Instagram's head of fashion partnerships Eva Chen speaking at an Instagram business breakfast at Sydney's Beta Bar, June 14, 2018.

SYDNEY — How many big brands reach out to Eva Chen for advice about upping their Instagram game?

“More than you would think,” the company’s head of fashion partnerships told WWD in Sydney last week, during her first visit to Australia — one of at least two Asia-Pacific road shows in the pipeline, with a similar visit planned for Seoul, she revealed.

Independent of two speaking engagements — at Vogue Australia’s Vogue Codes tech summit in Melbourne and Sydney’s Vivid Festival — Chen also squeezed in three Instagram meet-ups in the two cities, where she networked with brands and influencers, giving advice about how best to leverage the platform. Chen’s mantras for Insta success include flood the feed, forget about the grid and post more video.

Traveling with Chen was a three-person team from New York, including new hire Emilie Fife, a former digital communications manager at the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Fife joined Instagram’s fashion team in April and co-facilitated the Sydney ‘Instagram Masterclass’ with Chen. She will also be traveling with Chen to Seoul to meet emerging designers there, Chen said.

“They’re visual, they pop, they photograph really well,” said Chen of some of the Australian brands that she thinks are “thriving” on the platform, including ath-leisure line P.E. Nation, custom accessories start-up The Daily Edited and Shevoke sunglasses.

While Chen admits that some of fashion’s biggest players definitely don’t need her advice — Gucci’s Alessandro Michele “uses Instagram like a Millennial uses Instagram,” according to Chen — she said she has become something of an Agony Aunt for others.

Teams that Chen reports having “sat down with” include Valentino, whose creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, coincidentally, only joined the platform last month.

“I know that [for] heritage brands that have been around for years, it’s like playing catchup,” said Chen.

“It’s really easy to say, ‘Oh well, Millennials today, this is what they want,’ but you actually have to spend time with them and understand what they want. And that’s a question I get a lot from fashion houses: ‘How do we make our ceo understand how important Instagram is?’ [I tell them] ’The next time your ceo is at an airport just ask them to look around and look at the 25-year-old girl carrying the new Gucci bag or the 23-year-old wearing the Stella McCartney sneakers. What is she doing? What app is she on?’ [Most likely] it’s Instagram — and she’s scrolling or laughing at a video.”



Seventy-nine percent of Australia’s 24 million strong population uses social media, according to the 2017 Sensis Social Media Report, which is among the world’s highest social media penetration rates.

There are nine million active monthly Australian Instagram users, which is roughly 40 percent of the population and 60 percent of Australian users follow at least one fashion account, according to Kate Box, head of retail at Facebook and Instagram Australia and New Zealand.

In March, Australia became the first Asia-Pacific country to go live with the new Shopping tool. Given that, according to Box, questions regarding the tool dominated last week’s Q&As with Chen, evidently some Australian businesses have yet to get their heads around it.

“I don’t like the little handbag [icon] — it looks too commercial to me,” said P.E. Nation cofounder Pip Edwards, who boasts 253,000 followers across her personal and business Instagram accounts.

Edwards and cofounder Claire Tregoning are anticipating P.E. Nation’s second year sales turnover will be 12 million Australian dollars, or $8.9 million at current exchange, up 131 percent on 2017 and both Instagram — and Edwards’ own social media profile — continue to play key roles in the brand’s success. On June 5, for example, 1,000 pairs of P.E. Nation’s new pink ‘Without Limits Legging’ sold out in four hours on the brand’s website, after Edwards posted a selfie of herself wearing a pair the previous day.

“Our business was built on Instagram — 1,000 percent — we were able to create a pure environment that showcased the brand values and control that and now it is our number one moneymaking tool,” she added.

“But we just don’t know if it [the Shopping tool] is really having that kickback that we thought it would have. We get [path-to-purchase data] off Insta Stories — the swipe up to shop. Obviously everyone’s across Insta Stories because it beats the algorithm. So why not keep it there and keep your grid clean?”

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