I had a bit of a shock the other day. I clicked on a referring link to my blog and saw my own face staring back at me from a site I’d never seen before.
Some company called ‘The Style Up’ had used one of my photos on their website – a daily style inspiration service.
They seem to be yet another internet styling service funded by affiliate income. You sign up and get an email each night with an idea of what you could wear tomorrow. The gimmick is that it’s personalised to your local weather forecast.
I’m not averse to this kind of thing. I love taking frivolous fashion quizzes online and finding out my ‘style personality’ or whatever.
Except. It doesn’t sit well with me that they’ve just taken an image from my blog without asking and then added affiliate links to ‘similar’ products. It’s notoriously difficult to make a business work solely on affiliate income, and I’m sure they’re earning less than pennies on these links, but they’re still trying to use my photo to make money for themselves.
I actually emailed them to ask them to remove the photo, which they promised to do (and haven’t – you can see it here). They also asked if I’d like to join their ‘exclusive blogger network’ which is another affiliate thing and isn’t of much use to me given that my blog is mostly about handmade clothing.
So I’m annoyed, but not upset. It’s interesting to read the comments from their users. When my photo is divorced from its personal context, people are a lot more unfiltered and honest. The outfit in question possibly would look better with a slimmer top, flat leopard-print pumps and one of those fashion-bloggers-favourite J Crew ‘bubble’ necklaces, as suggested by commenters (although you will pry my cardigan from my cold, dead, hands).
I’ve been trying to analyse what annoys me about this incident.
Firstly, they’ve taken my photo from the original context and put it into a different arena to be judged as a styled image. I have never claimed to be a fashion guru, and if I wasn’t making the things I wear, I wouldn’t have started this blog. It did come out of an impulse to show off (as most blogging does), but to show off my sewing rather than my styling credentials. It’s a small difference but to me it feels significant.
Secondly, they’re using my handmade, one-of-a-kind bespoke skirt to shill mass-produced clothing. While I still buy shop-bought clothing I am becoming more and more aware of the problems with textile manufacturing. So this rubs me up the wrong way.
As does the fact that they didn’t ask if they could use my photo first.
Lastly, the online sewing community is very supportive and small. I’m sure there are people reading this blog who think I look ridiculous and that my outfits are terrible, but they keep it to themselves. So this feels a bit like cold air blowing in. A reminder of the fact that anything you put on the internet is fair game.
I’d be interested to know your thoughts.
Edited 5th August – Kendall from The StyleUp has emailed me to apologise again for not removing the picture and that it was a result of human error – they’re going to take the page down today.