation. To paint a picture: it is fashion week. Paris. The last of the four cities in the schedule and arguably the most important. It’s the Tuileries. A beautiful crisp fall day. Bare birch trees and architecture with golden points fit for Nefertiti dance across your eyes. It is the most beautiful city for this moment alone. Spoilt, it is also the place where the world’s top editors dash from show to show to see what the new season will be meditating. Documenting the spectacle and attending alongside them now are the bloggers. The news, aside from the collections, is what these editors are wearing; of late, their street style is just as relevant as the work they produce. And it is fashion bloggers like Doré who have shed a voyeuristic light on the industry and made stars of its previously unknown, its once even unaccredited stylists and editors.
And, IT IS fun to watch. Regardless of how devout you are to the Devil and her Prada. It is a true spectator sport, which is part of the cache Doré has helped create. Even just for the walks of life it bares: there are the minimal chic pedigree pack, head-to-toe in Philo’s Céline, neat in every way as they always have been, blogs or not. There is the daring bunch, the individual flamingoes in couture looks, worn just the once, from the bangles to the bows to the bobs, and who are the undoubted stars of the week purely for their ability to have fun with fashion. There are the new lots, the nameless ones, who are still piecing together their mantras. They wear what they love, what they think they love, what they know they should love and hope for the best – their photo taken. There are the socialites who attend to parade a new coquettish dress each and every new day. There are the quiet ones who love to tie their shoelaces ever-so-to-the-left and their belts ever-so-to-the-right, who are often buyers and a bit more demure but indulge in being clever with their layering and the finer details. For the most part, what these varied characters all share in common – apart from their love of fashion – is that they all would love to be shot by Doré.
“My presence in Garance’s blog has changed my life, and my career, because I become visible,” the infamous Japanese Vogue editor and blog celebrity Anna Dello Russo writes to me in an email littered with Italian, French and joie-de-vivre exclamation marks. It is the only comment in English but the one which rings true. Touted by Helmet Newton as a “fashion maniac”, Dello Russo changes outfits up to six times a day, has launched a perfume, and walked the runway for Lanvin post her exposure on fashion blogs. She is a prime example of how the industry has evolved since the rise of the fashion blogger. “Why do I love bloggers?” asks Dello Russo. “’Cause they make us IN CONTACT after years of deafness in our golden cells. Garance is my fave FAIRY TELLER.” And she is right: Doré’s blog offers a rather idealistic forum – an open arena to infinite visitors in a free environment, uncensored and without the fine print clauses of an institution and as personal as it is interactive. One only has to see the average 150 comments per Doré post to understand how infectious people find her and the medium.
Perhaps what further projects the point of interest and this fairytale is that many of the fashion bloggers considered the most elite and successful are self-made. They, like Doré, have little formal training as journalists, photographers, columnists or art directors, yet are appreciated and advocated with more dedication than that born of an institution with a name we have grown up knowing from our mothers’ subscriptions and our sisters’ walls. This could be said true of both the general public to the upper echelons of the industry. From Roitfeld to Rykiel to everyone at home.
Dello Russo touches on something when she notes, “When I first met Garance, I was taken aback by her strong personality wrapped in a such a sweet spirit”. This may be attributed to her upbringing: Doré was born in the French region of Corsica, which despite being the birthplace of someone as monumental as Napoleon Bonaparte, a simple Google search reveals as an idyllic tropical oasis of palm trees, dirt roads and seaside candor. Very much a product of her origins, Doré has a lovely smile, speaks with the lilt in her voice of someone who insists of remaining optimistic always, and enjoys working on her illustrations. When asked to imagine what she would like to be if she wasn’t herself, she answers: “I was thinking, like, a very good dog: very faithful and nice”. And she is, in the most genuine of ways. Like a Bruce Weber golden retriever: fashion-savvy, classic but oh-so-sweet.
True to Doré’s disposition is how she uncovers the heart in each of her subjects and, subsequently, in her posts. This is the core of her allure. She understands what is most important about great personal style – a great person – and enjoys shooting unknown individuals just as much as, if not more than, fashion faces. “People have to make me dream, you know, for me to shoot them. I think the woman I shoot is always embodying my vision of the ideal woman. So it’s not really about the fashion, you know. The fashion is like a nice wrap, but I think it all goes together. I’m one of the blogs that shoots the most girls in jeans and a t-shirt. The simple things. But I think it’s just what I feel about a girl, you know, the way she walks, if she’s good about herself. For me it’s all a really romantic vision of the people I shoot.”
Doré’s own romance has also been a part of her blog. Her readers have watched it unfold with fellow blogger Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist – an infamous powerhouse in and of itself and arguably the original street style site to really find an audience. Schumann spoke to me of Doré’s command: “Her blog is the way she really is, she’s not putting on a persona. I mean, that’s really the person she is. I read her writing when she’s overseas, I read her posts, and it makes me feel like she’s writing that RIGHT to me. I’m sure that everyone feels that way. And that’s just the way she is. I mean that’s the thing that’s so brilliant is she knows exactly how to tap into that best girlfriend or BFF kind of thing and it’s so real.”
An interesting and powerful team dynamic working within the same field at a point when the medium is certainly exploding, you only have to read either of their blogs to revel in the adventures the two have embarked on together. “We both consider each other our Number One editors, you know. I mean, everything I do goes through Garance’s filter. I don’t think it’s ever really been competitive and we’re in love so nothing makes me more happy than to see my woman be successful,” says Schuman when asked about their professional rapport. “I think the reason people appreciate us is because we’ve really grown together and I think they feel the honesty of it. You know, we really need each other because even in the smallest amount of time we have been doing this, we can already see how blogs are changing. We’re starting to see blogs we know turn around and kind of start to go to the dark side; new blogs are just selling out right from the very beginning. People want to achieve that success and they’re willing to do almost anything to do it. So they’ll accept money to do certain posts, they’ll do all this kind of stuff because they want that as opposed to the artistic expression which is all Garance and I would ask for.”
So, how does one tap into this Doré dream, brimming with artistic expression and heart-to-heart prose? When I ask her how she chooses her subject matter, be it fashion faces or the real girls that she shoots for her column Une Fille Un Style for Vogue.fr, she says: “You know, my blog is really about what I want to be, and in the beginning there was this desire of, like, evolving and meeting girls and guys like me. And so shooting them was a great way to get into contact with them, with the people who would inspire me. I am not, like, shooting like crazy on fashion week. Also, if they want to be shot. There’s that. You can feel that, I think.”
Some things to note about Doré: she loves Woody Allen, Bonjour Tristesse and Lauren Hutton. She is happy; she values people who are themselves and anyone who can make her laugh. She is in love. She is incredibly messy, but infectious. And if you are lucky enough to cross paths with her, as I have been, make sure you say ‘hello’. I have never felt more myself in a photo or more comfortable with its taker than I have with Doré. Even for someone who is terrified of the camera (me), something about Doré and her intentions makes you feel very grateful for the connection.
Since the launch of her blog six years ago, Doré has been busy living her dreams. Shooting for magazines like Vogue and Elle, the Moschino and Westfield campaigns, collaborating with GAP alongside Pharrell Williams and Pierre Hardy, moving to New York. You name it, she has done it. So where does that leave her for what’s ahead? “I think I have such a great freedom on the internet and there is no limit to what you can do. And I would just like to concentrate on working with people that I love and people that enable me to do more beautiful things. I have that luck and I don’t want to let it go.”