The future of fashion will be run by influencers

The future of fashion?
The future of fashion?
Image: Scott Roth/Invision/AP
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Farfetch (FTCH), a luxury online fashion retailer that went public last year, on Aug. 8 announced its second acquisition in the streetwear space: New Guards Group (NGG), the exclusive license-holder for high-end streetwear brands like Off-White and Heron Preston. The deal follows Farfetch’s 2018 purchase of Stadium Goods, an online sneaker and streetwear marketplace.

Farfetch billed the latest deal as an investment in “brands of the future.” What defines a brand of the future? First and foremost: access to a powerful influencer.

“The brands of the future will have three core elements,” Farfetch chief executive José Neves said in a statement. “First, a creative tastemaker able to leverage digital channels to engage a global community; second, best-in-class design, planning and manufacturing; and third, direct-to-consumer global online distribution, complemented by a connected wholesale presence in the most prestigious physical boutiques.” (Emphasis mine.)

In 2019, it’s hard to imagine a “creative tastemaker” who can “leverage digital channels to engage a global community” as anyone other than a celebrity with social-media clout. Indeed, embracing fashion influencers—formerly known as bloggers—has been a slow but steady shift for the aspiration-oriented luxury fashion industry, which has historically eye-rolled that crowd in favor of models, celebrities, and fashion editors.

Few can afford to keep rolling their eyes. Marketing via social media—through influencers and micro-influencers—is now a big business (Quartz member exclusive). As Fashionista noted, “with mobile shopping, peer-to-peer e-commerce, and influencer marketing continually on the rise, social commerce is finally becoming the next wave of retail.” What’s more, utilizing social media is a crucial way to reach Gen Z customers, the first wave of consumers who effectively grew up online. At last count, they account for some $44 billion in buying power.

Some fashion labels have already made their influencer partnerships core to their brand. Take the e-commerce site Revolve, whose 2018 IPO filing referenced its 2,500-strong network of influencers, and used the actual word “influencer” 79 times.  As Marc Bain wrote for Quartzy last year: “Influencers figure into the company’s observations about its present success and competitive advantage in fashion, in its future plans, and in the potential risks it faces.”