"Visibility is something we're all after, and social media delivers."
No one can deny that social media is a big part of our society as a whole, so of course it wouldn’t be any different when talking about the fashion world – fashion shows being shown on Instagram or TikTok lives, most of the marketing of all brands is also happening there and many more examples – and another thing we know for sure is that it's current cultural gold in terms of identifying trends, so we could only use it to its all, and all signs point to social media as a tool that progresses the democratization of fashion. It was a shift that has been in motion for a while, but got a lot slower during the pandemic when nearly everything happened on our screens. This period of time gave increased access and visibility to events like fashion week shows, which had a very limited audience – or no audience at all. Suddenly anyone around the world who wanted to watch a fashion show could do that, and we would all have the same on-screen view as insiders, which of course brought the interest of many more people, as well as started a lot of the quarantine trends we all saw. After all those changes, those outsiders have really valuable things to say, adding a lo to the democratization of fashion through their voice on social media. With that being said, it’s important that we understand how the industry has changed and how we should consider the impact of social media when tapping into current cultural aesthetics.
For decades, the fashion industry worked mainly as a top-down termometer where models with perfect catwalks and big celebrities were the major – and even the only – indicator of all the next big trends. As trend forecasters, the cultural aspects would always work as a guiding source of inspiration for our future predictions, and now fashion influencers on social media also need to be tracked for both identifying aesthetics and confirming trends – sometimes even more than the models and famous artists do. At this point, the business of trends is more and more turning upside down and becoming a lot more bottom-up with the rise of influencers on social media – even though both trickle down and up and some theories are proving to be valid simultaneously. Both approaches play off of one another and work together, and we can see it clearly as we watch catwalk front rows being expanded to include more influencers each season and even one of the most pretigious events in fashion, the MET gala, has opened their doors to TikTockers, influencers and youtubers. Along with all that, social media has also created and given space to new fashion critics that are blurring the lines between being influencers and being journalists, and a great thing about them it that they are focused almost totally on educating Gen Z followers, that are usually the majority of their audience – and young people actually seem to listen to them.
From an industry standpoint, it's crucial for us to make sure we’re paying attention to what’s happening on social media no matter what role or market we're working in. There have been several consumer shifts as well as business opportunities that have surfaced and grown on social media, such as the vintage and resale market – that becomes more popular every day – and a lot of new takes and opinions in fast fashion. The secondhand market has been talked about by influencers posting their vintage pieces on TikTok and Instagram, and the rising interest in vintage and resale is very much a result of thrifting as a lifestyle and the hunt of finding something cool, novelty, edgy or whatever brings up that nostalgic feeling that Gen Z seems to love.
It's clear that social media has become not only a community, but much more than that. It is now a space where both creatives and consumers discover new products and can communicate directly about their needs, wants and everything else. The social component has certainly challenged traditional relationships between brands and retailers with consumers, which is why we'll continue to see innovation grow in this space. Something else that makes the social content so valuable today is the nature of it being real time informational entertainment – people are much more attracted to content that is fast, informative and fun all at the same time, anything longer than three minutes is getting scrolled. Also, the secret ingredient that Gen Z adds makes it a lot more relatable and authentic, particularly in the case of TikTok and Instagram reels. The speed at which trends seem to occur is way faster because social media is all about being instant, as compared to printed monthly publications or even big articles being published in blogs – and don't even get me started with books. However, we must also consider that most of the trends showing up all around social media are micro trends that might not lat for long, but those relate to macro movements that extend well beyond several months.
We all probably remember the butt-scrunch leggings of 2020 which can be said were the first of many social-media fueled items to come, like the Skims' long slip dress in 2021 and most recently those PosterGirl-ish clothes that come in very small sizes and stretch when you put it on. But there’s something even more buzzy than specific items, and these are the aesthetics coined with clever hashtags by Gen Z such as cottagecore, darkacademia, oldmoneystyle and barbiecore – that's even a discussion worth having: do we need to name everything 'core'?. Let’s take one of these to use as example, like #coastalgrandmother, a latter that has currently garnered over 180M views since it originated on TikTok by Lex Nicoleta in March. What's interesting about this summer aesthetic is that it's not particularly new, but a reinvention of something already known. Think beachy wardrobe of timeless linen separates and sweaters tied around the neck. It's not exactly cutting edge, right? It’s actually more of a sustainable trend comprised of layered wardrobe essentials, so we can understand that what gave this aesthetic new life is quite frankly the hashtag that was made for it and TikTok's nature of reposting. That caused the aesthetic to spread and caught on fast, and even though #coastalgrandmother may not have been seen on any moodboard or For You Pages before March of this year, retailers and brands could still capitalize on it this just by using the hashtag on their posts when they have applicable looks or concepts.
With all that being sad, it's cristal clear that social media has changed the way we perceive maketing, industry, society and, of course, the way we perceive fashion as a whole, as it is a little bit of all those things combined. Influencer culture has evolved to so much more than just personal lifestyle, or #ootd with newcomers getting in the space and adding value, cultivating aesthetics and engaging with new communities of people. No matter what social media platform you choose – you should use them all – as someone working in fashion, I think we could all agree that it's invaluable to tap into current cultural aesthetics and have more and more people promoting their brands or even themselves. Visibility is something we're all after, and social media delivers.