‘Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success’ Arianna Huffington
Many people know the blog, few know the man behind it.
Bruno Gontier is my name. A Frenchman living in Dublin, Ireland, lecturing law in college and founder of facialfitness.ie.
Today two years ago, I was posting my first story on canadian-tuxedo, called “My turbulent love affair with Dsquared2” (below).
In retrospect it has been first and foremost the story of a passion. A passion which turned to a dream. And a dream that ended in failure. After careful consideration, I have decided to throw the towel, as two years is long enough to realise whether a project leads somewhere or is like flogging a dead horse.
It is certainly a failure, yet, there is poetry in the story of canadian-tuxedo, because it’s a story of unrequited love.
Over a thousand hours of work
I originally started the blog to give feedback to the brand of some manufacturing flaws, of quality issues, which as a serious buyer, I was statistically more exposed to that the average fashion guy who might only have a couple of D2 items. I had read an interview where the Caten twins expressly said “we don’t really get enough feedback…” (below)
However quickly I realised that I enjoyed the creative process of writing ; and I delved into a whole range of ancillary topics. To fashion considerations I added elements related to history, sociology, psychology, business, and when possible with some humour added to the mix. I tried to make the platform feel more like a website or a magazine than a mere blog.
It has involved an awful lot of work. There have been over 190 posts. If we set the average time spent on a post to five or six hours (research, writing, photo collage for Instagram post, administration, promotion)…, that’s over a thousand hours spent.
What do you hope for when you work so hard?
Of course in the first place you write for yourself; but to keep us going we all need some form of validation or reward for our hard work. And there has been some: thousands of readers, hundreds of followers, of likes, of comments, emails, compliments…
But really, when you write exclusively about one brand, you do hope that this entity will notice you.
You hear all those stories of bloggers who get paid by brands to wear this and that, who travel the world and pose lying in the sun by the pool, and you’re like “wow that would be class”. Now, realistically, international travel is too far fetched but deep down what do you really hope would happen?
- Well, the jackpot would be being recruited by the brand. I have tried, sending around twenty envelopes by traditional post, each containing a well-designed CV accompanied by a two page document on how I could be of help to Dsquared2. I sent this package to key people at the brand, in four different countries.
Result? I received one email back from the headquarters in Milan, saying in substance “Thank you for sending us your CV, we will keep it on file and let you know if opportunity should arise“.
We’ve all gotten these letters when looking for work, and we know what they mean. And in the meantime, each time a new store opened, with plenty of new lucky employees, it was like a stab in my heart. Rome, Madrid, Paris, Marbella…Oh yes, I could have seen myself working there…
- Ok, if you can’t work for the brand, may be you can get freebies; why not a piece or two from the collection, in return for writing about these? But there were no freebies for me. Or one step down but in the same league, one could hope for discounts. People who received the D2 VIP discount card often show it off on Social Media, with photos of the said card.
So you’re like “one day I’ll be a VIP”. But no, it wasn’t to be. Not very important. Probably not even a little important.
- Then further down in the reward scale you would find the gestures of appreciation that don’t cost much to the brand, but do matter to the recipient, like invitations to shows or parties. During the life of the blog there have been seven Milan shows, and after the second or third you’re like “may be next time now I’ll be invited”.
But no, persona non grata there. And there have been store openings right left and centre, and you see all those people you sometimes talk to on Instagram enjoying bubbly in the pristine luxury of a new store. But you’re at home looking at the event on your Ipad.
- So then you’re hoping to get at least some validation through comments, or at least “likes” by the brand under your posts. Nearly two hundred times, after having posted something I had worked really hard on, that I was proud of, I would look at the accumulation of likes. And none by the brand.
And scrolling through Instagram then you’d see other photos by other accounts posted on the same day… “Liked by Dsquared2“; so you know your post was seen (I’ll explain below that D2 followed my IG), but it was ‘passed on’ as not worthy of a even a ‘like’, and you have this mild sick feeling in your stomach, like when you see the person you’re in love with, holding hands with or kissing a beautiful stranger. And its not you.
So did I get anything at all?
Well, in all fairness a few months into the life of the blog, I did get a message from an assistant to the designers, kindly saying that they loved my blog, and even offering to replace a pair of trousers I had a problem with. I didn’t take up the offer but that was very nice, it really gave me hope of developing a relationship with the brand.
Then one day, the brand itself liked one post. That felt like a breakthrough. And then, the climax of the blog’s life, and my claim to fame: the brand started followed me on instagram! Because of that, other influential people started following me, and there was a little golden period where I really thought I was getting somewhere.
But then nearly suddenly everything changed. No communication, no likes, nothing. The two Ceresio7 accounts unfollowed me, key people who were supposed to be interviewed for the blog stopped cooperating…
Where did it all go wrong?
It is important to stress first that I understand fully that the brand doesn’t owe me anything. These guys never asked me to write about them in the first place. Loads of celebrities have fan clubs, web pages, Instagram fan pages…and they never get in touch with these, which is fair. And nowadays some self-tyled “influencers” tend to have a deluded sense of entitlement as you can hear on this podcast Influencer complains for being refused free hotel stay
Yet, in the fashion industry, the relationship with bloggers is slightly different, and often, bloggers get something out of their sweat. So may be I did something wrong?
- Well, my best theory is that somewhere down the line the designers must have been annoyed at something I said.
I have read, watched so many interviews of them that I kind of know their way of dealing with people. With the quirky twins there’s no half measure. They either love you or they want nothing to do with you. In relation to models for instance, Dean says “If we like you we like you, if we don’t like you we don’t like you“. Another time the twins described how sometimes they have to get rid of those negative people in their lives. There’s no compromise, ‘Bye Felicia’.
So I think that for a while I was not doing too bad, but one day one thing must have displeased them, and therefore the axe fell. Ciao!
I can never know for sure, but I have a theory, which if true, is kind of sad as it means I got cut off out of a misunderstanding: after the #D2ynasty show, the headline for my review was: “Dsquared2 mixes street, tacky and aristocratic“. I have a feeling that this was misinterpreted as if I thought the clothes were tacky. And it could not be further remote from what I meant.
My point was that Dsquared2 had taken various elements, including some that are sometimes labelled tacky, had mixed them together, and had make them cool. Because that’s exactly what they did. And I will always think that this show is one of the best D2 shows ever, the pieces that I could still see in the stores until recently are real works of art.
But I think it was misunderstood. The Dsquared2 Instagram account ‘unliked’ the related IG post. I subsequently changed the word “tacky” for “bling” (note that English is only a second language for me) as it may convey the idea better, but may be the harm was done. ‘Bye Felicia’.
Now it could have been something else I said, because when you write about products, hundreds of them, your are bound at some stage to find one that is flawed or causes problems. Of course it is part of my “job” to talk about that. At the end of the day, giving only praise is meaningless, it is dishonest, lackeying, sycophantic, kiss-ass basically. And that’s not me.
My blog was very much independent. The original motto of canadian-tuxedo was the French phrase “Qui aime bien châtie bien“, which is translated loosely by “Spare the rod and spoil the child“. Critical analysis doesn’t mean disrespect. It actually means you love something so much that you want to help it get even better. Isn’t dedicating so much time, so much passion, so much energy, for just one brand, the best declaration of love one can make to that brand?
- Secondly I never reached a level of following that can make me an influencer.
Why not? I see two reasons for it.
-First of all if making interesting clothes involves getting inspiration from history, sociology and the likes, fashion consumption on the other hand is much more superficial. The average fashion consumer and the social media buff don’t care about the origin of such and such a feature on clothes. He or she wants photos that make him or her dream instantly about what his or her life could be like without having to think much about it. Pure visuals. Sun, background, attitude, sex, quirks and outfits are what count. Semi-academic studies leave him or her cold as stone.
I could have posted crotch pics (the D2 red tab) like everyone else, or hired duckfacing girls to wear D2 baseball caps, but this is not what I was about, so i stayed true to myself, and as a result I only gained a limited amount of loyal supporters.
-Secondly, on sodial media, to be liked, you have to like. And like, and like again. By this I mean click the like button. Hours everyday. And it’s not that I don’t enjoy the odd perusal through Instagram, but I was always unable to spend three hours clicking on the little hearts below each photo, which I know for a fact (I tested it once or twice) gets you a lot of likes in return. They say that for blog posts, promotion should be 70% of the time spent.
Here again after working hours into the night on a post, I just couldn’t be bothered promoting it on every Facebook page afterwards. I just did not have the time, the interest to do that part of a blogger’s tasks. And it goes without saying that I never bought any followers or spent a cent in Facebook promotion of the page.
Should D2 have done any differently?
In not supporting me further, the brand obeyed a perfectly valid strategy. You don’t gamble on outsiders. You only give autographed baseball caps to your ‘most important influenshhhers‘ (I am citing Dan in an Instagram video post prior to the June 2017 show). And it is fair to say I was not one of these.
Yet it is my genuine belief believe that the brand could have capitalised on some of my posts for instance by sharing them. Many were not so different in spirit to what GUCCI became praised for halfway through the life of the blog.
Sharing my best posts would not just have increased my own figures, but I think would have fostered the affection and loyalty to the brand as a timeless institution.
Dsquared2 social media strategy is about the current collection. Just look at the ‘social wall’ and you’ll see my point. The biggest D2 buyer I know has tried many times to send his pictures…never to be featured on it. He hadn’t realised this was not a “D2 community wall” as much as it is an online sales maketing tool for the items that are in stock right now.
However I believe brands should also build an image which is more timeless, as it reinforces the long-term presence on the market, and has then an impact on sales; present ones, and crucially, future sales too.
What have I learnt?
It is a setback, no doubt about it. Yet, from my own life experience I know it’s not the end of the world. Sadly life has been much more cruel to me in other instances, and in comparison this particular setback is not a terrible one.
Does it hurt? Yes it does. Loving and not being loved in return hurts. You’ve been there yourself.
Would i do it again, yes without a doubt. Would I do it any differently? No, I would do it exactly the same, because what I have done I have done honestly, respectfully, lovingly, and to the best of my ability.
And no time spent on a task, no work is ever wasted. In the end of the day aren’t we all killing time before death takes us away? This was a fun way of killing time. And I have learnt an awful lot in relation to writing, researching, dealing with fashion people, with social media, about the business world…and these skills might come in handy again in my life.
A funny thing I have learnt is the assumption of homosexuality for men in the fashion world. To everyone it seemed a given that I was a gay man, and I would cetainly have had an easy time finding love (or at least satisfying lust) if I liked guys “that way”. Unfortunately for me I’m tediously heterosexual, and many times I have had to “come out” as straight, once joking that I could no longer be living a lie.
Farewell and thank you all!
To finish I want to thank all the people who helped me, even a little. I can’t name you all but you will recognise yourselves: people who participated in some of the posts, people who hit the “like” button, people who left a nice comment, who followed me on one of the various platforms, who emailed me in private…You’re all wonderful people and I hope your own endeavours are more successful than this one, and I hope to see you in another life.
Say Hi if you bump into me, I’m easy to spot, I’m wearing Dsquared2 head to toes!
October 4th, 2017