Let's Be Conscious of How Social Media Actually Sets Every Fashion Trend

On the redistribution of power and influence in fashion.
Author:
Publish date:

If you take a look at my body of work for CF, you'll probably catch onto the pattern; articles describing it-girls of the internet and how to get their looks, and think-pieces that offer a crash course in less appreciated sectors of the fashion industry. These all revolve around the intersection between the fashion world - the designers and models and runway collections - and the 'real' world,' or everyone and everything outside of that fashion bubble. 

Today, I want to talk about the redistribution of power and influence happening in the fashion industry, which expands upon this concept.

Think about this for a minute guys: when you log into your Pinterest account, or your Instagram, or your Tumblr, and you search for fashion posts and photos, do you immediately start browsing #OOTDs (Outfit of the Day photos)? Yes? And then one look catches your eye. You grow to like the outfit, or find something inspiring about it. It might just be the shoes that are fabulous, but in reality, one cannot help but like the model wearing the clothes too. 

So really, you go from simply admiring the girl in the photo's jeans and booties to, well, wanting to be her. So you think, okay, how do I go about achieving this look? What do I need to become this person? Hmm....Oh! I know! I will buy something as similar as possible to that item of clothing, or replicate her entire outfit if possible! 

And from there, the situation snowballs. 

We go from admiring one minute detail of an outfit to obsessing over the whole thing, including the person wearing it. We might click 'like' on the photo or 'heart' it on Instagram. Maybe we'll follow them to see future outfits. There, the magic happens. 

(No, not magic in the Disney sense, unfortunately.)

Where did we find our outfits before social media?

Time for another brief lesson in fashion! Let us begin with the bare bones of how inspiration works. A high fashion designer, with a lot of influence (which these days means a lot of followers online or at least heavy exposure in television, print, etc.) first releases a collection of couture garments. 

For instance, in 2010 the late Alexander McQueen released a very controversial and insane shoe called the Armadillo heel, sported famously by Lady Gaga in the "Bad Romance" video:

The shoe exploded on the Internet, made waves on television, and was mentioned everywhere. I swear I saw cheaper dupes at Forever 21. The shoes followed me endlessly. Bottom line here is, an influential designer who has gained a following and earned some sort of accolade will make an impact when they release something new. 

Today, designers with influence are many, including Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Dolce and Gabbana, Moschino, Chanel, Dior, YSL, Fendi, etc. If you don't follow fashion collections closely, you might not realize their impact. But watch a runway show, screenshot some looks, and then go to fast fashion stores and hold up the pictures to the mannequins. The imitation will be obvious.

So we start with an influential designer who creates a new item and that item flows down to the department stores and more affordable brands, who take that item and maybe change the color, or use a cheaper fabric, or make the item more practical for daily use. 

To go back to our example, Alexander McQueen's shoes were occasionally imitated, but the clearest and easiest way he was imitated was through his skull scarves. Those were absolutely everywhere for years. We'd see them on Nicole Richie in US Weekly and go to our nearest cheap store and buy our own. And repeat.

McQ real vs Dupe skull scarf

Remember these? Real is on the left, dupe is on the right. Not much time passed before the dupe came out. 

So where does the internet come in?

Here is where it gets interesting. Fashion used to work as described above, until the Internet hit it like a school bus with no brakes. 

Now, we have the new phenomenon of trends moving upstream, with everywomen and men dictating the trends instead of the designers

It began with the blogger. Bloggers came in as a force to bring the industry and us regular folk closer together. Fashion now had insiders who let us in the side door to watch the shows, how cool! Today, these creatures have evolved into "influencers." The influencer gets to wear the clothes and they convince us that we need to buy what they have. 

Social media, naturally, is the vehicle that allows all of this to happen. We see the photos that the bloggers/influencers post. We see them, we want what they have, we buy it, done. The cycle repeats. High end designers continue designing beautiful clothing, but we now receive that merchandise through a filtered lens. We see through the eyes of a blogger/influencer, and thus, what they like goes

We can observe a theme with each platform: Tumblr is edgy and current; Pinterest is more conservative, with sweeter, more preppy looks reigning supreme; Instagram is an amalgam of everything, where fans of high fashion tend to rule. Unknowingly, we grow to expect a certain style from each platform, leading us to want more of it, buy more of it, and create demand for those items. 

Bloggers show up on these platforms, showing off their best #OOTDs, featuring plenty of "c/o" (AKA free) clothing. We see their pictures and want what they have. And if a bunch of bloggers eye the same items, we also go after them -- in full force. These days, that's how trends really take off. 

Celebrities play an obvious role here too, and social media has strengthened their relationship to their fans. It is easier to see their everyday outfits and style, and they participate in the cycle too, just like our favorite influencers.

So, do we have an opinion on this?

Am I saying this is bad? Is it amazing? Neither, actually. 

I honestly find it all interesting, a byproduct or mechanism of pop culture, if you will. Most of all, I think it is crucial that we understand what is going on around us so we can at least talk about it. We're part of this cycle; let's acknowledge it.

And now that we know about this, we can watch and observe: Who knows what will motivate or entice trends or products from brands in the future? 

Let me know what you guys think! I'd love to discuss this more in the comments section. And can you believe it is more than halfway through the semester already?! Stay warm guys! 

Related Stories