Bloggers have proved that one can have a lucrative and lengthy career as an Internet influencer. We are in the age of social commerce, a subset of e-commerce, where goods are sold not by advertisers themselves, but via peer to peer review. It makes sense, right? Who do you trust, the walls of a corporation or a friend who “swears by it”?
Exactly….and so do 71% of consumers.
Social commerce is an industry that is growing exponentially and is deeper than a like. In 2013, social commerce generated $5 billion in sales, by 2014, it almost doubled to $9 billion in sales. By 2015, it had reached $14 billion, up 64% year-over-year, in only two years.
The power of a like, has brands pouring dollars into this space. Last year, Facebook collected more that $22 billion in ad revenue. Likes make cents and comments turn into dollars. Influencers and celebrities are turning their fan base into cash cows. You look at the Instagram page of Blac Chyna, it’s unashamedly littered with Lyft ads and is a modern day yearbook ad, with booster pages for her various businesses. Her “social page,” is truly a business and marketing space on the timeline like a modern day booster page in a yearbook.
How does this translate on a high fashion level? The high fashion models with a high follower count now dominate campaigns, covers, and editorials. Popularity will now get you farther than your poses in this game. Instagram Girls have blurred the lines, bloggers are booking major magazine covers and Instagram is pretty much an agency. Of course, brands want as many eyes as possible and to garner their audiences loyalty, trust, and most importantly, dollars.
But what about talent? My favorite Spring ad is Givenchy jeans, starring veteran supermodel Naomi Campbell and Justin Levy, a favorite of Creative Director for the brand, Riccardo Tisci. Justin walked in both the Spring/Summer 2016 as well as Fall/Winter 2016 and Fall/Winter 2017 Givenchy shows. Justin is a talented model, who is featured in various ads and has less than 1500 followers: a rarity in this industry. While he has managed to garner international acclaim, one can’t help but wonder, how much bigger he would become, if he in essence, became a brand himself. Or possibly, this might be the beginning of the “the anti-brand,” and a push back into raw talent.
Becoming a brand, versus working for one, in modern times, is how you become aligned with brands. Brands collaborate with the coolness of the fresh, the young, and the new. Yes, I’m referencing the Gigi’s of the modeling world. A famous mother doesn’t hurt either. I give Gigi Hadid credit, she has improved as model: her walk, her poses, you see the difference. However, no matter how much you tease her hair or contort her body, she’s no traditional high fashion model. This isn’t a “good” or a “bad” thing, it just is. Remember: Kate Moss wasn’t even considered tall enough to model and she’s one of the most recognized supermodels in the world.Traditionally, high fashion models don’t come equipped with a round face or an hour glass figure. It’s more about angles, features, and sadly, the clothes hanging off the body, whose purpose is to channel, well, a hangar.
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The earliest record of the word, “super model,” was used in 1891 by artist Henry Stacy Marks for The Strand Magazine, while being interviewed. The term became extremely popular beginning in the 1970’s. A supermodel, a term often used for the “big six,” (think the 90’s biggest models: Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turling, Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista and Cindy Crawford) and has permeated through to present day. Several of these models are still modeling, something I’m not entirely sure Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner will be doing when they are 40+.
“We had to earn our stripes and take our stepping stones to get to where we have gotten to accomplish what we have achieved to this date. I kind of feel like, ‘My God, we’ve worked so hard and we are still working at it—then it just comes like that for them.’ But I sometimes believe easy come, easy go. So I am actually grateful for the way I had my career. I wouldn’t want it any other way. So that’s for them, this is me.”
~ Naomi Campbell, Interview on the Meredith Vieira Show, January 2015
Is it an earning of stripes or more so adapting to culture? In an Internet and social media driven your world, your following can lead to fortune. As a brand, can you fault them for wanting to book a client that has an online media presence and reach, multiple times over than what the brand itself is offering? Can we fault girls for manipulating social media and working it towards it’s advantage. Is “opportunity” considered “less than,” if it comes via a hashtag vs a formal go-see?
We’ve been here before. In the 90’s and definitely by the 2000’s, fashion magazine began replacing models on their covers with celebrities (actresses, entertainers, etc.). It was no longer about look, but also about influence, and reach. Now, as we are almost halfway through 2017, we are seeing yet another shift. It’s not just models and celebrities that have access to the opportunities, “every day people,” do as well.
I’m all for creating your own opportunities and the modeling industry advancing into a more inclusive and diverse representation of our current society. Social media is the all equalizer, giving everyone a platform for endless possibilities. While Instagram did not kill the Supermodel, it most definitely created a hybrid version of models.
A hybrid version, not a better one.
You can see the difference between the work of the models in the 70s, 80s, and 90s vs now. What seemed natural then, looks sometimes forced or over processed now. With Naomi’s generation, the poses mattered, the look mattered, the walk mattered, it was all physical and that was business. No one was pushing a lipstick line, they were there to model. There’s something nostalgic to me regarding this fact. While modeling often led to fame, it wasn’t necessarily birthed the other way around.
The term supermodel has not died, however, it’s usage and ability to crown to the new generation is null. Modern day modeling is a different beast, looks matter, but not as much as influence.