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Fashion seeks dedicated followers with influence online

Once kept firmly at arm’s length by the fashion world, influencers are now courted alongside big celebrity names by emerging talents.

London Fashion Week takes place against a depressed economic backdrop
London Fashion Week takes place against a depressed economic backdrop - Copyright AFP JUSTIN TALLIS
London Fashion Week takes place against a depressed economic backdrop - Copyright AFP JUSTIN TALLIS
Emeline BURCKEL

Once kept firmly at arm’s length by the fashion world, influencers are now courted alongside big celebrity names by emerging talents keen to leverage their millions of online followers.

“Influencers will have a leading role in building the legitimacy of creators,” Delphine Dion, professor at France’s ESSEC Business School, told AFP.

“It is thanks to them that many designers will manage to break through.”

The cream of TikTok and Instagram flocked to Masha Popova’s show on Sunday as part of London Fashion Week.

The young Ukrainian designer counted TikTok superstar Abby Roberts, who has more than 16 million followers, among her guests.

“I was in the front row with six other influencers, so I think we are doing well,” said TikTok, Instagram and YouTube content creator Emma Winder after the show.

– Avant-garde –

To be a fashion influencer who matters, you first have to be “trusted by the big names” in the industry, said Dion.

Next you can build a name for yourself as someone with “extremely cutting-edge tastes who can help new fashion players emerge”.

“It’s exactly like the avant-garde dynamics you get in art. You look for the very niche to show you are even more fashionable than the rest,” she added.

Online influencers are increasingly courted at events such as London Fashion Week

Online influencers are increasingly courted at events such as London Fashion Week – Copyright AFP MANAN VATSYAYANA

The phenomenon is particularly visible on the catwalks at London Fashion Week, known worldwide for giving emerging talents a platform.

Fashionable influencers and stars such as Zendaya, Billie Eilish, Hailey Bieber or Kylie Jenner have been seen wearing outfits by the new generation of designers including Masha Popova, Di Petsa, Chet Lo, Feben, or Yuhan Wang.

– ‘Instant reaction’ –

It’s a win-win situation for influencers as it’s now much “cooler” to wear clothes by young designers than a luxury brand, said Elizabeth Stiles, a consultant for fashion brands.

And from the designer’s point of view, it’s “definitely faster to grow your brand through social media just through the way it works”, she said.

When an influencer posts content “you get an instant reaction, versus magazines where even on-line, it still takes time to write that article and upload it and maybe go through an approval process as well with an editor”, she added.

Social media content creators can also benefit from a good engagement rate, which measures how well their posts interact with their community.

An influencer with a high engagement rate posting a photo, dressed by a young label, is more likely to generate sales for the brand.

– ‘Everyone welcome’? –

Competition between traditional media — including specialist fashion magazines — and former fashion bloggers who are now influencers on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube is not new.

The influential British journalist Susie Lau began with her fashion blog “Style Bubble” in 2006.

Now she writes notably for the British magazine Pop and The Business of Fashion and is also followed by nearly 700,000 people on Instagram.

In an article published in Grazia in 2017 titled “Everyone should be welcome in fashion”, she said she regretted the “negative connotations” that had attached themselves to fashion bloggers, influencers and content creators.

Even as recently as February, she denounced the “gall of most print media” who still in 2023 sneered at influencers.

This, she said, was “hilarious, considering how many have adopted social media modus operandi”.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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