If there are two people that know the power of social media in the fashion forum, it's Eva Chen and Olivier Rousteing. The King and Queen of Instagram (Chen is Head of Fashion Partnerships and Rousteing, Creative Director of Balmain, is its most ardent fashion-designer advocate), the pair came together on day one of the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference in Seoul today to debate the impact social media has on the industry.
"Fashion has always been about the future, it's always moved quickly, and yes — it has been accelerated by social media," said Chen. "It's such an interesting time, with enormous opportunity. The velvet ropes have come down in fashion — the future of fashion is democracy and the ability to adapt with the consumer. It's a new way of storytelling. So many luxury brands use the word 'storytelling' and what else is Instagram than storytelling? There's so many ways to do it now through Instagram."
"You're right, it's storytelling," Balmain's Creative Director agreed, explaining his original reason to join the platform. "At the beginning I was the Balmain baby and now Balmain is my baby. It was important back then to use Instagram to invite people to discover who I am. I'm adopted, I came from an orphanage, and I wanted to show people that dreams can come true; to give a positive message and say that if you believe in yourself and you believe in a dream it can happen."
"You can reach so many people through Instagram," Rousteing continued, speaking about his #BalmainArmy hashtag. "Now, after a show I can invite people to understand the Balmain world. If they want the Balmain world they can have it and follow; if they don't like it, they can unfollow."
Accessing people and getting them to buy into the brand is, of course, one of the most important ways to harness the power of social media — indeed, it has been one of the major catalysts for the recent "see-now-buy-now" movement. That designers could monetise the buzz created by social media around a show to sell through immediately to the consumer has financial benefits, but has divided opinion.
"I believe in see-now-buy-now — we have to stay connected and go faster," revealed Rousteing, hinting that releasing capsule collections immediately after the show (as many other brands have chosen to do, as opposed to making the entire collection available) would be the route the brand would take. "We are probably going to head for see-now-buy-now, for sure. But it's important to keep key pieces that you will sell later and also have pieces that are available immediately after the show. It's good to have a mix of price points too.
And I believe that Instagram and couture can work together — you can invite people to discover how you work. With Instagram I can push and explain the details." "A lot of designers are showing the detail through Instagram," added Chen, who believes that Instagram can be used in a positive way to spark excitement about what is about to land on the shop floor. "Designers also use long-form explanations
— which are becoming increasingly popular - that allow them to explain what inspires them. Marc Jacobs, instead of telling the audience who the model was and photographer was, took the time to explain why each model meant something to the campaign, which gave his followers a closer connection."
And connection is what the platform is all about — as Chen's parting words for the conference summed up concisely. "Remember that Instagram is truly a community - and it can be a great ice-breaker."
By Scarlett Conlon, reporting live from Seoul