Its straight-forward agenda of sharing images and videos has made Instagram the clear winner when it comes to holding a viewer’s interest in an industry that as a whole has been struck with a sort of attention deficit disorder. Fashion blogger BryanBoy followed by more than 600 000 people, and Eva Chen, Instagram’s head of fashion partnerships, met up in New York to talk about all things Insta.
The seminal social media platform that has shaped the fashion world in the last decade has been, without question, Instagram. Today fashion houses create their shows so that they will read well on Instagram. Brands choose models to walk their runways in terms of how many followers they have on the site (ditto front row celebrities). And designers have even gotten to the point of making clothing crafted specifically to “pop” in even the blurriest of posts to the site.
During the Spring/Summer 2016 shows 44 million accounts had over 360 million interactions on the site that were related to one of the top four fashion weeks. A number that more than doubled that of unique accounts, and tripled the number of interactions, from the Fall/Winter 2015 season. Add to that the novelty of “Instashoots” (basically, presentations designed to be shot for and posted on Instagram), the arrival of sponsored posts on the feed, new options like the Boomerang looping of images, and more versatility in terms of layout designs on Instagram and there seems to be no stopping the site.
Antidote Magazine asked two major players in the Instagram world to discuss its overwhelming impact on fashion. Old friends Bryan Grey-Yambao (aka Bryanboy, one of the site’s most prolific posters) and Eva Chen, Instagram’s head of fashion partnerships, met up in New York to talk about all things Insta. Below are excerpts of that conversation.
BRYAN: Do you think the way we communicate really changed because of Instagram?
EVA: For me now, I have three Instagram accounts. I have my own, @evachen212. Ren, my daughter, has a private Instagram account that all my family members follow. Then I do one that’s walls around New York City, all beautiful murals. On each of those feeds, I can keep up. On Ren’s feed, she follows all her baby friends, like Coco Rocha’s baby and Naseeba’s baby. Sometimes I just communicate through Instagram messages. I like it because it’s very efficient. It’s all centralized in one place.
BRYAN: Everyone that we know, especially in fashion, are on their Instagram accounts the whole day.
EVA: And I shop a lot from Instagram. I do think Instagram has changed the way I shop a lot. Nowadays, if I see Leandra Medine wearing something, I usually see it on her Instagram feed versus on her site. I’m constantly inspired by what people wear on Instagram, yourself included, like your Loewe bag. Because I’m on Instagram so much, that’s probably one of the bigger ways it’s impacted me. My shopping inspiration comes from Instagram.
BRYAN: It’s interesting how I use Instagram to keep track of what’s going on around the world, what’s going on in fashion and what’s new out there. My shopping habits definitely have changed. When I see something on someone, like another influencer, I think, “They already have it.”
EVA: I’m often shopping for jeans on Instagram. I see what looks good on people. Jeans are really hard. It’s hard to find. I’m too lazy to go into a store. If I see something that looks good on someone, I’ll find out what it is and then I’ll buy online versus going to a store.
BRYAN: How has Instagram shaped your career professionally?
EVA: I think it’s made a huge difference. Instagram has helped me find my voice and my aesthetic. I think fashion can be an industry where you feel like you have to keep up with the Joneses and feel a lot of pressure to lead a certain kind of lifestyle. I am a very self-declared homebody. I’m kind of a nerd.
Finding my voice on Instagram, being myself on Instagram and then having the validation of people saying, “That’s so great,” and care enough to follow me has been great. I think it’s validation that it’s okay to be a normalish nerd. Instagram has definitely given me an outlet in terms of creativity and photo shoots. It’s helped me with every step of my career.
It’s nice to hear that from other people too, like when you hear from models that Instagram really helped them elevate their profile or find their voice. You look at someone like Karlie Kloss, who is a huge supermodel, one of the top right now. But then you can also see that she is really interested in entrepreneurship.
She’s working with girl’s foundations and different girl groups, and Coding. Then she’s also doing her cookies. You can see how young women can have five different career paths through Instagram. I think it’s been really positive in that way as well. I don’t know if you heard about that girl who took all her Instagram pictures…
« I think fashion can be an industry where you feel like you have to keep up with the Joneses and feel a lot of pressure to lead a certain kind of lifestyle.«
BRYAN: Essena O’Neill.
EVA: Yes. Do you know her?
BRYAN: I don’t know her. It’s funny because I’ve never heard of her.
EVA: I didn’t either.
BRYAN: Until she came out to tell the world she’s quitting social media. She had 600,000 followers. She’s based in Australia. Then one day, there was a switch. Boom. I’d never heard of her.
EVA: It’s interesting when you hear things like that. Maybe it’s because I’m older but I feel very confident and comfortable being myself. I can say, “It’s a wild and crazy Friday night,” and it’s a picture of a bubble bath. Remember when we were in Milan a few seasons ago? One of my favorites was when we went to get dim sum that night. We said, “Let’s skip every party and get dim sum!” Then we took a picture of the dim sum instead of being at whatever party.
People constantly ask me, “What should I be posting? It’s all about posting from parties, right?” I say, “It’s all about posting who you really are.” It’s so hard to inhabit a role. It would be like being an actor in a role except having that be your whole life, which is impossible.
BRYAN: To some extent, I agree with Essena. A lot of young people are pressured to have these so-called perfect lives on Instagram. I’ve always tried to keep my Instagram authentic. I rarely manufacture something specifically for Instagram. I share snippets of what actually happened in my reality. It’s not like I’m going to create a false reality or say, “I want to show Instagram that I am getting my nails done,” just to show that I’m getting my nails done. I’m not going to do that. I’ll post a picture of me getting a pedicure because I am getting a pedicure.
EVA: I think it’s really important for people to talk about that and be really honest. This really is my life. You’re right. Some of it is that people feel pressured. That said, even without Instagram, a 16-year-old would probably… I guess it’s a bit magnified now. That’s why it’s extra important, not to sound like Oprah for a second, but to live your most authentic life and be yourself.
BRYAN: You are Instagram’s Head of Fashion. Tell me more about your role at Instagram.
EVA: I get asked this question a lot. My role is different every day. It really depends on what I’m working on. It’s the same as when I was working editorial in magazines. Some days, it’s really fun and you’re at the Golden Globes or Fashion Week during the collections.
Then other days, I’m sitting in front of a computer and working through strategy and big-picture planning. The overarching goal of my position here is to help the fashion industry tell their stories better on Instagram. That’s working with big influencers like yourself. It’s working with the fashion houses. It’s working with the designers really closely. It’s working with magazines like WSJ or Vogue. It’s being a resource for the fashion community. Fashion is a hugely important part of Instagram.
It’s one of the most mature, richest and most vibrant communities on the platform. People in fashion think in pictures. They’ve always thought about magazine editorials, campaigns or look books and helping them translate those visions onto Instagram but in a uniquely Instagram-my way.
BRYAN: Do you think Instagram has changed the ways that designers create their collections?
EVA: Yes. Don’t you? You’re friends with all the young designers. Don’t you think that people think about how it looks on Instagram now?
BRYAN: It’s true. It’s not just on Instagram. It’s not just about the clothes. Even Alber [Elbaz] mentioned this at the recent Fashion Group International Gala dinner. They care more about the set now. Designers put an effort into not only how it looks on camera but how clothes also look on the cell phone.
EVA: Think about Chanel.
BRYAN: Chanel has always been in the game.
EVA: Marc Jacobs, too. I think about Marc Jacobs shows. The show that I always remember was when they had a marching band playing Smells Like Teen Spirit. They had the confetti coming from the sky. That was before Instagram existed. That was seven years ago.
For its Fall-Winter 2010-2011 show, Chanel raised a giant iceberg in the middle of the Grand Palais. That happened before Instagram.
Photo : courtesy of Chanel
BRYAN: Remember the Chanel iceberg?
EVA: Exactly. I do think the new generation of designers…
BRYAN: Jonathan Anderson.
EVA: You did the Insta-shoot with him. How was that experience?
BRYAN: It was very easy. I really loved it. We were backstage, Susie Bubble and I and Tommy [Ton]. We were backstage at the show. We got a preview even before it went on the runway. We were shooting it. It was very exciting. I had fun doing it.
EVA: Jeremy Scott is so great at this as well. When he thinks about fashion, he thinks about it through the lens of pop culture. Last season, he had a car wash situation.
BRYAN: He had the phone case.
EVA: Exactly, he had the phone case. It’s so smart. It’s everyone holding a Moschino McDonald’s iPhone case. It’s Instagram candy sometimes. It’s another place for people to have expression. I think we’re so lucky because you and I work in this industry.
We’ll go to events and say, “Wow, this is such a beautiful place setting.” Then we sit down. I posted a picture of flowers once. Then a friend of a friend ended up doing something inspired by that for her wedding. It’s really interesting to think that the pictures that you and I see can end up having a real-life impact.
Looking at beautiful things is something that people have done forever. The show situation is…well now I think social media and Instagram are so much about entertainment. It’s just another way of entertaining.
BRYAN: Yes, the experiences are definitely much richer as opposed to before. What do you think is the biggest impact of Instagram on fashion?
EVA: I think it’s democratized fashion so much. You have your own original voice. You have a huge following. You have your own fashion magazine through Instagram now. The images and narrative you create through your Instagram.
You have half a million people who are subscribing to your Instagram magazine, basically. I think they want to know the details of your life. They want to know everything about you. I think that the impact of Instagram on fashion is that it has made the world a smaller place.
There is a Japanese model named Kiko Mizuhara who I’m super obsessed with. If I ever go to Tokyo, which we are next year, I’m going to find this person. I love this girl’s style and I can’t wait to meet her. I feel like it’s made it a smaller place. For us, we live in New York City. We get to see and experience all these cool things. The thought that something that I post, even if there’s a small percentage of this happening, if there is a 15-year-old girl who lives in Iowa who is inspired and wants to pursue a career in fashion, even production or photography because of something that someone else has posted, that’s really nice. It’s also become mini-fashion education. When we were growing up, how did you find out about fashion?
BRYAN: Magazines. That’s it. Print magazines.
EVA: But how did you know what an editor… Maria Duenas Jacobs from Elle Magazine, for instance. If a young fashion student in California follows her, the same student can get an idea of what it’s like to be an accessories editor versus following someone like Laura Brown to be a writer and editor.
BRYAN: I think a lot of kids now are more aware and educated about the industry in general. I remember growing up, I used to keep track of the masthead changes. I knew when Sally Singer was doing the index. Then she became the Fashion News Director. I kept track of literally every single masthead and the changes. I don’t think kids now do that. They just go on Instagram. They Google all the editor’s names and look up what they do. Everything is easily accessible.
EVA: But the combination of old school and new school is really important. You want someone who is really entrepreneurial and who has an understanding of new media. But I think it’s still good to have… I love getting handwritten thank you notes. I don’t get them as much anymore.
Sadly, I don’t write them as much. I still write them. I think there is a lost art to these kinds of things as well. Like Phillip Lim’s handwriting. When I see someone with really nice handwriting now, please start an Instagram account just of your beautiful handwriting. I think that’s a lost art, too.
« Designers put an effort into not only how it looks on camera but how clothes also look on the cell phone. »
BRYAN: Let’s talk about Instagram Best Practices for fashion brands. Give me five tips!
EVA: Number one, consistency and cadence. These are good tips for people in general. Sometimes people will say, “I just joined Instagram. I can’t wait. How many times a day should I post? I was thinking 10 times a day.” I say, “You can post 10 times a day but let’s talk in three weeks and see if you’re still posting 10 times a day.”
I think the most important thing is finding a regular schedule. “Schedule” sounds too structured. It’s about finding what works for you in terms of timing and then sticking to it. Your followers like to know what to expect. That’s really important.
I think original photography and content is really important. If it’s an ad campaign for a brand and it’s something that you can see in a print magazine, you might see it on a billboard, too. You might see it 56 other places. What people really want on Instagram is original content. They want to see something that they can’t see anywhere else, which feels like it was made for Instagram. That’s really important.
One of the things that I’m seeing more of is that people are doing longer reads in the captions. Do you follow the account Humans of NY?
EVA: He does beautiful photography of everyday people in New York. That kind of storytelling is something that I think you’ll see more people doing. Don’t forget the caption. A lot of the time, people will just post images with no caption or context. I think engagement is really important.
BRYAN: What about videos?
EVA: I think video is relatively new to Instagram. It is a really different medium. I think in pictures. I don’t necessarily think in videos yet. I am loving the Instagram video experience more. Boomerang is so fun. Hyperlapse is really good for time lapse runway stuff.
I love slow motion video. I think it’s really great for fashion. Oftentimes with movie trailers, for instance, people save the big explosion or the big moment until the last three seconds of the video. It’s the finale. Whereas in video on Instagram, you want the impact to come in the first three seconds. If anything is going to happen, put it in the first three seconds. Just like YouTube videos, you need to have the sizzle in the beginning. It’s the same for Instagram videos.
BRYAN: What is Boomerang?
EVA: Boomerang is so fun. It takes a one-second video loop. Let’s say if you move water up and down, it takes a one-second video. People love it. I love it because it’s really playful. It doesn’t take a lot for it to be fun and visual.
At Olivier’s [Rousteing] birthday party in LA, I think he was turning 30. There was a swing there, which was probably the most dangerous swing I’ve ever seen. It was over a canyon. There were all of these models, swinging back and forth. I thought, “So many bad things could happen.” There were so many great Boomerangs taken from that party. He’s so good on Instagram.
BRYAN: Who are the most-followed fashion brands on Instagram?
EVA: Nike. Chanel. Louis Vuitton. It’s the ones that you would expect.
BRYAN: The megabrands.
EVA: I think a lot of small brands like Mansur Gavriel, their Instagram is so good. It’s so beautiful. I love following them. Even if I were not covering fashion for Instagram, I would follow their account. I think they have such a great eye. I think it’s less about the number of followers you have and more about how engaged you are, and what photographs you’re taking.
BRYAN: And the quality, too.
EVA: Quality is so important. You take great pictures.
BRYAN: Where is Instagram going forward when it comes to fashion?
EVA: When it comes to fashion, a lot of it is going to be about engagement. You know that Pat McGrath has done two events now that are open to the public. She did a beauty Insta-meet in Paris during Spring/Summer.
Then, last week, she did an event where she took over this diner in the middle of Brooklyn and invited a lot of Instagrammers and club kids. She wanted it to feel like a makeup rave. It was so fun. I think creating experiences and that interaction between makeup superstars like Pat McGrath and aspiring makeup artists and her mentoring people through Instagram is amazing. I think engagement will continue to be the thing.
I think original content and voices are important. If you have an original concept or original voice, you will really stand out.
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