Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Rise of the Instagram Brands


As time goes on, I fall in love with Instagram more and more. Our love affair was pretty touch and go after last year’s much publicised algorithm change – truth be told it’s still a sore point so let’s just skip past that. As with any romance, it’s had it’s ups and downs, but on the whole we’re pretty solid.

We’ve been through a lot together over the years. I guess I could be described as an early adopter of social media platforms. I’ve been on both Twitter and Instagram since their infancy, when putting up a post resulted in a bale of tumbleweed just rolling past. It’s all change now, with millions of users fretting over their Instagram strategy and resulting engagement levels, especially after that algorithm update. I’ll let it go one day…!

Instagram has evolved into the one form of social media that really matters. Facebook and Twitter are relatively neglected now while influencers, brands and everyday users pour their time and energy into creating the perfectly curated feed. And it’s paying off.

Instagram has democratised fashion somewhat. There’s a growing appetite for accessible fashion seen on real girls, not statuesque models airbrushed to within an inch of their lives. It’s has given birth to dozens of influencers, you don’t even need a blog now as long as you have a great photographer and a strong following, that’s enough. The same goes for models, their Instagram following is almost as important as their book – just look at the likes of Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid.

Personally, I love seeing girls of all sizes and nationalities on my feed and discovering what their wearing and how their doing their make up. Instagram is where you go for inspiration. Glossy editorials are becoming less of a reference point and much less important to consumers.

I’ve also discovered dozens of brands really harnessing the power of Instagram to break through the saturated fashion industry. Fledgling Turkish handbag brand Manu Atelier became an overnight success after Eva Chen, Head of Fashion Partnerships at Instagram, featured one of their bags on her feed. With price points hovering around £400-500 it’s an attainable price point compared to the likes of Givenchy and Chanel, but the brands really flourishing on Instagram are the lower price point fast-fashion brands.

While fast-fashion veterans Missguided and Boohoo paced the way for daily website updates and unbelievably low price points, there are plenty of new kids on the block snapping at their heels. The likes of Miss Pap, Missy Empire and Lasula are pretty hard to miss on Instagram. They came to my attention when I literally couldn’t scroll through my feed without seeing an influencer wearing something super cute and covetable by one of those brands. My interest was piqued so I gave each a follow and in the following weeks, I’ve placed orders – solely due to the power of Instagram. That’s pretty incredible.

All three brands that I highlighted are very similar in terms of attitude (fierce AF) and products – I’ve seen lots of nearly identical pieces on each site. The vibe is actually very similar to the early days of ASOS, when it was known as As Seen On Screen. It’s fun, full of attitude fast fashion which is influenced by celebrities. All three are great at harnessing the power of bloggers to amplify their brand and have an ‘Insta Shop’ where you can find products featured on influencers and their feed.

As with life, it’s not all sunshine and roses. The ethics around fast fashion are highly questionable. Price points are super accessible, but someone has to pay. Often this is the expense of garment workers, who work in appalling factory conditions for pittance. The fashion industry was aghast after the Rana Plaza factory complex in Bangladesh collapsed killing over 1,000 factory workers and maiming many more. Despite pledging to improve conditions, little has changed in the last three years – this article on The Guardian goes into more depth on the issue. 

There are also huge differences between the service you expect and receive. More established retailers like ASOS have extremely streamlined logistics, sometimes it feels like my orders are catapulted to my door they’re so fast and returns are super simple and quick. I’ve had issues with shipping with some of these brands, I placed an order for Miss Pap before Paris Fashion Week only to not receive my order in time despite paying for next day delivery. Returns are also an issue. Returns are an inevitable part of running an online business and most brands allow 30 days to return goods. However, most of these brands only allow 14 days for a refund so watch out!

On the whole, I love discovering new brands through Instagram and welcome the diversity. Have you discovered new brands through Instagram or social media?
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