The War Waging Between Influencers and the Industry

(An article written for and published with Tough to Tame)

Social media broke the fashion industry. Or at least divided it. Before the internet, the fashion industry connected with their consumers through traditional media outlets, mainly fashion magazines. But with the development of social media came the power to interact with others at the touch of a finger. People took this as a chance to share their diversity and individuality through their clothes, makeup and hair, and as the audience for these accounts grew, so did the job as a “blogger.” Eventually,  it birthed the age of influencers.

The latest social advances of the digital age brought an entirely new aspect to fashion journalism and marketing that makes the industry radically more accessible, democratizing an industry that one prided itself on exclusivity. Brands and the magazines once had complete control over their narratives. But now anyone can contribute to the narrative, even change it, simply by stating their opinion. It’s led to a lot of progressive change -- brands are now forced to double check themselves as they’re held accountable at every turn and transparency to consumers has become the norm. But as progressive as this is, there’s a war waging behind the filtered Instagram picture, one that I was only vaguely aware of until my first New York Fashion Week with Tough to Tame.

Influencers are undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with, and brands know this. That’s why they enlist their help in their promotional campaigns. I’m more than familiar with the power of social media influencers and what the association can do for a brand. But there’s something to be said about the fact that the market is so saturated, it almost seems like everyone is trying to be an influencer. Which begs the question, how many of these “bloggers” actually blog? Or even truly care about the fashion industry?

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a die hard for my favorite bloggers and influencers, I’ve followed them for years and shamelessly stalk their content. I’ve also seen the power that an influencer wields and what a collaboration with between a brand and the right influencer can do for a company. However, over the course of the week I came to realize that influencers come with a price, and I’m not just talking the cash payouts or the free merchandise they receive. It seems that the age of the influencer came at the expense of the industry and everyone working for it. Before a show even starts there’s a designated “influencer time” where bloggers spend a copious amount of time getting photographs, more time than the show even lasts. Bloggers are often given front row privilege, and compromise the shot of photographers and videographers hired to document the show, as well as anyone sitting behind them, which often consists of editors, social media teams, and prominent fashion figures that work behind the scenes . The problem is everyone is trying to do their jobs. And while some influencers are truly gracious, and so very kind, many of them lacked respect for the fact that other people were trying to do their jobs as well. The magic happens when influencers and brands work together towards the same goal. This is something that many marketing and social media departments have started to implement, but it’s something that the rest of the industry should consider and possibly implement as well.

Michelle Lee