Social media has become part of our global connected world in a numbers of way, and recently it has changed the fashion industry. Fashion has always been a closed elitist industry and the shows is only for a small amount of people. However, social media is now opening it up for more people to both appreciate and enjoy. Many fashion brands and designers are embracing social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as a way to connect to the public on a more personal level and improve their visibility. This essay will examine three ways how social media has effected fashion industry including reconceptualising audiences, changing the nature and blurring the distinctions between professionals and amateurs.
First of all, social media reconceptualises audiences through blurring the distance between producer and consumer. According to Hinton and Hjorth (2013, p. 55), participation can take various forms of agency from user generated content (UGC), in which user’s forward content made by others, to user created content (UCC), in which the content is made by the user. Social media is essentially about ‘participation’, whether active or passive participation and it can be commenting on other people’s pictures, give it a like or retweeting. The social media platform allows designers to interact with their fans or consumer and this is the way how a brand and a designer will be seen and spread to more peoples in order to build an online presence. Moreover, they understand that their customers now are consuming social media sites and want to be concerned and get involved of their inspiration processes which lead a unique way of how many designers create their fashions. For example, ZAC Zac Posen’s Spring-Summer Ready to Wear 2015 Collection; is influenced by the comments and suggestions from his over 640,000 Instagram followers (Banks, 2014).
The maxi dress was a style in the designer's ZAC Zac Posen spring 2015 collection. Image sourced from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/02/fashion/in-fashion-inspiration-meets-social-media.html
It began with a series of sunset photos posted on his Instagram account and each one gained more than 7,000 ‘likes’. When the followers started asking for prints in these hunes, he got a new perspective of the creations. As a result, cerulean and pink silk of sunset became a mix dress in the collections. Zac Posen believed that the online feedbacks and comments from fans and customers is essential to his design process. There was a time, designers found inspiration from traveling to fashion capitols of the world or visiting galleries. Now, social media provide a new pathway that designers can receive both praise and criticism from the followers. In addition, once a customer is loyal, they are more likely to purchase more items continuously, and also have a high chance to recommend the retailer to their circle of family and friends (Evanschitzky, 2012, p. 630).Therefore, brands are now pushing designers or media marketer to further connect with customer and monetize on it through loyalty and engagement. For instance, retailers like Topshop hold a successful retail social media campaign which involves participatory culture of UCC. They encourage consumers to simultaneously market their products or lifestyles to their followers by regularly using hashtags #TopshopStyle (Samantha, 2014).
Topshop hashtag #topshopstyle. Image source from https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/topshopstyle/?hl=en
It will build belonging connection between the brands and customers which impact on establishing customer’s loyalty. Therefore, it is beneficial for fashion industry insiders to hold more UCC-based social media campaign.
Secondly, due to the convergence of technology and social media, the nature of fashion industry has been changed from closed to more democratized. Social media has brought the attention economy into the everyday lives and relationships of millions of people world-wide, and popularized attention-getting techniques like self-branding and live streaming (Marwick, 2013, p. 13). People are seeking for opportunities of being part of the experience of fashion making. Years ago, fashion show was a private, exclusive event which was only for store buyers, fashion editors, high-end customers. The access was based on a paper invitation and the name on the guest list. The pictures of the program came from the professional organization or the brand itself, but no other people. For now, everyone around the world can attend fashion week without actually attending it thanks to the advent of live streaming. Take for example of New York Fashion Week (NYFW) this February is offering live streaming via YouTube or other social network sites (Suarex, 2017).
Live Steam of New York Fashion Show. Image source from: http://www.fashionnts.com/2017/02/new-york-fashion-week-live-stream-access.html
The LiveRunway Channel broadcasted also brought behind the scenes video which can let the fans getting closer to their favourite brands. More and more bloggers are invited to the show, and capturing the show to share it to pubic immediately. Designers can interact with the audience in live steaming and also gain the feedbacks in the coming weeks. While networked publics share much in common with other types of publics, the ways in which technical structures them impossible not afford atoms that shape how people engage with these environments (Boyd, 2010). Through the speedy spreadability of social media, a new sales service of the brands appears. Topshop utilized real-time tweets to let customers shop London Fashion Week trends. Customers can purchase immediately of a list of collections that fit the trend if they tweet Topshop with a specific hashtag #LIVETRENDS (Macmillan, 2015).
TopShop #LIVETRENDS Campaign. Image source from: https://stackla.com/case-studies/topshop-london-fashion-week/
The campaign was successful and they gain an increase sales as hashtag allows people to connect the brand as well as others who are in common with them. Josh Newis-Smith who is a fashion editor, said that Customers don't want a trend six months down the line anymore, they want it as soon as possible (Collinson, 2015). Social media is changing people’s buying behaviour and shoppers has highly influenced by social media site and their friends. Therefore, through the affordance of social media, exclusive fashion industry become accessible to the public. People nowadays can interact and engage in the fashion shows and also get the new trendy products as soon as possible.
Finally, social media is blurring the distinction between professionals and amateurs. For some critics, social media is part of the rise of participatory culture, which empowers users to produce their own content, to become ‘produsers’ (Jenkins, 2006). Essentially, fashion is an idea of aesthetics and presentation, and the behaviour of people sharing their daily life style via social media site become natural. Therefore, social media site naturally become a tool to receive and share people’s aesthetic aspirations. While many people share their lifestyle or the fashions they love on Instagram, many self-proclaimed Instagram models are producing their photos and create their business. Fashion designers and brands hired a professional model with many years working experience to represent their products, but now many models started just for the love of fashion. Some of those amateur models have even come out of the blurred lines if they have a huge amount of followers, they become a professional seeming model, with client and income. It now seems to be the number of followers they have can help get in the industry easier rather than the training and experience. For example, supermodel Kendall Jenner who has 76.2 million followers on Instagram, is leading the way for a new ‘social media’ generation of Insta-models at her 21 years age (Graafland, 2016).
Kendall Jenner has 78m followers on Instagram. Image source from https://www.instagram.com/kendalljenner/
When she was 18, she has already participated in Fendi, Chanel and Elie Saab catwalks. These days it doesn’t really matter how beautiful you may be, or how many training years you may have, if you don’t have millions of followers it is not easy to entry and succeed in today’s modelling industry. Social media enable everyone to become a producer which “breaks down the boundaries between professionals and amateurs” (Bruns, 2005), as a result of many users have less of professional respectability but have created their own industries and have lots amounts of followers.
To conclude, this essay has illustrated how social media has changed fashion industry, including that designers are influenced by their fans, essentially become more democratized and the lines between professionals and amateurs are blurred. Social media has revolutionised the fashion industry. Everyone can interact with the designers, fashion events and shows via many social media sites.
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