UN­DER THE IN­FLU­ENCE

When it comes to style, do we fol­low our in­stincts or are we just drink­ing the Kool-Aid from fash­ion’s lat­est muse? Divya Bala charts the in­flu­encers chang­ing the world’s shopping pat­terns.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - The Style -

For most of us, it starts in school and those first at­tempts at try­ing to work out whom we would like to be. There’s the un­de­ni­able draw of that girl: with art­fully tou­sled hair and per­fect skin, she stood out from among an as­sem­bly of fid­gety teens for look­ing com­pletely com­fort­able in her skin. If she flat-ironed her hair, you knew that next week every­one else would too. If she bought cig­a­rette-cut jeans, you might find yourself in a fit­ting room that Satur­day con­sid­er­ing a pair, per­haps to cap­ture some of that ef­fort­less­ness for yourself. That same girl spent her Satur­days watch­ing Love Story and study­ing the cover of the Ra­mones’s Rocket To Rus­sia to get her in­spi­ra­tion. The power of in­flu­ence over our style has al­ways been strong, it’s just that these days there’s a busi­ness be­hind it.

Ac­cord­ing to stud­ies con­ducted late last year, 70 per­cent of shop­pers say they look to in­de­pen­dent blog­gers, friends, and fam­ily for in­spi­ra­tion. Eighty-four per­cent of mar­keters said they would launch at least one in­flu­encer-led cam­paign in 2017, and nearly 40 per­cent of Twit­ter users say they’ve made a pur­chase as a di­rect re­sult of a tweet from an in­flu­encer. This wave of in­flu­encers may not be house­hold names, but they hold sway over their ded­i­cated fol­low­ers, who ob­sess over every look they wear—think Chiara Fer­ragni (10 mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers), Aimee Song (4.6 mil­lion), Kristina Bazan (2.4 mil­lion), or Danielle Bern­stein (1.7 mil­lion). An in­flu­encer with 1.5 mil­lion fol­low­ers can charge about USD90,000 per In­sta­gram post.

For retailers, that fig­ure could be a shrewd in­vest­ment. “I think these women are in­te­gral to fash­ion—they bring trends to life, they per­son­alise pieces, they of­fer a fresh per­spec­tive on the sta­tus quo, pro­vid­ing ideas, styling things in new and un­ex­pected ways so it doesn’t feel so cookie-cut­ter,” says Coco Chan, head of wom­enswear at Style­bop.com. “Two days after Ri­hanna’s [Fenty x Puma] line ar­rived, we sold out on the satin bow-lace sneak­ers [which RiRi wore sev­eral times]. This fol­lowed the same pat­tern as the furry slides, not to men­tion the creep­ers, which we can never keep in stock, even after mul­ti­ple or­ders.”

Sara Don­ald­son of Harper and Har­ley and co-founder of e-com­merce store The Un­done un­der­stands this phe­nom­e­non in­ti­mately. Hav­ing made the move from blog­ger to bou­tique owner, she cre­ated a busi­ness model with part­ner Ge­or­gia Martin in­spired by her ob­ser­va­tions as an in­flu­encer. “Part of the rea­son we cre­ated The Un­done was be­cause of the di­rect ef­fect of a blog or In­sta­gram post on the Harper and Har­ley plat­forms in gen­er­at­ing im­me­di­ate, short- and long-term sales of a prod­uct,” Don­ald­son ex­plains. In many ways, noth­ing has re­ally changed. Fash­ion—both brand and buyer—has al­ways loved a muse célèbre. Con­sider Her­mès’s Birkin bag, in­spired by Jane Birkin. Or dancewear brand Repetto, which engi­neered a new style of footwear at the re­quest of Brigitte Bar­dot for her film And God Cre­ated Woman. The re­sult­ing Cen­drillon bal­let flat style is still a sta­ple to­day. The dif­fer­ence now is celebri­ties who have a solid fash­ion fol­low­ing are har­ness­ing their abil­ity to shift stock at the rate of knots for busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties of their own. To wit, last year, Bey­oncé’s Ivy Park col­lec­tion crashed the Top­shop web­site on its mid-April re­lease, and was the top-sell­ing brand on­line at de­part­ment store Nord­strom that week. Bri­tish model and pre­sen­ter Alexa Chung— not con­tent with in­spir­ing a gen­er­a­tion of waify types into A-line mi­cro minis, rain macs, and Mary Janes—launched one of two 2016 col­lab­o­ra­tions with sleepy Bri­tish high-street gi­ant Marks & Spencer. In­spired by the brand’s vin­tage ar­chive, the col­lec­tion bol­stered sales for the year, en­tic­ing a new, younger shop­per into its stores. Fol­low­ing the suc­cess of this and other ven­tures into fash­ion de­sign—AG denim, Madewell, the Chung-in­spired Mul­berry bag re­leased in 2009, which con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to a 79 per­cent in­crease in the brand’s sales the fol­low­ing year—Chung launched her own line, Alex­achung, last May. Polyvore’s PolyData report re­vealed last year’s top fe­male fash­ion icon to be Kylie Jen­ner, who drove sales for bomber jack­ets, crop tops, thigh-high boots, and nude lip colours, ahead even of the om­nipresent Gigi Ha­did and her Tommy Hil­figer col­lec­tion. The same report showed Ri­hanna to be the sec­ond-most-searched-for fe­male style icon, for rea­sons akin to Chan’s at Style­bop. And through all of Kanye’s con­tro­versy last year, his Yeezy Boost 350 V2 out­sold the Nike Air Force 1—widely pro­claimed the best-sell­ing ath­letic shoe in his­tory—the week it dropped in late September. For Giselle Farhat, founder and buyer at MyChameleon.com.au, the idea of a mod­ern fash­ion in­flu­encer has evolved with the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of so­cial me­dia from sim­ply pub­lic fig­ures to women ev­ery­where. “With con­sis­tent and hon­est style, there are strong women with pur­pose and a voice de­mand­ing a fol­low­ing,” she says, which, when you think about it, pro­vides the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to forge ahead with your own style. We can cherry-pick from Ri­hanna’s avant-garde in­cli­na­tions, Alexa’s im­pec­ca­ble taste in denim, Gigi’s colos­sal col­lec­tion of eye­wear, and your favourite in­flu­encer’s un­canny abil­ity to put to­gether the most un­likely com­bi­na­tions with fi­nesse. A lit­tle nudge in the right di­rec­tion never hurts.

Gigi Ha­did wear­ing a jacket from her own col­lab­o­ra­tion with Tommy Hil­figer

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