Bits Per Style

“Digit@l Girls”: a Social Media Yearbook of Online Influencers

In his new photography book about online style and beauty influencers, complete with interviews and fascinating facts, Marko MacPherson attempts to capture the “risk takers, rule breakers, disruptors: fashion’s new tribe.” Indeed within the pages of "Digit@al Girls" (edited by Vogue Runway's Nicole Phelps with text by Steff Yotka and Emily Siegel), the audience gets a real sense of the movers, shakers and ground breakers: many of whom are ubiquitous, like Leandra Medine of The Man Repeller, and some not-as-familiar names like Jillian Mercado, who describes herself in these words: “model, creative, activist, Latina, and loving life.” Each photo is accompanied by an interview, a few shots from their blogs and social media accounts, and empowering, positive comments from their many followers. 

Phelps describes it fittingly: “In 2017, it’s hard to remember a time before Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube. Now, of course, they’re inescapable, and their self-made stars are as well known as movie actresses and pop icons. These days ‘very followed’ very often trumps ‘very famous.’”

What are their recipes for success and building their own empires which have rivalled those of fashion editors from traditional fashion and beauty media? 

There appears to be no uniform formula to amassing such big followings. All of these women have done what comes naturally to them, and for that, their audiences love them. If anything, it’s easy to gain inspiration from these influential individuals especially for anyone wishing to join the arena.  

“I don’t dress for my body, I dress as I feel. I think in the plus market, I have carved out a space for myself that isn’t about being sexy or having to confirm my confidence all the time,” says Paloma Elsesser, a muse of make-up artist Pat McGrath. 

Model/activist/blogger Caxmee, who overcame cancer as a teenager and wears a prosthetic leg, states, “Sure, I talk a lot about body acceptance, about loving who you are, and growing into the person that you one day will be proud of, but at the same time I do struggle with body insecurities, and I talk about how I fight those every day.” While she’s still an employee of the office of the Mayor of New York City, she manages to multitask and bring her own bold, vibrant personal style to her blog and Instagram photos.

If there’s one thing to respectfully critique here, it concerns the title of the book: why “girls”? Although style can evolve, change and even mature, these individuals are purely adult and strong in conviction. With the exception of Tavi Gevinson who was literally a girl when she started (and not in the book), using the term “girls” goes along with the infantilizing a tribe who is already developed and breaking barriers. Or is this the case of the fashion world’s continued obsession with youth?

Despite its title, “Digit@l Girls” is a great reference for the here and now, the Zeitgeist, and visual fashion icons of the online era. Phelps once again hits it on the nail with citing The Cut and why personal blogs took off in the first place: “We want that bitch’s life.” True. sc

Digit@l Girls (Rizzoli USA) is available now.