Lookbook.nu is a fashion-centered Social Networking site where style enthusiasts from all over the globe can share photos of their outfits and mingle with others who share their interest in fashion. It was inspired by "street style" blogs and was built for users to share their own street style photography of themselves. Though Lookbook used to be an invite-only online community where one could only become a member of the site via invitation from a member, it is now free and accessible to the public.
Lookbook was founded in San Francisco in 2008 by Yuri Lee . While the “dot nu” is a domain that technically refers to the island state Niue, the Lookbook founders used it as a play on the phonetic similarity between “nu” and “new,” implying that this is a new type of network . Yuri Lee runs the company with her boyfriend: he runs the application development and she focuses on community moderation and marketing. The two founded the company after realizing that street-fashion was a niche culture that could take off on the internet, and attributed their growth primarily to word of mouth. 
Users on Lookbook can post pictures of their outfits, “follow” others with profiles, have users “fan” their profile, and can interact with others through commenting on, “hyping” (which is comparable to a “like” on Facebook), or giving “hearts” to others’ looks (the “mega-like” - users can only give a heart to one look a day). While there are not distinct sub-communities where users can share looks with a certain group, members can view looks by tags of the articles of clothing in the looks, the brands of the clothing in the looks, and the country where the user who posted the look is from. With over 60,000 members , Lookbook is considered an online community because it is a virtual domain that users can turn to and it facilitates interaction.
The website hosts a “Leaderboard” where fashionistas and fashionistos with the highest ratio of “hypes” to “looks” are ranked and featured. This ratio is referred to on Lookbook as “karma,” and if one’s goal was to remain on the Leaderboard, they would be obligated to post a certain number of looks to maintain their top position.
The other main page users can explore besides the leaderboard is the “new” page, where the newest looks are posted in real-time with either a “strict karma filter,” a “light karma filter,” or “no filter.” However, the default setting for this page is on “strict karma filter,” meaning that new users who typically have low karma scores do not have their new looks seen by other site goers, and therefore they partake in very little interaction with others. Lookbook allows users to share their looks and activity in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr.
One of the goals of Lookbook is to serve as an online outlet for designers, models, bloggers, and others with experience in the fashion industry. The site is one that is based on user-generated content, which in the case of Lookbook are photos of outfits that other users can comment on or express their approval of with different “liking” features on the site. Many users share intriguing content, featuring articles of clothing that are in-vogue and stylistic choices that are avant-garde. The population of Lookbook users represents an eclectic spread of different styles and fashion senses. It is an outlet for style enthusiasts to share their different looks and gain inspiration from each other, yet it does not target people with a specific type of style. From girly to punk, from sporty to avant-garde, anyone with any sense of style can join and contribute to Lookbook.
Lookbook is just one of the ever-present examples of the kinds of online communities in existence today, thanks to the fact that we live in an “open society [where] technology is accessible directly or indirectly by the general public” . Users interact with each other through commenting on looks or user profiles, in which many users give feedback on one another’s stylistic choices. However, a behavioral issue that the community’s current infrastructure does not discourage is inappropriately commenting on others’ looks. One of the most common types of hurtful comments perpetrators lunge at other users is a post regarding the users’ weight. It is evident that modern women in the fashion industry (if not in every field) feel pressure from all sorts of outlets to be skinny and beautiful beings. This ever-present stress can ultimately spark eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa among these young women, or perhaps lead women to undergo figure-altering procedures and succumb to society’s constant judgment of appearance. While this is a serious issue, it is not the responsibility of the members of this site in particular to tell other users that they appear to be unhealthy. Nevertheless, there are countless instances of users criticizing others’ bodies on Lookbook and they are not reprimanded or punished for doing so seeing as Lookbook has no reporting system to date.
To combat these types of put-downs that do not contribute to the site’s purpose of being a center for fashion discussion and collaboration, some argue that it may be beneficial for Lookbook to add a “report” feature . Reporting a post would notify a moderating team to review the post and, if deemed unacceptable, the team would delete the post and notify the user that their post was deleted because it was an example of bad behavior. Many social network sites have a similar system in place to deter users from writing impolite comments and let the community population serve as the “eyes” to the moderators by being the ones to seek out unbecoming content.
Some might argue that these kinds of comments pertaining to unhealthy body images are vital in this kind of community, because this platform serves as inspiration to its many stylish visitors. While eating disorders are an important issue in the worldwide fashion community, one of the main purposes of Lookbook is to serve as an outlet to its users to present a collection of their looks and to get advice from others about their style. If a user is struggling with an eating disorder, they can turn to sites specifically focused on “ana” and “mia” and interact with others who share their struggle . Lookbook therefore should not allow their network to be an avenue for others to attack a user based on their appearances. Since it would be far too difficult to have moderators patrolling the site’s every photo, allowing users to report comments is quite possibly the most effective way to silence this kind of discriminatory behavior.
Online vs Real Self
Also, it can be unclear as to whether or not users actually sport the looks they feature on their Lookbook profiles in real life. The information age has altered how we connect with the people in our lives and how we present ourselves. Our interactions with one another in person have lost depth because we no longer have to only interact with people within our general vicinity thanks to mobile communication devices; conversely, just because we may physically be “present,” today’s technology makes it all the more easier to focus on interactions taking place elsewhere ). One could perhaps expand upon this when examining Lookbook by saying that users could be focusing their efforts on putting together nice looks for Lookbook but not necessarily putting the same effort into how they present themselves in the everyday world. Perhaps in the future there will be even more advanced cameras that can take quality images of us when we’re walking down the street at our request with the touch of a button on our smartphones. This would allow users to capture their everyday looks and in a sense ensure that the “selves” they are depicting themselves to be on Lookbook in terms of their style encompass looks that they realistically wear in real life.
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- What Are You Wearing Today? A Discussion With Yuri Lee, Founder of LOOKBOOK.nu. (2019). Retrieved from https://allentrepreneur.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/what-are-you-wearing-today-a-discussion-with-yuri-lee-founder-of-lookbooknu/
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