Digital fashion and beauty videos are no longer just the stuff of bedroom-based bloggers teaching viewers how to properly apply lip balm. Case in point: On March 12, Conde Nast officially launched YouTube channels for GQ and Glamour to showcase original digital programming, which has been in the works since former CW president Dawn Ostroff helped launch the publishing house’s branded entertainment division in 2011.
And on Monday, the traditionally grassroots-medium of digital fashion video is making another more polished stride with the launch of Lookbook: The Series, a scripted online show from Lookbook.nu, the 5-year-old social fashion site that boasts 1.2 million registered users worldwide.
Launched in 2007 by co-founders Andy Chen, Jason Su and Yuri Lee, the San Francisco-based site brings a social aspect to traditional street-style blogging, allowing users to post images of themselves in outfits that other community members can then “hype” or "like." Each personality can cultivate a fan base tying back to their personal blogs. And individual pieces of clothing are usually credited and linked back to a brand’s website, which makes the site an integrated advertising favorite of companies including Gap, Keds and Levi’s, who hope to capture the site’s blogger-heavy, 20-something user base.
While digital fashion networks such as The Stylish (which is a YouTube collaboration between reality production company Magical Elves and InStyle magazine) have so far capitalized on reality-based, documentary-style digital fashion programming, Lookbook.nu decided scripted was the right move for their first foray into the online video space.
“Fashion is going into video and doing the easy thing, the ‘this is what I’m wearing, this is what I bought today ‘ thing,” Chen tells THR. “We felt like we needed to do something different.”
So along with Huan Nguyen, the site's head of brand partnerships, Chen tapped Bernie Su, the executive producer of popular online series and Kickstarter sensation The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, to help make the idea of “something different” come to life.
“When I was doing research, I found that the relationship between a blogger and their photographer is really intimate, even if it hasn’t been consummated,” Su says. “So we took that story and presented it in a narrative TV format then juxtaposed the competitiveness. They’re fighting for the same eyeballs. And there’s a seedy manipulation and sabotage between the bloggers.”
The series follows Hannah (The Cheer Channel personality Neva McIntosh), who moves to Los Angeles, bonds with a street-style photographer (The Young and the Restless actor Daniel Romer) and starts a blog. Madness ensues.
“We put Gossip Girl, Cruel Intentions and The Devil Wears Prada in a salad bowl and mixed it,” jokes Su.
He learned the intricate world of fashion blogging by going to the MAGIC apparel tradeshow in Las Vegas — which, in recent years has become more of a forum for bloggers to capture street-style content and less of one where actual apparel industry business gets written. Su lunched with style bloggers and Lookbook.nu power users including Snakes Nest helmer Bethany Struble and Viva la Luxury’s Annabelle Fleur to “get in their psyche.”
Also on Su’s list of blogger mentors was Lust for Life creator Olivia Lopez, the 20-year-old LA-based blogging sensation who boasts 43,366 fans on Lookbook’s platform. Not only did Lopez provide guidance for Su’s fictional “modern fairytale” storyline, but she also styled the nine-part series, which consists of a new five-to-eight minute episode airing each Monday.
Footwear brands Dolce Vita and Dr. Martens sponsored the first two installments, respectively, with Victoria’s Secret Pink signing on to present the rest. Coach, Mango and BCBG donated product for on-camera placement.
And while the series aims to mimic certain user experience aspects of Lookbook.nu — mainly, zooming on products and letting watchers know who makes what — Su says that the show isn’t solely a means to show off goods in a "look at me" type of way.
“It's not just narcissism. There’s a lot more to it.”
Adds Chen, comparing his project to that of Netflix’s jump into original programming: “I like to think of this as our little House of Cards.”
Watch the first episode of Lookbook: The Series at lookbook.nu/tv