It's been a looming question for years, and we finally have some answers—what is the real impact of Instagram influencers at fashion week? Find out below.
What do all those street style shots do for brands?
Industry people have eye-rolled at influencers (or bloggers, as they were once referred to) attending fashion shows since the beginning of their foray into the tents. What was once a serious trade affair for insiders became democratized with the internet and clout-full social media enthusiasts—to the ire of said industry people.
Who could forget the violent criticism a then 13-year-old Tavi Gevinson faced over her, um, larger-than-normal hat at a Dior Couture show way back when. It was a public scolding of bloggers, who had yet to assert their credibility and find their place among fashion circles. The shaming of influencers continued up until recently with a less-than-friendly Vogue article throwing all kinds of shade at makers of OOTDs.
The road has been, and continues to be a precarious one for those who choose influencing as a career. Haters will always hate. But the perks do seem to outweigh the occasional backlash, which dims year over year as the profession becomes increasingly ubiquitous. In fact, most of them have earned respect within the sector, especially from brands having recognized their power.
When fashion month rolls around biannually, intangible hostile vibes can be felt from industry folk—especially the veterans—towards the highly photographed set outside the shows. But the tides are turning, as today's editors are often Instagram influencers themselves. Everyone rubs elbows, and the previous generation is now often the one at odds.
Looking at the state of the social industry today and its ecosystem, it's impossible to deny the role that influencers play. We've all been influenced by something we've encountered on the 'Gram, most likely by one of the very people at the center of this story.
Spoiler alert: the streets are also a catwalk.
While brands leverage influencer clout year-round, their attendance to what was once a trade event poses a simple question: why do they appear to have taken it over? They're the middle man between the industry and regular people, and the public's perception of fashion month is at their mercy. And to some whose jobs depend on the fashion calendar, bloggers are show ponies who do this for fun in the name of self-promotion. That might be the case sometimes.
But for professional style influencers, it is rigorous work. If it looks like fun and games, it's because they're very good at their job—audiences don't see the grind that goes on behind the scenes. Although that still doesn't answer our main quandary: is it relevant for them to be attending fashion shows? Does their presence make an important impact?
Before we get into stats for proof, we can speculate that tastemakers who've reached a certain level play a huge role in the new fashion order. If designers present shows for buyers to sell their line in stores and for editors to include them in editorial stories, a single style blogger fulfills both roles of selling and promoting, without the middle man. And pretty much in real time at that.
On the flip side, we've all heard social audiences complain about the flood of uninteresting show content over fashion month, especially on Stories. Do blogger followers care about seeing multiple versions of the same runway finale's drum line? Do the brands they promote during that time see an uptick? No one's ever really done the math. Until now.
To factually understand whether or not bloggers attending fashion week makes any sense, we analyzed the accounts of five girls with major social proof and different points of view: @weworewhat, @brittanyxavier, @tezza, @wethepeoplestyle, and @alwaysjudging.
We compared their January Instagram performance to their New York fashion week stats in February, along with a sample of three brands that were tagged during the shows to see how it all transpired.
Here's what we found.
Blogger Danielle Bernstein has been attending NYFW for a few years, taking her followers behind-the-scenes, down the runways, and on her personal catwalk, the streets.
Brittany Xavier experienced a quick rise, having grown her account to one million followers in a few short years. While she original positioned her style as more accessible, high-end designer wears have taken over her wardrobe, and she's become a regular at NYFW. Is her audience into it?
Tezza's growth this past year has been stratospheric. She's at the top of her game right now, and setting herself apart from her peers with creative, editorial-like imagery. She's becoming a NYFW staple, but let's see if her followers like that part of her business.
New Zealander style star Jessie Bush is an OG global jet-setter, never missing a fashion week moment, no matter the city. She’s been documenting her attendance to shows for years, but it's time to find out if that's really what her followers care to see.
Courtney Trop is a niche fashion blogger with an avant-garde sense of style. Her audience is likely more primed for runway and collection content than other traditional bloggers... But are they actually?
What Do the Numbers Say?
According to the engagement stats we pulled, it appears to go down or stay about the same during fashion week. Danielle Bernstein of @weworewhat is the only one within our sample who did not see a decrease, but even experienced a slight uptick.
The reasons for that is likely that her high-octane street style content is more prominent over the NYFW period, and those style-centric shots are what resonate with her followers.
In fact, it's interesting to see that while our analyzed Instagram influencers' Stories are flooded with fashion show videos (for better or worse, depending on who you ask), that content doesn't really ever make it onto their permanent feeds, with the exception of a few posts from @alwaysjudging and @brittanyxavier. And even more interesting to note is that those posts don’t actually do that well—they are among their bottom performing content of the week.
No surprise here that each girls’ top performing posts of NYFW are images of them, mostly close angles, and often include a pop of color. Audiences just want to see what their favorite girls are wearing.
Although it should be noted that while engagement is down, reach is up—which we've learned is directly correlated to posting frequency. The majority increases their content output through the show period, as there is more produced, which maximizes impressions overall in spite of decreasing them per individual post. It's safe to assume that engagement is lower due to the higher posting volume.
That said, growth also seems to slow down for the majority over the NYFW period. Either audiences are less likely to start following bloggers during this time or they're being unfollowed more. It's hard to say with certainty, but one could theorize that the content doesn't resonate as much—and that includes what's published on Stories.
We can’t speak to Instagram Stories stats, which is where these girls' actual fashion show content lives, but we could speculate that audiences don’t really care for fashion week photos and videos as much as the regular fare. What they want to see from their favorite Insta style stars is great photos of their outfits. Fantastic news for brands.
We took a sample of three brands that were tagged multiple times in the five influencers’ high performing NYFW content to see the kind of impact they may or may not have had on them.
BOYY is a new high-end retailer on the scene that seems to have made it its mission to be noticed during fashion month. A slew of Instagram influencers were wearing some of the store's coveted pieces while parading in front of street photographers. Did it work?
Over the course of NYFW, the @boyyboutique account added over 1.9K new followers thanks to all the influencer exposure. For comparison, their daily average is 117 new followers.
@boyyboutique gathered a great batch of user-generated content over NYFW, which helped them reach over 3.4 million unique users organically.
Tory Burch is a well-established brand whose fashion show attracts the influential set every season. The designer makes it a point to maximize this hype opportunity by dressing these girls head-to-toe. Is it all worth it?
Over the course of NYFW, the @toryburch account added over 10.4K new followers, obviously thanks to the hype provided by influencers wearing the brand’s items, specifically spiking around its show on February 10th, where the account added over 3K new followers. For comparison, their daily average is 883 new followers.
The @toryburch organic reach was off the charts around its show, thanks in large part to the number of power influencers in attendance and dressed in the brand to post their looks on their channels. They helped it reach over 30 million users in 2 days.
Zimmermann is a coveted ticket at NYFW and has become a huge Instagram influencer favorite through the years. Having transitioned from high-end swimwear company to producing complete ready-to-wear collections, the Australian export clearly understands how to leverage social clout. Does all the influencer fanfare translate to numbers on Instagram?
The @zimmermann account added over 20.7K new followers through the week, with a major spike around its show on February 11th—nearly 6k new ones in a single day. For comparison, their daily average is 874 new followers.
The @zimmermann organic reach crushed it around its Feb 10th show, thanks in large part to all the influencers dressed in the brand and tagging it in their content. They helped the account reach over 17.4 million users in a single day.
What Do the Numbers Say?
Going through these brands' stats makes it clear that having influencers attend their shows and/or dressing them for their events makes a huge impact on their hype, and subsequently, their relevance. Without all that exposure and those tags, follower growth and organic reach wouldn't be nearly as significant, and the brand wouldn't be hyped.
As for a smaller, more obscure label like @boyyboutique, which doesn't put on a fashion show, seizing the opportunity to dress Instagram influencers during big, scrutinized moments like NYFW can make a huge difference, if only for awareness and equity. This strategy can lend instant credibility and cool factor to a burgeoning business.
Engagement may be down for influencers, but reach is up due to increased posting frequency, and that alone makes it a solid investment for brands. After reviewing this data, there's little doubt as to whether or not Instagram influencers should be attending fashion week. We live in times where everything transpires on social, and their presence clearly makes a difference.
Header image: @sandrasemburg
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