It's taken a while, but fashion has finally woken up to the internet. Online shops such as ASOS and Net-A-Porter are booming, brands such as Yves Saint Laurent are using short, YouTube-friendly films to showcase their designs, and fashion designers are Tweeting like there's no tomorrow.
In the midst of this bold new landscape are the fashion bloggers, providing commentary at the click of a mouse. Whether they're posting catwalk images live from Paris, drooling over the latest Balenciaga wedges or writing about Lindsay Lohan's dress sense (or lack thereof), they have become an important part of the industry and a voice for a new generation of style aficionados.
"Right now they're at the forefront of fashion news and gossip," says Isaac Lock, deputy editor of Love, the new magazine from the super-stylist Katie Grand. "Pretty much anything new hits the blogs first nowadays."
While blogs such as The Moment and Catwalk Queen are fantastic for delivering a daily fashion fix, it's the more personal sites that are receiving most attention. Bloggers such as The Sartorialist and Style Bubble -- both about the blogger's individual take on fashion, from a self-confessed amateur point of view -- have become a sensation. The Sartorialist was named by Time magazine as one of the most influential forces in design, and Susanna Lau, the creator of Style Bubble, is given a front-row seat at Chanel shows.
So what's the secret to a great fashion blog? As Lau says: "It isn't necessarily about providing information, but having an individual voice. It's really important for you to stand out."
Here, then, are our favourites:
While many bloggers like to remain anonymous, Diane Pernet positively welcomes the attention. A true fashion eccentric, the American-born journalist and editor is frequently spotted on the front row of fashion shows dressed head-to-toe in black with a voluminous veil. Based in Paris for the past 20 years, she blogs all about young talent -- it's a great place to spot a future Alexander McQueen or Raf Simons.
Bryan Boy is a star. On his diary-like blog he sounds like a giddy fashion-obsessed teenager, dreaming of Lanvin trainers and next season's clothes by label of the moment Balmain. In real life, however, the 22-year-old from Manila has become a serious industry player. Today, Bryan is flown to the international shows, all expenses paid, and hangs out with Christopher Bailey, the Burberry designer. Oh, and Marc Jacobs has even named a bag after him.
One of the first fashion blogs on the scene, Catwalk Queen began as a labour of love for the London College of Fashion student Gemma Cartwright. Today it boasts more hits per day than Vogue's website. Great for celebrity style gossip, secret sample sales and exclusive fashion collaborations. It even has its own YouTube channel.
"Real people on the street can be just as inspiring and creative as top models in magazines," says Yvan Rodic, the man behind the street-photography blog Facehunter. Always travelling the globe on the lookout for new subjects on the streets, from Reykjavík to Vienna, Rodic is more interested in personal style than keeping things on-trend. It's well worth a visit just to see the sheer variety of retina-popping looks on display. "It's eye candy for the style hungry," he says.
Photographer Tommy Ton gives good shoe. Like The Sartorialist, Ton shoots fashionistas on the street, but for the 25-year-old Canadian the focus is on footwear. If you want to know which styles the high street will be copying in six months, then this is the place to look. Jak & Jil has become a big success, with 30,000 hits per day. In his hometown of Toronto, one department store has even created a Tommy Ton mannequin.
When Sir Philip Green announced plans to launch Topshop in America, every newspaper and magazine was beaten to the scoop by Liberty London Girl, an anonymous British fashion editor living in New York. Her blog doesn't just trade in great fashion gossip, however -- this girl blogs on everything from the fashion world's prejudice against big busts to last night's bad date, all with a big dollop of very British humour. If you've ever wondered what it must be like to live a real-life version of The Devil Wears Prada, this is probably it.
One of the blogosphere's biggest fashion icons, Susanna Lau (aka Susie Bubble) started her online diary in March 2006. Style Bubble sees Lau, a Londoner, playing dress-up with new purchases and offering her thoughts on everything from fellow bloggers to the rebirth of Miss Selfridge. Thanks to its infectious tone, Style Bubble has become one of the most widely read fashion blogs, receiving 20,000 hits a day. No surprises, then, that Lau was recently recruited to the online arm of Dazed & Confused magazine. Fans needn't worry, however -- the blog is still going strong, despite the day job.
Like many of her fellow style-bloggers, Tavi Gevinson posts pictures of herself in cool charity-shop finds and loves dissecting catwalk trends. Unlike most of them, however, Tavi is 13. A self-confessed "tiny dork" who loves the high-fashion labels Luella, Charles Anastase and Comme des Garçons, the Chicago schoolgirl has been profiled by the New York Times and launched a T-shirt line. Her biggest problem right now? Finding designer togs that fit.
Since launching in 2005, Scott Schuman's blog has become a phenomenon. The formula itself is straightforward: the diminutive New Yorker travels the globe shooting simple portraits of well-dressed individuals, including fashion insiders such as Carine Roitfeld, the editor of French Vogue, as well as stylish passers-by on the street. It's Schuman's eye for detail that sets his images apart. He has recently made the transition from 'street photography' to advertising campaigns for DKNY Jeans, and has even modelled for Gap.
Almost like a 2009 version of Through the Keyhole, The Selby features pictures, videos and paintings of hip homes around the world -- from Manhattan apartments to cute basement flats in east London, all belonging to the likes of Peaches Geldof, Julia Restoin-Roitfeld and the model Erin Wasson. The blog started out as a side project for Todd Selby, a photographer, who began his career shooting fashion and portraits, but has since grown into something a lot bigger. "I wanted to look at people's houses and surroundings and try to tell more of a story," he explains.
Created by the novelist and Stella contributor Linda Grant, The Thoughtful Dresser has witty musings on all things clothes related. Whether she's answering tricky questions such as 'How many shoes does a girl need?' (Crocs don't count, obviously) or discussing female dress codes in Iran, Grant is one of the sharpest fashion writers around. She's also launching the Great Mutton Debate on her site, a lively discussion of 'age-appropriate' dressing for the over-50s.
Started in January by an east London couple, Joe and Katie, this blog will warm the hearts of even the most stony fashion scenesters. Documenting what the eccentric Katie wears every day of 2009, Joe comments on each outfit, with praise ranging from "truly beautiful" to "very pretty indeed". When that refers to sequin tunics, curtain ties from B&Q and a host of coloured tights, you have to applaud this sartorially enlightened male. A blog to forward to partners everywhere.
© Glenn Waldron/Telegraph Media Group Limited 2009
And it's not just fashionistas who are influencing the world of blogging. Irish beauty bloggers and sisters Kirstie and Aisling McDermott have 18,000 visitors a day to their website beaut.ie, writes Anna Carey
Checking out the beauty counters at Brown Thomas with the ladies behind Beaut.ie can be dangerous. Sisters Aisling and Kirstie McDermott founded Ireland's most popular beauty website three years ago, and their enthusiasm for excellent beauty buys is infectious. "I love Yves Saint Laurent stuff," says Kirstie, showing me a gorgeous creamy blush. "This is really good for pale Irish skin." She's right -- it's the perfect consistency and a gorgeous colour, and it takes all my resolve not to splash out.
A trip to the Estée Lauder counter has both sisters enthusing over the night creams, and when we reach the Bliss counter, Aisling praises the miraculous soothing powers of Bliss wipes designed for sensitive skin.
Five minutes later I've thrown caution to the wind and bought not only the wipes but their accompanying moisturiser. That's the thing about the McDermott sisters: when they recommend something, you take it seriously.
Since it was founded in September 2006, Beaut.ie has become one of the most popular websites in Ireland. Its irreverent, entertaining, well-informed and very Irish take on the latest beauty products attracts 18,000 visitors every day, many of whom share their opinions in the site's forums and comments sections. "We started the site for our own amusement," says Aisling, "and also because we were beauty product junkies and wanted to share our passion with the world."
And the site is branching out of the internet, as this month saw the publication of Aisling's new book, The Beaut.ie Guide to Gorgeous. While some blogs have struggled to sustain their material over the length of a book, Beaut.ie's magazine-style format is ideally suited to the printed page. With sections devoted to everything from anti-ageing creams (Erase and Rewind) to hair removal (Gorillas in the Mist), it's the most entertaining beauty book you're likely to read.
And unlike some beauty bibles, readers can rest assured that everything in the book is available to Irish customers.
"The way UK retailers treat the Irish market really annoys me," says Kirstie. "They're delighted to make loads of money out of us but they won't give us proper pricing, they won't give us [Irish-specific] websites. If you want to find out the price of something in M&S you can't look at their website because it will only feature the UK price.
"We're constantly being asked if we will feature stuff for the UK market, and we always say we won't. The UK has millions of its own resources already. And we won't open our competitions to people outside Ireland -- why should we? We want to be there for our readers who are Irish."
Both McDermotts believe that Irish women have their own unique take on beauty. "I think we're an awful lot more glamorous than our English sisters," says Kirstie. "The London girls are really into an unkempt look, they don't really wear make-up, whereas Irish women like dressing up and they love make-up."
Aisling thinks Irish women also have a down-to-earth view of the beauty world, seeing it as a bit of fun. "They don't think everything has to be beautiful and perfect."
Perhaps this is why the site's irreverent tone appeals so much to Irish readers. "The beauty industry can be very precious and we can't stand that," says Aisling.
Women are rarely given a space to mock girly things in the way that, say, Top Gear jokes about boys and their toys. "There's a huge gap between what women like and what TV producers think women like," says Kirstie.
"Women are not stupid, we don't believe every bit of advertising that comes our way. I'm fully aware that the cosmetic industry is completely ridiculous, but it doesn't stop me from liking it -- and occasionally lampooning it if I feel like it. We always try to make people laugh."
Beaut.ie isn't afraid to say exactly what they think of the latest wonder mascaras and miracle moisturisers. "The beauty industry has had it easy for too long," says Kirstie. "People have been fawning over them forever and they've had total power. Blogging is democratising this process to some degree. People disagree with what we say all the time. They'll tell us they've tried something we liked and thought it was rubbish, and that's grand. Beauty's very personal -- you either like something or you don't."
In general, Beaut.ie has been embraced not just by its own readers but by the Irish blogging community, and has won Best Fashion Blog at the last three Irish Blog Awards. Every so often they get attacked in other blogs, but it doesn't bother them.
They're both particularly amused by critics -- usually men -- who find the entire concept of the site silly and assume the women behind it are airheads.
"People think that if you just write about one thing then it's your whole life," says Kirstie. "It's certainly not all that Aisling and I are about. We just decided to blog about a niche subject.
"We always get a laugh when people say things like 'those stupid girls, all they're interested in is make-up'. We're not!"
She points out that male pursuits aren't treated with the same disdain. "I don't think people -- men -- who write about football are really boring, so I wonder why women get such a hard time about [girly things], because they do. Male things are seen as being universal, but you don't have the fashion world cup, do you?" Aisling agrees: "Beauty is just what we write about," she says. "I mean, we could easily be writing about philosophy ... "
"And then we'd get 1.8 readers a day instead of 18,000!" says Kirstie.
Despite the site's success, Aisling and Kirstie don't want to rest on their laurels.
Although busy with their day jobs (Kirstie works in marketing for the publisher Dyflin and Aisling is a librarian), they're always looking for ways to develop Beaut.ie and serve its community of loyal readers. "Our new thing is the Swap Siopa, where people swap their make-up. That's been really successful."
The McDermotts' affection for both their readers and their subjects has created a unique way of talking about beauty products.
"People do like reading about this stuff, but they don't want to read a rehashed press release, which is what you often get elsewhere," says Kirstie. "They don't want to be talked down to either.
"We're not stupid because we like hair and make-up! It's not anti-feminist, it's just something a lot of us enjoy."
The Beaut.ie Guide to Gorgeous (Gill and Macmillan, €16.99) is out now