Social media has become a part of our globally connected world in multiple ways, and most recently the fashion industry is seeing a major shift in its inspiration for designs and trends, all thanks to social media and blogging sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.
In the fashion industry, social media platforms can be used to interact with the consumer, as a means of networking with others in the industry, and as a way of building an online presence. But social media can also influence designers in unique ways that are changing the way many designers create their fashions.
Designers and major players in the fashion industry find inspiration for their designs and creations in many places: from recent vacations to visits to fashion capitols of the world, but the internet and social media sites have created an entirely new approach that is getting both praise and criticism from the fashion community. One on side, some see the internet and social media sites as more of a secondary resource for inspiration, with the fear that these resources could "dumb down" the inspirational process and take away from its depth. On the other side, designers know that their target customers are on social media sites and want to be heard and be a part of the inspiration processes themselves. Either way, social media has, and is, changing the fashion industry and it's anyone's guess what the shift will continue to look like.
One major shift that social media has had is simply that the average person can now influence fashion in ways never before possible. Just consider the recent ZAC Zac Posen's Spring-Summer Ready to Wear 2015 Collection; influenced by comments and suggestions from his over 640,000 Instagram followers. It all began when Posen posted images of sunsets from a vacation on his Instagram account and followers began asking for prints in these hues, and "through the comments and pictures we got a new perspective about out creations," said Posen in a recent article in NY Times. As a result, the final product includes a maxi dress in the hues of the sunset from that Instagram image as part of his 2015 collection.
It's not just the inspiration and influences on major fashion designers that social media is evolving; it's also the way we view fashion and the industry as a whole. For decades, a few big names dominated the fashion industry in a very top-down fashion but now the average fashion blogger can influence major designers via social media outlets. Reality television shows like Fashion Star and Project Runway have also lead to a shift in the way we view fashion designers, but social media has acted as a catapult to push these "unknowns" into situations where they can make their designs and ideas known to millions. Social media sites act as a platform for the average person, and major fashion designers know these people are out there so they can also reap benefits by reaching customers on a new level that is more intimate and interactive, rather than the highfalutin fashion runways.
The naturally interactive qualities of social media also make social media an effective tool, allowing people to be a part of the process of fashion making. Take for example the most recent New York Fashion Week (NYFW). A study from eBay Deals, cited in an article on Mashable, considered data from top five social media networking sites during the 2013 NYFW and found that "more people are using social media for wardrobe advice, inspiration and the latest trends," and fashion related Tweets doubled from the same event just a year earlier. From people sharing Instagram photos and Tweets from the sidelines of top fashion runways, people from home can interact and engage in the fashion shows just like the attendees. This is great for the fashion industry which can tend to be closed off and secretive in their inspiration processes, opening it up for more people to both appreciate and enjoy.
And it's not just high fashion experiencing influences from social media. From popular viral videos shared over and over again on social media to "jokes" and social media inspired sayings on t-shirts, buying trends centered on hashtags and our online behavior is shifting too. According to 2014 market trends, a 2014 survey of social networks and buying behavior "showed significant proportions of shoppers being influenced by (and participating in) social sites and friends during their upcoming holiday shopping," with the results showing: 30% of shoppers had made a purchase via social media in the last year (up by 12% from 2014), 49% planning to make a purchase because of a social referral, and 44% intending to discover new products via social networks. In addition, the survey looked at social participation and found that 48% of those surveyed think it is important to share product recommendations via social media networks.
So the point is, with social media sites only growing from here and buying trends also shifting to show major influences from social media sites, it's a brave new world for the fashion industry and retailers.