What designer was “Becky with the good hair?” And what exactly is “haute couture”?
While brands and designers may imagine that Internet users over the last year were hungrily using Google to search out the best places to buy their labels — or for details of their latest social media tie-in or marketing campaign — the reality was far different. The masses wanted to know who Rachel Roy was and the definition of the highest form of fashion.
When fashion does come to the broader digital consciousness, it’s not the high-minded art side of the equation that surfaces, but the mega-watt celebrity element, according to Google’s analysis of search queries.
And this year, when it came to fashion designers, the world wanted most to know if Roy was really “Becky with the good hair” who was rumored to be the subject of Beyoncé’s song “Sorry.” Some said Roy, who hinted as much in an April Instagram post, had an affair with the singer’s husband, Jay Z.
According to Google’s reasoning, the top “trending” queries are searches that had the highest spike in traffic over a sustained period compared with 2015. The lists of top queries are designed to reflect the news and conversations of 2016, rather than terms that are generally popular from year to year.
That makes celebrity an important part of the mix.
After Roy, the top trending designer queries were: The Row’s celebrity founders Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, reality star Angela Simmons, actress Zendaya, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Beyoncé, Indian designer Anita Dongre, the late Sonia Rykiel, the future first daughter Ivanka Trump and the always headline-worthy Kanye West.
The search importance of celebrity was clear on the Oscar fashion front as well, where the top-trending searches for red carpet dresses belonged to Jennifer Garner, newly single in a black Atelier Versace gown; Jennifer Lawrence in a sheer black Dior, and Charlize Theron, also in Dior.
While the designer and red carpet searches reveal a well-established celebrity obsession, the top 10 fashion-related questions that spiked on Google show a mix of personal confidence — “How do I start modeling?” and “How to become a fitness model?” — and a need for basic info to get them out the door.
Top questions included, “What is haute couture?”; “How to cut sleeves off a shirt?”; “What did people wear in the Nineties?”, and “How to dress like a hippie?” That showed a young do-it-yourself fashion spirit at play.
This is the audience that traditional fashion companies are struggling to attract as Gen Z is increasingly turning to social media stars and mobile apps for inspiration, communication and — eventually — to purchase.
“I see it all of the time, where clients start out trying to copy and paste their fashion from some celebrity they [see] on Instagram,” said Silicon Valley and celebrity personal stylist Mary Gonsalves Kinney.
And although social media’s calling card is “authenticity,” being “boho” or imitating a hippie through a Google search is certainly more efficient.
“They want a connect-the-dots picture to work from,” Kinney said. “The truth of the matter is, most of these celebrity fashion icons have stylists who have curated their looks to elevate their brands to a level where they will be ‘Googled.’ You won’t find a whole lot of Google searching on my end because that would be considered cheating in my industry. Besides, a cut-off sleeveless shirt isn’t good on anyone really.”
The good news is that fashion remains very relevant.
“How to become a fashion designer?” ranked as number 10 on the list of trending fashion questions, suggesting more want to get into the game themselves.
When they made that search, the top result, at least as of Wednesday, came from citytowninfo.com and advised:
1. Become familiar with the tools of the trade. Fashion designers can’t do their job if they aren’t able to put their ideas on paper and then make prototypes.
2. Apply to design school.
3. Create a professional portfolio.
4. Complete an internship.
5. Get ready to work hard.
And so the next generation starts with a search and five not necessarily so easy steps.