With the slow and sad death of fashion publications and the exponential rise of citizen journalism, the term “fashion blogger” is about as ubiquitous as “Anna Wintour” in the world of editorial. In a sea of outfit posts, outrageous shoe purchases and bank-breaking bags, Valerie Killeen and Kristin Reiter are doing something different: they’re talking about the things they love (and hate).
Their blog, BleachBlack.com, has skyrocketed to Internet fame and, though it is one of the newest ones on the web, it is also one of the most popular thanks to their hit DIY posts and no-fuss attitudes. Unlike many other hot blogs out there, the girls are not sponsored by fashion houses, so their posts are completely objective and free of industry sway. Both Valerie and Kristin work in the fashion industry and treat BleachBlack as “a forum that lets us do what we’re doing anyway.” And that’s the way they like it.
iFashion Network was lucky enough to pick their collective brain about their inspiration, their readers, and their lack of hate mail. They answer with one voice, almost completing each other sentences – sort of stream of consciousness. We have to say, if they’re this “on” at for a conversation at 7:30 in the morning, we can’t even imagine how fabulous they must be after they’ve had their morning coffee.
On working together instead of blogging separately : I think it was more about us getting together at night and over the phone to talk about what we were liking; where the sales were; what products we were stalking; and where we could find it the cheapest. We would just catch up every night and it just felt natural that we would be doing it together. We’re both in the fashion industry so we have a different understanding than some of our other friends who aren’t in the industry. It’s what we do all day long and then we come home at night and do it for ourselves. It’s a fun diversion for us to be able to delve into things that we are personally obsessed with. BleachBlack is the forum that lets us do what we were doing anyway.
On how many hits they get a month, and why they don’t care about the numbers : We get upwards of 150,000-200,000 hits. Because we don’t advertise on the side, it’s more about us having fun with it and less about how much traffic we are generating. It’s much less stressful because we’re not trying to make a business out of it. [You see a lot of] people taking themselves too seriously – blogging is about your personal interests and what strikes you as being new and interesting and cool. It’s nice that we’ve kept it so mellow, so we can still be open with what we don’t like.
On brand sponsorship : If a brand is doing something we don’t like, we have the ability to say so, whereas if we were being paid by someone, we wouldn’t have that freedom. This allows us to be authentic. Our readers definitely respond to us calling people out -- a lot of people don’t, they’re too afraid. It’s less of a business for us because we are in the trenches every day.
On other bloggers being sponsored by companies : A lot of bloggers we know are supported by Topshop and Forever21 and post about them religiously. We’re just picking what we like and what happens to be relevant. There are different brands that definitely have relationships with bloggers and you can see how a blogger will stem from one stage and then they start getting bigger and doing product reviews – we’ve sort of steered clear of that. We’ve gotten a lot of offers, but again, we want to keep it authentic. We don’t want to get looped into not having that true voice. It’s just not our particular aesthetic.
On their hate mail or lack thereof : FashionToast (Rumi Neely) gets a crazy amount of hate mail. I think because of how she is putting herself out there. It’s brave of her to do that. We’re usually not doing that. Our stuff is hopefully helpful. We actually post all of our hate mail because we think it’s funny. We still approve those comments and post them, but we shy away from the daily outfit posts -- it’s not us. We do post them every now and then, but not very often.
On outfit posts, image, and authenticity : Unless you’re incredibly wealthy, outfit posts tend to get incredibly boring and become more about building a persona that feels more forced by trying to build a certain image. If you buy a new pair of shoes and then you post them, it’s as if you are investing in your site. We’re definitely not fabulously wealthy and we don’t have massive egos that we’re trying to feed. Because of the recent focus on bloggers and the attention, I think Rumi’s the most successful blogger to actually be going into this world and pioneering it. She’s great but she has a strong following, so it’s a lot of pressure and a lot of time. We have full-time jobs and we’re working on other projects as well. I guess we’re thinking more about how to be more industrious.
On the differences between their “real” personalities and their online personas :[Valerie suddenly becomes the single voice to answer the questions.] I’ve asked people who visit the blog and have friends who look at the site, and it’s been fun to see how people who do know me will see that it’s definitely an extension of who I am. I think the blog is a pretty accurate
Kristin’s definitely more edgy, I’m a little bit more mellow. Kristin’s really on the forefront. She’s grittier and I’m more refined and you can see that. We’re great complements to one another. There are people who respond to my aesthetic, people who respond to her aesthetic. It’s a little something for everyone.
On whether their friends and family read BleachBlack : You know, it’s funny, I never really talk about it. The people that do know about it will make comments every now. Our friends are very supportive, but I really try to keep it separate.
On their parents reading the blog : Yes! They read the comments and they’ll say, “Oh, you know everyone really liked that last project that you did!” Somebody wrote to me not that long ago because I swore and they were like, “OMG, I can’t believe you let your parents read that!” I was like, “Let them?” They’re so supportive, they love it. Even though they don’t entirely get it, they really enjoy it.