Why TikTok Was the 2021’s Biggest Fashion Influencer?

Why TikTok Was the 2021’s Biggest Fashion Influencer?

05.01.2022 Off By manager_1

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The end of skinny jeans was declared this year. Side parts and laugh-cry emoticons were also extinct. To be able to share the stage with fashion’s most prominent names, young content creators were invited along to the Met Gala. The Pants Store was made a national brand by Alabama’s sorority girls. Fashion’s most popular trend was Y2K. All of this was possible because of TikTok. While we are used to seeing Pinterest and Instagram as the most important social media platforms for fashion, TikTok has revolutionized how we talk about fashion online.

TikTok’s initial boom was in 2020, which is similar to Amazon’s trend for butt-lifting leggings. However, this year, we were more interested in the app’s viral hacks and laughs. The app’s 1 billion monthly users are what we should be focusing on. The app’s one billion monthly users (yes, you read that right!) created and consumed fashion-focused content far away from the curated feeds we are used to. They discussed the rise of subversive basics and shared cottagecore inspiration. This is yet another example of fashion democratization moving from the homes of fashion-obsessed people to the streets and runways.

According to Vanessa Craft (head of content partnerships at TikTok), this relatability is part TikTok’s appeal. She says that TikTok is a platform that allows users to express themselves in fashion. TikTok allows people to express themselves and find others like them, while other platforms are for sharing a highlight reel.

Fashion brands and creators have been able to reinvent the influencer model thanks to this community. Content creation is not about creating a cult-like style personality. Think street style-based influencers, who built a following by their fashion choices and promote them. Instead, content creators foster a community for discussion, experimentation and even criticism.

It’s also about realizing that fashion is not so serious. Take, for example, creators like Agustina Panzoni (@thealgorythm), Alexandra Hildredth (@guyfieri.superfan), Mandy Lee (@oldloserinbrooklyn), and Benji Park (@fashionboy) who’ve created a community of trend forecasters, critics, and fans that has little to do with showcasing their personal style, but rather what they have to say about fashion.

Their on-app discourse, much like Diet Prada or other Instagram-based fashion police-type accounts has had a profound impact on the fashion industry. Panzoni invented the term “subversive basics”, Lee predicted the return of the Indie Sleaze aesthetic and Hildredth has coiled her expertise in show reviews, industry criticism and industry criticism. Park also launched a series called “Fashion School” that teaches his followers the industry, without having to spend a penny on tuition.

This new generation of TikTok influencers are not afraid to call out brands because they don’t want to follow the traditional model for fawning influencer market. Hildredth has, for instance, called out brands such as Skims and Tiffany for their Gen Z-focused campaign. Park, however, strongly opposed Dolce & Gabbana. Gabbana was criticized for past racism and sexism allegations. Others are using the app as an online resume, using it to showcase their skills. Panzoni, who became viral on TikTok, said that she was offered a position as Depop’s category manager for womenswear after her TikTok post went viral.

Fashion brands are still able to use TikTok. It’s the latest frontier in marketing for companies to invest in. Kendra Scott, a big name brand, and Alabama’s Pants Store, a small boutique have discovered that one viral moment can turn into the organic campaign of your dreams. Both of these brands saw firsthand the success of #BamaRush, a trend in which University of Alabama sorority girls began sharing rush week outfits via the app. Kendra Scott witnessed a 15% rise in website visitors from women aged 18-24. Kendra Scott cleverly capitalized on this moment by creating her own content via a TikTok video called “Choose Your Own Sorority Character” and a personal message from Kendra Scott. According to Michael Gee, Pants Store’s success was even greater: Sales at its five boutiques as well as the online store soared 400% in that week.

Beyond #BamaRush brands such as Gap, Aerie and Skims have also benefited from TikTok’s algorithm. Creators can use their products, which are mostly purchased on their own, on the app to make viral videos that translate into IRL dollars. Sometimes, brands have to be quick. Gap’s logo jacket was not available at the time Barbara Kristoffersen uploaded a video of her wearing it. Gap saw such demand for this piece that it launched the Gap Hoodie Color Comeback. It has sold out since then. Skims’ long slip dress went viral on the app this past year. There was a waiting list of more than 40,000 people. Aerie’s cross-legged leggings became very popular after Hannah Schlenker, the creator of the video, posted it. Insider reports that the brand saw a 700,000 increase in searches for the leggings and a surge of 200,000% Google searches within a matter of days.

TikTok is causing a boom in the secondhand market. For example, the RealReal has seen a surge in interest in Gucci (Jackie) and Louis Vuitton (“Pochette”) bags from Gen Z. A new group of luxury watch enthusiasts on TikTok have also led to a rise in sales and searches for secondhand luxury watches.

Notably, brands are responsive to public interest but it is the creators who set the trends. This is a departure from the old top-to-bottom approach that the industry used to follow. Craft says that the greatest value TikTok creators have for luxury fashion brands and fashion companies is their ability to redefine fashion’s meaning to their customers through a more entertaining, authentic creative lens.

TikTok is the leading Gen Z app. The content and trends that perform well on the platform align with the values and interests of this generation, particularly when it comes to nostalgia from the ’90s and early ’00s, thrifting, and vintage shopping. Many Gen Z users love low-rise jeans and Britney Spears’ Y2K style. They also love Tom Ford’s Gucci era and Juicy Couture tracksuits. The #Y2K hashtag has been viewed more than 3.5 billion times and the #Y2KAesthetic hashtag has received more than 406 millions views. Brands like Blumarine, JW Pei and Miaou have taken the Y2K nostalgia to retail and runways.

Fashion trends are cyclical but there is a deeper cultural component that drives many of these comebacks. Marian Park, WGSN youth strategist Marian Park, attributes it to Gen Z’s nostalgia for youth culture and youth fashion in the early 2000s. She also points to “current conversations about the metaverse” and the impact of digital clothing that are similar to those around the Y2K scare of 2000 and the unbounded promise offered by the internet in 2000. It’s clear that everyone is now looking towards the dawn of a new age of tech. This is just as we were at the beginning of the 21st Century.

It has become apparent that what fashion creators do online can translate quickly into real-life sales or impact. As Amy Odell, a writer for Back Row, noted, “fashion people are rapidly migrating [to TikTok] as they realize they can find a larger and more engaged audience.” TikTok is now the biggest fashion influencer in 2021. Will it survive in 2022?