It’s hard to overstate the impact of social media and the rise of bloggers on the instant fashion phenomenon.
This story first appeared in the October 12, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
It’s not just actual dollars, but “likes” that are the currency of the blogosphere. And as bloggers’ followings grow, so does the desire among their fans to gain immediate access to the fashion industry.
This has created a challenge — and an opportunity — for brands that want to capitalize on that anticipation by delivering newer, faster and more. “All of this user-generated content is building fan excitement, yet these collections [spring 2017] aren’t for sale until March,” said Juliet Carnoy, senior marketing manager at Pixlee, a marketing platform utilizing user-generated content. “This shift is forcing luxury brands to enter the mainstream and become more accessible.”
And once new designs hit the runway, because of the number of posts on social media, “there are immediate data-points flowing in on what trends will take off,” said Kamiu Lee, vice president of business development at Bloglovin’. “From a brand standpoint, that’s great. They have been competing with fast-fashion for years.”
That this seismic shift is coming courtesy of digital technology falls in line with what’s been happening in other industries, noted RewardStyle founder Amber Venz Box, who compared it to Uber’s approach to taxis. “It’s reimagining things that have been stuck in place, and giving people what they didn’t know they wanted,” she said.
Both brands and bloggers have the same incentive: to make money.
Bloggers at one time would attend shows wearing pieces from the future collection, but that doesn’t make business sense, Venz Box said. So they’ve begun wearing — and sharing — clothes that can be bought now. Public relations firms that give or lend clothing to influencers have taken note.
“All the content was about things that aren’t available for purchase, and retail sales were suffering, as well as [the] influencers, because they only made money when they were driving sales for brands,” she said.
In 2014, Venz Box worked with BCBG Group to make a portion of its runway shows shoppable. They pre-shot the looks and let influencers link to a page on RewardStyle’s LiketoKnow.it tool to buy the designs when they came down the runway. LiketoKnow.it is an Instagram app that allows followers who “like” an image to get an e-mail that has purchase information.
This and other early efforts have ballooned into a rush of social-media-facilitated instant gratification. ShopStyle created a program called “Social House” and partnered with Neiman Marcus to lend current-season looks to bloggers in New York, London and Paris during fashion weeks. Bloggers were able to use ShopStyle’s Emoticode, a tool to make their Snapchat feed shoppable.
Tommy Hilfiger also worked with Snapchat to encourage shoppers to buy looks from the Tommy x Gigi Collection right away.
And this season also included the formal coming-out of Instagram Stories, which has a similar approach to Snapchat’s with posts that disappear after 24 hours. The tool allowed designers to experiment with the still somewhat uncertain concept of “access”: Yigal Azrouël and J.Mendel introduced collections on Stories, and Oscar de la Renta and Tory Burch took viewers behind the scenes.
Google also got in on the game by unveiling a search product to help users buy pieces from some runway shows and to shop street-style trends via a partnership with RewardStyle and its network of 10,000 bloggers.
An interesting side effect of this partnership was to reduce the bloggers’ dependency on street-style photographers. Previously, bloggers had been in the habit of being dropped off a block away from show venues in the hope of being photographed by the mobs of photographers covering the runway collections, but the new tool let them upload their own outfit images to Google independently.
“The comment this season was, ‘I’m so glad I don’t have to do that anymore,’” Venz Box said.
“Social media and social commerce have become the catalysts for instant access to the upper echelons of fashion,” said Rachel Meranus, chief marketing officer at Olapic, which helps brands such as Calvin Klein and L’Oréal utilize user-generated content in their e-commerce operations. “Brands can capture instant sales when buyers are the most motivated.”