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The Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Fashion Awards is tonight, and it will be giving its Media Award to Instagram. CEO Kevin Systrom will accept the award from presenter Kim Kardashian, who has more Instagram followers than anyone except Instagram itself. She announced she would be presenting via a selfie.
Fashion and Instagram have a special relationship borne out of their shared visual foundation.
“It is an entirely visual medium,” says Sucharita Mulpuru, retail analyst at Forrester Research. “Instagram is all about beautiful pictures. That’s one of the biggest selling aspects of any piece of fashion is the visual story you can tell about it, and the aspiration that represents.”
There are other similarly visual networks, notes Mulpuru, such as Pinterest. But Instagram users tend to check their accounts more frequently.
For users like Rachel Fuentes, the social network is a way to follow, discover and shop for fashion.
“Instagram has become my one way of shopping,” says Fuentes, who follows local boutiques right on up to large brands like Nordstrom. “If I catch their Insta sale – which is an Instagram sale – and if it’s cute and if I like it, I will automatically purchase it.” It’s much easier than going to malls or decentralized stores, she says.
Fuentes doesn’t consider the photos she sees coming through her feed as ads, but rather simply as nice photos of models or outfits.
“Trying to sell, posting something that looks like an ad, it’s a turn off,” says Marlene Morris Towns, teaching professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “You can have unknown people who end up being the biggest social media celebrities because they’re relatable or represent a lifestyle, as opposed to someone paid to do an airbrushed photoshoot.”
The authenticity factor and the focus on the image allow brands to advertise without demeaning themselves by advertising.
“It gives luxury brands who have struggled with social media a way to maintain the integrity of their brand but also reach a much larger audience,” Morris Towns says. Instagram users can see posts from exclusive fashion events, which mass markets brands even as it emphasizes their exclusivity.
At the same time, Instagram has become something of an equalizer, says Gretchen Harnick, professor of fashion marketing at the New School. “It’s really allowing startups to have a voice right alongside of bigger brands.”
Instagram followers are recipients of this kind of brand promotion by choice, which is advertising gold.
“There is definitely a gain in the fashion industry from Instagram,” Morris Towns says. “I think it has done wonders for brand awareness and people actually engaging with the brand.”
And they do engage. Gucci, for example, has 4 million followers on Instagram. Nike has 16 million.
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