Preparing for a career in fashion is exciting, as it should be. It is a dynamic, creative industry that has recently began to evolve to the demands of a digitalized age. With an ever-evolving landscape trying to keep ahead of the trends it has become a priority implementing new ways to connect with customers, build strong relationships and increase social engagement to drive overall growth.
When the financial crisis hit in 2008, retailers were faced with a dilemma, how to deal with the economic instability that was plaguing the world market and the psychological effects this had on the consumer. The plummeting of stock market and loss of jobs sent the fashion industry into high alert. Even the wealthy were hesitant to make high-end luxury purchases. Rolling out new season styles when stores were seeing a drastic decline in sales held a grim outlook on the future of fashion.[i]
To manage market shrinkage for the upscale segment, it is important to understand the role of social media and its relevance not only to the upsurge in sales but also brand management and recognition since the market seemingly bottomed out.
Recently 16-year old Brooklyn Beckham, son of David and Victoria Beckham, was selected by Burberry for their latest photography campaign as the lead photographer calling the shots. Emotions were quick to escalate, questioning the fashion house’s decision. Many industry professionals were rash in their reactions and commentary believing Burberry’s action was an insult to every established artist who has honed their craft over the course of years, networking and building a portfolio. Many went onto condemn celebrities for buying their children opportunities unavailable to the commoner off the street.[ii]
To the cynic’s surprise, Burberry’s boss, Christopher Bailey, suggested that the fashion house’s decision to hire Brooklyn was not based upon his parent’s elevated status, but rather had much to do with Brooklyn’s 5.9 million Instagram followers that landed him the project.[iii]
This is the new reality in today’s modern age of digital connectedness and globalization. Social media is the way of the future. “The question is no longer if and when luxury brands should embrace digital opportunities, but how as well.”[iv] In today’s interdependent world, it is not so much your experience per ce, but frankly, it hasn’t been for a long time. Before it was all about who you knew, network was key, and this idea has just evolved to fit the digital age. It is now the number of followers on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter that turn heads and get up-and-coming talent recognized.
Young or old, creating personal branding and a digital presence is important. Mario Testino, a veteran, highly esteemed fashion photographer, widely regarded as one of the most influential of our times. His recent work, Towel Series, published on his Instagram has become a viral success. Testino reports he is always trying to grow as an artist and make work exciting. Although his reputation speaks for itself, he has found in order to continue his legacy, he must embrace digital media. He looks at social media as an outlet to express his “voice,” stepping out from behind the imagery he produces, to be both a curator and the creator of such great works. In regards to embracing the trends in tech, he finds it challenging to combine his creative and commercial sensibilities. By allowing his fans into his creative space, he is not only inspired to create a better image, but engage in building a greater audience globally.[v] “You have to constantly be questioning yourself and renewing yourself- hard work, insecurities redefining who I am, what I do and how well I can relate to clients.”[vi] Testino recognizes the value of social media and aspires to create an avenue for the new avant garde in fashion photography to learn and grow, to see a well-established artist who has embraced his craft and the changing times.
3 Key Platforms for Fashion Houses:
Burberry- Brooklyn’s behind-the scenes pictures and videos when shared on the company’s social media channels, Instagram and Snapchat, received some 15 million impressions all in the mere 8 hours the shoot was live. The leading luxury brand has nearly 40 million followers across some 20 different platforms. The fashion house has now become a media content producer in addition to a fashion design company.[vii]
It is important to note that not all fashion houses are jumping on the band wagon and following suit, embracing the coming of age in social media. The reason for this hesitation is the concern about the loss of control these fashion houses have over their brand image. There are some strict principles that designers abide in order to maintain the uniqueness of luxury and preserve the non-comparability of their brands.[viii] This is a minor issue when social media marketing campaigns can be customized in such a way to convey the prestige and exclusivity of the brand. According to Emma Parlons, head of digital at the fashion and beauty public relations agency Push PR, “They [the fashion houses] don’t reveal too much. What we see is highly curated.”[ix]
Control aside, whatever the fashion industry is doing in regards to sharing, tweeting, and posting, it is effective. Social media is a marketing tool for connecting brands with their captive audience, building relationships and encouraging loyalty. In an economic environment that needed a boost. Social media tackled market shrinkage in the luxury segment and has paved the way for the future of brand engagement.
When studying for a fashion management degree, think about how to stay innovative in an ever-changing sphere where interconnectedness weighs heavy on success. A career in fashion is now more multi-faceted that it has ever been. Personal and commercial branding on social media, building an audience and creating sound relations with your target market will make you stand out and get noticed. “It is not what you know, it is who you know” has evolved, take your network viral.
By Emily Dawn Szajda, GBSB Global Content Manager
[i] [viii] Mohr, Iris. The Impact of Social Media on the Fashion Industry. Journal of Applied Business and Economics vol. 15(2) 2013. Retrieved from http://m.www.na-businesspress.com/JABE/MohrI_Web15_2_.pdf.
[v] [vi] Bazilian, Emma. 12 September 2016. Why Legendary Fashion Phtographer Mario Testino I Embracing Digital Media. Adweek. Retrieved from http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/why-legendary-fashion-photographer-mario-testino-embracing-digital-media-173317