LONDON — Tiffany Hsu cut her teeth in the industry training as a buyer at the likes of Lane Crawford and Selfridges and currently serves as the fashion buying director of Mytheresa.com. Since she started documenting much of her professional life on Instagram — sharing snaps from the front row, her favorite showroom pieces and her own outfits — she also managed to grow a following of 57,000 and create a platform of her own to promote all the projects and brand partnerships she works on as a buyer.
Given her visibility on social media, she has become the de facto face of Mytheresa, hosting events for the retailer and even modeling the latest collections she bought, for images that appear on its web site and social media. While Hsu sees a clear distinction between her skills as a buyer and her ability to attract swarms of street-style photographers outside the shows, she believes that in a competitive retail landscape having a big voice — and social media visibility — matters.
Here, she talks to WWD about how she navigates the social media landscape as a buyer and the importance of following, as well as leading.
WWD: What were some of the biggest shifts in the retail that have resulted from the rise of social media?
Tiffany Hsu: You definitely see a change in the speed of things selling out so quickly, the speed of people getting to the web site and talking about a brand or a product. Also, it means the product turnaround is really fast. It gives the customer an appetite of constantly wanting newness because everything is so accessible. That’s where e-commerce comes in, from picture to product it can all happen within 24 hours. It’s definitely made everyone’s jobs a lot harder. Also, people no longer shop ahead of season. Where you go and what you wear once you are there is much more influential because of social media. It’s much more about the experience within a certain lifestyle, so as a retailer we have to cater to that lifestyle now. It’s no longer just about who can afford the most expensive pieces anymore.
WWD: How do you use social media in your day-to-day job?
T.H.: I use Instagram for inspiration. I also read a lot of information on Instagram, I can get breaking news faster there than anywhere else. It’s all about getting things instantly now, so I think it goes a little bit beyond just fashion. You can use social media to get a well-rounded understanding of what’s happening around the world: politics, news, the environment, whatever people are talking about. Our customers are savvy and very well-informed about everything, so if you don’t keep up to date, you’re always a step behind. You can also use the platform to get an idea of customers’ and influencers’ engagement with certain brands before the product even arrives on the site. It’s an indicator of what the market is looking for.
WWD: Who do you tend to follow?
T.H.: A lot of puppies! And a mixture of brands and influencers, of course. I follow the type of brands that put out more inspirational content and who are pioneers in this game. Similarly, influencers who create original content and lead trends. I follow a lot of new brands, which I might have never heard of, but I might be drawn to their content. I tend to monitor them for a while and then perhaps reach out for more information.
WWD: Does the social media buzz around a brand influence your decision on whether to buy the label or not?
T.H.: I don’t tend to judge a brand based on their number of Instagram followers. There are brands that have a lot of buzz, but it’s important for me that they are relevant to our customer. I’ll follow them for a few seasons before buying into them in order to see if they have consistency. Bella Hadid wearing one of their tops is not enough. I also pick up brands that might only have 13,000 followers because what’s important is their level of creativity and the content that they create.
WWD: You also work with a lot of influencers to create content around the exclusive capsules on Mytheresa.com. How do you choose the influencers you work with?
T.H.: We need to be creating great content to engage our customers. When it comes to influencers, they help us reach out to a new audience, people who love them and want to see the product translated their way. The content they create around the capsules is so important because it’s authentic and genuine. It’s not a model or a brand or a retailer telling you that they love it, it’s a real person wearing something that caught their eye. So we pick influencers who suit the product, if it looks too fabricated, customers immediately know.
WWD: What do you think of Instagram’s new shoppable features?
T.H.: Instagram’s job is to influence and inform people about what is going on. The new shoppable features gives you the ability to make instant choices, you can go from being influenced to purchasing the product in seconds. You no longer have to go out and look for it. As a retailer, it makes [the route to purchase] more direct. But I think people still want to be directed to the site or the store app, because we have almost 240 brands and can’t feature every single brand on Instagram. Also, when you overload people with product advertising, it’s quite annoying. Your content needs to stay fresh because the whole point is to inspire people; I don’t want to look at an account that pushes out a different pair of shoes every three seconds.
WWD: Why has street style had such a huge impact on driving sales?
T.H.: Because those are real people who really relate to the product. Images definitely drive trends at times, the sporty aesthetic of mixing street and luxury definitely came from street style, for instance. It’s a great way to communicate that this is not a model, this is a real person and it provides a new way of promoting a product and getting people excited about it.
WWD: How has social media influenced your own career?
T.H.: I’ve worked my way up to my position. I was around before social media, and [in my role] you to have to be experienced and professional in handling millions of dollars. Having a picture taken is not going to change that, but it does bring an additional advantage when people know who you are, and you have a slightly bigger voice. It’s another channel to promote what I’m doing.
WWD: Do you think about the impact of street-style pictures, circulating on Instagram and driving sales, when you are getting dressed for the shows?
T.H.: I do get photographed, so I think about what I wear, but I don’t do product placements. I also rarely plan outfits, so my husband calls me a “fashion disaster” because I have so many panics in the morning. There might be a bag I’m wearing from our seasonal buy because I just happen to think it’s cool, but I never think: “I have 500 units of this bag to sell, so I’m going to wear it to the shows.” It’s a bit much for my brain. I think [a street-style look] has to reflect your personality, so that it’s authentic and not staged. People who have a strong street-style presence also have a very strong point of view. I don’t like head-to-toe branded looks.
WWD: What are some of the brands you are excited about for fall 2018?
T.H.: We are launching Junya Watanabe, a real highlight for me because it’s been a long time coming and they had a really strong last season with a lot of great outerwear and knit options. We also picked up Matthew Adams Dolan, who is great with suiting; Nanushka, and Rokh. Another brand that’s not new but doing better and better is Alexandre Vauthier for that sexy Eighties look.