When I was a little girl, I pined over my only portal into the fashion world: the glossy pages of magazines. If you had told me that one day, I would have direct access to the crazy world of fashion from a tiny phone screen, I would have brushed it off as something from The Matrix. I grew up in what is now referred to as the “traditional” fashion era, and I was obsessed with all things fashion. Those magazines were my bible, and I acted on just about every word.
At the time, I had a sense that I was far removed from the glamorous world of fashion, but I did not understand the extent to which trends were decided for me. Industry gatekeepers—like buyers for major retailers and magazine editors—kept fashion exclusive. They had their kingdom of trend-happy consumers under tight control. Fashion Weeks consisted of runway shows where high-profile editors and endorsed celebrities sat in the front row, and the chosen pieces from designer collections would not be seen in stores for another four to six months.
This model worked well for some time, but the rise of social media has diversified the power of fashion in many ways. The magazine editors and buyers still hold powerful influence, but the equation has expanded to include the voice of the average consumer.
Consumers are smarter than ever because of the variety of products to choose from, the constant evolution of technology and the all-access mindset of social media. As they say, knowledge is power. Today’s landscape of fashion is changing dramatically, and the average consumer is becoming more and more empowered.
The rise of influencer fashion
If a new designer collection is on the runway, you can watch the fashion show from your couch with livestreaming platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Designers recognize the purchasing power that consumers hold, and today, that buying power means more than that of the traditional industry gatekeepers.
If you see a blogger wearing an outfit you love on Instagram, you can find and purchase the items right from your phone and have them delivered to your door thanks to shoppable applications that integrate with social media, like rewardStyle, ShopStyle and LIKEtoKNOW.it.
In fact, what bloggers are wearing on Instagram and other social media outlets has created such an impact on the way that consumers shop that retailers have reached out to them for content collaborations.
For instance, blogger Jacie Duprey of Damsel in Dior is an ambassador for Old Navy, mixing its affordable options with her own designer style to create one-of-a-kind looks.
Some bloggers have even had the chance to create collections of their own. Julie Sariana of Sincerely Jules has been designing her own shop, Shop Sincerely Jules, since 2012. Thanks to its popularity, it was picked up by Nordstrom in July 2016.
The demand for the fashion opinion of consumers and consumers—who are often referred to as fashion influencers—on social media and in the fashion landscape is stronger than ever.
Moving toward real-time buying
Social media has also lifted the veil for consumers of the innermost workings of the fashion world in an interactive way that a magazine page never could—and the all-access pass from social media couldn’t be more intriguing.
Fashion designers have adapted to the almost-insatiable shopping appetite of their consumers by creating a strong presence on social media, including revealing collections in real-time (as opposed to the six-month lag time I mentioned before).
The idea of deterring consumers from fast fashion retailers—a.k.a. fashion copycats—has become more rampant than ever. With a desire to protect their collections from cheaper copycats while still satisfying their customer, the “see now, buy now” direct-to-consumer fashion model has evolved on social media and on the internet.
The see now, buy now model centered around the consumer’s changing purchasing habits seen on social media is attributed to fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff. Minkoff is a popular contemporary designer known for being a pioneer in the fashion and technology industries. She always holds the digital full-circle consumer experience as the utmost priority within her brand, and her consumer prioritization has increased her brand loyalty with consumers and influencers alike at a time where brand loyalty is fizzling away. In fact, you can find some of the biggest social media influencers walking her catwalk, such as Arielle Charnas from Something Navy and Shea Marie from Peace Love Shea.
With the help of her brother and business partner, Uri Minkoff, Rebecca Minkoff has strived to push the fashion industry forward in a way that centers around consumer’s changing tastes and preferences seen on social media, and other brands are taking note.
She opened interactive boutiques that include an interesting virtual reality experience as a way to streamline our (the consumer) experiences in-store with the likes of the customer preferred social media shopping apps experience.
On the same note, customers can order items to try on in their dressing rooms via touch-screen mirrors. In September 2015, she began making virtual-reality headsets available so customers could watch streams of her VR content on their iPhones, including her fashion shows as another touchpoint for consumers to see and purchase her latest collections. Her first see now, buy now fashion show—where store buyers could instantly purchase the clothes being shown and put them into production— occurred in September 2016.
The butterfly effect of accessible fashion
With the rise of fast fashion competing for consumers’ attention and easily shoppable social media posts on Facebook and Instagram, consumers are finding themselves with overflowing closets. This insatiable shopping appetite does not mean we have insatiable closets.
Luckily, another empowering benefit of social media is that it has made it easy for consumers to sell their clothes just like retailers. With social media, consumers can easily reach a community of interest and sell their clothes without the overhead of a second-hand shop.
Many consumers have turned to Facebook Marketplace or Instagram to post listings of their second-hand clothing successfully. Additionally, second-hand clothing retail sites like thredUP are becoming more popular than ever. The web of connections that social media has opened up for consumers helps them buy and sell fashion items easier than ever.
It is almost unbelievable that just under 25 years ago, the first New York Fashion Week was taking form, and now Rebecca Minkoff has added a VR element to her brand and consumers are selling their clothes online left and right.
Even more so, my all-access experience with fashion today is in stark contrast with the one I experienced as a little girl, where my personal fashion world was limited to print magazines. Right now, I have the luxury of absentmindedly opening Instagram to scroll through photos of street style in a network of people I admire, while also connecting with the followers of my fashion blog, The Crystal Press. I am so thankful for the experience and empowerment that social media has provided to a consumer like myself and so many others, especially in an industry that I’ve watched with sparkling eyes from afar for so long.
A glamorous world that was once seen as exclusive and far off in the future is approaching quickly, and it’s hard to say what might come next. From diversified power in the hands of the customers to the experience of seeing and purchasing fashion collections in real-time, I am excited to see where the world of fashion is heading. Thanks to social media, the words “fashion forward” have a whole new meaning.
Catherine Claire is a stylist, blogger and fashion influencer. She is the co-founder of The Crystal Press and curates content for her own blog, Cathclaire. She draws on her expertise to write for thredUP, an online and offline thrift store, on everything from socially responsible clothing brands to the landscape of the fashion industry.