'T-Lo,' the Philly pop-cult bloggers with fab following
Sure, Philadelphia just wrapped up a month of successful fashion soirees, but the local fashion party getting the most attention has little to do with Philadelphia.
In their South Philly rowhouse, full-time bloggers Lorenzo Marquez and Tom Fitzgerald write "Tom + Lorenzo: Fabulous & Opinionated," about couture designs - who makes them, who wears them, who screws them up royally - to a diehard audience that brings them more than 350,000 daily page views. But they don't do Philadelphia.
"There's no national or international audience for discussing local fashion," says Fitzgerald, meaning they can't make money from it. "We're not trying to be difficult here, but we're really not up on the local fashion or retail scene."
They do know how to get an audience, as evidenced by: landing a book deal through Penguin's Perigee imprint for the 2014 release of Everyone Wants to Be Me or Do Me, receiving invites to almost any New York Fashion Week show, being profiled in the New York Times, and winning the ear of some of fashion's biggest names.
They even have a swell celebrity-couple abbreviation in "T-Lo."
But don't call them fashion critics - you won't see them weighing the pros and cons of collections.
"Objectivity," Marquez says, "has never been the goal."
Instead, their six-year-old blog features style-conscious reviews of television shows like Project Runway, Revenge, and Mad Men. They have knocked Nicole Kidman for looking like her shoe size rather than her age and Christina Aguilera for appearing trashed and trashy in Roberto Cavalli, and praised Michelle Obama's dress sense as superwoman stately.
Nonetheless, their voice, which also has nearly 80,000 Twitter followers, has value, especially to designers.
"If we tweet a picture of a dress on the runway," Marquez says, "that designer's publicist recognizes that we just sent out a picture from their collection to our followers before the dress has even left the runway."
Ask the couple, both 46, if it's better to be funny or to be right, the two finish each other's thoughts in quick succession, a hallmark of their relationship.
"Always, always, always better to be funny," says Fitzgerald.
The goal of the blog, every day, is not to inform, but to dazzle. One of their best semi-regular columns, "Girl, That's Not Your Look," pokes fun at wrongly dressed celebs in a dishy manner that would impress fashion policewoman Joan Rivers. To Jennifer Morrison: "Pack this look up, take it outside, put it on your lawn, and set it on fire."
"We don't start with the goal of being bitches," Marquez says.
"But if we're going to go for the sting, we do try to back our opinion with some justification," says Fitzgerald. "When your audience gets large, you find quickly that you can't really get away with a 'This sucks!' kind of post. You have to say more. ... "
Fitzgerald, who mainly writes, and Marquez, who mostly finds the photographs, didn't start out in fashion. Marquez was a translator and Fitzgerald a proofreader when they met in 1996 and began dating after a month of flirtation over the triceps machine at Bally's on Walnut Street.
They tease each other about who asked whom out first and who had a blind date with a drag queen, but they get serious when talk turns to their commitment. "I knew that I wanted to be with someone who was sophisticated, well-traveled, and would challenge me," says Fitzgerald. "When he revealed that he spoke six languages and played classical violin, that was it for me. The black sleeveless ribbed Calvin Klein T-shirt also helped. It was the '90s."
The two also recognized that they liked being their own bosses. "We had spent too many years in the corporate world," says Marquez, "and, by our late 30s, were too burned out on working for people we felt were dumber than we were."
They maintained their foothold in proofreading while starting a blog in 2006 called ProjectRunGay, based on the then-Bravo show Project Runway. By 2009, their readership had grown to include Runway judge and Marie Claire magazine director Nina Garcia. The pair renamed the site TomandLorenzo.com, began taking Google advertising, and slowly but ferociously grew more popular every day.
"I was really entertained by their commentary, because it was comedic, yet clever and spot-on," says Garcia. "I thought, 'These two really know their stuff, and they're having fun with it!' Though their scope and subject matter has evolved since, it's that same approach that continues to grab my attention."
Launched as a Project Runway fansite, the blog came at the height of the show's fame; the faces of hosts Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn graced a zillion magazine covers that summer. (But it helped that Fitzgerald is a very funny writer, Marquez said.)
Garcia believes it's the dynamic duo's delivery that attracts such a large audience regularly. "There are a lot of fashion bloggers out there, but Tom and Lorenzo's ability to simultaneously inform and amuse their readers allows them to stand out from the masses. Once you read their material, it is easy to get hooked."
Now, the duo travel to Manhattan weekly to meet with editors and publishers and to talk to their agent about their book, which will be about pop culture. (Why not something solely on style? They feared they would be locked into the genre forever.)
At New York Fashion Weeks past, they've befriended celeb stylist Rachel Zoe ("She heard our names and said, 'Ohmigod, are you Tom and Lorenzo? I love you guys!' "), witnessed the "surreal experience" of watching Donatella Versace and Lindsay Lohan air-kiss each other ("We had to check to make sure our mouths weren't hanging open"), and become "teary-eyed" watching the most recent Thom Browne womenswear show, and local legend Ralph Rucci's Chado show.
And even though they don't write about Philly fashion - in fact, few Philadelphians know they're based here - the duo certainly have an opinion (surprise!) about our style. Fitzgerald calls it "art-school chic with a blue-collar edge."
"We always say, and this is not meant as an insult, that Doc Martens and asymmetrical haircuts never really went out of style here. Vintage clothes, flannel shirts, skinny jeans, rockabilly - it's a melange of styles that arose out of the local art and music scene and helps to define the city."