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How Social Media is fueling new aesthetics

By Guest Contributor


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@veroocampos (left), @greivy (right).

There's a lot to be said about social media, and one thing for certain is that it's current cultural gold in terms of identifying trends. All signs point to social media as a tool that progresses the democratization of fashion, a shift that has been in motion, but was catalyzed during the pandemic when nearly everything happened on our screens. This time period was pivotal, in that it gave increased access and visibility to events like fashion week shows, which at the time were held with limited or no audience. Suddenly anyone around the world had the same on-screen view as insiders, which garnered arguably more interest from "outsiders," as well as gave birth to quarantine trends like cozy loungewear, zoom tops and nap dresses. Ultimately, it's those outsiders who had something valuable to say, adding to the democratization of fashion through their voice on social media channels. It's imperative that we understand how the industry has changed and how we should leverage social media to tap into current cultural aesthetics.

Courtesy of @mellowmayo
Fashion Snoops is a global trend forecasting agency helping leading consumer-facing brands around the world unlock innovation and propel growth. This report on social media was written by Melissa Moylan, Vice President of Womenswear at FS. Learn more about Fashion Snoops here.

Industry shifts

For decades, the industry operated as a predominantly top-down model with catwalks and celebrities as a major indicator of the next big trend. As trend forecasters, the cultural zeitgeist has always been a guiding source of inspiration for our future forecasts, and now influencers on social media are essential to track for both identifying aesthetics and confirming trends. We are at the point in which the business of trends is increasingly more bottom-up with the rise of influencers on social media, although both trickle down and up theories are proving to be valid simultaneously. Both approaches play off of one another, as catwalk front rows are expanded to include more influencers (to get better photos for social), and even the notoriously exclusive MET gala has opened their doors to TikTockers Emma Chamberlain and Addison Rae. Social media has also given birth to new fashion critics that blur the lines between influencer and journalist with a focus on educating primarily Gen Z followers.

Courtesy of @greivy

From an industry standpoint, it's crucial that we pay attention to social media cues no matter what role or market you're in. There have been several consumer shifts as well as business opportunities that have surfaced and grown on social media such as the vintage and resale market and new players in fast fashion.

The secondhand market has been propelled by influencers posting hauls on TikTok and Instagram. The rising interest in vintage and resale is very much a result of thrifting as a lifestyle and the hunt of finding something cool and novelty. Etsy-owned Depop, which has a 90% Gen Z user rate, is popular for being part marketplace and part social media where users could connect with one another.

Courtesy of @veroocampos

Fast fashion - and specifically newcomers in the space - is leveraging social media to stay ahead of the curve and remain relevant with Gen Z consumers. Shein implements AI modeling on social media channels to determine what products they will produce, and employs on-demand manufacturing, allowing them to cut styles based on how they perform. Similarly, Edikted's business is built around curated social media trends and encourages pre-orders to determine production quantity.

It's clear that social media has become not only a community, but a space where both creatives and consumers discover new products. The social component has certainly challenged traditional relationships between brands and retailers with consumers, which is why we'll continue to see innovation grow in this space. At FS, we know how to effectively leverage social media to track need-to-know brands and influencers. Our AI-tracking tools allow us to filter posts by market and product, and help us to confirm and identify trends that are featured within our insight and forecasting reports across all markets. It's a necessary game-changer that turns us on to new, buzzy aesthetics and micro trends, which feed into our macro forecasts and offers great styling potential direct from influencers.

Trending on social

What makes social content so valuable today is the nature of it being real time informational entertainment. The secret sauce that Gen Z adds makes it incredibly relatable and authentic, particularly in the case of TikTok. The speed at which trends seemingly occur is faster because social media is instant, as compared to say, printed monthly publications. However one must also consider that many trends bubbling up on socials are micro trends that relate to macro movements that extend well beyond several months - shifts that were probably well underway before a certain catch phrase came along.

Many of us probably remember the butt-scrunch leggings of 2020 which were the first of many social-media fueled items to come, like Skims' long slip dress in 2021. But more buzzy than items are the aesthetics coined with clever hashtags by Gen Z such as #cottagecore, #darkacademia and most recently #barbiecore and #coastalgrandmother. The latter has currently garnered over 176M views since it originated on TikTok by Lex Nicoleta in March of this year. What's interesting about this summer aesthetic is that it's not particularly new; think Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give with a beachy wardrobe of timeless linen separates and sweaters tied around the neck. It's not exactly cutting edge and surprisingly more of a sustainable trend comprised of layered wardrobe essentials. What gave this aesthetic new life is quite frankly is the hashtag, and TikTok's nature of reposting so that the aesthetic spread and caught on fast. And while #coastalgrandmother may not have been on a mood board before March of this year, retailers and brands could still capitalize on it this summer by simply using the hashtag on posts with applicable looks.

Courtesy of @loisopoku

It's clear that social media has changed the way we perceive fashion. Influencer culture has evolved to so much more than just personal style, with newcomers in the space adding value, cultivating aesthetics and engaging with new communities of people. No matter what social media platform, as an industry I think we could all agree that it's invaluable to tap into current cultural aesthetics and have more people promoting your brand or store. After all, visibility is something we're all after, and social media delivers exactly that.

Watch FASHION SNOOPS’ How to Track Trends Using Social Media webinar here.
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