Growing your brand in the age of social media; according to experts in each field.
As Bo Burnham aptly noticed, everything can be found on the internet. It’s a bit of a wild place, an animal kingdom within its own right. And like everything in life, the fashion industry is just as affected by the internet as any other industry. I’m not just talking about how AI will slowly replace different roles once held by humans within this industry, but how the internet–and specifically social media–have impacted growth within the industry.
Apart from speaking with influencers, which are an aspect of fashion that has grown out of social platforms, I also took the time to speak with podcasters, marketers, and designers. From marketing on different apps to seeing exponential growth within their companies, podcasts, or brands it seems that this virtual form of human connection isn’t just something that’s addicting, but a very real way to propel your growth forward. Whether you want to work in the fashion industry yourself or you just happen to love it and are a bit curious, read the interviews below with each of these creatives that found a way to get social media to work for them.
Madi B Webb
For growing such a large following on both TikTok and Instagram, Madi B Webb has managed to stay true to both herself and the original mission of growing her platform, to empower women. A content creator based in L.A she focuses mainly on fashion content, with a side of beauty, lifestyle, and vulnerability. In a world where influencers are often used as the punch line of a joke, Madi has taken control of the narrative herself and is using her platform as an influencer (or content creator) to show the power not only of fashion but embracing your individuality and voice. Scroll down to read my interview with Madi to learn her take on how social media has impacted her and her tips for growing your own platform.
Q: How did you decide you wanted to be part of the fashion industry?
A: I used to have to wear uniforms all my life until halfway through my junior year, so I would imagine what I could wear when I had the money for nice clothes and I wasn’t constricted by uniforms. Being restricted to a certain dress code really took away a lot of my freedom of expression, but I’d draw outfits in my notebook all the time in class and imagine the beautiful things I’d have one day. On top of that, for me, dressing in anything that is remotely revealing is like a huge middle finger to the patriarchal and fundamentalist ideologies I was raised with. I just wanted to be a part of that empowered inspiration for other women, and so incorporating fashion into my content just made sense because my style is a true reflection of me.
Q: What are your thoughts on influencer marketing?
A: It's honestly the entire marketing system towards Gen Z and millennials. That’s how brands reach these generations because social media and phones are just ways of life, if you want to have a brand then you need to not only sponsor influencers but also have social media pages for the brand to be known at all.
Q:I love all of your content because you are so empowered and open, you’re willing to be vulnerable about abuse, anxiety, and eating disorders. What is some advice you have about being vulnerable on the internet?
A: It really takes a specific person to be vulnerable on the internet because it isn’t always great. When you post something about yourself, you’re opening yourself to all the opinions of other people. Because no matter how vulnerable you get on the internet, no one watching it really knows you. So it very much comes with its own challenges. Being vulnerable and empowered as a woman can make being on the internet tougher because there will be so many men, no matter how far we’ve come as a society, that will want women to stay submissive and humble. So it’s really important to consider all of this. But being vulnerable made sense for me because I really wanted to empower women to believe that they can build their own businesses, they can do whatever they want, and what people say doesn’t matter. And I’m proof of that.
Q: You walked a runway last year?! How’d you make that happen?
A: Yes! So I got invited by Boohoo to go to Miami swim week in 2020 and so when I saw that show I was like, ‘in 2021 I want to walk that runway.’ It just looked like the most terrifying thing and I wanted to do it. And I did!
Q: What are some tips on growing as a fashion influencer?
A: Set yourself apart from others, fashion is subjective and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I used to try to do all of the trends, but when I started to really be myself was when my platform grew. And being myself, my personal style tends to be all over the place and really based off of my energy that day so I show a lot of different parts of me. So if you’re trying to grow, just don’t try to fit yourself into a box or a category.
Q: What are your plans for using your (growing) platform?
A: Last year I sold things under ‘Madi B’s closet’ and we sold out within the first 24 hours. Because of this, I’ve decided to really make a run for it this year in having my own line!
Kiana Ting is a California-based influencer I met when she was still based in my hometown. Easygoing and down to earth, we got together and styled a photoshoot together a little over a year ago. Now, as she begins to focus on both lifestyle and fashion content on both Instagram and TikTok, it seemed like the perfect time to catch up (and interview her for this article!) Read below to find out what got her started in content creation and her tips for growing in this increasingly saturated market.
Q: How did you decide you wanted to be part of the fashion industry?
A: In a lot of ways, I’ve always been interested in fashion, and growing up in an area near the beach where there were a lot of fashion trends I’d often see these styles that I liked and think, ‘oh that’s not my vibe.’ Then over time, I began to try things out and it really helped me to grow my self-confidence. Fashion can really just help you find out more about yourself and your personality and finding ways to incorporate your individuality. The more I got into it, the more I fell in love with it and wanted to find some way to enjoy it every day.
Q: Are you planning on developing your growth in the fashion/influencer aspect of the industry more?
A: I definitely think so and with my content it is easy to talk about both fashion and lifestyle. I don’t see myself really getting deeper than content creation or going into high fashion, but the day-to-day stuff is something I really enjoy.
Q: Would you consider yourself to be an influencer?
A: Not really, I’d consider myself to be more of a content creator. I’ve always loved creating content. Even all the way back to middle school, I’d try to recreate Tumblr posts, and then when Pinterest became a thing my best friend and I got really into it. We even planned our senior trip around where we could recreate pictures we saw on Pinterest!
Q: What are some tips that you have in growing as a fashion/lifestyle influencer?
A: Honestly, just really experiment with what you post and showcase your own personality. You want to show things that you are inspired by and some people don’t really do that. There are definitely some influencers that just share items that are gifted to them or they get something for and I get that, I work a 9-5 along with content creation so sometimes I forget to post what I genuinely like. But in the end, it’s really wasteful to even have all these free products and not use them. And if you’re after views, people like it when it’s something you authentically care about. So being yourself is really the main key.
Q: Finally, what’s been your favorite part of using social media?
A: Probably just the connection with people, I’m someone who really likes connection, and seeing people share parts of their lives. On any social app, anytime you open your phone there’s usually someone you can relate to or will understand. Which is really great.
Jill Manoff, Editor in Chief of Glossy
Getting to interview Jill was like being a kid in a candy store. Although I’ve been working as a fashion writer for the last three years and have spoken with many amazing people, Jill has an old-guard perspective on the fashion industry since she became a writer before the flurry of social media took hold. This perspective lends to this article, but also fascinating stories about the fashion world before the trend cycle became rapid and all we could think about was someone whose name we didn’t know the day before.
Apart from asking her about her views on how social media has impacted both her and fashion in a more general sense, I also picked her brain on any tips for up-and-coming writers reading this might put to good use.
Q: How did you decide you wanted to work as a fashion writer?
A: Having grown up in Saint-Louis, I always loved fashion. I’d make sketches and look at style icons on TV. But it definitely took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do and right after college, I went to a career fair and signed up for every job I could find. I got a position at a motion picture company that licenses films in Saint-Louis, knowing I didn’t want the movie industry to be my life, I tended to still do creative things on the side. This is how I found the Saint-Louis publication Alive–which is no longer in business–and they were looking to introduce fashion to the magazine, so I started doing that as a freelancer while doing my other job full-time and I’d pour my heart into writing these articles. Eventually, I was hired here full-time, starting my career in fashion.
Q: Do you have a specific topic that you like to cover most?
A: Glossy has shifted to focusing on beauty more than fashion because there is less focus on the business side of the beauty industry. Still, as a fashion girl, even with my interest in beauty, talking to an executive at a luxury company always feels like such a privilege. Even now, I’ll feel like a kid when I get to talk to someone at, say Gucci. This is happening right now, I’ve been emailing with a PR representative of Gucci as they plan to open a new store in Saint-Louis so I’m getting a little preview of that. So I’d say original reporting on a large, influential brand would be my favorite topic to cover.
Q: For our readers that don’t know, what does a fashion editor do?
A: It’s not just writing. Every day is different, but being a fashion editor is more than just writing about fashion and editing a reporter’s work, even if that is something that you’ll need to do. The most important thing is really thinking strategically about who your reader is and how you can cater to that.
Q: If someone is looking to get started in the writing industry, what advice would you give them?
A: It might not be what a lot of people want to hear, but you really have to pay your dues. Hard work will pay off, even if that means starting from the bottom. Internships matter and freelancing is great. Just get enough clips to show people an honest representation of your work.
Q: How have you noticed social media impacting the writing industry?
A: Yes, it’s impacted the speed. Trend cycles are far more rapid now and it’s made us more discerning than what we normally write about. We have to ask if it’s worth knowing or worth writing about because there’s seemingly a new trend on social media or TikTok every day. Now things need to be covered more rapidly if they’re important because the stories can get over-saturated quickly.
Q: Would you say that social media has helped you at all?
A: Working at Glossy using social media is really important because now brands are using Instagram and social media accounts as a press release. They’re controlling the narrative this way. Brands are built more and more off of the cultural conversation and what’s resonating with people, so you have to be part of these platforms to be aware of the conversations consumers are having about the brands we’re writing about. So everybody in fashion from brands to publications needs to be paying attention to our presence on platforms.
Kristina Ang from Life of a Fashion Student Podcast
For the last few months, I’ve been listening to the Life of a Fashion Student Podcast, and while Kristina is no longer a fashion student her podcast gives excellent insight into starting out in the fashion industry. Since I consider podcasts to be in some ways a form of social media, a quick email was shot off to see if she’d be interested in being interviewed for this article. Kristina rapidly responded and we scheduled a Zoom call into our hectic schedules (8 pm interviews in your pajamas truly are the perfect time to talk about the industry you love!)
Whether you’re debating on fashion school or toying with the idea of starting a podcast, read Kristina’s interview below.
Q: What inspired you to start a podcast?
A: So I decided to start a podcast in 2020, and there wasn’t anything for people aspiring to be in the fashion industry or even for students. Already listening to primarily fashion podcasts or motivation podcasts, creating ones to fill this niche made sense since everything seemed to be on someone who had already made it in the industry. So I wanted to make a podcast that would help people to build their careers from the ground up, starting when they’re students.
Q: Fashion school seems to have given you some amazing opportunities, would you consider it worth it?
A: My views on this have been covered in a lot of episodes, I don’t think that fashion school is essential. I graduated last year in May from my dream school and it wasn’t all I thought it would be or all it’s made out to be. Going to Parsons helped a lot, but now a lot of people in fashion are coming from different industries and excelling a lot more than those that study fashion.
Q: I love your podcast because you give tips and advice about the fashion industry, even when you’re no longer a fashion student. Are you considering rebranding it as you grow in the industry?
A: I did do a slight re-brand by changing the cover to Life of an Ex-Fashion Student. I decided to keep the name as it was since that’s what it is known as. One of my friends also told me that in fashion you’re always learning, so you’re always a student in some way. And that’s why I didn’t really end up changing it.
Q: Are there any podcasting hacks that you found?
A: People should definitely use Anchor to start your own podcast. And then when you’re first starting out, you don’t really need to invest in a good mic. But then when I was about one month in I was like, ‘that’s it, I really need a good mic,’ and it really does change the sound quality so as you grow, start thinking about getting a better mic.
Q: Would you say that social media has impacted your growth in the fashion industry at all?
A: Social media has made connections so much easier. I’ve followed multiple people on Instagram and reached out to them. It also helps with credibility since brands and people can see different things that you’ve done. I tend to use social media as an archive or as documentation for how I’ve grown or what I’ve done. Which also gives me some credibility.
Q: What is one thing you wish that every fashion student knew?
A: Just be 100% passionate about what you’re doing, because if you’re going into school and you’re not passionate about what you’re studying then in the end you’re going to be disappointed. I told myself that in the beginning and I didn’t really take my own advice, so that’s something I want everyone to know.
Taran from TKC design based in Vancouver, Canada
(Image was sent by her for this article, doesn’t have a link)
If you believe in fate, how I decided to interview Taran was perfect. After determining that this article would be my focus for the next week, I opened up my Tik Tok to start researching different people I might be able to interview. And like so many of us once you open that app, your brain gets sucked in and you forget your original intent. Scrolling through my For You Page, not one, not two, but three of Taran’s most viral TikToks found their way into my feed! Instantly feeling more productive because here was someone I could talk to, I sent off a quick email and started to look more into this lingerie company.
Growing up in a modest South-Asian household, Taran was taught that the female body should be covered up. This is something that many women from various cultures can relate to, learning that your own body should be covered for the comfort of others. Over time her creativity took hold and with her love of South-Asian textiles that she believed would not only make beautiful clothing, but also lingerie. Read some of the interview questions I got to ask Taran below to gain the perspective of a fashion designer on stereotyping, fashion school, and social media.
Q: As a graduate of Parsons, would you consider fashion school crucial for those that want to become designers?
A: Fashion school isn’t crucial, while it will push you off the beaten path to think of more artistic designs, learning to design doesn’t come directly from the school. Graduating from Parsons gives credibility and can help with business. But I wouldn’t say it’s critical unless you are looking to apply at a design house.
Q: How has social media impacted your growth within the fashion industry?
A: I’ve been on Instagram for a while, I joined TikTok when the pandemic started and that has grown my business like no other social media platform. Social media, particularly platforms like TikTok, give the audience and consumers the opportunity to see the faces and stories behind a brand. Because of this, it’s more engaging and relatable than just an image.
Q: Do you notice that TikTok can lead directly to sales for you?
A: If there is something that goes viral, the website goes crazy. There are some days I can’t use my phone because it can get overheated with site notifications. If people don’t buy them, they usually just follow or save a video and (hopefully) come back later.
Q: One of your TikToks discusses the stigma around talking about sex and showing skin, specifically as an Indian. Would you say that racism impacted you in the fashion industry?
A: There were moments of racism while studying at Parsons with some of my teachers. As a young student in a new city and in one of the toughest programs, I didn't acknowledge it and speak out, even when encouraged by my peers, but looking back I wish I did! I’m lucky that I haven’t experienced a lot of racism in this field, there has been some stereotyping, but it's always fun to educate people through art. I think it is beautiful that art and fashion can be explored by all cultures and backgrounds, and truly encourage everyone to experience the beauty of South Asian textiles.
Q: What advice would you have on dealing with those comments?
A: When you’re young, you are afraid to stick up for things, if you can use your voice and educate people. If you can't, use your art to do that. If you're on social media, you will receive all types of critiques and comments, it is important to acknowledge them, but give your attention to all of the positive comments and feedback, and keep going!
Published on Fashion On The Beat