Social media gives fashion industry a total makeover

Saturday September 26 2015

Image-driven platforms like Instagram have

Image-driven platforms like Instagram have helped make the world even more accessible. Anyone from anywhere can come across your brand of social media. PHOTO| FILE 

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The past week has been a busy, critical one for the global fashion industry. The Emmys, BoF 500, Forbes list of the highest earning supermodels and New York Fashion Week are some examples. They brought to the fore lessons on the digital age.

Take the Forbes list for instance. Gisele topped the list, again, with earnings aggregated at $44m. But the most striking thing about this list is that money was not the shocker. The real stunner was the power of social media.

The world’s top models are huge brands on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Kendall Jenner, a Kardashian sister, has more followers on all her social platforms than there are citizens in this country. It turns out supermodels reap from their influence as personalities and brands, not just looks.

A study by the University of Southern California this September analysed the Instagram accounts of 400 models and said it “could predict with 80 per cent accuracy who will be the hottest faces in the fashion industry.”

Endorsements are inspired by a popular model with a knack for authenticity. With their own platforms as well as creative control models don’t even have to land magazine covers to get bigger.  

It underscores the relationship the fashion industry has with Instagram. They love it.

Fashion is a visual industry and all about storytelling. Two years back Facebook attracted luxury brands. Now even brands with other social media accounts are leaning heavily on Instagram.

Instagram is playing ball too. Instashoot is a concept designed specifically around #NYFW. Brands want a lot off this platform; exclusivity, engagement, brand building and sometimes even talent search.

According to the BoF,  fashion is finding more engagement with consumers here than on other platforms.


Brands can go behind the scenes, share exclusive content, post short videos, share the process of designing their collection and invite followers into their world, literally, with bespoke events inside of a time window.

They can share those parts of a runway collection no one ever gets to see. It is, for them, like owning a real time channel.

It is not just the designers though. Bloggers, hair and makeup artists, fashion magazines, media personalities and photographers find ways to collaborate with brands.

Even better, brands are using Instagram to sell their products and services. Then there is that thing called advertising. Brands also choose to measure engagement and an increase in the number of followers as a sign what they are doing is working.

It is the closest they can get to being able to quantify. For a long time, the fashion industry was unsure how to handle social media.

It seems to be announcing its preference and creating something of a trend. Influential personalities who previously avoided and swore against it now boast of millions of followers. Twitter has not proven popular except maybe for the fashion media.

Their business is words after all.

Locally, the use of social media is abysmal. Fashion brands don’t have a presence unless they exist behind, or on the face of the founder. Mostly they are part of a personal profile.

They are yet to gain independent brand identities. Our models are oblivious to the wealth of international opportunities available outside Kenya. There is no effort to grow personal brands or any sort of presence.

This despite the fact more people are getting discovered online. Fashion events and shows have not captured the imagination. Social media is quick. People log on in matatus, queues, waiting rooms, clubs, restaurants – in fact, it would seem no one ever even logs off!

We love our Facebook in Kenya. Instagram is still peripheral and Twitter captures a small portion of the fashion community. .

There is little attempt to push brands, never mind boundaries. Online there are no compartments. Anyone from anywhere can come across your brand. Borders are no barrier in an age of social media.

Increasingly, at the edge of that post lies a pot of gold. The Kenyan fashion industry needs to ask itself: if a brand exists in the real world, and social media is not there to document it, does the brand still exist?