CAN THE FASHION INDUSTRY EMBRACE YOUTUBERS?
A few years ago now, bloggers ruled in popularity because of their radical personal approach in contrast to ‘elite’ fashion editors. Then Instagram swooped in as the newest place to display personal style, where followers can get an idea of the styles they love with a quick swipe up; it takes even less time to stay up to date than typing in a URL and reading an in-depth blog post.
But influence never stops shifting, and YouTube is the next hotspot. Already young people turn to YouTube for first time make-up videos, leading them down the path of lookbook videos, hauls, how-to guides, and a scramble to purchase from brands endorsed by their favorite online stars.
In 2015, successful beauty YouTubers already made around $30,000 per month, on top of selling other merchandise including books, accessories, or beauty products. Some Internet stars also pair up with established retailers, such as Bethany Mota, who worked with Aeropostale in 2015. Michelle Phan started out on YouTube before launching Ipsy, a beauty company of her own now valued at $500,000,000 according to Forbes. Zoe Sugg, who gained her popularity on YouTube now owns several lifestyle and merch lines, and is also a bestselling ‘author’ as well. These women all have millions of subscribers on YouTube, on top of equally impressive following numbers on Twitter and Instagram.
Luxury fashion is no stranger to YouTube either, although brands have yet to marry their influencer strategies with this platform so far. In a search on YouTube for “Louis Vuitton,” there are over 1.3 million results. Louis Vuitton’s own channel has 96.4 million views, accounting for half of all views of YouTube videos about Louis Vuitton. The other half comes from organic advertising, or from ‘average’ people doing lookbooks or haul or unboxing videos, and never being paid a cent from LVMH.
YouTube is a lucrative way for luxury brands to gain free publicity, but this publicity is a double-edged sword. YouTube is a free space on the Internet and vloggers can speak of their favorite brands as well as brands that they hate. This adds to the authenticity of vloggers as they may seem to be more credible when recommending a brand, but brands cannot monitor negative publicity.
YouTube fashion influencers are unique because of the D.I.Y., low maintenance, accessible feel of their production. Their original personal style comes out in a way that viewers can emulate, hence why they are so appealing and effective at encouraging consumption.
But this also means that YouTubers tend towards a more commercial feel. This perhaps explains the apprehension of the high fashion industry, who tend to align themselves more with artists or avant-gardism, to fully invest in this new sphere of influence. Likewise, most avid YouTube viewers are still in high school and even middle school, and don’t have the money to purchase high-end clothing from Versace or Saint Laurent. Many still haven’t yet discovered or shown an interest in more experimental types of fashion, but the average age of YouTube watchers is ever increasing, and as these younger kids will grow up continuing to watch YouTube, their tastes may also mature or diversify.
Luxury brands do have a strong presence on YouTube as it is, but their target audience is not on YouTube in vast amounts. The main watchers of online content are grade-schoolers with minimum wage paid jobs, who have more interest in the clearance section at the mall than the newest fashion week trends. But this is changing; as the Internet gets more accessible with each passing year, and the fact remains that YouTube is still an ‘untapped’ space for another crowd of luxury influencers, especially those with exiting followings on Instagram or blogs that they can bring over with them. If luxury brands want to stay relevant, they will need to find a way to harness the rising fashion community of vloggers, before they are pushed out by more commercial brands entirely.
One blogger who has successfully bridged the gap between high fashion and the YouTube scene is Aimee Song of Song of Style, who has successfully stayed true to her style and moved into the YouTube scene with daily, highly produced vlogs that garner about 60,000 views each, on average (and counting). She shows off her chic style through travel vlogs, daily routines, and documenting her trips to fashion week. While some would argue that Aimee’s style is less adventurous than most in the fashion industry, she has proved her chops as an entrepreneur, creative, and now Internet pioneer; her move into YouTube also proves that there is a growing market for audiences interested in high fashion.
People trying to enter the fashion industry as young designers or photographers can also work YouTube to their advantage. Showing off collections that they have designed or created themselves can be put online for an easily accessible portfolio. As we discussed earlier this week, fashion films are also on the rise right now. Young talented fashion students gaining subscribers will more likely be noticed by top brands, and because they have a built-in audience and an established point of view.
Whether as a watcher of a vlogger, YouTube presents many opportunities for the high fashion community to gather and share personal style – there is something out there for everybody.