‘Vogue’ Backs Polyvore’s Fashion’s Night Out Contest With Star Judges

Next week, fashion platform Polyvore is hosting a Fashion’s Night Out contest that will award the grand-prize winner a trip to NYC to attend a Vogue photo shoot and a tour the magazine’s legendary fashion closet. Of course, anything backed by Anna Wintour and Co. is sure to be major, but even we were surprised by the list of contest judges: Blake Lively, Alexander Wang, and – wait for it – Grace Coddington. Pretty unexpected, right? Read on to learn how this contest will actually work.

Here’s the rundown, as told by Polyvore: “Starting August 15, 2011, Polyvore will dedicate a section of its site to showcasing merchandise from FNO online retailers. During this three-week event, Polyvore’s community of virtual stylists will participate in a contest to create the best sets featuring their favorite fashion items from Fashion’s Night Out. Each week a theme will be provided to inspire set creators, and each day of the competition a Vogue editor will select a set that best represents the weekly theme, to feature on Vogue.com. At the end of each week, two sets featured on Vogue.com will be entered to win an exciting Grand Prize. One winning set will be determined by a guest fashion judge and the other by a vote of Vogue.com readers.”

From September 5 through September 8 (the night of Fashion’s Night Out), Vogue will narrow down the list to six themes that Vogue.com visitors will vote on to receive the grand prize. The final winner will be announced on September 9. Peep the complete contest rules and weekly theme schedule here.

Designers’ Love Affair With Polyvore

Fashion’s digital landscape is changing at an extreme pace, but one of the sites with which designers seem to be having an enduring, collective love affair is Polyvore. Like Gilt Groupe, the relatively new porthole is drawing unprecedented traffic and granting spotlighted brands huge exposure. Founded in 2007, the company has raised funds in the ballpark of $8 million and only appears to be growing. (Not to mention it already garnered a lengthy profile from the New Yorker.) “Fashion brands first heard of Polyvore when they noticed an unusual amount of traffic coming from the site,” says Women’s Wear Daily. But, now that the likes of Coach and Diane Von Furstenberg have caught on to the potential gold mine that is the ‘be your own stylist’ collage-making site, they’re hosting contests on it aplenty. And, it’s paying off.

Take, for instance, Coach’s recent holiday contest, which centered around the cheesy theme: “How do you sparkle?” According to WWD, “the brand received 3,692 entries in seven days. The entries received 103,379 “likes,” 13,006 comments, [and] 204,656 page views.” And Polyvore isn’t just giving fashion brands an exponential boost in traffic. It’s serving as a trend-forecasting tool as well. “A month later, Diane von Furstenberg used a contest on Polyvore to identify the most popular items in its fall lineup,” adds WWD.

Even the UK’s Independent is citing user activity on Polyvore (most recently, women selecting maxi dresses in countless sets) as prime evidence of the latest trends. And, with roughly 1.5 million unique members a month and counting, there’s no shortage of new opportunities for fashion brands. The success of such a site signifies a distinct transfer of power from magazine editor to consumer; after all, and if fashion brands are looking directly at consumers’ tastes to determine what they should be designing or highlighting, it drastically challenges the magazine-driven hierarchy that’s been in place for decades.

Are Stylists Bound for Obscurity?

Take one look at the popularity of the web’s leading street style sites and it’s immediately apparent how much of a premium is put on styling: not much. Consider American Apparel: the brand recently opted to forgo hiring models or professional stylists, choosing street style shots from Lookbook.nu of anonymous faces donning AA instead. And, as a recent Daily Beast piece points out, the same is happening in Hollywood. Rather than spend $8,000 a day on hired help in the form of Rachel Zoe, young starlets are taking styling into their own hands. From Marion Cotillard and Kirsten Dunst to Blake Lively, the bevy of silver screen beauties dressing themselves these days is growing.

Meanwhile, the online porthole where ‘everyone can be a stylist,’ Polyvore is doing such good business it has garnered a substantial profile in the latest issue of the New Yorker. To boot, “fashion magazines are widely perceived to be snake pits, but the Polyvore community values kindliness, mutual affirmation, and tact.” So, what does this mean for the professional stylist? While Polyvore and street style sites can by no means replace the Grace Coddington or Camilla Nickersons of the world, their territory is without a doubt being infringed upon. And it’s much in the same way that fashion writers’ world’s are being invaded by bloggers. Meaning, styling has become increasingly democratized with a spotlight on the potential for talent in the unlikeliest of places. But w