So You Want To Be A Digital Fashionista?

Alexis + Jay circa 2016.

Forget hawking other labels. Some of today’s biggest social media stars are creating multi-million dollar fashion brands around themselves.

by Alix Harrison

Back in February, my colleague Kylie Wu wrote an article showcasing how fashion influencer marketing works. While this is a proven strategy across many verticals, there’s another trend stemming from social media influencers — that little thing called building a brand. Specifically, influencers building their own fashion brand. Social media stars who have empires of followers in the millions are turning an entrepreneurial corner and building brands around themselves — using their followers as an initial customer list. As Forbes recently pointed out, major brands will be created by social media stars within the next couple of years. After all, why only do it for others if they can also do it for themselves?

As Forbes recently pointed out, major brands will be created by social media stars within the next couple of years.

Take these three influencers:

Alexis Ren

Alexis Ren got her start as a model. One of her first gigs was a shoot for Seventeen magazine. A couple of years later, she became super-famous on Tumblr for a session with photographer Lucas Passmore.

But in particular, there was one partnership that really helped her build a social media following, albeit not a healthy relationship. From 2014 to 2016, Alexis dated model and music producer Jay Alvarez, who booked modeling jobs for them both in exotic locations like Greece, Spain, and Hawaii. They began posting lifestyle videos on YouTube, with the most popular one, a “highlight reel of their summer,” receiving more than 23 million views.

My summer never looked like this.

Promotions for Snapchat, Express and Calvin Klein followed, and so did a breakup in 2016. Alexis made a move to focus on health (and confront an eating disorder), and by then had grown her Instagram to 10 million+ followers. Now, she has launched her own brand of athleisure wear, REN Active, and has landed on the August cover of Maxim.

So, to recap: first came Alexis’ millions of followers, then came her own business-building efforts.

Julie Sariñana

Julie Sariñana’s motto is “Dream, Believe, Achieve.”

She started her personal stylist blog “Sincerely, Jules” in 2009 to keep her inspired while attending FIDM. What started off as a personal inspiration is now a popular style site. In 2016, she joined forces with Reebok to help them launch a new line of shoes for a younger demographic. Her partnerships and social media growth (4.6 million followers on her Insta) eventually supported her clothing line launch, “Shop Sincerely Jules”, which hit Nordstrom stores last year (and is apparently making her some bank). One can only imagine how Nordstrom has helped! But so, too, did her sizable audience.

Logan Paul

Think these rules only apply to social media stars of the female persuasion? Think again. I remember Logan Paul on the cover of Adweek…on top of a pile of bananas. He started on the now-defunct Vine years ago and today has 20+ million-plus fans across social platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. He was the first person to share a live Facebook video from underwater, and his Facebook videos got up to 300+ million views in a single month. That’s more than two-and-a-half times the size of your typical Super Bowl viewing audience.

He partnered with Hanes back in 2014 for a social campaign that earned 3.8 million impressions on Twitter (a record-breaker at the time), 750,000 Facebook views and nearly 38 million Vine loops. He also partnered with Dunkin’ Donuts.

So what was the logical next step for Logan Paul? You guessed it! A clothing line. Logan launched “Maverick by Logan Paul,” named after his parrot. Apparel includes Logan’s popular sayings (i.e. “Logang” — a term that refers to his followers) and is available for all ages.

Stuff from Logan Paul.

This matters.

A global marketplace has developed around brands and social media stars because of the direct relationship an influencer has with his or her followers. And over the next five years, millennials will spend $1.4 trillion on products and services. These two factors spell a lot of opportunity.

In today’s Modern Media Culture, we often talk with our clients about the power of Audience Development. Meaning, a great creative idea is no longer enough, if you don’t ALSO have a plan to drive views, likes, shares, followers, comments, etc. One cannot live without the other, and we never want to go to market without both, because social platforms are crowded.

Brands must learn from influencers, who are permanently changing marketing strategies: unedited authenticity, content speed-to-market, real-time fan engagement, giving up some creative control all really matter. Marketers may write influencers off as a passing fad, but what influencers have achieved is legit. Not to mention, they might just be future competitors.

Alix Harrison is a Brand Director at Mistress.