The number of independent fashion blogs has waned since their heyday a few years ago when it seemed that everyone and his or her mother was launching a new one. Today, only the strongest and best have withstood both the hype and the test of time. On the menswear side, British blogger Dan Hasby-Oliver is one of those survivors. His five-year-old site, Last Style of Defense, has a solid reputation for covering men’s fashion and takes a unique approach by focusing on labels from London or Los Angeles, two cities he believes share stylistic DNA. Here, Hasby-Oliver discusses his site’s success, evolution and why he thinks Big Smoke and La La Land might as well be sister cities. Interview by Christopher Blomquist

What is the history and background of Last Style of Defense?
I started Last Style of Defense (LSoD) five years ago after a conversation, and competition, with a friend of mine in Texas to see how could create the best menswear website. At the time it was just a fun thing, however I was not aware that the timing of this was perfect as it was just before the growing bubble of blogs was created. It was however, a great outlet for my writing as a trained and practicing fashion and lifestyle journalist, having written about nightlife, womenswear and art in the past. As for my friend from Texas, he gave up about a year in.

Where does the blog’s name come from?
The LSoD name was created by my former business partner with whom I ran a club night with in Mayfair, Central London. I had no idea what to call the website and I think he was inspired by the Last Line of Defense, meaning that it was defending–or supporting–the then fledgling menswear industry. This is something I thought held integrity,and have been doing that ever since.

Last Style of Defense screenshot
Last Style of Defense screenshot

The blog covers men’s fashion from London and Los Angeles, two cities you believe are alike in their style choices. That’s something of an unusual and rarely heard comparison. Why do you think they are similar?
LSoD didn’t start out to cover the two cities, yet over time the burgeoning creative industries in LA, which was fueled by the “Californian” trend in s/s ’12, really became apparent. Having been to LA many times before and after the websites coverage, I saw a huge growth in womenswear, which then fueled the rise in menswear. I see the creative similarities; busting the very New York ideology of huge commerciality whilst in LA and London, risks are taken more and more open to creative vision which sells the style dream.  Geographically, LA and London are far more similar than say, New York or another style capital. Here we have Shoreditch which is the equivalent in LA as Silver Lake, or LA has Rodeo Drive and Melrose Ave, where London has Bond Street and Seven Dials. I have never seen this comparison before or since.

What is the split of London coverage vs. LA coverage?
I would say it’s a 60/40 split depending what comes my way per week.

You are based in the UK so how do you stay abreast of the fashion scene in LA?
Over the years I have been kept on top of the best in menswear from a network of PRs and industry people from around LA and SoCal. I used to employ writers over there however one moved back to England but had done the groundwork to keep me in the loop without anyone being there. It’s a shame not to have that firsthand account but with the rising cost of airfares, and the time difference, it’s a big investment to keep going over or Skyping with a writer as there is so much happening on a monthly basis.

Do you have a “typical” reader of the blog? If so, who is he/she?
The typical LSoD reader is male, who is at the stylish and individual end of the consumer speed spectrum. I do not count age anymore, because I have met many of my readers who are over 40, who admire and often buy a lot of the labels and brands on the website. They are however, focused in London, LA, New York, Australia as well as a large smattering over Japan and China. I also do enjoy seeing readers cropping up in the UAE and South America, as well as some more bizarre locations such as Iraq and Iran.

How often do you update the site?
I work full time as the global men’s trends analyst for a global footwear brand, so depending on my schedule, it will be daily with a couple of posts. However, the least I do is three posts a week.

How has the site changed and evolved since you launched it in 2009?
It has become more focused; I have developed a relationship with a huge number of labels and brands across luxury, independent and high-end commercial from both cities. Whilst I will not discount menswear from other locations, my readers really respond to those they have read about over the past few years as well as fresh, exciting talent. I would also say the website visually retains a look of a blog but is a lot cleaner, more refined without forgetting where it came from.

What brands or designers have you championed on the blog that have since gone on to make it big?
I have long championed Domingo Rodriguez from London who is doing very well, as well as Palmer/Harding and SAM MC. Having been in the industry for almost a decade, I have long supported designers like Lou Dalton, James Long, Henry Holland and such like who are now very big labels. I would like to think I have helped in some way to their success, but as the media is merely a vehicle for success, their vision and dedication is what has made them.

How do you decide what brands/items to cover on the site? And are there sectors of menswear that you do not cover?
Essentially, I cover brands and items that appeal to me. Dare I say, ones I like but I always have the reader in mind. It’s a catch-22 situation, some brands I like may not always appeal to the reader, but others I don’t have a broad appeal which many guys like. Saying that, I do not really cover neckwear or jewelry as it is very subjective yet there are three jewelry brands–Violet Darkling, Tateossian and Jewelry for a Cause (aside from the likes of Cartier and Hermes)–which I feature regularly.

How many readers does the site attract?
LSoD attracts around 55,000 readers per month; sometimes more, sometimes less depending on how many or the content of the posts I do.

What is your take on the overall state of menswear today? Where is it headed both fashion/trendwise and businesswise?
I strongly think that a lot of the newer brands “getting in on menswear” will not survive, whilst those with credibility and real style will. From a fashion angle, I see a strong fashion vs. lifestyle element developing whilst still retaining a sense of the heritage and craft that has rooted menswear throughout history. From a long-term trend vision, I see a real inspiration from technology and innovation and a focus onto simplicity and functionality.

Who are some of your favorite all-time designers/brands from both London and LA?
From London, it has to be Lou Dalton and YMC who are very different in aesthetic but represent democratic styling at its best. From LA, Matiere without a doubt, who do West Coast cool perfectly.

So much communication these days is done via social networking such as Instagram and Facebook. Are you finding that you reach more readers via those platforms or are people still checking out the blog directly online?
It’s a mixed bag really. I promote each post via Twitter and Facebook however keep Instagram as more of an extension of me–what I have been doing, places I have visited or what products I have been sent. Often I see a surge on a post that has been shared via Facebook or retweeted from Twitter. However, I like to keep social media, really… social. I have a lot of conversations with friends, readers and followers on Twitter which often leads to more follows, which in turn increases my readership in the long run. Also commenting and liking on Instagram leads to the same however I am not chasing likes or follows for more readers, but use these channels as they are fun.

Please discuss the site’s layout. How did you decide on it and how often have you updated/changed it?
LSoD’s layout is a Blogger template which keeps the look and feel of a blog, but has been cleaned up to look more of a website. I have only changed it thrice in 5 years; each time becoming more stark to make the text and images jump out more. The logo has changed a couple of times, with the skyline of LA and London fused being the most recent–and hopefully the last–incarnation.

What’s your take on the overall state of fashion blogging?  Some have said that independent, start-up bloggers are not as “hot”/powerful as they were a few years ago…
As I said earlier, I was very fortunate to time, although inadvertently, that I started before the explosion in the popularity of blogging. Whilst this was not a bad thing for the medium, there are many now which have petered off or ended which, to be honest, I predicted about two years ago. You can compare it to a housing bubble. Many industry people saw through the in-it-for-themselves attitude, as they saw the earlier bloggers doing really well. It is difficult to be successful now as there are a good number of established, well-read websites out there however I strongly think that now is the right time to start a menswear blog. Just be consistent, coherent and intelligent and I am sure it will be a success.

What are the future/long-term plans for the site?
I ask myself this every day. I am really happy with where LSoD is, but of course look to make it bigger and better in the future. I cannot answer this right now but I am looking forward to seeing it turn five in a couple of months time. With over 800 Facebook and 2,400 Twitter followers and 55,000 readers a month, the only way is up. But for now, I am content with focusing on them. There is always tomorrow….