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Flâneurs of Fashion 2.0

Jess Berry

The development of information technology and its effect on the fashion industry is still to be quantified. While it is evident that technological change alters the way we experience the world it is also clear that these changes are eventually incorporated into the conventions of everyday life. This appears increasingly true of Web 2.0, which is characterised by increased interactivity, file sharing and social networking (Lindgren 2007). Web 2.0 offers new forums for watching, discussing, promoting, selling and consuming fashion brands. Of particular significance to the fashion industry is the impact of weblogs, or blogs, on the way fashion is produced and consumed (Abrams 2009 & Wilson 2009). Blogs are a frequently updated personal journal made available on the Internet. Increasingly, street style blogs such as The Sartorialist and Facehunter establish what is considered fashionable within globalised networks.

In understanding the role of blogs as arbiters of style this paper will adopt the familiar figure of the flâneur as a model through which to consider conceptions of fashion in the era of Web 2.0. The flâneur has been explicitly positioned as a male rambler of nineteenth century Parisian streets. He has many guises, conceived as poet, painter and dandy by Baudelaire (1970) and a journalist and writer by Walter Benjamin (Shields 1994 & Frisby 2001), yet above all he is an observer of urban life and metropolitan spaces. Recent scholarship by fashion theorist Elizabeth Wilson (2002) has identified the existence of a flâneuse or female flâneur in the form of fin-de-siecle Parisian prostitutes and Peng Hsiao-yen (2010) has considered the flâneur within the urban context of Shanghai in the 1930s. Such investigations suggest that the act of flânerie is not necessarily a gender, culturally or period specific activity. As sociologist Keith Tester suggests, "the flâneur is used as a figure to illuminate city life irrespective of time and place" (1994:16). Thus the flâneur in the context of this paper will be used to describe a person, male or female, from any culture, whose relevance extends beyond that of the historical figure of a designated place and period to be an observer of the city, its people and its fashion within contemporary culture.

While the discursive construction of the flâneur might be over-used within scholarly discourse the figure continues to be a useful analytical tool with which to consider the pra