Since the birth of Instagram, fashion has never quite been the same. The app is only eight years old, but we're already struggling to remember the days when glossy magazines had the last word in trends and brick-and-mortar stores were the only way to see the latest collections. In 2018, fashion comes fast and inspiration is instantaneous. Yes, there are many who accuse Instagram of killing originality and glorifying mass consumption, and while we can't ignore its pitfalls, we also can't deny the overwhelmingly positive impact it's had on up-and-coming brands.
First and foremost, Instagram has dramatically changed the luxury landscape: "By 2025, millennials and Gen-Z consumers are expected to account for 45% of luxury market sales (Bain & Co.), so we can expect assortment mixes and pricing strategies to continue to shift," explains an analyst from Edited, a fashion data platform. "Exclusive price points have always been the hallmark of luxury, but now it’s also about scarcity, social capital and meme-like relevancy."
Apparently, million-dollar celeb-fronted ad campaigns won't cut it anymore. Millennials are hitting their 20s and 30s, and are willing to spend (well, we're not buying houses are we?), prioritising brands with character and a conscience.
Instagram provides the perfect space for this: "We've found that our customers are searching for a journey of discovery and storytelling moments to feel inspired," says Hannah Fillis, head of social at MatchesFashion. "It's a platform that allows brands to build a community and customer base with nothing more than a phone. It allows for real-time feedback and gives brands direct access to their customer base."
Over the last 12 months, we've watched as e-commerce brands have fought to discover and secure the latest It brands—ones that have the potential to challenge even the biggest brands in an overcrowded market. While we'll always be champions of the Great British High Street, the Instagram clan has brought something new to the table, delivering a powerful quartet of distinctive design, sustainable production, favourable price point and cult kudos. We even dedicated a photo shoot to these labels back in October—a celebration of everything these innovators have achieved over the last year.
But what are the components that make up a successful Instagram brand? We've looked to our four favourite labels to discover what it takes to make it in 2018's fast-moving social landscape. Scroll down to see what they said; then shop our edit.
Batsheva Hay was inspired to create her high-necked, long-sleeved dresses when faced with the dilemma of consolidating her love of fashion with dressing modestly for the Sabbath (her husband is an Orthodox Jew). "I have always worn prairie dresses, calico prints and Laura Ashley, so I just started with a pattern maker designing my version of the best prairie dress and then it just snowballed from there," she says.
Batsheva's story is the perfect illustration of how Instagram can play a huge roll in the success of small brands. The designer started posting photos of her designs in 2016, and a mere 24 months later, hosted her first presentation at New York Fashion Week.
"At first, I was really resistant to using Instagram, but now, I find it a great outlet to show my brand identity and actually sell clothing. I always put up one-of-a-kind pieces on Instagram, and they sell immediately. There are actual bidding wars!" She says. "I think something about our mass-consumer culture is making customers crave pieces that feel personal and authentic. People want to feel they have found something special."
Rather than being all things to all people, Batsheva is representative of the Insta brand's tendency to stick to one specific aesthetic (aka ruffled-neck, long-sleeved midis), and clearly, this streamlined approach has paid off, with fashion girls and celebs alike (think Pandora Sykes and Margot Robbie) going crazy for her Little House on the Prairie–inspired dresses.
We first came across Oh Hey Girl when we spotted a fashion influencer wearing the brand's showstopping corset blouse. We instantly fell in love with the statement sleeves and buttoned fastening and couldn't believe the £65 price point. Over the following weeks, the same piece popped up again and again across Instagram's most stylish feeds. For a relatively unknown brand, it had experienced exposure that most big labels would kill for.
Founded by 20-somethings Jade Douse and Symone Mills, Oh Hey Girl offers East Asian–inspired street style fashion at accessible prices. They started out selling clothes on Depop before developing the label, which has gone from strength-to-strength ever since—in no small way indebted to the power and reach of social media.
"Instagram has been an amazing tool in helping us grow Oh Hey Girl. What helped the most was sponsored ads. We were able to spend as little as £2 a day, and it took us a while to find the right targeting options. Once we got it, our business literally blew up over night. We were then able to increase the spend, which increased the reach," explains the founders.
"I think it helped that we had very recognisable brand imagery that helped people remember us," they continue. "We also used influencer marketing, which worked really well for items like our puffy-sleeve corset blouse as it was so in demand."
When you scroll through the perfectly-curated feed of Olivia Rose the Label (which is dotted with a number of famous faces), it's hard to believe that the brand was only founded in January 2017 and that each and every piece is handmade to order by Olivia herself. That is no mean feat.
One of the new guard of fashion designers championing a more sustainable approach to production, all of Olivia's items are created in very limited quantities and none are pre-made as she likes to have as little waste as possible
"I think having something handmade is incomparable to buying something on the high street. There's something so special that comes with choosing an item that can be made to measure and tailored perfectly for the customer," explains Olivia.
"Sustainability is, of course, a reason for this," she adds. "I'm working on ways for the brand to be even more sustainable for next year. I find it challenging every day dealing with making orders and running the business side at the same time; however, it's something I'm truly passionate about and am happy to work 12- or 13-hour days for."
This couldn't be more antithetical to the idea of an Instagram generation of "see now, buy now" shoppers. Apparently, delayed gratification isn't totally out of vogue, and people are willing to wait for that special piece.
Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you'll have felt the witnessed the rise and rise of Rixo, the Brit Insta fashion label that hit the big time. The brand started out creating vintage-inspired looks that felt more special than your average high-street dress, but more accessible than a designer piece. By targeting this mid–price point sweet spot, the brand was able to cater to a market that had previously been neglected, and now it's the go-to event-dressing brand for the discerning fashion girl.
"Instagram has played a big part in our growth and ability to reach new global audiences. It’s something we have handled personally from the beginning," says Henrietta Rix, co-founder and creative director at Rixo. "Our account is really inclusive, personal and natural; we’re not trying to be something we’re not or alienate a certain customer—I think people connect with that."
Rixo was one of the early brands to jump on the hashtag bandwagon with #HumansOfRIXO. It allowed its fans to show how they styled their Rixo pieces—a marketing tactic which is undoubtedly more effective than any ad campaign.
"It’s really helped us gain a global audience and showcase women from all ages, sizes, shapes and countries wearing Rixo in their own way," says Henrietta. "As much as we repost celebrity or influencer posts, we also love reposting images of our amazing customers in our pieces to give others ideas of how to wear."