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Every woman who splurges on a shopping spree knows that distinct and addictive thrill of glossy, shimmering newness.
Combine that delight with today's YouTube self-celebrity world, and you've got the latest phenomenon: hauling.
In haul videos, women open up their bags, bedrooms, closets, and medicine cabinets as they obsess on their latest "finds" in front of their Web cam. That footage is then watched by thousands of curious eyes.
The women who make these videos come from all walks of life and every corner of the world, though the younger ones -- teens to twentysomethings -- tend to dominate the domain with their overflowing excitement, flush from a fresh haul, often with bags still in hand.
Unlike fashion magazines that were the former inspiration of most shopaholic swooning, the beauty products and clothes that haulers review are overwhelmingly mid- to mass level, and most are available at the local mall or Target. In fact, haulers who dare show high-end products like a quilted Chanel bag or strappy new pair of 5-inch Christian Louboutins often suffer backlash from viewers, who see the review not as a woman sharing her haul, but rather, boasting her riches.
And like most YouTube domains, a select few have stood out as stars in the world of haul videos.
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Blair and Elle Fowler -- the respective 16- and 21-year-old sisters whom StyleList highlighted earlier this year as the youngest makeup artists at New York's Fall Fashion Week -- are both highly watched haulers, pulling in hundreds of thousands of viewers each time they put up a video sharing their latest buys.
"I love the excitement that comes with it. You feel like you're sitting with a best friend going through the stuff you just bought at the mall. Shopping is totally girlie and fun, and that comes across in the videos, which might be why they are so addicting to watch," Elle tells StyleList.
"I adore watching other girls' haul videos too, because it's like living vicariously through other people!" she adds.
Like other haulers, shopping trips aren't all the sisters post about on YouTube; their other videos include fashion reviews and makeup tutorials. It was Elle who first dipped her feet into the video world in summer 2008, and Blair reluctantly followed.
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"I felt that Elle was already giving away our tips, why should I repeat them?" says Blair. "She talked me into it after explaining that since she has blonde hair, blue eyes, and lighter skin, while I have dark brown hair, brown eyes, and olive skin, it would be fun to show our viewers the diversity of how the looks would work on them. This hooked me. I started my own videos too, and it soon became my life."
With the massive amount of product cycled through all of their videos, StyleList wondered: Where does the inspiration for new hauls and videos come from?
Blair says she actually enjoys watching the competition to see their ideas.
"There are some beauty girls who do great videos, like MichellePhan, Lollipop26, FafinetteX3, PurseBuzz, xSparkage, MacNC40, Petrilude, KandeeJohnson, and so many more."
Critics of haul videos say the subjects promote a financially wasteful and superficial pastime that distracts young women from more important pursuits. Haul fans counter that it's a harmless way for women to enjoy their shopping passion with other virtual girlfriends, and that the lemming for new things benefits the economy in the end.
Blair recognizes that her haul videos may rattle some fans and has thought about what that means for the future.
"I'll continue to do the occasional haul as long as my channel is around, and people enjoy watching them," she says. "As soon as they get annoying and people ask me to stop doing hauls, I will. I want to make my viewers happy. After all, they are the ones who got me to where I am today!"
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While the Fowlers are best known for their beauty videos, they've both been approached by fashion companies looking to partner on potential videos and launches. But the sisters say they won't try just anything.
"We'll only work with a company if the clothes are something we would go out and spend our own money on," says Blair.
StyleList guesses we'll just have to stay tuned to the next haul video to see if they do.
At the opposite end of the shopping-spectrum, read about a former shopaholic who went cold turkey: Jessie didn't buy any clothing for five months straight, and she (gasp) lived to tell about it!