Embracing the #longread: how digital consumption is shifting, plus five fashion stories to find the time for

TLDR

If you’re anything like me, you constantly have dozens of tabs open, bookmarks saved, emails placed in a strategic folder, and apps in use to keep track of all the stories you’re intending to go back and read.

It’s all too easy to let that accumulate, put off by the fact some of the pieces are just that little bit too long (#TLDR) to comfortably whizz through in a spare moment, rather needing you to find some dedicated time to sit down and concentrate on them. But, while we might be used to shorter and shorter formats through our social media postings – 140 characters here, six seconds there – not to mention an entirely visual-based strategy through Instagram particularly, there’s a growing trend for a lot more in the way of this long form content. Twitter itself is indeed thinking about extending to a 10,000 character limit, first page results on Google reportedly contain an average of 1,890 words (that’s mind blowing), and platforms like Medium have taken off for the very fact they enable users to easily spout words without any true perimeters.

Media companies from Buzzfeed to The Guardian, Esquire, The New York Times and Wired all also publish dedicated “long reads” or “big stories” today. The move comes down to an understanding that readers increasingly desire access to longer form content (and the involved insight, knowledge and informed opinions it provides). And more importantly, though counter to popular belief, they’re willingly engaging with it on mobile. In fact, a 6,000-word piece from Buzzfeed in early 2014, saw readers on tablets spend an average of more than 12 minutes with the story, while those on phones spent more than 25 minutes. As The Atlantic wrote: “[That’s] a small eternity, in internet time.”

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No surprise then, there’s an increasing number of highly relevant fashion stories being released that also tick the box for indulgent consumption. As Imran Amed of The Business of Fashion wrote this weekend in a post about his venture into long form with a landmark piece on the Net-a-Porter / Yoox merger (as below): “The idea to do this kind of story came during a conversation I had in September with Graydon Carter, editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair, who advised me: ‘Every once in a while, write an in-depth story that everyone in the fashion industry would want to read’.”

So here are five lengthy pieces (2,500-10,000 words) truly worth carving out some time for. Some of them date back to early 2015 (courtesy of my aforementioned bookmarking habit and some power reading this weekend), but if you didn’t get through them then, like me, now is your chance to revisit.

1. The secret deal to merge Net-a-Porter with Yoox – The Business of Fashion

Needless to say, top of this list of long reads, is the aforementioned story from The Business of Fashion last week. If you haven’t yet bitten the bullet, it’s broken down into four parts, chronicling exactly what happened between both parties and Compagnie Financière Richemont (much of which was behind the back of Natalie Massenet). This one is time consuming, but it’s insightful and worthwhile. As someone posted in the comments below: “Noting the tell-all film trend: fun to imagine who will be cast as Massenet, Marchetti and Rupert.”

2. A huge underclass of ghost workers are making your shirts in their homes – Quartz

Informally employed homeworkers in developing countries make up a substantial portion of the (subcontracted) manufacturing process for fashion retailers. This story dives into who they are, what they do and how to go about changing it so that they’re treated fairly and under the same laws as other workers. “The first step is to bring them out of the shadows and acknowledge that they exist,” writes author Marc Bain. It’s an insightful piece – detailed and warranted of its length – on an area rarely touched upon elsewhere.

3. Losing the thread: how textiles repeatedly revolutionised human technology – Aeon

With all the obsession with wearable technology of late, there’s a lot to be said for this essay, which outlines the very fact that textiles are indeed a technology of themselves. “More ancient than bronze and as contemporary as nanowires,” it reads. It goes on to highlight how pertinent textiles have been on economic development and global trade, and calls the industry out for thinking that ‘wearable tech’ is about gadgets pretending to be accessories rather than the cloth we actually wear against our skins. The piece takes us from the development of aniline dyes and cellulose-based synthetics to the performance-based materials we take for granted today. There’s also a great analogy of weaving (the original binary system) rather than mining when referring to the Bitcoin Blockchain.

4. Fashion week, reinvented – The New York Times

Vanessa Friedman penned this piece on how New York Fashion Week is evolving at the beginning of last season (September 2015). Largely a focus on how WME/IMG were bringing designers into its new venues, it explores how the aim is to make the whole affair seem less commercial yet simultaneously a feat of entertainment for the masses. It sets the scene comprehensively, and outlines the ambition on many fronts to evolve what fashion week is and what it could be. Since then, there have been multiple additional stories released, especially around the CFDA’s plans to hire the Boston Consulting Group to conduct a study on whether or not NYFW should become a consumer-facing event presenting collections more closely aligned with retail drops. Lots of food for thought as we approach the autumn/winter 2016 shows.

5. How menswear took over the internet – Esquire

Men’s fashion is growing by more than 100% a year. With that as context, this long form story from Esquire dives into where and how that is happening, talking to executives from Luisa Via Roma, Mr Porter and Matches Fashion. According to the latter, the online men’s market is highly valued for the fact returns are lower and loyalty often higher. Some 50% of its male customers return to buy something else within a year. The story also highlights such tidbits as more money coming from shoes on Mr Porter than Net-a-Porter, and Natalie Massenet saying that the rise of a more creative economy could lead to menswear becoming as big as womenswear over the next decade.