Is fashion dictated by brands or people?

Christopher Polk / Variety

Fact Box

  • Vogue Business reported that by 2022, brands will spend “as much as $15 billion annually on influencer marketing” which is a jump from $8 billion in 2019. 
  • Statista reported the most valuable fashion brands between 2020 and 2021 were Nike ($30,443), Gucci ($15,599), and Louise Vuitton ($14,858).
  • Street style is defined as 'fashion that is considered to have emerged not from studios, but from the grassroots streetwear. Street fashion is generally associated with youth culture, and is most often seen in major urban centers.'
  • According to Vogue, Kate Middleton's style choices during Zoom calls necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic have 'sold out within a matter of hours or even minutes of her going live on their official Instagram account.
  • According to data compiled by Love The Sales, all the ensembles sported by the Duchess of Cambridge have increased global fashion searches for the items by 86 percent since March 2020.'

Haley (People)

In the age of influencers, people--not brands--lead fashion trends. Because of social media sites such as Instagram and YouTube, individuals can now build a platform and gain a large audience by themselves--without the endorsement of large fashion houses. 

Several influencers attended the 2022 Met Gala “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” including TikTok star Addison Rae, Emma Chamberlain, and another TikTok fame, Avani Gregg. Brands now follow and mass-produce trends set by influencers and celebrities, while individuals are the new creative driving force behind the fashion industry.

On a daily basis, fans have direct access to celebrities' and top models' fashion choices, instead of seeing these looks only in advertisements or other media. And thanks to the widespread use of ad-block technology and the rise of streaming services, fewer people are subjected to branded advertising, preferring to get their fashion content from social media. As of May 4, 2022, top model Kendall Jenner has 235 million followers on Instagram, much more than famous high-fashion brands such as Chanel and Gucci, which have almost 50 million, and Prada, which has only 29.3 million. It's not surprising that most people prefer individuals who appear relatable and approachable over faceless conglomerates. 

Further, Gen Z is more likely to trust influencers, whom they see as fellow consumers, more than celebrities. According to an article in Forbes, 92% of survey respondents trust an influencer recommendation over a product's paid celebrity endorsement. 

People, especially influencers, are fashion's new trendsetters.

Luna (Brands) 

The Asch Conformity Experiments conducted in the 1950s introduced the world to the scientific notion that people tend to want to conform. And this tendency is seen in our daily lives by observing the fashion choices we make. People choose to wear brands that are trending in order to 'fit in' with their peers. This is especially true for teenagers. Studies have shown that even a perceived rejection can have detrimental effects on one's mental health. And humans are wired to avoid pain and maximize pleasure, so they gravitate towards social acceptance over self-comfort. 

Brands use techniques based on this psychology to tap into shoppers' fears and boost their sales. This includes paying social influencers to exert peer pressure and compel their followers to buy branded products to maintain social status. We are social creatures and instinctively look to our network to make the right choices. When people see their idols and friends wearing a particular brand, they feel obligated to purchase one for themselves even if they are not fond of the style.

Sometimes brands take it a notch higher by utilizing evocative advertising and focusing on trending social issues to highlight their products. For instance, introducing plus-size clothing when fat-shaming dominates media coverage or offering rainbow-colored dresses to represent the LGBTQ community when people talk about gender and sexuality. This type of emotional manipulation makes people feel connected to causes and thus more likely to buy from that brand--and also demonstrates one more example of how brands dictate the fashion landscape.

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