Art & Design

Across the Tumblrverse: The Collective Network

Art & Design

Across the Tumblrverse: The Collective Network

Ubari
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The Collective Network is a community of like-minded tumblrs, organized and cross-promoted under one central tumblr. The Collective was started by a young university student from Austin, Texas named Roberto, who curates the blogs to feature, inviting users based on the “superior artistic quality” of their assemblages. These are fashion blogs, but not of the breed that boomed a couple years ago—street style blogs like The Sartorialist and Jak and Jil, and personal style blogs à la Tavi Gevinson, Style by Kling and Fashion Toast. Those were so powerful in their popularity and personality, that they managed to infiltrate the coveted front row. The blogs of the Collective are far more anonymous. They focus on the work, the image making, of fashion. The emphasis is on photography and editorials, runway footage, garment details, and archived material.

The blogs in the network tend to lean toward the more intellectual, experimental and progressive side of fashion, to anti-fashion, and the intersections between fashion, art, music, film and youth culture. You’ll find images from fashion movements and designers at their best: the ‘80s Japanese avant-garde with designers Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto; Maison Martin Margiela and the Antwerp Six; ‘90s minimalism of the likes of Calvin Klein, Helmut Lang and Jil Sander; the conceptualism of Viktor & Rolf and Hussein Chalayan; the costume and performance art of Alexander McQueen. As for more contemporary designers, expect a lot from Phoebe Philo at Céline, Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga, Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, Rick Owens, Raf Simons, Haider Ackerman, and Swedish design house ACNE.

Sexuality on the Collective Network (because fashion never comes without sex, even if it’s Victorian modesty) isn’t bombshell glamour but, again, more fringe. Frail and androgynous bodies, BDSM imagery, occasions of body modification, and strong Helmut Newton-type women. Think Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, who appears across many of the blogs. Cited favorite photographers of the network include Juergen Teller, Mark Borthwick, Newton, Willy Vanderperre, Sharif Hamza, Corinne Day, Nick Knight, Karim Sadli and Sølve Sundsbø.

The members of the Collective come from all over the globe (Morocco, New York, Great Britain, Louisiana, Scotland, Canada) and are all very young, some in their early twenties, but most still in their teens. Roberto, the founder of the Collective, whose personal blog is called Ubari, is only 19. The author of Ameile is 18. Menstrual Psyche is 20, and in his junior year at Cooper Union in New York. The Collective has become something of a social community, with members reblogging and commenting on each other’s posts. While there’s certainly an overall aesthetic to the Collective Network, each blog is also unique. Pyrs is feminine and romantic. Arexteva is a vintage dreamworld. Menstrual Psyche is aptly named, dominated by dark, moody, PMS-worthy imagery. The Collective Network has only been around for about four months, but its success proves there’s an audience hungry for serious, well-sourced fashion media. “I never in my wildest dreams would have expected this to get as popular as it did,” says Roberto. I recently had the chance to ask Roberto and Marcus of Menstrual Psyche a few questions about the Collective and new and old fashion media.

How would you describe the aesthetic of the Collective Network? What does the Collective Network mean to you?

Roberto: I’m a huge fan of fashion and a sucker for a minimal aesthetic. That’s how I base my decisions on the blogs I choose to invite. I choose to represent blogs that feature fashion detail and editorials as opposed to personal style blogs. However, I hate the sound of, “Hi, this is The Collective, and this is a fashion blog network.” That makes the network seem terribly closed-minded. I’ve featured a few blogs that place heavier emphasis on art and writing as well.

Marcus: I guess I see the Collective Network as a sort of hub or meeting place for different aspects of fashion. I think the focus of each blog is quite different and so in that way the collective is a sort of kaleidoscope that can offer a range of viewpoints.

What are some of your favorite print magazines?

Roberto: I love W. I think the design is impeccable, and the editorials are always so enchanting. Besides that, I also keep up with i-D, Acne, Paper, Bullett, Dazed and Confused, and foreign issues of Vogue.

Marcus: Dansk, Ten, Vogue, and Dutch magazine was great while it lasted. i-D, Dazed and Confused, AnOther, The Room. Visionaire is great, though it’s less a print than a sort of artist project. A magazine, Numero, Love, Arena Homme, Hero, BITE magazine.

How do you think user-centered platforms like blogger and tumblr have changed the fashion landscape?

Roberto: In all honesty, I think fashion blogging has hurt personal style a bit. Gone are the days when people were forced to actually define the way they dressed from scratch (think the pre-internet era). Sure, there were things like magazines and MTV that influenced style, but that’s it. Now, all people have to do is log into a fashion blogger’s website and get inspiration from there. I think that’s too much of a cut and paste concept for personal style, which is why I typically stray from the typical style blogger’s website. That’s why I choose to feature the blogs that I do.

Marcus: I think blogs and the general wealth of information and images especially regarding fashion have really broadened the audience for fashion. For better or for worse, a lot more people are able to access images and interviews and able to form opinions about fashion in a way that seemed exclusive before. I mean, I really enjoy that I can see a Vogue Italia from 1989 scanned somewhere because that’s something that I didn’t have the chance to experience but want to, and I can see Ann Demeulemeester’’s first runway show through video and have that experience in a mediated way. I think that a platform like Tumblr is good in the sense that it allows these things to be shared and spread and you begin to build an understanding of fashion that is a sort of shared experience with others.