Hollywood Stylist-Favorite Instagram Account "Check the Tag" Is No More
Founder Kathleen Miozzo details why she shuttered the popular account and her plans to rebuild a new brand.
Kathleen Miozzo, founder of the popular Instagram account Check the Tag, should have spent the Monday following Sunday evening's Oscars red carpet watching the likes and comments roll in.
Instead, she was busy deleting dozens of side-by-side photos of ensembles worn by stars on the red carpet alongside the same garments from the runway in an effort to avoid a pricey legal battle with Getty Images over unauthorized use of thousands of pictures. She altered the account bio to inform followers that after almost two years, Check the Tag — which had become one of the industry's most-trusted, go-to sources for red-carpet dressing credits — was coming to an end.
"Getty contacted us and we're on the verge of being sued," Miozzo wrote in Instagram Stories. "We can't afford to buy the pictures, much less to be sued for them."
Legal issues aside, the loss of Check the Tag is a blow to many Hollywood stylemakers who had used the account as a resource. "Stylists have been messaging us all day to say they're sad to see us go," Miozzo on Tuesday told The Hollywood Reporter over the phone from Brazil, name-dropping power stylists Karla Welch (Tracee Ellis Ross, Sarah Paulson, Elisabeth Moss, Lorde) and Elizabeth Saltzman (Saoirse Ronan) among those who expressed their condolences. She also named fashion PR agencies and major houses (Erdem) who had used the account as a trusted source for dressing credits. "They used [Check the Tag] as an archive," she added. "It was a tool for them to see whether or not other actresses had worn [looks] before."
But the account's popularity in the world of fashion media and beyond couldn't save Miozzo from legal trouble over image licensing. Earlier this year, Instagram removed Miozzo's original 18-month-old account, @checkthetag, after photo agency Backgrid reported that she had been posting unauthorized photos. Miozzo alleges that she had "reached a deal" with the agency's U.K. branch, but was later contacted by Backgrid's U.S. outpost, which told her that her agreement was invalid. The agency then contacted Instagram to remove the account, which at that time had almost 85,000 followers. In its place, Miozzo launched @check_the_tag, for which she used Getty photos. Before she began dismantling it on Tuesday, the new account had just under 6,000 followers.
"It's hard because we make zero money from this," said Miozzo, who has a full-time job as a translator, adding that she cannot afford a monthly photo subscription on her own. Thomas Monks, her partner in the two-person operation, is currently unemployed, though he formerly worked in PR for public figures and politicians. Neither had any background in fashion or any industry contacts when they launched the account. It was simply their love of red-carpet fashion that kept them going, she added. "Thomas is the one who studies all of the collections and is like an encyclopedia," she said, "and I'm the fast typer."
But the issue of photo licensing still remains. Miozzo outlined her plans to launch a new account, @redcarpetroundup (which is already live), using images from Zimbio. When asked on Wednesday if she had reached an agreement with Zimbio to use their photos legally, Miozzo wrote via Instagram message that "we haven't reached an agreement yet, we are relying on the grounds that Zimbio posts the pics so they are offered by Zimbio." She was unable to elaborate on the legality of her use of the images.
With such a devout following and an impressive level of engagement, it seems surprising that Check the Tag, as a brand, had a difficult time acquiring sponsors. Miozzo said during Tuesday's phone call that she had reached out to photo agencies and media brands regarding partnerships, but nothing ever panned out. In 2016, a similar blog called Red Carpet Fashion Awards (which differs from Check the Tag in that founder Catherine Kallon posts the content both on social media and on a blog where she offers her critiques, whereas Check the Tag was hosted on Instagram only, and listed no opinions) briefly shut down after citing that despite a high-volume of traffic, there wasn't much money to be made. Kallon relaunched the site, which features shoppable links, later that year.
Social media is continuing to pose a challenge for photo agencies, which in recent months have been cracking down on unauthorized and illegal use of images, especially by celebrities. In August of last year, Khloe Kardashian was sued by U.K.-based photo agency Xposure Photos for posting a copyrighted image of herself on Instagram. That followed an earlier lawsuit filed against Spider Man: Homecoming star Tom Holland for posting an image of himself on social media.
It's clear that, when it comes to image rights, Miozzo was in the wrong. Now the question remains whether she can convert her skills into a viable business. "We're in talks with some brands now, trying to get some sort of help," Miozzo said Wednesday.
In the meantime, Miozzo has launched a GoFundMe page to raise the funds for a one-year subscription to Getty Images. Launched on Wednesday, the fundraiser has already raised $595 of the needed $5,4000. Godspeed.