Ubiquitous party reporter and fashion writer Derek Blasberg has been accused of trying to charge a pretty large fee to cover a party for Yves St. Laurent, a brand that he admits employs him for consulting work. Jezebel reports that according to a “credible source,” he asked YSL for $2,500 to cover the party the label threw on Thursday for the relaunch of its Opium fragrance, which he filed a little report on for style.com the next day. Blasberg told Jezebel he didn’t accept any money for what he called an “appearance” fee, but said he performed “consulting” work for the brand. Jezebel continues:
But he refused to discuss his “private consultancy work” with us, or what said work might entail. He did concede that he consulted on the YSL guest list with Alison Brod PR, the agency that handled the event,* and on “social media” with Yves Saint Laurent directly. A rate was mentioned. (In Blasberg’s words: “I was always told that one should always discuss finances early in a conversation!”)
As Jezebel notes, there is nothing unusual about fashion writers and editors consulting for a fashion brand — and often they don’t want to talk about it in detail, in our experience. These day (or night, as it may be) jobs — party reporting, writing about fashion — are not exactly high-paying if you don’t count free Champagne as currency, making often lucrative freelance consulting gigs that pay actual money that much more appealing to these editors and writers. However, considering the editors and writers are supposed to make objective editorial judgments about fashion labels, is it ethical to do this kind of work? Does the freelance money influence what goes into their pages?
Blasberg is a writer who admits he only wants to write nice things about people. Lots of fashion writers only want to write nice things about people, because there is an advantage to not upsetting those who advertise on your pages, and, ultimately, contribute to your paycheck. Whether he just received payment from style.com, or from YSL and style.com (Style.com hasn’t commented on the site’s policy regarding consulting work), everyone familiar with his work probably could have guessed what kind of story he would write anyway. Nevertheless, directly asking for money in exchange for editorial coverage undermines credibility. If this story turns out to be true, it’s hard to see how Blasberg can continue writing for Style.com.