Gone are the days when designers of luxury brands monopolised the fashion scene in determining the next season’s fashion trends. Forecasting and predicting trends no longer define what brands design or retailers carry, simply because the Internet has sped up the turnover of fashion trends significantly. New trends emerge everyday and die at an immensely faster rate, in which brands, influencers, celebrities and media play key roles in influencing the fashion trends. Apart from celebrities, fashion influencers have emerged in leading fashion trends, especially amongst millennials.
One of the key determinants of social media is the following, also known as their followers. The more followers they have, the higher their popularity and reach. Celebrities and global icons such as Selena Gomez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ariana Grande and Beyonce each have more than 100 million followers on Instagram (Keong and Epstein, 2018). Due to their large followings, they are common advocators for product endorsements, sponsored content and press features.
In fact, it seems that it’s not about what you wear but rather who you are.
Celebrities with big following are now defining fashion trends
A prominent example of a celebrity streetwear trend that took the world by storm was Kanye West's "Ripped Homeless Sweaters", which was launched as part of Kanye West x Adidas Yeezy Season 1 in 2016.
While this sweater was created and endorsed by Kanye West himself, it costs around £1,744 to own. Not taking into account the (lack of) quality and fabric of this sweater, it seems almost crazy to pay this much for a sweatshirt that was even styled as "homeless". Take Kanye West out of the equation, and suddenly the value of this sweater differs a lot.
We see how social media was heavily utilised in the launch of these products. Millennial now often wait for a brand to release (or “drop”), which means the sales start for the streetwear label’s latest offering. It involves watching the count down of the clock to the moment of sale, a race to place an order, and much hype on social media (Chadwick, 2016).
The combination of a coveted label, suddenly available new product and very limited quantities often created plenty of media buzz, demand and immediately sold out goods (Dool, 2017).
It's a tactic that many streetwear labels have used to draw customers to its international brick-and-mortar stores. That said, drops are also extremely frustrating and stressful. Shoppers have to deal with fighting crowds, waiting in lines for hours, if not days, in advance. If the drop includes an online sale, shoppers typically lose the sale of products to automated bots that are programmed to scoop up exclusives faster than humans can (ibid).
Social Media Promotes Fast(er) Fashion
Instagram has truly claimed dominance in establishing fashion fads globally. With social media, fashion styles and looks have become ephemeral in nature as users can effortlessly access such information at their fingertips. They see a trend, adopt it and move on. In addition, with social media being unconstrained by geographical boundaries or timing limitations, it has made fashion trends far more complicated and unpredictable.
Indeed, trends have lost their momentum with the age of Internet and social media. For companies, it’s not about forecasting but the speed of responsiveness to customers’ demand. Thanks to the concept of "fast fashion", we see clothing, shoes, and accessories that mimic pieces from the world's top fashion houses in just a few weeks (The Content Page, 2018). Spanish apparel company, Zara, is the role model of fast fashion. In just 25 days, they can take a product from design to store. With a highly responsive supply chain, they have been able to stay on top of trends and deliver new fashion effectively.
Here's how the magic happens:
Due to social media, these companies are able to update the masses and continue to thrive on fast fashion trends, all due to visual-focused social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and tumblr. With the added purchasing functions on Instagram and Pinterest, it makes it so easy for consumers to tap a few buttons and purchase the items instantly.
However, the pursuit of fast fashion has its negative impacts - it encourages people to over-consume, and to buy much more than they need. Since clothing designs are generated so much faster at such cheap prices (another negative aspect of globalisation and outsourcing), consumers are not thinking twice when making purchases. This has inevitably resulted in a massive amount of clothing being sent to landfills globally.
Social Media Has Created More Room for Diversity
Above everything, social media has definitely introduced diversity to the fashion industry (The Fashion Network, 2018). People who felt unrepresented in traditional forms of fashion media now have the power to change that, especially with regards to the content that they follow. It is now much easier to find people who they can relate to with regards to body image and lifestyle. Furthermore, it allows them to find their own communities that are drawn to the same body or fashion ideals.
This has definitely created more room for freedom of expressions and opportunities to gain public recognition by individuals such as you and me. Because of social media, consumers are also contributors (ibid), where they get to create and define their own styles, message and art form.
Social Media is a Double-Edged Sword
With fashion trends changing everyday, companies have to learn to be flexible, adaptive and most importantly, pro-active in deciphering emerging and dying fads. Social media is a powerful tool that can inspire some and tear others apart. Companies, influencers, celebrities and individuals all have a role and moral duty to use these platforms positively.
Written by Wendi Lai
Chadwick, S. (2016). How Kanye West and Adidas are conquering the millennial market. [online] The Conversation. Available at: http://theconversation.com/how-kanye-west-and-adidas-are-conquering-the-millennial-market-66035 [Accessed 2 Apr. 2019].
Dool, S. (2017). Will The Year of 'The Drop' Change Fashion Forever?. [online] Fashionista. Available at: https://fashionista.com/2017/11/fashion-drop-trend-retail-strategy-2017 [Accessed 3 Apr. 2019].
Keong, L. and Epstein, R. (2018). The Top 10 Most-Followed Celebrities on Instagram in 2018. [online] Marie Claire. Available at: https://www.marieclaire.com/celebrity/a23863/most-followed-celebrities-on-instagram-in-2016/ [Accessed 2 Apr. 2019].
The Content Plug. (2018). How Social Media Has Changed The Fashion Industry. [online] Available at: https://www.thecontentplug.co/blog/social-media-fashion [Accessed 2 Apr. 2019].
The Fashion Network. (2018). How Social Media Has Changed the Game in the Fashion Industry - The Fashion Network. [online] Available at: https://thefashionetwork.com/how-social-media-has-changed-the-game-in-the-fashion-industry/ [Accessed 2 Apr. 2019].