Over the past years fashion bloggers have become an intricate part of the industry’s current landscape. But blogging itself has evolved with time as well and become a full-time pursuit for many and become a complex blend of content, marketing and branding. Never before has a fashion blogger's influence reached as far or as wide, and labels from around the world are keener than ever to work with them. But how do bloggers approach brands? What actually goes into the daily running of a blog? For the second episode in this series, FashionUnited spoke to David Evans, the man behind ‘Grey Fox’ to learn more about the business of blogging.1. How did your blog ‘Grey Fox’ first begin?
“Well, I am traditionally trained as a lawyer but about 8 years ago I retrained as a teacher. But I wanted to some writing and I thought that blogging would be a good way of practicing writing. I tried to think of something to blog about and thought about how I was finding it difficult to decide what to wear and how to wear it getting into middle age. I wanted write about something light and amusing and largely from my personal perspective so that’s how Grey Fox came about.” “I honestly thought the blog would be over in three to four months and then I’d find something else to do but it sort of took off and here I am nearly four years later still blogging and enjoying it immensely.”2. Where did the name ‘Grey Fox’ come from?
“Well I am sure you know the term ‘silver fox’ - it’s supposed to in reference to a good-looking, older man, but I’ve always thought it was slightly creepy in a way because it could also refer to a predatory, older man, slightly lecherous. So I thought I would adjust this title slightly and call it ‘grey fox,’ so quite simply that’s how the name came about.”
“Well after I had been blogging for about 5 or 6 months I was picked up by Polly Vernon who writes for the Times and he did a five-page spread in the magazine on a Saturday which was entitled ‘Are you a Grey Fox?’ and featured the blog and touched quite a lot of themes which I had been exploring on my blog. So that gave the blog a huge lift. Once that starts to happen you can’t help but want a bit more, and a bit more and you are propelled forward. It was around that time that I noticed the blog attracting significant attention and that encouraged me to keep it going.”4. How many visitors per month would you say you have?
“I have about 30,000 page views per month I would say - although I have no idea how that really compares with other blogs. But I supposed I have a certain type of focused following in the sense that the older man is not yet the sort of person who necessarily follows blogs and lives on social media. But I think that’s changing almost monthly now. I believe most of my followers are older men, forty plus, but I know quite a few younger guys follow the blogs because of they like the general classics and traditional apparel too. I know quite a lot of women who follow the blog as well, who look for ideas to smarten up their men folk. So I would say about two thirds of my followers are male and one third female.”
“Most are from the UK, but it varies a lot. At least a third are from outside the UK - the US, Australia and Europe. But sometimes the global following exceeds the UK following, it remains variable.”5. How would you define your personal style on ‘Grey Fox’?
“I supposed it’s fairly sort of classical and traditional but it is still developing. When I started the blog I had no personal sense of style and the blog was started to describe my search of personal style and to be honest I am still looking for one. But in many ways I am rather traditional, preferring jackets, suits and trousers in English-style in some way.”
“I post anything between twice a week to five times a week. I am trying to cut it down a little bit but the blog takes huge amounts of time. There’s always a fear that if you start to cut down the number of blog posts that the followers won’t come as often, but what I have noticed when I do cut down on posts it that the followers still come. So there’s little sense in posting more than 2 or 3 times a week and that’s going to be my target posting frequency.”
“Although sometimes I do get overcome by enthusiasm for something and then write about it and put it up straight away, so it remains difficult. My posts vary on what’s happening in my life, what I am feeling, what other events are going on, so I am afraid I am not very organized in that sense. I like to post something when the feelings there rather than being tied down to specific days.”6. How long do you spend working on each blog post?
“Most blog posts are done within a day. I will sit down in the morning and sketch something out, write something down then look for images or make my own. And then what I do is once I have written a blog post is that I will refine what I have written and go back to it three or four times trying to cut down the number of words. People appreciate good writing in a blog but they don’t want too much of either - they want it to be fairly minimalist.”
“Some blogs are purely image based but I like to have a bit of a mix. If you are asked to review something then I like to do it in an independent but comprehensive way without being too wordy. Then once it’s done I’ll schedule it for upload for sometime the next week, unless it’s something I am really excited about - then I’ll post it the same day.”7. Do you work with a team, or alone?
“I take a lot of my own photographs myself, but if there are several photos of me then it’s usually the result of a photoshoot or something along those lines. I do have one or two pro-photographers who do help me out from time to time, but I don’t have a specific one I always work with. I know a lot of bloggers do and have someone fixed to help them out but I don’t.”
“However, because I had no background in menswear or fashion at all when starting Grey Fox, I decided to start working with Sarah Gilfillan, a personal stylist. I think she writes very well, as she has a similar sense of humour to me. She contributes to the blog about once a month or so and helps me if I need any advice or information regarding menswear. But the vast bulk of the blog is written and put together by me.”8. So, do you see yourself as more of an entrepreneur or blogger?
“It’s almost like a full time job that’s actually a fun hobby. But I wish I was more entrepreneurial actually because if I had a more business-like brain I would’ve been able to make the blog a lot more commercially successful than it already is. I earn something from it, but not as much as I would like because I feel I already put in more time in it than I planned to. But the problem is that I am not a natural business man, in spite of the numerous brand partnerships and collaborations I have with other brands.”
“Well, speaking generally in regards to blogging, bloggers deal with a huge range of businesses, some are small start ups who can’t afford to pay you anything, some offer to give you a product in lieu of payment. Then there are other businesses who can afford to pay you but may not really want too - there is such a huge variety in the way bloggers work with brands in this industry. A lot of us are just happy to take products in exchange of reviews, others want money. It’s impossible to find any uniformity in the way a blogger may work with a business.”
“I’ve been blogging for over three and half years and I am still working out a way to deal with that situation. From my point of view, its most important for the blogger to retain their personal view and I often get comments that my readers like that independence. Perhaps if I got paid too much on my blog, that independence would become undermined. It’s taken me longer than I thought to find that balance, but I am beginning to find it now. I also do sponsored posts, but I will say on my blog if something is a sponsored. I always make it clear in some way.”10. Do you fully live off your blog?
“Because I have time to work on ‘Grey Fox,’ I don’t necessarily feel like I need to be making a full-time living off of it. But what’s making me believe that perhaps I should be, is that I’m getting to a stage where you feel a little taken advantage of by some brands or collaborations.”11. Do you have any fixed or ongoing collaborations with brands or retailers?
“No, nothing fixed. I do sell some advertising space and they bring in an income but no fixed collaborations with anyone at the moment.”
“One of the themes I like to explore on the blog is British-made menswear. I can’t remember how I first heard of Tripl Stitched, but I did and they sent me some shirts to try. I wrote about them and then they came back to me and asked how about a collaboration?’And I said I would love to. I saw a gap in the market between the formal and informal shirt and thought it would be interesting to develop something in between.”13. What is it like working with them?
“Tripl Stitched wanted some ideas for a small shirt collection, so I began looking at shirts from the 40 and 50s - I love looking at old black and white photographs from the era - and picked up on little details to work into the collection. One of the shirts is designed to be worn with a tie and tie-bar for example. I collected a series of images I liked to my Pinterest board and then used them to inspire the collection.”
“I worked closely with Tripl Stitched in the designing of the shirt - its shape, the type of cloth used, the details such as the shape of the collar and such. We looked through many swatches of cloth and selected the colors and quality I wanted and they advised me on what changes I should make if I wanted a shirt to be worn with or without a tie. I specifically wanted a softish collar that could be worn with a tie, or without and still be comfortable to wear. ”
“I am very happy with how the collaboration came out. They understand how I wanted the shirts to look and it was translated to the products in such a successful way. I’ve really enjoyed the experience and I hope it will the basis for future collaborations.”
“But to be perfectly honest with you, I made no financial arrangement with Tripl Stitched, I don’t profit from the collaboration in that sense at all. But since it is my first significant collaboration, I wanted to see how it was done and gain experience from it and eventually attract other brands to work with me so I can make some commercial success in that regard. However, I would collaborate with them again if they asked, it would be nice to think that this is the first of many collections and I have ideas as to how the collection could expand. But we have to see how it sells first. ”15. You also have a new collaboration with the Showroom, can you tell us more about that?
“That’s a fairly new addition to my blog and was one of my ideas to help counter some of the costs incurred with the blog. It’s still early days though and the shop is still getting up and running, although from my point of view it has not been much of a success yet. But I still think it has a future and could be a good way for all bloggers to make extra money on their blog.”
“The way it works though is that I first talked to Showroom about what sort of products and business I would like to promote on the blog and then they approach them and make an arrangement in regards to what we can sell on the blog. Then I promote them through the blog and on the shop. I think it has a future but from the technical point we have to work out how to maximise the impact, but I feel quite hopeful about it.”16. Are there any brands or retailers in particular you would like to work with in the future?
“Almost anybody who makes menswear because I think I have a reasonable understanding as to what problems the forty plus year old man face and what their expectations are. I think it would be nice to work with almost any brand who makes shoes, suit, jackets whatever and translate some of these ideas. Make something that is fundamentally classic, but with a bit of a twist to it. I think that’s something we’ve achieved with the Tripl Stitched collaboration. I feel like there is a lot of potential out there and I’ve gained a lot of experience from this experience.”
“My main interest is British-made brands because they’re made in Britain there is a sort of ethical acceptability to that as they are employing people in this country. I’d rather be buying clothes that are made in this country as we know the workers are well paid and so on. I think that’s an important aspects. If a brand approached me who made all their wares in China and then sold it to every chippy on the high street then I would not be very happy to get involved with them. I think sustainability, the quality of the clothes and they way they are put together would be important to me as well as the brand’s receptiveness to new ideas.”
“And appealing to the older man and not just the younger generations would also be something else I would look for.”18. Do you have any tips for bloggers looking to collaborate with brands?
“Firstly, early on raise the issue of finance if it’s something you are interested in. Otherwise don’t be tempted to chose collaborations that are outside your field of interest or focus of your blog - stick to what you know best. If something is outside your interest then just don’t touch it, it’s best not to be tempted into areas you don’t want to go.”19. Do you have any future plans for ‘Grey Fox’ you would like to share?
“One of my goals for the next few months is to redesign my blog to make it more accessible. The trouble with blogs is that you have the most recent post on top, on the front page and the older ones get pushed down. There is a lot of information on my blog, I must have around 1,000 posts and a lot of them contain quite useful information for people and I want to make it all more accessible. So a blog design is the next thing on the cards”20. What do you predict for the future of ‘Grey Fox?’
“Like any blog, I expect the blog start to play a smaller part in a wider picture. Bloggers have got to spread themselves across all social media. I myself have a number of social media accounts on different platforms, but I find that Twitter and Instagram are expanding at a much faster rate than the blog itself. So I think bloggers should keep this in mind.”
“I probably spend more time on Twitter and Instagram than on the blog to be honest. They are very useful ways of getting across your enthusiasm for a product or a feeling for a sense of style. Fashion blogging is not just about dressing nicely - it’s about appreciating a beautiful painting or a beauty view - it’s a lifestyle I supposed and these mediums make it easier to convey that.”22. What message do you hope to pass on to other readers and brands through ‘Grey Fox’?
“There’s always a fear that your blog is all about vanity and it took me 2 to 3 years to get over that really. As a blogger you have to be prepared to put yourself forward to some extent and I found that difficult at first. But it’s something that is expected of bloggers. So I recently started doing some modelling as I’ve always been an advocate that there needs to be more grey hair in advertisements and on the catwalk.”
“Some brands have approached me and asked to model for them, so I thought it was a good way to make my point come across more strongly. I am 60 and I have done a photoshoots so if that gets the message across the menswear industry, that older men are interested in style and like to look smart then hopefully it will have a positive effect.”
Pictures by: Nick Maroudias, Jonathan Daniel Pryce, Tripl Stiched and Eton Shirts.