Garance Doré Talks Site Redesign, Keeping Things Personal

How Garance Doré is growing her blog without sacrificing her voice.
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Dhani Mau
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How Garance Doré is growing her blog without sacrificing her voice.
Photo: Garance Doré

Photo: Garance Doré

Lately, it seems, some of fashion's OG game-changing bloggers -- The Man Repeller's Leandra Medine, Into the Gloss's Emily Weiss, to name a few -- have expanded from small, personal, self-run blogs to proper media sites replete with fancy web design, editorial staffs and more varied content.

The latest is Garance Doré. The fashion illustrator and photographer's website now has an editorial team of about 5-7 -- not including freelancers -- and is about to unveil a new redesign just in time for fashion week.

We were fortunate enough to have some time to chat with Doré about the new look, how she's maintaining the authentic, personal tone of the site as it grows, shooting fashion editorials and how she'll cover the insanity that is fashion week this time around (hint: a lot less than before).

Tell me about what you were going for with the redesign.

The first thing you'll see is that there are much bigger digital images all over the website. The navigation is slightly different, but I think one of the most important features is that now, our posts have a different type of layout [to make way for] more beautiful storytelling. I really wanted to push the [traditional blogging] boundary and have it be a place where you can actually make beautiful stories with the images we shoot.

So it won't be as much of a blog format?

It will be -- we are keeping the chronology, so that's always going to make you feel like it's a blog, and that's very important to me. We do a lot of stories with more than one photo, and we're producing a lot of those photos in the studio -- so we really want a place to be able to display that. When you read a magazine and you look at the story... I want you to feel that with the blog. I'm very excited.

One of the signatures of your blog is the handwritten fonts. Will those remain?

Yeah -- there will always be the handwriting. The identity of the blog will stay the same; we kept a lot of the same fonts and stuff. It's more about the way things are displayed, and the way the navigation works. That's going to be very interesting. Also, you'll see that the search is better, the history and everything.

Is it only the design that's changing or will the content be changing or expanding as well?

We're evolving the content, too. I don't want to be like, "This is a relaunch." That's not the way I work. Like, we just shot our first fashion story! For me, it was always street style, getting people we see around us. And last week, we shot our first fashion story with a great model that we love, so this is the beginning of sharing things like that. I've been shooting fashion stories for magazines for a long time, and I thought it was time for me to do that for the blog as well.

A look at the new layout.

A look at the new layout.

What can we expect from those fashion stories? Will they be more trend-based or more about a story?

For me, it's really about inspiration. I don't want to do it exactly like a fashion magazine. It's about showing how you can style things and the inspiration behind each image, so you can see exactly why we did it, how we did it, and also where we get the stuff or where you can get things to [recreate the looks]. It's a different way to present a fashion story, but it's a proper, beautifully shot and edited fashion story.

How would you describe how you want the voice of the site to be? It's always felt very personal.

It's like a personal diary. I never envisioned the blog to  be what it's become now, and through the years, I've always tried to keep that voice very present. I think what's important is that we have a very strong sense of common aesthetic -- to know what you want to do, what you don't want to do, and I'm really good at giving my strong point of view to keep the essence of the blog. 

We're not covering news, for example, and I've never really done personal style. I'm more interested in doing photos of people who inspire me, so there's always been that element -- a very important lifestyle element -- because I don't think a blog that's personal should be restricted to only one subject. So we do fashion and beauty, of course, and we also have travel, food, lifestyle. Anything that we think is stylish, because I think, today, style is not only the way you dress. It's really the way you live.

Could you talk a little bit about how you're tackling monetization, like ads and sponsored content and e-commerce? How do you make that seamless?

This is also a slow evolution, like testing things and seeing what feels right. I think one of the things that's very distinct is, I've always protected the editorial. So we don't sell clothes -- we have a very specific section for that. We've included affiliate links, of course, and things like that, but we've always worked the same way; we work with advertisers that we love. The commissions we do for brands and the things we don't cover on the blog are really a big part of it.

It's great, because it gives us the freedom to take the blog where I want to take it. For example, I decided that we're not going to post more than three or four times a day. I want the blog to stay approachable, I don't want people to feel too overwhelmed, I want people to feel that it's a companion. So it's different from Fashionista, for example. I think it's really important for you to know who you are, what you want to do, how you want to communicate, and then you can make your decisions according to that. That's what drives me to change the design of the website so often, every other year or so -- and each time we work with the same webmasters and determine, how can we push? What do we feel is important? How is blogging changing? How can we accompany that with the new design? How do we do stuff that's relevant and more meaningful for the type of content we do?

So you mentioned social media, how do you approach that? Is it posting links to all of your articles or using it as a platform to illustrate your voice?

I think with social media, it has to feel very natural. We sit down every month or so to discuss how we're going to do it. I have my personal Instagram, and we also opened a studio Instagram to show what's happening at the studio.  I try to keep it organic on every platform, but we do some specific things for Facebook fans for example, where we answer questions people ask us; we've done a Google Hangout -- that was very successful. For each, we try to find something that we can't do anywhere else for the followers and give them a chance to feel like they have something special.

It's the same with our newsletter -- not to repeat the content that was on the blog, but to give news about what we do at the studio. A lot of people ask me, "Which brand are you working with?" "What are you doing right now?" I try to have a different approach to each one of the mediums.

I'm sure no two days are the same, but what is your average day at work like?

I come into the studio in the morning and do every small task: answer emails, catch up with the team, any work they have for me. Then it's time for the creative part of my work, so I do my illustration, my writing, we put on some music. It's a different type of atmosphere. Usually when I'm at the studio, I have one or two meetings and then obviously there are days where we're crazy and shooting and there are five million people there, which happens pretty often as well.

It's Fashion Week -- how are you approaching that this time, and what kind of coverage we can expect to see on the site?

That's changed so much as well. Fashion Week is getting so much coverage. I think the season system is so complicated and the readers have changed -- they've discovered Fashion Week, loved it, and I think now they've seen a little bit too much of it. So I like to treat it a little bit differently. The focus is not so much what's happening at every show because I think it's almost too tiring -- it gets boring even more, when you can't buy the clothes right away. I'd rather talk about actual clothes in the moment when they're available. But Fashion Week is still amazing for inspiration and specific moments.

So you won't really be doing write-ups of every show necessarily?

I've never really done that actually, I've always tried to have a more personal approach of being like, "I really like that" or, "check that out" or I met that person, here is what happened and I think for a moment was doing more extensive coverage where, when you came to the blog, the whole thing was about Fashion Week. As it became more popular, I could see the readers were a little bit less interested. In a way, we all grew together in that wave of street style and fashion shows and everything, and I think now it’s calmed down a little bit, so it’s great to embrace that and take it as a chance to cover things differently.

I'm sure you're asked this all the time, but how do you feel about how ubiquitous street style photographers are now -- and how does that change your approach to Fashion Week if at all?

It’s something that I still love and that I still find interesting. Obviously it’s changed, and street style has become a real industry. All these photographers that you see, they’re not bloggers, they’re professionals. They’re shooting for magazines... a few of them are just people watchers and they hang to see what’s happening and they take a photo just to keep it for themselves. There are a few street style blogs but not that many.

You’re always going to see the same people and as the style became more thought about, you’re not as surprised by the inspiration -- you kind of know what you’re going to find. So for me, I try to keep a very innocent approach. I have my camera with me, and when I see something that’s interesting I shoot it -- but I’m not on a mission to shoot every look I see, or else I think it would become pretty uninspiring.