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WWD Denim In Depth issue 11/19/2009

An increasing number of bloggers are training their sights on denim, and brands are taking notice.

This story first appeared in the November 19, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The number of denim-devoted blogs entering the blogosphere has been on the rise over the last year. For the rabid aficionados behind them, social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have been vital tools to building a following in short order. The surge in readership has been surprising, but the attention many are getting from the brands they blog about has been even more so.

Jaime Palmucci launched Denim Debutante in June as a way to indulge her passion for denim and to give an in-depth look at quality and fit issues. Palmucci, who lives in Denver, had been writing the blog for an online fashion retailer, but found she wasn’t being able to give her opinion on the product or to give truthful opinions about items the site was selling.

“I wanted to make my voice known and say what it was I’ve experienced in the brand,” said Palmucci. “A lot of the [denim] Web sites focus on price point and style, and I wanted to focus on fit, as well.”

Since the June launch, Denim Debutante has garnered more than 300,000 unique hits and is approaching 1,500 followers on Twitter. Palmucci’s focus on the quality and the fit of the brand are what she believes help her stand out.

“The way each brand fits is so different and I don’t see many sites at all that work on that,” she said.

Her denim collection has, not surprisingly, grown significantly. She’s approaching 150 pairs and is trying to convince her boyfriend to construct her own personal denim bar. Brands are now soliciting her to try their product and it hasn’t always gone smoothly.

“My big thing is that I’m not going to write a positive review because you send me a pair of jeans, and I’ve pissed off a couple p.r. people because of that,” she said.

Johnny Pinto got his start selling jeans at 16, while working at Gap. After college, Pinto spent three years working for the Project trade show, where he increased his exposure and expertise in denim. After leaving Project, Pinto set his sights on opening a denim store in Long Beach, Calif., but the dire economic conditions made it impossible. Instead, he decided to develop a personal shopping blog centered around the denim lifestyle. Pinto officially unveiled The Denim Guy blog earlier this month. While the focus is on denim, Pinto includes any other items that fit with the denim culture.

“We are not celebrity driven, we are product driven,” said Pinto, who used his industry contacts with brands such as Hudson, Rock & Republic and Citizens of Humanity to get feedback on the site.

Pinto said his goal for the site is to work closely with the brands to give his readers more information about new brands and the people behind them. While he’s approaching the big brands, new ones have already started coming to him.

“The amazing thing is that, four weeks into this, I have the ability to say, ‘Yes, I can put you on the blog,’ or ‘No, I can’t,’” he said. “The denim brands are really starting to understand the power of social networking and connecting with the consumer.”

Liam Winn started Denim Geek this summer. He also found most blogs were devoted to coverage of celebrities and found even fewer addressing the men’s market.

“I wanted to create a simple blog that would help men find that next special pair of jeans,” said Winn, who is based in the U.K. and has a background in music and Web design.

Winn’s blog has garnered 6,000 hits since mid-July and his readership is growing. It’s required little effort to find brands.

“There are a few times I’ve approached brands because I’ve liked the look of collections,” he said. “But I now also receive countless amounts of e-mails from p.r. companies.”

Shanna McKinnon is the editor of Denim Hunt, which launched in April 2007 with the backing of Cotton Incorporated. McKinnon is the site’s second editor and has a background as a trend forecaster. She took over responsibility for Denim Hunt in June 2008 and said Cotton Inc. has operated largely as a silent partner.

“They’re very hands off,” she said. “They basically said, ‘This is Denim Hunt, it’s yours, take it and run with it.’ And it really has to run that way.”

McKinnon said her aim is to position the site as the comprehensive online denim resource, touching on everything from news to runway presentations to celebrity photos. As with other denim bloggers, McKinnon has found brands coming to her.

“When I first took over, I thought I would have to reach out to a lot of them, but as the site’s been getting more popular, I really don’t have to,” she said, adding that the number of brands contacting her has spiked over the last six months.

“Blogs to [the brands] are maybe more grass roots and they feel like if the bloggers are talking about them, it can make their brand look more authentic,” she said.

Denim Hunt reached a peak of 20,000 visitors last month and is averaging 2,000 hits a day. McKinnon intends to focus on building the site’s Twitter following next year while working on growing the site and making it more interactive.

“You can’t be stale — you’ve got to keep growing,” she said. “One of the ways you show people you’re growing is visually.”


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