Representation is important but in limited ways. A big reason that bloggers' representational practices are limited is because they're not just expressive but strategic.
Their textual, visual, and sartorial representations are what I call practices of "taste work". Their self-representations are doing work to negotiate the racialized terrain of western fashion in order to be visible in specific ways. To be distinctive but not "different".
This is a tough line to hold and sometimes it involves distancing oneself from racial categories, expectations, and solidarities with those who reflect or might remind others (or ourselves) of stereotypes we're trying to get away from. The bloggers I studied never mention garment workers in Asia or elsewhere. Non-Asian bloggers don't either for that matter.
Any expectation we may that they'd stand up for other, less powerful Asian fashion workers, is just that - our expectation. They're not obligated to and Asian bloggers in particular may have good reasons not to bear those kinds of representational burdens.
Dissent against the working practices of fashion corporations seems to be as absent from fashion blogs as it is from the wider fashion media. How much of a challenge is the profession as a whole to the fashion status quo?
I actually see a lot of fashion bloggers explicitly and implicitly challenging "the fashion status quo". Self-proclaimed fat fashion bloggers, modest fashion bloggers, and budget- and eco-conscious fashion bloggers are challenging mainstream fashion's beauty standards, consumerist ethos, and definitions of style.
They're not generally as well known to the western fashion industry as the elite bloggers I focus on precisely because they're not interested in being recognized by it. And their readers are also often located outside of the west or mainstream and outside of western fashion's sphere of influence.
I'd argue, though, that the bloggers I write about are challenging many of western fashion's business practices and assumptions. The enormous popularity of Susie Bubble and BryanBoy's blogs forced the mainstream industry to take blogging seriously whether they liked it or not.
And the success of their blogs show that Asian people (some who are from the West and others who aren't) can be style leaders and trendsetters to western fashion audiences. But again, elite bloggers aren't going to tear down the industry they're trying to be a part of.
The kinds of blog posts they create and their online presence in general are carefully constructed to tow that line I mentioned earlier - to represent themselves as authentic bloggers who are racially different from the fashion mainstream but whose race also doesn't make any difference.
Transparency: I received a complimentary copy of Minh-Ha's book from Duke University Press.