The Fashion Industry’s Latest Trend isn’t Wearable; it’s Postable

In case you missed it, New York Fashion Week just finished up this past Wednesday. While there were beautiful gowns, edgy looks, and bazaar style choices galore on the runways, there were equally creative and stunning outfits on the streets. How do I know this? It all comes back to social media of course.

I, like millions of others not fortunate enough to be invited to attend the prestigious week of events, followed the action along by way of Snapchat stories from my favorite models, Instagram posts from fashion bloggers and through Facebook live videos from a plethora of news stations.

The trend towards placing more emphasis on social media in the fashion industry is not a new phenomenon. For instance, in an interview with BBC, Burberry suggested that it only recruited Brooklyn Beckham to head one of its latest campaigns not because of his superstar parents, but because of his wildly popular Instagram account. If a major fashion brand cares more about candid, self-curated photos than professional modeling portfolios, it is clear that the future of fashion is dependent on social media platforms.

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In a report released by Mintel, 35% of American women claim that social media has the biggest influence on their fashion purchasing behavior. Furthermore, a study conducted in Seoul, South Korea found that across the 5 factors of entertainment, customization, interaction, word of mouth, and trend, social media marketing was effective in maintaining customer relationships and informing the purchasing intentions of luxury fashion brand customers.

Furthermore, the fashion industry has traditionally relied on strict buying cycles to sell products (one season for fall and one for spring). In an interview with CNBC, designer Rebecca Minkoff’s cofounder and brother, Uri Minkoff, explains that a customer “doesn’t have to wait 6 months and see these different bloggers and celebrities and editors carrying the product.” Social media therefore allows potential customers of a brand to be exposed to new designs and products sooner and more easily than before. Social media is really making fashion, including luxury labels, more accessible to the masses (at least more to accessible view and interact with, but maybe not so much in the way of affordability). fashion

In order to capitalize on the social media trend, designers are taking various approaches to the issue. For instance, as per the CNBC interview mentioned earlier, Rebecca Minkoff has chosen to make Instagram the brand’s central way of engaging customers instead of investing in costly traditional ads. Similarly, designer Tommy Hilfiger reserved a photo pit exclusively to be used by approved Instagram influencers, separate from the pit used by traditional professional fashion photographers. This quite literally shows how the influence of social media is now front and center in the fashion world.

In anticipation of the upcoming London Fashion Week (September 15 through September 19), the British brand Topshop is also jumping on the bandwagon by hiring fashion photographer Nick Knight to live-post images from its show on Instagram. Fashion industry leaders are also expecting designers to use Periscope, a live-streaming platform owned by Twitter, in addition to other platforms like Instagram or Snapchat, to promote their designs in real time during London Fashion Week.

In terms of numbers, the fashion industry is truly ruling the digital world. On average, the fashion industry has a follower growth rate of 18.62 percent per brand and has the largest median sizes on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Furthermore, Instagram, many brand’s social medium of choice, is also the most effective distribution channel with an average engagement ratio of 13.71 interactions per post per 1,000 followers. Interestingly though, within the fashion industry, outerwear and outdoors apparel retailers significantly outperform casual clothing (13.8 average engagement ratio), footwear (12.9 average engagement ratio), and high fashion (11.8 average engagement ratio) with an average engagement ratio of 24.9 on Instagram.

Therefore, if the future of fashion is unquestionably digital, then how are designers altering their long-term business strategies to keep up with the times? In an interview with Vogue, the founder of the online service LiketoKnow.It that links buyers to products through tagged Instagram posts, Amber Venz Box said, “I think that there’s that unique connection with the individual, really, across a lot of social platforms, but especially when you’re looking at image-based content. [Shoppers] want to see someone in the photo who’s actually doing the action, wearing the clothes.” By linking their products directly to consumers through services like LiketoKnow.It, designers can get their products to customers right at the moment a customer is engaging with it over social media, thus boosting sales and brand interaction. Even traditional brick-and-mortar retailers like Bergdorf Goodman are realizing the importance of creating a strong online presence. In the same interview with Vogue, Bergdorf’s senior vice president and general Merchandising manager of men’s, women’s footwear and handbags, decorative and home, and Little BG said, “The digital world is an important aspect to every retailer, regardless of how many brick-and-mortar locations you have, and Bergdorf is no exception.”

It will be interesting to see over the next few years if social media platforms like Instagram will continue to reign supreme in the fashion world, or if other up-and-coming platforms will eventually rule the runway (and our smartphones).

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7 comments

  1. Wow I loved this post. Not only was it fascinating to read, it was so well researched. I know nothing about the fashion industry world but I found myself using all your links to get a good snapshot of the industry. What is interesting about the increase of digital utilization by retailers like Bergdorf Goodman, is to see if this has any impact on their brink and mortar stores strategy. As I am sure you’ve read, there has been a lot in the news about the struggle of malls, departments stores, et al. because of the change in buyer behavior. So will this move to digital social media platforms reflect a change to their brick and mortar strategy as well? I wonder if they will remove almost all physical stores and mostly direct shoppers to their online sites.

  2. Awesome post! Social media and digital business has completely changed the advertising industry. I can’t believe that Rebecca Minkoff is choosing to make Instagram the brand’s central way of engaging customers. This strategy makes sense though- their customer base is most likely those who are on social media. I loved how in depth your research was on how fashion brands and designers are using social media, especially Instagram, to advertise the newest trends. My own Instagram feed has been filled with NYFW posts, and I think it’s a really effective medium to advertise fashion trends!

  3. I thought this was really interesting. I never thought about how much social media is changing the fashion industry, but now as style icons have “personal” Instagram’s and Snapchats they can post the latest trends in real time. It’s also amazing to me how you are able to not be at Fashion Week, but still have a very candid experience by following the event on social media. You have the ability to not only see the most popular looks, but also to have more of a fan experience by seeing many different sides to the show. It’ll be interesting how big name designers end up adapting to the idea that fashion is becoming so much more current as information is readily available in real time.

  4. LOVE this article! It’s amazing how NY Fashion week, the staple for top designers to showcase new lines of clothing, is being effected by social media. It really shows the reach that social media has on all industries. Furthermore, it’s not only social media that companies are using to leverage their advertisement reach, however, Burberry hiring Brooklyn Beckham mainly for his social media account followers is very revealing of how social media is beginning to shape the fashion industry. What a backwards model for the fashion world who is used to pioneering new trends and styles.

  5. I love seeing all of the fashion week social media posts as well–it makes the fashion industry much more accessible! I wonder how this increased access through the use of social media and influencers will impact the high-end fashion industry. Now, almost anybody with a smartphone and social media accounts can view these exclusive, highly selective fashion shows. Will the constant Snapchat stores, Instagram posts, and Twitter sneak-peaks dilute the integrity of high end fashion by making it more “mainstream”? Either way, I’m enjoying the trend, and I hope that brands like Burberry keep it up!

  6. Nice post. A student a semester or two ago, did a presentation on how social media was changing the various fashion weeks around the world. It was pretty fascinating to see how they were integrating it as a part of their planning.

  7. Great post, Claire. This blog reminded me how many accounts on Instagram I either follow or occasionally stalk that were involved with this year’s NYFW, and I would argue that famous Instagrammers and influencers are drawing many users to these fashion accounts. When I think of large fashion brands and retailers, I can almost always associate each label with a particularly famous Instagram user (Gigi Hadid+Tommy Hilfiger, Kendall Jenner+Tom Ford, Kaia Gerber+Calvin Klein). If someone is interested in these users’ lives, the gap between brand and average Instagram user is significantly shortened, especially with a famous, intriguing influencer playing the role of a brand/retailer endorser.

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