When news broke on April 10 that Style Me Pretty, a blog founded in 2007 by Abby Larson, was shutting down, the wedding industry was shattered. Oath, Style Me Pretty's parent company, announced that the site would stop publishing new content and it would go dark on April 30, 2018. Over a decade of published content would no longer be accessible to photographers, brides and other industry professionals who relied on the posts to get new business. Vendors and readers were informed they had until the end of the month to screenshot everything they wanted to save before it would relegate to oblivion. No explanation was given for the closure but speculation abounded that readership, which Oath reported was 18 million unique hits a month, had dropped significantly.
But that mattered little to the vendors and brides who relied on the site as their main source of inspiration for all things wedding.
“It’s not just a legacy for me, it’s also a legacy for my clients,” one photographer told Rf. “If you go on Pinterest, 90 percent of the wedding pins have their origin in Style Me Pretty. In closing down the site, [the owners] would literally take down every pin wedding-related. Where do we draw our inspirations from at that point?”
As soon as she heard news of the closure, she asked around to see if anyone had started a petition to save Style Me Pretty. “No one did,” she says. “I realized, I’m asking if someone is going to start it. Well, I am somebody.”
Through change.org, the photographer—who prefers to be unnamed—posted a petition that she called “Save Style Me Pretty!!” and within days, she had thousands of signatures—to date, more than 4,200 people have signed the petition.
Meanwhile, Oath deleted their post announcing Style Me Pretty’s closure, both from the website and from social media. The photographer attributed this to the petition’s popularity. Rumors also circulated that Oath didn’t want to deal with the blowback and had removed the announcements to diffuse pressure.
What no one knew was that Abby and her husband, Tait, were finalizing negotiations with Oath to buy the site, which had begun almost as soon as they heard of Style Me Pretty’s closure.
“We heard the news alongside everybody else,” Abby says over the phone. “We immediately went into panic mode, because we were devastated.”
Abby remained CEO of Style Me Pretty until May 2017, but since then, she has had no involvement with the site. Even still, Style Me Pretty means the world to her, she says. “I started this site in my 20s before I had children, before anything happened,” she explains. “The site has been another child for me. So much of my life is on the site. It was heartbreaking to me that we might not be able to see it anymore. But even more so, I felt for all of these vendors who had poured their heart and soul into it.”
Buying back the site with her husband, Abby says, was a “no brainer for us.” On April 25, the couple posted a note on Style Me Pretty’s website, as well as the change.org petition, announcing that they had acquired Style Me Pretty’s assets, and would keep the brand alive. Part of the note read: “In the short term, we will be self-funding the site, running super lean, and we’ll be making as much time to interview brides and industry professionals as possible so that we continue to build a place that vendors want to stand beside and readers want to devour.”
As of now, she and Tait are in “complete research mode.” They are running the site entirely without staff—Oath fired Style Me Pretty's editors when the site was to be removed, although the couple hopes to reach out to them in the future.
“We have been knee-deep in communication with vendors and brides,” Abby says. “Our next goal is setting up discussion boards for vendors about what works and what doesn’t work.”
The couple has big dreams for Style Me Pretty's future. Tait is focused on improving the architecture of the site and ensuring that various arms of the Style Me Pretty brand are truly benefiting the vendors and brides who rely on it, he says. “I’m asking myself questions like, what are vendor directories and how well do they work? How should directories be rewarded or compensated? How can we help people build their brands on social media? What are some of the tools that we can build?”
Abby has listened closely to criticism that the site's current content is not diverse enough, and she would like to improve that immediately. “There’s been a lot of outcry for more inclusion from more types of people,” she says. “I could wax on and on about why that hasn’t happened the way it should. The bottom line is that [the critics] are right. The content needs to be more reflective of the world around us, and I’m invested in proactively making that happen.”
This will come as welcome news to many photographers including Rebecca Yale, who wrote an impassioned response on her blog when she found out that Style Me Pretty was closing. In the post, Yale reflected that, as much as she loves and relies on Style Me Pretty to promote her work—she has been featured on it 87 times—she still feels as though the site has become, in recent years, too much of a closed feedback loop for beautiful aesthetics without much room for authentic moments.
“There is a bit of an epidemic of people showing too much of the pretty,” Yale told Rf. “I don’t blame Style Me Pretty. But there has to be a way to do both. To be pretty, and still show those candid, beautiful, authentic moments.”
The good news is that Abby and Tait are more than open to any and all criticism—they welcome it. “One of the things I’ve forced myself [to do] is to not trust my gut,” Tait says. “We have to talk to people, reply to all of the people, get people on the phone.”
“I think we were sort of at the mercy of being very beholden to traffic,” Abby added. “We don’t want that anymore. We want to put content out there that has real value—the most beautiful content that supports the best vendors that we can really stand behind. I’m really hoping that we can stop freaking out so much about meeting numbers and really focus on the simplicity of really good content.”
The process of listening, the couple says, has been intense. But they know that it will birth an even better site. Hopefully, they report, by May 15. “We’re moving as fast as we can,” Abby says. “We’re not rushed this time. We can take our time with this and do it right.”