It was a year ago during Milan Fashion Week that the new class of digital style influencers found themselves in the crossfire of the legacy fashion media, specifically several Vogue editors who posted online a collective criticism of fashion bloggers "who change head-to-toe, paid-to-wear outfits every hour...Find another business. You are heralding the death of style," they wrote.
This season, it's the street style photographers who are taking on the digiterati — and Filipino blogger Bryanboy is once again coming to the defense of his well-dressed colleagues.
The tiff started with a story posted to Women's Wear Daily on Friday reporting that a group of street style photographers who cover fashion shows has banded together to stop tagging influencers, who they claim regularly turn around and use their copyright-protected images to post to their own social media channels and sites and fulfill their responsibilities to brands who pay them to attend fashion shows and wear their garments.
Instead of tagging them on Instagram, allowing them easy access to their photos, these lensmen and women are using the hashtag #NoFreePhotos. Their end goal is to raise awareness of their value in the fashion community and marketing equation, No. 1, though they are not ruling out legal action if copyrighted images continue to be used.
This isn't sitting well with OG influencer Bryanboy, who wrote a lengthy Instagram post to his 600K-plus followers challenging the assumption that he and influencers get paid to attend shows and get free clothes from brands and reminding his readers how much money street style photographers get paid when they sell images of influencers without their authorization to magazines, retailers or brands. He then held forth on the issue IRL before the Missoni show on Saturday afternoon.
"Street style photographers assume everyone gets paid for attending the shows. I don't get paid," Bryanboy wrote, explaining that the way he makes money is by doing special projects, including social media videos, with brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton throughout the year.
Although he does borrow designer samples to wear in the front row, he doesn't get clothes for free; he buys, he insisted. "For me, going to a show and wearing a sample or something you own...is a way to reinforce or affirm your relationship with the brand. People assume we are getting paid and they are not getting a slice of the pie and it's just not true," Bryanboy continued.
The ultimate solution, he said, "is for fashion to wake up and put a stop to this work-for-free culture. Even for influencers, we are disposable. We have a shelf life, there will always be someone out there with more followers who will do things for free...It's like that for photographers, for writers, for models. It's time to put an end to the work-for-free culture."
Celebrities get paid to attend the shows, Bryanboy acknowledged, and are given free clothes — but not him: "I pay for my own hotel always."
There you have it.
See an example of a #NoFreePhotos post below, and underneath Bryanboy's Instagram response in full.