Social Media’s Role In The Rise & Fall Of Luxury Brands
Leafing through Vogue magazine, page after page you’ll see ads of the top fashion brands; with models posing, parading and posturing to promote their latest pieces. Inviting you to indulge in their luxurious world. As you are gently drifting into that mellow other dimension, albeit after 30 pages or so, you are rudely awakened and jolted back into reality by the contents page, reminding you that the primary purpose of the preceding pages was promotion. That what you were looking at, was not art for art’s sake, but actually an archive of advertisements; tacitly tempting you to make purchases, to buy into that luxury lifestyle.
But behind the charade of the luxury brands, we can’t help but wonder, in the light of recent revelations, is the fashion industry actually going through a crisis?
Burberry’s shares having dropped by as much as 7.1%, can’t just be ignored like water off a ducks back, when even sales from the brand’s trendsetting trench coat tapered off. Louis Vuitton-Moet Hennessey’s sales of leather and fashion also flattened out. Prada’s profits panned out with a 26.6% annual drop. It could all well be down to the factors outside of fashion. Austerity, currency, political problems and terrorist attacks in Paris, one of the world’s major fashion Capitals.
Sure, external world-wide influences may well be partly to blame for plummeting sales, but what about the crises within the brands. Designers seem to be falling over themselves to walk out the door of fashion houses. Francisco Costa and Italo Zucchelli resigning from Calvin Klein, Raf Simons leaving Dior, Alexander Wang walking away from Balenciaga, Heidi Slimane saying goodbye to Saint Laurant, Lanvin seeing the last of Alber Elbaz. Let’s not forget the current rumours that Pheobe Phillo will part ways with Celine and Karl Lagerfiled will call it a day after 33 years at Chanel. So it seems it’s all a bit of a shambles.
The fashion industry is undoubtedly fast paced, and now even more so with the rise of social media. Creative directors of high-end brands are struggling to keep up with the pace of luxury. Piling on the pressure to deliver giving rise to a constant demand to create. Though this creative effort is highly appreciated and valued during the biggest runway shows, the fashion industry is essentially dependant on mass consumption.
The blogosphere is fast replacing the catwalk as the major motivator for fashion purchases by the masses. Whether it be phone, Ipad or laptop; we can’t bear to be away from our internet accessible devices. Our “pacemaker-like” dependence on internet accessibility has led to social media becoming the primary manner of social communication. Ever since social media has taken over, there has been a pronounced emphasis on the importance of the digital style blogger. Fashion bloggers connect with mass consumers who can comfortably carry off the real wearable mass produced fashion items as opposed to the often one off arty, showy and impractical catwalk couture. Designers are dying to dress them, and in turn bloggers pre-emptively parade the newest pieces from the most desired collections pre-release; before they’re even available in stores.
Bloggers are taking over from catwalk couture queens as fashion mavens. For the elite customers, luxury has become a commonality. Exclusivity; The idea of having something that nobody else has, which was the essence of luxury is diminished, when they see bloggers being gifted statement pieces, months before they become available to them. From the perspective of the elite customers, spending thousands on a couture dress that has not only been gifted to someone time ago but also been seen by thousands loses its value as luxury. Bloggers have taken the front row seats from the paying elite consumers in the best fashion shows. And as a rebellion, such customers, have reduced their purchases of designer pieces.
High-end brands just cannot afford to fall behind; they need to ply their wares globally, to the wide-eyed new consumers on the other side of the screen. Using social media and bloggers who are insta-famous is the loudest possible way to get instant results. Bloggers however are not only becoming the elite customers, but also influencing a new group of consumers who follow, trust and aspire to be like the bloggers. There’s a new group of customers and the rise of social media and the brands’ use of bloggers, as influencers exploit their fashion maven status changes the way brands and designers interact with new consumers.
I’m head of Content at ZINE, where I use my expertise in fashion consumer psychology to empower brands and influencers in their marketing campaigns. I love to travel, bake as well as shopping online.