From sustainability and gender politics to underrepresented cultural perspectives, a new generation of fashion critics are making luxury fashion accessible and interesting to young audiences on social media.
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This is the third in a new series lifting the lid on Gen Z’s social media habits and their impact on fashion consumption. Read the first installment on social media shopping hauls here and the second on luxury unboxing here.
In October 2021, TikToker Mandy Lee created a video predicting the resurgence of fashion and lifestyle trend indie sleaze. The post went viral, picked up by major publications from Dazed to Vogue, and the #indiesleaze hashtag hit over 40 million views on TikTok. Almost a year later, Lee has quit her day job in trend forecasting to become a full-time creator, making money from brand partnerships and some freelance writing, and is talking to Vogue Business while getting ready for the Christian Siriano show at New York Fashion Week. 카지노사이트
“When I started taking TikTok more seriously, the only people that were really making money at the time were Charli [D’Amelio] and Addison [Rae], the big guys. I don’t think a lot of people were leaving their jobs to do it full time,” Lee says. “Now, TikTok is saturated with fashion [commentary] content, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon.”
Fashion commentary and criticism have taken on a new life in the last five years, as young audiences on social media become increasingly interested in educational and informational fashion videos that give cultural context. A third (33 per cent) of Gen Zs now use social media to see what’s trending — more than any other generation, according to global audience research company GWI
With this, a new generation of social media fashion critics has been born on TikTok and beyond, bringing their perspectives on trend forecasting, culture, race, gender politics and more. They include “Fashion Roadman” Odunayo Ojo; Mandy Lee (@oldloserinbrooklyn); Alexandra Hildreth (@guyfierisuperfan); Rian Phin (@thatadult), Andrea Cheong (@andreacheong_) and Osama Chabbi (@osamachabbi). And, as brands come knocking for partnerships, and traditional media outlets approach them with job offers, this new wave of Gen Z fashion critics are navigating the challenges of maintaining integrity in the eyes of their audiences, while trying to build a lasting career.
An alternative point of view
Fashion theorist Rian Phin started out on YouTube in 2013 and joined TikTok in March 2021, where she now has over 38,000 followers and 1.1 million likes. “My content is mostly focused on the digital world, how we talk about fashion online and how we interact with fashion in the real world based on the internet,” she says. A recent video breaks down the idea of conspicuous consumption and how, for people of colour, opulent dressing can be a way of “constructing an outward identity that commands respect”.
Phin points out that the newer wave of critics — who sit outside the traditional media — could help fashion brands to reach different communities. “That’s one of the differentiators between social media criticism and traditional media. Audiences can hear about trends from people within their community and subculture, who better understand the trend’s context.”
Importantly, these critics’ audiences trust their insight. Sustainable fashion critic Andrea Cheong used to be a fashion influencer, posting outfit pictures, before pivoting to commentary on TikTok. “In traditional media there’s celebrity endorsements, brand partnerships, and affiliate programmes that market sustainability as a trend and participate in the greenwashing. I try to cut through the noise by showing people what they should accept, and what they should look out for.” Her videos include “items to avoid” from fast fashion retailers and product reviews.
She adds that more diverse voices come through social platforms, versus traditional media. “In 2019, when I first started all of this, I didn’t see any people of colour in the sustainable fashion space being given a platform,” says Cheong. “Not until my TikTok started doing well did I actually get that space to talk about [sustainability].”
During Covid, French-Tunisian fashion critic Osama Chabbi started reviewing shows on Instagram from his home in Dubai. Growth was gradual at first but from 2020 to now, he’s reached 18,200 followers on Instagram. His reviews are heavily designed and colourful, with in-depth analysis of the collections and context around the shows. The creator uses his content to present fashion through his own lived experience. 안전한카지노사이트
“Despite being born and raised in France, I still see myself as a north African and an Arab. It was important that I saw fashion through that lens because this is how I’ve experienced it.” More than ever, audiences want to relate to real people’s thoughts rather than the thoughts of an entity, an abstract “media”, he says. “People that have had experiences that they can relate to to some extent.”
“We’re seeing a democratisation of fashion coming to life on TikTok in the volume of bitesize explainers on the latest trends, the sound-on fully immersive runway videos, through to the behind-the-scenes styling content,” says Kristina Karassoulis, head of luxury fashion partnerships at TikTok UK. “All of this gives the TikTok community a new view of the fashion industry they wouldn’t previously have had and a new — more active — way to engage with it.” Hashtags such as #fashioncritic (16m) and #frontrow (500m views) are surging on the platform, she adds.
Opening up a dialogue
In January 2022, Chabbi received his first official show invitation from the Louis Vuitton menswear team, who had seen his reviews online and wanted him to attend Virgil Abloh’s last show. The brand dressed him for the event, which weighed on his conscience a little, Chabbi admits. “I started to question, so where do I stand? How do I keep my integrity as a commentator?”
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As he’s progressed, he’s learned that some brands welcome balanced feedback. For example, after a critical review of Jacquemus’s Le Splash collection in Hawaï, the brand invited Chabbi to its next show. “Fashion has to remain a safe space for integrity and feedback,” he points out. 카지노사이트 추천
Before she started on TikTok in March 2021, Alexandra Hildreth assisted an international creative director and attended fashion weeks in Paris and Milan. She uses her inside knowledge to break down fashion and educate audiences on what happens behind-the-scenes. She now has 63,300 TikTok followers and 2.6 million likes.
“I think one really relevant example is when a lot of creators do red carpet reviews, and they’ll say whether or not they like the looks. As someone who’s worked in the industry for four years now, there’s just so much more to it,” Hildreth says. “People will say, why did this celebrity pick this look? It’s like, well, no, they didn’t actually pick it. There’s so much that goes on behind-the-scenes. And so I really try to balance out all the information.”
“The rise of fashion criticism on TikTok kind of reminds me of the inception of YouTube, where it was previously people making weird content about anything,” says Phin. “Then it seemed a lot more focused on fashion in the last couple of years and centred on very high level discussions about fashion as well that I never expected to pop off.”
And for Chabbi, it opens up an important dialogue, rather than top-down reporting. “I have so many people that are like, I don’t agree with what you’re saying. That’s fine, but at least it’s a human with another human. It’s an open conversation, rather than a one-way conversation from magazine to person, for example.”
Working with next-gen fashion commentators
Content-rich social media critiques can have benefits for brands. “While styling can be easy to see and scroll past quickly, journalistic content requires more engagement from the audience –– leading to longer video view times,” says Rob Jewell, chief growth officer at Power Digital, a tech-enabled growth marketing firm. “Story-focused content ultimately helps generate more brand recall,” he adds.
TikTokers like Lee are keen to move beyond the way brands traditionally work with fashion commentators — the “here’s a product go buy it” model. For this SS23 season, she is pivoting her content to a more editorial video series, rather than her more typical green screen videos, to differentiate from the growing community of critics on social media and potentially attract new brand partners.
“The success of influencers like Lee is a clear indication that brands should provide influencers/creators with more than just product –– bringing them into behind-the-scenes moments, how products are made, history, and how people experience their brand –– to give them content to work with,” Jewell says.
Brands can also harness the power of fashion critics as consultants, using their depth of knowledge to educate and inform strategy, Karassoulis says. Phin, for example, now consults for companies like fashion-tech app Idoru.
Coverage of critics and commentators often refers to talents like Hildreth and Lee as “fashion outsiders”. However, the majority of critics have experience in and links to the industry. “I never want it to be insider versus outsider because what does that even mean?” Lee says. “I think using terms and thinking about TikTokers as outsiders is elitist. Platforms are powerful and even if I’m not working at Hearst or Condé Nast, I know that they are listening.” (Vogue Business is owned by Condé Nast.)
Hildreth has now started working for Paper magazine on a freelance basis during NYFW as a writer, which she will do alongside posting her own commentary. For her, it was always her ambition to use the TikTok content as a springboard to traditional media. “I definitely don’t wanna be controlled by sponsorships and stuff like that and not be able to say what I wanna say,” she says. “But, on the other hand, there is a power that comes with having a tenured magazine behind you.”
Chabbi, on the other hand, believes in the power of the individual. “There’ve been fashion commentators before us. And there’ve been platforms that speak about fashion to people, like Diet Prada. But I feel like today, we’re held to a level of accountability where people want to see your name, your face and your thoughts. People want to be able to define who’s behind these thoughts and contextualise them.”