As Melbourne Fashion Week approaches I have added an entirely new anxiety to my usual list: Will I be invited? Will I look like a knob in photographs? Will my regular rotation of Supre bargain bin finds finally be exposed, or will people keep believing me when I tell them it’s ‘vintage’?
That new anxiety is something you’d never guess. It’s hidden, and it’s only available to an exclusive group of street style photographers. It’s a secret Instagram account – and it’s basically a Burn Book of Australian fashion bloggers.
But before I get to that deep-seated anxiety, let’s chat about how I found out about this secret account. Because you know, it’s not all about me. (YET).
As I usually do, I headed to Sydney Fashion Week in April – but this time, with an entirely non-designer, self-owned wardrobe for a story. I like to punish myself, because I’m masochistic like that. And, as is usually the case with fashion week, no one really photographed me – only this time it was a blessing in disguise.
After spotting a fellow well-known blogger parading around in a giant, overblown dress, surrounded by a circus of photographers, I had a chuckle. Standard – they love a bit of drama. Then I saw a particular street style photographer snapping her. Strange, I thought. That’s not usually their style.
I mentioned the scene to a friend who is also a photographer, later that afternoon, joking about how I had unfortunately left my ball gown at home that day. She laughed and told me she HAD to show me the FUNNIEST Instagram Story EVER. It was a private account, owned by the photographer I mentioned earlier.
It was a picture of that blogger; dress billowing dramatically in the wind, defiant leg peeking through a giant slit, all bravado and brooding eyes. It was accompanied by a not-very-nice comment about her sartorial choices. I’ll admit, I’m a terrible person, and I had a quiet giggle.
But as she cycled through the subsequent pictures (another blogger being told to ‘just stop’, another one deemed a fashion fail), I became more and more uncomfortable. I couldn’t help but wonder: what if one of those had been me? What if I was featured, and didn’t know?
There was something so high school about the whole thing; secretive sledges, delivered via a private social media account, to sniggering snappers who were in on the joke.
These photographers, most of them, they aren’t mean people. They’re doing their job. They have an amazing eye for trends, for interesting details, for translating art into an image. I respect their craft.
What I don’t respect is someone who thinks that someone’s personal style is up for a cheap laugh. What I don’t respect is someone who publicly names and shames others, to make themselves feel superior, but doesn’t do it to their face. That’s just a bully.
My job is to call people out for their bad behaviour – and some people call me a bully for that. The only difference is, I have the decency not to use their image or their name in this article, accompanied by a snide comment.
The difference is, I say what I say publicly because I have the balls. I don’t hide behind safe private-account havens of like-minded individuals – I take the criticism and the trolling because I believe in what I say.
The fashion world has told street photographers that they are the curators of cool for years, but no one has told them what it’s like to be on the other side. They don’t know what it’s like to FEEL everyone judging you, to feel the assessing eye rolls as you walk into the lion’s den.
This fashion week, I look forward to hearing that this person has stopped bullying insecure people, and instead focused on their amazing talent for capturing inspiring fashion images.
Either that, or feel free to replace your collage of other bloggers with a week-long collage of my shitty, impending non-designer outfits. Because I don’t care about whether people like what I wear or not. Because I can take it.
Follow Bianca’s fashion journey of rarely photographed hits and countless sartorial misses over at @_thesecondrow.
Illustration by Twylamae.