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WWD Accessory issue 08/13/2012

Show-and-tell used to be just for kids. Now it’s in fashion. Top designers are revealing their personalities through rising social-media Web sites Instagram and Pinterest.

“Instagram allows our fans of the label to see the casual and spontaneous side of the designer’s life,” says footwear designer Jerome Rousseau, who let consumers into his life by posting a recent photo of himself at a concert in Los Angeles. “It’s very new and exciting, and it has really captured the excitement that Facebook used to have.” Rousseau posts on Instagram about six times a week, and recently turned to it for consumer opinion on stiletto heights for spring. For instance, Jerome posted a photo of just one heel height—115 millimeters—and after receiving positive feedback, decided to stick with that style.

This story first appeared in the August 13, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

For Alice + Olivia designer Stacey Bendet, Instagram provides a strong opportunity to showcase her voice and favorite sources of inspiration. “I think of Instagram as a true extension of my eyes and what we’re seeing and being inspired by,” says Bendet, who recently cracked the 60,000-followers mark on the site and posts several times throughout the day. “It lets our customers and the world see things through my eyes.” Bendet notes that in addition to street photography, she also posts product shots to test consumer reaction.

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For example, the designer recently revealed a photo of a footwear look and received more than 1,000 likes, confirming she was on trend. “We always notice a huge amount of interest for our product, and we’re really into that as a brand,” added Bendet.

Alejandro Ingelmo approaches his Instagram account in a similar fashion, on a personal level. Through the site, he showcases the design process and even the CrossFit workout events he’s been attending. No wonder, then, that by revealing his personality and product, sales have risen. Bruno Alves, store manager at Ingelmo’s New York location, has received requests for specific shoes that consumers saw posted on Instagram. The company estimates about a 10 percent sales increase because of the site. “We Instagram a lot of pictures in the store, showing new arrivals and customers wearing the shoes in different ways,” said Ingelmo. “We’ve had customers come in to buy a shoe they saw on Instagram and told us they were planning to replicate the entire look. It’s a very interesting way to sell.”

Designers are fans of Pinterest, too, particularly its position as a shopping platform.

For Dannijo, the site acts as a way to keep track of consumers who frequently pin brand product. The interaction eventually leads to an increase in both Web site traffic and purchases, according to brand cofounder and creative director Danielle Snyder. “Pinterest provides a place for users to experience our brand on their own terms,” she said. “It allows users to connect with the content we’re putting out there and take control of it for inspiration in their daily lives.”

Rebecca Minkoff also views Pinterest as a way to expand her business, specifically with the click-through rate on product. “Pinterest allows us to tell a story through product and inspirational images, which allows our consumers to understand more about who we are as a brand,” says Minkoff. She notes that when she posted a photo of her Bettina sandal on Instagram, the product sold out online in less than two weeks.

Overall, the photography focus on both sites is key.

The sites “provide constant visual stimulation, which is something we’re noticing users demand right now,” says Snyder. “And despite being so content-driven, they actually take the pressure off the user to be so active.”

Snyder illustrates that although many users do comment on Instagram, they don’t have to. Users enjoy that they can just search through the photos and get a better feel for the designers’ personal lives.

So how big of a business can both sites become for fashion? The opportunities are endless, designers maintain. “The sites have a great future,” says Rousseau. “They have definitely made my consumers pay attention, which is priceless.”

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