Thirteen years ago, models still appeared on magazine covers and style-obsessed teenagers took to their bedroom walls — not their Tumblrs — to post Mario Testino spreads that inspired them. That is until Style.com came along as Vogue's first online home and set the stage for how modern digital fashion coverage is done. And today, the Fairchild Fashion Media-owned portal launched a new site initiative called Style Map that adds a roster of 60 boldfaced "man on the street" contributors for a more casual perspective on what makes style and culture tick worldwide.
The feature uses the "tastemaker-curated, city-guide" style of content currently so popular on websites such as Forbes.com and upscale mom's guide ElizabethStreet.com, which allows publishers to capitalize on the traffic and social networks of their modish influencers at a cost much lower than that of creating a journalist-powered global newsroom.
But what makes Style.com's method different from standard sites who interview and — in their own words — publish, say, "Karl Lagerfeld's Fashion Week Playlist," is that each of its 60 Style Map contributors have complete control over their own blog posts — interesting, given that the group includes nonwriters such as New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler, Courtney Love and actress Rose Byrne.
"We're providing the framework," Style.com editor-in-chief Dirk Standen tells THR. "We've provided guidelines and obviously we will give people feedback and sort of advise them on what we think works. But we're not going to be editing their words. This is meant to be about them. We have to give up a little bit of control, in a way."
Other custodians of "cool" that Standen culled for the project — who will each be writing about everything from of-the-moment clubs to underground art exhibits — include Star Trek Into Darkness actor Zachary Quinto, sometimes-controversial former L.A. MOCA director Jeffery Deitch and Paris-bred designer Olympia Le-Tan. Standen used his well-connected staff and the age-old question "Who do you go to when you want a restaurant recommendation?" when putting together the roster, which spans 33 world cities (Mumbai, Rio and Riyadh included).
"To a degree we've always had a global focus," Standen says of his New York-based site, which he joined as top editor in 2005. "Fashion is a global business. I thought there was an opportunity to expand our coverage around the world. And I feel like a lot of the energy in fashion and culture is coming from these cities."
Inaugural Style Map visitors will find a short, loose paragraph on jewelry designer Delfina Delettrez Fendi's favorite vintage shop in Rome, Kylie Minogue's ode to the sheep's milk dessert at El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, and Nicole Richie's 186-word homage to Pressed Juicery, the burgeoning natural beverage chain that was started by her "close friends" in 2010.
Though his new contributors are clearly immersed in all things glittery, does Standen worry that his democratic platform will dilute the heft of influential Style.com staffers such as Nicole Phelps and Tim Blanks (case in point: earlier this month, Blanks garnered an open letter from designer Jean Paul Gaultier after giving him a less-than-favorable runway review)? Not a chance.
"We're an authority and there's weight behind what we say. But the more the merrier."