By profession, fashion blogger. Fashion lovers, brands, fashion shows, magazines, models and designers ceased to be spectators and became an actor in the sector. In the last ten years, the Network has reached its maturity as a communication channel but, unlike in the traditional ones, the voice of the people is at the same level as that of the large media corporations. Blogs and social networks have empowered the consumer in communication. The industry did not let this phenomenon escape and ended up incorporating it as an additional player. And in the same way that fast fashion cornered prêt-à-porter, it was time for bloggers, Instagrammers and influencers to equally accelerate communication.
In communication, a picture is worth a thousand words. Back in 2009, there was a photograph that symbolized the change of an era. The Financial Times immortalized the transformation of fashion communication, its point of no return, with a photograph of the front row of the Dolce&Gabbana fashion show for its D&G line during Milan Fashion Week in September. Together with the journalist Suzy Menkes (who then worked at the International Herald Tribune), Michael Roberts of Vanity Fair, and Sally Singer, Anna Wintour, and Hamish Bowles, of the American edition of Vogue, was Bryanboy, an unusual sight in such scenario.
He looked like a fish out of the water and while solving the way of trying to place a laptop on a coffee table in the front row. That photograph immortalized Bryanboy as the first blogger to rub shoulders with the elite of the fashion press without a tie or a blazer, dressed in a tshirt and a gold chain. But he was not the only one. Out of frame were Scott Schuman (author of The Sartorialist), Tommy Ton and Garance Doré.
But more shifted during that fashion show. In a scene as hieratic and immovable as a catwalk, The Wall Street Journal echoed the sitting arrangements that took place among buyers. The CEOs of Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and Bergdorf Goodman had been relegated to the second and third row, while ahead of all of them, again in the first one, their namesake sat outside that chaos on the ecommerce platform Yoox.com, Federico Marchetti.
That D&G fashion show, perhaps unintentionally, was a very authentic image of the transformation that was taking place in the fashion and communication business, of the leaps and bounds of digitalization and the entry of new actors that had come to stay.
After almost a decade of debate about the digitalization of the press and the disappearance of paper, at the end of that period, that narrative took an unexpected turn with the entry of bloggers onto the stage. Suddenly, the Internet, as a communication channel, not only threw new media platforms that shook traditional media but, for the first time in history, voice was given to the readers and consumers themselves. In the digital era, these actors ceased to have a passive role in communication to be proactive and generate content.
The first blogs referenced appeared in the 1990s
The first blogs referenced appeared in the nineties in a collective of computer scientists and programmers. They were platforms where recommendations were made, new software was criticized or entertained or their vision of the future of the Internet was expressed. As the Internet expanded, technology advanced and became more accessible. New platforms appeared, in them, users could create a blog in a simple, intuitive and a free way, the blogger phenomenon was taking off. Before it exploded in fashion, it did in journalism, gastronomy or tourism. The power recommendation of bloggers immediately snatched the authenticity of conventional media, which was seen as instruments influenced by politic or advertising interests.
Fashion, by its definition of social and identity catalyst, could not avoid the attractiveness of the blog. Its expansion also happened at the same time as the explosion of social networks, which contributed to the propelling of blogs and bloggers. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and, later, Instagram, were the play ground for these new actors, who were gaining prominence and influence, to such an extent that they forced brands to also enter the game. Between 2008 and 2012, hundreds of thousands of anonymous flaunted their interest in fashion.
Those who achieved to convert their names into brands were pioneers in launching their own fashion collections
In 2012, Instagram had a total of 27 million users worldwide. This social network founded in 2010 and designed to share photographs was already emerging as the natural heir of the blog.
#ootd: fashion in the digital era
If magazines, fashion shows, photographers and models were the props of the communication of the prêt-à-porter system; influencers and social networks were fast fashion and ecommerce. The emergence of the new actors of the fashion communication not only shook the traditional media industry, but it also impacted on the whole fashion system, which worked collections a year beforehand and presented them six months in advance
Did it make sense to keep the prêt-à-porter system when bloggers and Instagrammers demanded news every day? Within the global language developed by bloggers was the hashtag #ootd (outfit of the day), indicative that Internet could not wait six months. Nor was the street waiting for them, to which fast fashion had become used to finding novelties in stores every two weeks. As online commerce gained ground, the solidity of yesteryear of the seasons was increasingly diluted.
But not only bloggers and influencers carried the leading voice of the new era of communication. Brands, for the first time, also became actors in this new system. Social networks also gave direct voice to the brands, allowing a direct relationship with consumers without going through conventional media. In this way, brands went from campaigning to television and magazines, to talk directly with their customers. This narrative ceased to be mediated to flow directly with the public.
However, for luxury, this new scenario forced it down from its pedestal. The big houses of the sector, with more than a century of history behind them, began to activate their gears to get closer to the consumer. According to a 2012 study by the consultant Interbrand, of the one hundred most valued brands in the world, 54 had Instagram profiles. In the specific field of fashion, Burberry, Nike, and Gucci already won the battle of followers on Instagram that year, being among the ten firms most valued by users of this platform, according to a Simply Measured report.
The new link between brands and consumers throug Internet began to give multiple possibilities
The new link between brands and consumers through Internet began to give multiple possibilities. In 2014, to promote the opening of a pop up store in New York, Marc Jacobs permitted to pay with tweets, photos on Instagram and posts shared on Instagram.
Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger were two of the brands that wanted to use social media as a growing tool. The United Kingdom was a pioneer in broadcasting a streaming fashion show in September 2013 based on the latest iPhone launch. The United Kingdom came to be listed as the Queen of Internet after repeatedly leading the Digital IQ Index ranking, by consultancy L2.
In 2015, the study highlighted Burberry’s use of all social networks, including platforms such as Periscope or Snapchat. Tommy Hilfiger, meanwhile, organized in January 2014 the first Instameet, a call for Instagram users, for its fashion show at Park Avenue in New York. Regarding that meeting, the company explained: “the event will give access to a larger audience, who will follow the fashion show from Instagram.” And added: “the first Instameet in a fashion show reinforces the company’s commitment to democratize an event as a catwalk.” Catwalks, archetypal of the prêt-à-porter era, evolved. In 2016, Burberry, Tom Ford, and Tommy Hilfiger contributed a twist to the concept and, beyond opening it to the final public to broadcast it through their social networks, they invited attendees to buy.
Social networks began to move in search of strategies to generate business of this new scenario
In 2015, social networks began to move in search of strategies to generate business to this new scenario. Facebook was then opened to mcommerce. The Mark Zuckerberg network added elements to its mobile application to allow its users to buy through its platform, without being redirected to the ecommerce of the brands. Pinterest, on the other hand, immediately launched an app for its users to buy through it without being redirected to the brand’s website.
Social networks elevated bloggers to the category of influencers. In 2016, campaigns with trendsetters on Internet were used by 65% of fashion companies, according to a study by the marketing consultancy Launchmetrics. The actions with much-followed individuals on social networks also worked to raise the visibility of the companies involved in 84% of the cases. 74% of respondents in that document said they had increased their sales after their promotion in networks with the new opinion leaders.
One of the most popular influencers, Chiara Ferragni, author of The Blonde Salad, set up an institution in Milan. In 2019, this Italian law student at the Luigi Bocconi University in Milan is considered the Queen of the Internet: she has starred in campaigns for luxury companies and retailer such as Hermès, Pomellato, Dior, Chanel or Intimissimi, among others, and she has revealed that she bills about thirty million euros per year. In 2017, Sarah Owen, head of digital content and marketing at the Wgsn consultancy, explained that Ferragni, together with Leandra Medine and other influencers in this category, had crossed the limits of this concept to become macro companies with a very faithful entourage of followers.
In the same way that it happens in celebrities environment, representation agencies have also appeared grown around influencers. One of the largest intermediaries in the world is the New York agency Socialyte. The influencers in its portfolio have annual revenues of between $50,000 and $250,000, with an average of followers of between 100,000 and 500,000. Individuals with more than half a million fans, however, even reach $500,000 annually.
As long as social networks continue to be a means of mass communication, influencers will have their place in the fashion industry. The phenomenon has spread in recent years to micro-influencers, that is, Instagrammers who, although they have a relatively small number of followers on social networks (around 5,000), may be of great interest to niche brands.
By having a much narrower audience, they are more representative of the brands that hire them. On the other hand, the explosion extends to YouTubers and vloggers, profiles that are positioned with video platforms. The rise of these figures is connected to the significant increase in information consumption through videos made by very young people for people equally young.