From turning pages to giving a like: how internet changed communication
Career, fashion blogger. Fashion lovers, brands, runway shows, magazines, models and designers stopped being watchers to being one more player in the game.
In the last couple of years, internet has achieved a level of development as a communication channel, but unlike in traditional channels, people’s opinion is in the same level as the big mediatic corporations. Blogs and social media have empowered the consumer. The industry didn’t let his phenomenon escape and ended up adding it as one more player. And just like fast fashion cornered prêt-à-porter, the time has arrived when boggers, instagramers and influencers speed up communication.
In communication, one image is worth a million words. And in 2009, a picture marked the end of an era. Financial Times immortalized the transformation of fashion communication, with a front row photo of the Dolce&Gabbana show in September Milan Fashion Week. Next to the journalist Suzy Menkes (that worked for the International Herald Tribune back then), Michael Roberts from Vanity Fair, and Sally Singer, Anna Wintour and Hamish Bowles, from American Vogue, was Bryanboy, like a spot in that scenario. Only him was looking at the camera, knowing he was the stranger, at the same time he was trying to place a laptop in a little table in the front row.
That picture immortalized Bryanboy as the gist blogger to move with the elite of fashion press, dressed in a t-shirt and an extravagant golden chain. But he wasn’t the only one. Out of camera was, Scott Schuman (author of The Sartorialist), Tommy Ton and Garance Doré.
But more cards moved that day. In a hieratic and unmovable scenario as a runway show, The Wall Street Journal played a role in the movement of the chairs. CEO’s of Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman where moved to second and third road, while in front of all of them, in the front row, was Federico Marchetti, from the ecommerce platform Yoox.com.
That D&G, without even thinking it, was a true image of the transformation happening in the fashion and communication business, the speed of digitalization and the entry of new players that arrived to stay.
After almost a decade debating over press digitalization and the disappearance of print, at the end of that period, that narrative, changed the game with the unexpected entrance to the blogger scenario. Suddenly, Internet, as a communication channel, not only launched new platforms as a direct competition for media, but for the first time, a voice was given to the reader and consumers. In the digital era, these actors stopped having a passive role, to engage as active users and content generators.
First fashion blogs appeared in the nineties
The first fashion blogs appeared in the nineties, in collectives of computer scientist and programmers. There were platforms that gave recommendations, criticize and exposed its vision over the future of the Internet. As Internet expanded, technology advanced and started being more accessible and new platforms appeared so people could create a “notebook”, easy, intuitive and for free, the blogger phenomenon started. Before exploding in fashion, it did in journalism, gastronomy or tourism. The power of bloggers eliminated immediately the authenticity of conventional media, that started to be seen as tools influenced by political and advertising interests.
Fashion, by its own social character, couldn’t escape the blog. Its expansion match with the explosion of social media, that also helped to speed blogs and bloggers. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and, later on, Instagram, where the new players training grounds, where they started to gain influence and spotlight, up to the point where brands entered the game as well. Between 2008 and 2012, hundreds of thousands of people entered the Net talking about fashion.
Popularity of some of them reached the point where its protagonists ended up turning into a business what before was considered a hobby. In an article of El País of 2014, the newspaper stated that a fashion blogger in Spain could earn between 6,000 and 25,000 euros per event. The business started to run, and many others joined the parade. Some of them even turned their names into a brand and even opened its own store.
In Spain, in the Cibeles Fashion Week of Madid, the first bloggers where recognized as press in 2010. In 2012, the Spanish Association of Fashion Bloggers (Aebdm), was created , with Carolina Guerrero, author of Dress For Success, as a president, and even the first international congress for bloggers took place in Madrid, with the goal of creating strategies to professionalize the sector.
The ones that turned their names in brands where pioneers to launch its own collections
In 2012, Instagram counted with 27 million users around the world. This social network was founded in 2010 and designed to share pictures and was forecasted to be the natural heir of the blog.
#ootd: the fashion channel in the digital era
If magazines, runway shows, photographers and models where key for the communication system of the prêt-à-porter; influencers and social media where the key elements for fast fashion and ecommerce. The outbreak of new players didn’t only shake the industry, also impacted on the chain, that worked collections on one year away and presented them six months in advance.
Was the prêt-à-porter system worth keeping when bloggers and instagramers posted news every day? Inside of the global blogger’s language, wash the hashtag #ootd (outfit of the day), meaning that Internet couldn’t wait six months. Not even the street could wait, due to the fast fashion phenomenon, used to launching new products every two weeks. As ecommerce was gaining terrain, the structure of traditional collections was falling apart.
But not only bloggers and influencers raises their voices in the new communication era. Brands, for the first time, became new players in the system. Social media also raised the brand’s voice, allowing a close relationship with consumers without going trough conventional media. This said, brands went from television and magazine campaigns to talk directly with its clients.
However, luxury was obliged to lower its pedestal with this new system. Big houses of the sector, with more than one century of existence, started activating its tools to reach the consumer. According to a 2012 study from the consulting Branding Interbrand, from the hundred most valued brands, 54 had Instagram profiles. Specially, talking about fashion, Burberry, Nike and Gucci were winning the followers battle that year, appearing as the ten brands more valued by users, according to the Simply Measured report.
The new connection between brands and consumers through Internet started to produce multiple possibilities
The new connection between brands and consumers through Internet started to produce multiple possibilities. In 2014, to promote the opening of a pop-up store in New York, Marc Jacobs allowed its customers to pay with tweets and Instagram photos.
Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger were two of the brands that took most advantage of social network. The British was a pioneer in transmitting a show via streaming in September 2013, supporting in Apple’s latest iPhone launch. Burberry was cataloged as the queen of the Internet after leading in several occasions the Digital IQ Index ranking elaborated by the consulting L2.
In 2015, the study pointed the use of Burberry in all social platforms, even Periscope and Snapchat. Tommy Hilfiger, on the other hand, arranged in January 2014, the first Instameet, a gathering of Instagram users for its Park Avenue show in New York. The company stated that “this event will allow more audience to see the show”, and added, “the first Instameet reinforces the company’s commitment to democratize an event like a runway show”.
Runways, part of the prêt-à-porter era, evolved. In 2016, Burberry, Tom Ford and Tommy Hilfige, turned the wheel, and opened the show to the final audience so they could spread it thorough its social media.
Apart from influencers and brands, some other business started to take advantage of this the last couple of years. How to turn profitable the 1.4 billion fashion photos that in 2014 hit the Internet? Three Spanish students, Pau Sabrià, Luis Sanz and José Cabo, had the answer, Olapic.
Social media started to move its cards looking for a strategy that generated business in this new scenario
One year before Instagram was born, the three students noticed that brands, despite being in the middle of internet conversations, were wasting content. Sabrià, Sanz and Cabo’s formula was to connect brands with its public and will allow them to keep up to the speed without the need of generating its own content. In 2016, the American giant Monotype bought this startup for 130 million dollars.
In 2015, social media started to move its card to look for strategies to generate business in this new scenario. Facebook then opened to the mcommerce. Mark Zuckerberg’s platform added new elements to its app to allow clients to buy from their mobile phones, directly from the Facebook platform. Pinterest, on the other hand, launched an app so users could buy through it without being redirected to the ecommerce of the brands.
It was estimated then, that mcommerce was going to generate 252 billion dollars in 2020 all around the world. Twitter and Instagram eventually joined the tendency. In summer 2018, Instagram went a step forward and added a buy button. The tool is currently launched in United States and counts with sever brands like Zara, H&M, Nike, Adidas, Dior, Michael Kors or Prada, amongst others.
And from the fusion of social network, influences and mcommerce, the so called Instabrands appeared, queens of hype: startups for this terrain. In Spain it was Hawkers, Pompeii and Laagam, but also PdPaola, Après Ski, Au Revoir Cinderella Shoes or Storets. All of them followed the British guideline of Missguided, one of the most popular brands in Instagram with 2.5 million followers in 2018.
Social media elevated bloggers to the influencers category. In 2016, the campaign with stores subscriptions were used by 65% of the fashion companies, according to a study created by the marketing consulting Launchmetrics. Actions with users with a lot of followers in social network also rised visibility of the brand in an 84% of the cases. And 74% of the respondents assured that they raised its sales after its promotion in social media from the new opinion leaders.
In Spain, the reference agency is Okiko Talents
One of the most popular influencers, Chiara Ferragni, author of The Blonde Salad, opened a store in Milan. In 2019, this Italian, law student in the Bocconi University in Milan is considered the queen of Internet, and has participated in campaigns with brands like Hermès, Pomellato, Dior, Chanel or Intimissimi, amongst others, and she has stated that her revenue is about thirty million euros per year. In 2017, Sarah Owen, digital content responsible for WGSN, explained that Ferragni, next to Leandra Medine, and other big influencers, passed the limits of this concept and turned into macro companies with a very loyal bunch of followers.
The same thing that happens with celebrities, happens with influencers, representation agencies appeared in the picture. One of the biggest intermediaries is the New York agency Socialyte. The influencers that they have in their portfolio, count with a yearly income between 50,000 dollars and 250,000 dollars, and an average of followers of 100,000 and 500,000. In Spain, the reference agency is Okiko Talents, that represents influencers like Gala González (Amlul), Miranda Makaroff, Cup of Couple or Miguel Carrizo, amongst others.
As long as social media continues to be a mass communication, influencers will have a spot in the fashion industry. The phenomenon, in fact, has expanded in the past few years to micro influencers, meaning, users that don’t count with a huge number of followers, but can be of great interest for niche brands.
Having a narrower audience, they are more representative of the brands that hire them. On the other hand, the phenomenon expands to youtubers and vloggers, users that position themselves through video platforms. The increase of these figures is connected to the significant rise of video consumption created by young people, for young people.
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