Wanna Be on Top?

Social media is creating new power dynamics in the fashion industry that an exclusive group has long ruled. Platforms like Instagram have changed the fashion cycle from a product’s inception to its eventual disposal. Is this democratization of marketing a win for the consumer, or should we expect chaos?

 Before the change makers of fashion recognized the role of influencers in their world, the fashion cycle traditionally followed clear steps. Designers create presentations almost a year before consumers wear them, and editors would attend the shows to decide on the top picks for the season. Eventually, those pieces hit the racks to purchase. With no intention of revolutionizing the pace or power of this system, Influencers and Gen-Z turned tradition on its head. 

 Influencers lacked the hierarchy of their predecessors and could track their conversion independently to point to their significant leverage. Though it took years before the fashion business recognized their force on consumer behavior, influencers now dominate the coveted first row of runway shows. They share every detail from their experience, possibly even their favorite look, before the model steps off the runway. Their adoring audiences look to them to synthesize and establish trends instantly in lieu of waiting for the next issue of Vogue. Consequently, fashion’s decision-making includes consumers, who by proxy, sit front row through their screens.

 As the chosen gatekeepers changed, so did the pace of the industry. By streamlining the exposure process, consumers want to update their wardrobes more quickly. And while we all recognize the negative impact on our planet and the increasingly impossible production speed, it may have reversed trend selection into a trickle-up structure. Additionally, those trends no longer need to fit in a single issue of a fashion magazine; they have multiplied by the number of influencers and the space in their endless feed. Cue the rise of micro-trends to complicate a dynamic system further.

 Brands and buyers have come to recognize the power of influencers dedicating significant parts of their budgets to “Instagramable” shows and collaborative promotions. With them, the industry is converting to digital spaces, emphasizing eCommerce and omni-channel social media. The generation consuming this new content on social media will not surprise you, but what might is the age of the influencers they are following.

 At 25% of our global population, Gen-Z is the largest generation in history. According to recent surveys, 66% of Gen-Z consumers reported that social media is essential to their lives, and 65% have increased their use of social media in the last year.* However, the current average age of an influencer is 30, more than twice the age of the youngest members of Gen-Z. Currently, millennials are the main influencers, and Gen-Z is the largest generation consuming their content. Yet in five years, the oldest members of Gen-Z will turn 30, indicating that they will be the influencers and consumers, controlling the most considerable avenue impacting consumer behavior. 

 Like many significant cultural shifts in our history, we cannot understand the impact of this shift while experiencing it.  Brands no longer have the luxury of opting out of social media. What they can do is establish values that transcend any medium and invest in social media experts that are dedicated to the balance of brand longevity and responding to the moment. As is true with all things, the position of “influence” is bound to evolve again, and only then will we clearly see the impact of the players of this moment.

Source: *“How Different Generations Use Social Media —- and What This Means for Your Business.” Sprout Social, July 22, 2022.

Claire Grisolano is the founder of Early Riser Marketing, which offers social media consulting for brands of all sizes looking to increase their audience, impact and conversion. As an expert in social media and brand messaging, she is tapped into the latest tools and insights of the platforms that are notorious for constant change and has almost a decade of experience working in fashion and studying the relationship between fashion and technology.