From Promoters To Trend Setters – Fashion Influencers Are Going Viral, up until a couple of years ago, the print media and top-tier fashion editors had the final say about what’s on-trend in fashion and what’s not. But now, it’s all in the hands of the digital and social media, bloggers, influencers who have the accessibility of voicing their opinion about fashion and lifestyle.
A fashion influencer is a personality that has a large number of followers on social media, creates mainly fashion content and has the power to influence the opinion and purchase behavior of others with their recommendations. Brands endorse them to attend fashion shows, parties, designer dinners and exclusive trips and to wear their clothes on social media. If a salary has been involved, the influencer has to label such posts as paid or sponsored content. Before social media “they would have been called the ‘It girls’.
French women as early as 1700 pored over magazines – then sketches of the latest dresses simply bound together – to see what was going on in fashion. Now blamed for causing eating disorders, wafer thin models and conspicuous clothing consumption, reading fashion magazines is a slightly spurious and increasingly guilty pleasure these days.
But before the influence of television and movies – let alone blogs and social media – fashion magazines were solely responsible for spreading Parisian fashion trends around the world. Both Harper’s Bazaar, founded in the U.S. in 1867, and Vogue, in 1892 were created to provide sketches and patterns of fashion derived from Paris designs. Vogue was expressly designed to promote the superiority of French couture to an American clientele.
In 1900, fashion magazines began to publish photography and later fashion illustration by the most modern of visual artists, forever cementing the idea that fashion is an art form – and the glossy pages of fashion magazines, its catalogs.
Another perfect marriage appeared to be fashion and the lifestyles of the rich and famous. The first fashion magazines fueled the birth of today’s celebrity culture with readers eagerly following the exploits of early movie stars like Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson and Clara Bow from its pages.
Nearly 100 years later – and inundated with dumbed-down celebrity fashion face-off stories- we might do well to re-establish the link between high culture and fashion magazines – and pay more attention to the effects on ordinary women of glorifying imagined “ideal” lives via mass media.
Business magazine Forbes identified fashion influencers as “the new celebrity endorsements”. However, influencers seem to have a closer relationship with their audience than traditional celebrities. As marketers Jung von Matt, Brandnew IO and Facelift points out: “Daily interactions across multiple channels, through photos, stories or live sessions, create a form of closeness and trust” that make influencers “often more tangible than traditional celebrities”.
In 2017, Forbes named – Chiara Ferragni, Danielle Bernstein, Julia Engel, Gabi Gregg, Jenn Im, Susanna Lau, Nicolette Mason, Simone Zippi Stardust, Aimee Song and Bryan Yambao (Bryanboy) the top influencers in the fashion category.
In the beginning of 2000’s,fashion blogs appeared to be amateurish personal areas. They were created as a hobby by fashion lovers to share their ideas of the latest trends or to get a job in the traditional fashion industry later on. With increasing reach, bloggers learned to monetize their contents. As Pedroni remarks: “fashion blogs evolved from personal diaries kept by fashion lovers, into sophisticated marketing and economic tools”.
Shortly after, new social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Youtube spread. They enabled bloggers to reach a greater audience and have an even closer relationship with their existing readership. In fact, some bloggers closed their blogs as traffic moved to other platforms such as Instagram. According to researcher Emily Hund “Social media’s influencer economy has gained steam quickly in the last few years, particularly on platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, whose image-heavy nature easily lends itself to commerce”. Social media also gave rise to influencers who did not have a blog in the first place. Jenn Im became a fashion influencer due to her successful Youtube channel, German influencer Pamela Reif due to her high reach on Instagram.
In 2017 (and even now), Instagram was the social media platform with the highest reach for fashion influencers. Forbes calculated that the top ten fashion influencers combined, generated a reach of 23.3 million on Instagram. At the same time, the fashion industry had the highest share on Instagram influencer marketing in the US. It’s share, approximately 61 percent, dominated by far subsequent sectors investing in influencer marketing such as travel (8 percent) and food and drinks (7 percent). The fashion industry spends around €1 billion on sponsored Instagram posts per year.
The luxury fashion world is an infamously exclusive, members-only crowd. But in the last few years, fashion influencers have been breaking down this wall and are being invited to walk the runway themselves.
Fashion influencers haven’t had an easy pathway at being accepted in the fashion industry and mainly into the world of luxury fashion. The fashion industry has always been looking for ways of criticism, calling out the fashion influencers “wannabe”, seeking out only attention. But the dynamics changed when the likes of fashion influencers controlled huge volume in the market and this led the fashion brands and designers to the transformation of the fashion industry. The fashion influencers have evolved from being considered as imitators to becoming inspiration and trendsetters. For fashion brands to remain relevant in the industry, it becomes important for them to carefully consider strategic partnerships and the best ways in which to include digital fashion influencers as part of an overall brand strategy.
Instagram fashion influencers are foregoing brand partnerships and instead, using their captive audience to launch their own collections.
Not only they are using their social media fan base to launch a business, but they are also a part of re-defining fashion. The popularity of fashion is now no more only limited to Bollywood celebrities, fashion designers, or brand names instead of the fashion through these influencers have grown more inclusive of craftsmanship, innovation, and utilising a single piece of cloth in several styles. The digital influencers are quick when it comes to creating latest content, they are open to experimenting and create their own collections based on their aesthetics and passion, it is so refreshing to the consumers that fashion brands need to partner with these influencers too. Collaboration is becoming more widely appreciated, both the parties the influencers as well as brand assess each other’s style and then determines if it is a good fit.
Today fashion brands are searching for influencers with a similar ethos, as they understand that there is an opportunity to co-create and perhaps even collaborate on the launch of a passion project which can equally benefit both the parties. The fan base, talent, and quirkinesses of influencers are blurring the lines between them and fashion brands even more, as they become business partners with a stake in brand sales. The fashion influencers through their talent and creativity have created a world of possibilities for themselves, along with becoming the trendsetters. Although it leads to a little effort, fashion influencers collaboration with brands can prove to be fruitful for both parties.
Take a look at the accounts of the leading brands, and you’d agree that a strong Instagram presence is a crucial component for growth in the digital sector. In addition to helping these brands reach a larger audience, the platform also features effective methods of driving online sales and building awareness.
In India, couturiers like Shivan & Narresh, Shantanu & Nikhil and Sabyasachi have created a notable social media presence. From posting the right kind of pictures (at the right time) to using relevant hashtags and maintaining a one-on-one relationship with their followers, these designers clearly know what it takes to ace the social media game. “Fashion is an imagery-driven industry. It is one of the biggest passion points on one of the top platforms- Instagram, sharing space with the other two F’s, food and fitness,” says Narresh Kukreja of Shivan & Narresh. “The platform has evolved immensely over the years providing for innovative communication and increased effectiveness for image-driven industries. With the help of visual storytelling, the journey from fabric to finished merchandise comes to life on this medium, as the brand documents everything from fabric sourcing, design, silhouette creation, colour filling, pattern making, construction techniques, presentation on runway, behind-the-scenes to the collection landing in stores. Ensuring a fine balance between permanent and ephemeral content—post v/s stories—social media has been an extremely advantageous medium for us to connect personally and interact directly with the customers, as it provides them with an opportunity for immediate call to action.”
But most of all, it has increased awareness among the masses about the current fashion trends and the future ones as well. So, we know that from promoters to trend setters – fashion influencers are going viral
Print media had their impact on influencer fashion and they’re continuing to keep up with the influencer trends in the age of digital media. At the present pace of technological advancement, platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have revamped the whole ‘Influencer’ age and have provided jobs to creative souls all over the world. On the other hand, is it safe to say that the impact that has been created by such a trend is fully beneficial and so not controversial for the general public and the economic landscape?