Influencers are branching out, using their reach to sell their own clothes rather than someone else’s and e-commerce platforms are more than happy to stock up
A decade or so after the emergence of the style blogger, a new career path for influencers in the fashion space has emerged – the eponymous clothing brand. It’s a logical next step. After so many #sponsored posts taking designer clothes and accessories and styling them into a unique look, why only sell someone else’s product and not their own? Indeed, influencers already possess one of the main requirements of a successful fashion brand – a distinct personality and voice.
Libby Page, senior fashion market editor at Net-a-Porter explains, “When it comes to new brands, what we’re looking for is a unique point of view and DNA that runs throughout the collection. It’s important for any new designer to develop a signature that can continue to evolve and develop over time yet remain true to themselves. For any brand we launch on our site, whether it’s founded by an influencer or not, our aim is to offer our customers something new and fresh that they haven’t seen before.”
From Rumi Neely’s Are You Am I to Blanca Miro and Maria de la Orden’s La Veste, each brand represents the aesthetic of the influencers who create it and in so doing offers affordable luxury and contemporary pieces for followers who want to buy into their vibe. While many influencer-created brands offer direct-to-consumer sales, a select few have made it onto the lists of e-commerce platforms such as MatchesFashion and Net-a-Porter, which have long supported emerging designers.
The decision to carry these labels has proved profitable, says MatchesFashion’s chief commercial officer Elizabeth von der Goltz: “[Response] was very strong [in the beginning] – great reactions, extremely high sell-throughs in a short time – many almost sell-outs upon upload.”
Page agrees, “We launched [Danish influencers Thora Valdimars and Jeanette Friis Madsen’s brand] Rotate in August 2019. The brand was a great fit for Net-a-Porter with its hyped party dresses together with a sharp contemporary price point. Products such as their signature puff-shoulder mini dress in pink brocade and in plain black sold out within weeks of Copenhagen Fashion Week,” she says. “Ultimately the brand performed well due to their unique brand DNA and their popularity among the ‘Scandi’ influencer set. Furthermore, these brands are accessible luxury, meaning it’s more achievable for the younger, social-savvy customer to buy into.”
And those customers are one of the bigger draws for e-commerce platforms. “Customers who buy these brands are quite knowledgeable and discerning with their fashion choices,” says Page, whose site Net-a-Porter has recently stocked Kim Kardashian’s Skims, which was announced as the official undergarment supplier to the US Olympic team, as well as Emily Oberg’s Sporty & Rich. “They also have an awareness of social media and any trends circulating. In some cases, particular silhouettes from a brand may be seen as the ‘it’ must-have item, for example, Rotate’s puff-sleeve mini dress, Frankie Shop’s green oversized shirt or Sporty & Rich’s retro sports sweater.”
“The pros are definitely the instant following and customer who loves fashion and follows it closely, so it’s great to attract new customers and then also great for our existing fashion-loving top-tier clients,” says von der Goltz, whose platform Matchesfashion launched an exclusive summer capsule with Elin Kling’s brand Totême.
“Totême is super strong from a design standpoint and this was what really attracted us at first,” von der Goltz says. “The quality and construction along with the price point as well. But design, creativity and uniqueness always come first. We may notice the brand through social media or the influencer following but that’s not what makes the decision to stock. Of course, if it’s an influencer-founded brand we like to be aligned with the influencer in terms of whether they fit into our MatchesFashion point of view and style.”
While the hype and attention around the brands might be what gets them stocked on e-commerce sites, the challenge for even the most popular brand of the moment is how to sustain its business over the long term. And that’s where multi-brand platforms, with their wider exposure and stamp of legitimacy, can help. “Like with all emerging brands, they need to ensure there is longevity to their business,” says Page. “This might mean that they need more support and guidance in developing the brand and collections going forward.”
Whether emerging or established, the path of the fashion influencer looks ever more legitimate and promising. And with Chiara Ferragni reporting a net worth of US$10 million just this past year, who says girls and boys can’t aspire to be an influencer when they grow up?