LONDON: Once snubbed by the closed world of fashion, influencers are now courted like the biggest celebrities, in particular by emerging talents who count on them to establish their name.
They are present en masse this week at London Fashion Week.
The cream of TikTok and Instagram flocked to Masha Popova’s fashion show on Sunday. The young Ukrainian designer, who graduated from the prestigious Central Saint Martins school in 2020, included among her guests TikTok superstar Abby Roberts, followed by more than 16 million people, and her sister Charlotte Roberts, who has nearly 9 million followers .
Emma Winder, content creator on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube was also present. “I was in the front row with six other influencers, so I think we did well,” she told AFP after the parade.
“Influencers will have a leading role in building the legitimacy of creators,” Delphine Dion, professor at ESSEC Business School, explains to AFP. “It is thanks to them that many creators will succeed in breaking through.”
To be a fashion influencer that counts, you must first be “trusted by the big names” in the industry, she explains.
Then comes the time to distinguish yourself, to unearth gems to establish your legitimacy as an influencer “with extremely cutting-edge tastes, who will allow new players in fashion to emerge”.
“It’s exactly like the avant-garde dynamics that we can find in art,” says Ms. Dion, “the idea of looking for what is much more niche to show that we are even more fashionable than the others.
The phenomenon is particularly visible on stages like London Fashion Week, known for the space it gives to emerging talents.
The new generation of designers like Masha Popova, Di Petsa, Chet Lo, Feben, or Yuhan Wang, have been seen worn by fashionable influencers and stars like Zendaya, Billie Eilish, Hailey Bieber or Kylie Jenner.
The dynamic is win-win. For influencers, it is now much “cooler” to wear clothes from young designers rather than a luxury brand “to show that you have a lot of money”, explains Elizabeth Stiles, consultant for brands, to AFP fashion.
And for creators, “it’s quicker to grow your brand with social networks given how they work,” she continues.
When an influencer posts content, “you get an immediate reaction” from their community, when it takes longer for a press article, adds Ms. Stiles.
Social media content creators can 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.
“In China, where the phenomena of social imitation are much more developed, it is something incredible,” continues Delphine Dion.
A phenomenon that dates
Competition between specialized fashion magazines and former fashion bloggers, now influencers on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube, is not new.
British journalist Susie Lau, who writes for the British magazine Pop and The Business of Fashion, and is followed by some 700,000 people on Instagram, began by launching her fashion blog “Style Bubble” in 2006.
In an article published in Grazia in 2017 titled “Everyone should be welcome in fashion”, she said she regretted “the negative connotations of the role of a fashion blogger. Or digital content creators. Or influencers”.
In February 2023, she further castigated in an Instagram post “the nerve of most print media in 2023 to mock influencers in the subtext of their critiques”.