They're the cool kids of social media whose eye for the new (or the recycled) makes them vauable partners for brands. For our fashion issue, Amy Scrimshire picks out 5 Instagram 'influencers' to watch while Sarah Penny argues that, to get the most out of such relationships, brands need to go niche
Recently named YSL Beauté UK Makeup Ambassador, and already Contributing Beauty Editor at i-D magazine at 25, Isamaya is a makeup artist/illustrator with a bold approach to makeup (see above). She's worked with creatives including designer Tim Walker and photographer Nick Knight, and with clients including Chanel, Selfridges, Liberty and Vogue.
Cover of Mushpit 7 from June 2015
Eve and Ellie by Eloise Parry, Bertie & Charlotte
"We shot a group of 13 year old girls (who did their own hair and makeup) on a drizzly day in Redcar, North Yorkshire," the Mushpit team say. "They were incredibly smart and self-aware and we love how well that comes across in the story."
Aka Charlotte Roberts and Bertie Brandes, The Mushpit is a tongue-in-cheek zine that has been described as ‘J-17 meets Private Eye'. Charlotte is a stylist and consultant, Bertie is a freelance writer, i-D Contributing Features Editor and former VICE Fashion Editor. The pair have strong industry relationships, championed upcoming creatives and so far have forged collaborations with brands including Claire Barrow and Baby G.
Images from the Instagram feed of RoryDCS
Fashion photographer Rory DC has worked with titles including the Sunday Times Style, Observer Fashion, Glamour and The Debrief. A graduate and lecturer of London College of Fashion, Rory's stylistic, dreamy images of girls feature in the coffee table-friendly ‘visual self-help' tome, How To Be Fun, which was released this year.
Images from jeanieus82's Instagram feed
Jeanie Annan-Lewin, or Jeanius82 as her Instagram moniker goes, is a freelance fashion editor and consultant with a strong presence on the social photo sharing platform. A frequent contributor to fashion and music titles, Jeanie has worked with i-D, Wonderland, NYLON, Burberry and Topshop.
Josh Quinton and Andy Bradin aka Disco Smack channelling Roxie-era Brian Eno on their Instagram feed
Josh Quinton and Andy Bradin teamed up through their love of disco music. First championed by Princess Julia and Katy England, they've been wholeheartedly embraced by the fashion crowd for their fun attitude and individual looks, playing for Mario Testino, Fran Cutler and Kate Moss to name a few. Between them they've featured in British Vogue, a Lanvin campaign, walked for Saint Laurent and are frequently dressed by Meadham Kirchoff.
Fashion bloggers brought a wave of fresh, democratic air to the industry, writes Sarah Penny. The lucky ones were able to turn their thousands of followers into a business, with brands paying to feature in their Instagram posts and YouTube videos. In the first waves of influencer collaboration it was a numbers game, with brands scrambling in hot pursuit of the mass market influencer elite. But now that we have reached saturation point, both brands and bloggers are turning to a more focused approach in order to make an impact.
Influencers are increasingly becoming more niche, allowing them to build audiences that are identifiable and focussed for brands who want to be able to target consumers clearly. Many are also going beyond just fashion itself to carve out distinct lifestyle identities.
Pari Ehsan, an Instagrammer with over 207k followers, combines fashion with art and architecture. Her unique approach is to take looks straight from the catwalk and shoot them against coordinating artwork in New York's galleries and museums (see above). As Ehsan's popularity grew, so did the offers from brands to the extent that she has now collaborated with a wealth of fashion powerhouses including Missoni, Barneys, Chanel and Christian Dior.
Karen Robinovitz, chief creative officer at Digital Brand Architects, represents Ehsan as well as influencers such as art director Isabelita Martinez (@isabelitavirtual, 742k followers) and interior designer Athena Calderone (@eyeswoon, 56k followers). "The lens of the fashion influencer has widened to other genres outside of fashion because those who consume their content and brands in general are interested in multiple things," she says. "Brands don't market with just their product but larger cultural zeitgeist moments and trends in order to bring their items to life. The same is true with an influencer."
It's not just luxury brands that are in pursuit of influencers that offer more than just general fashion. Ever quick to embrace and extend their influencer collaborations, Topshop have spotlighted a wave of ‘New British Influencers' whose content now plugs directly into the Topshop site (shown).
Credibility can now count for more than quantity of followers as brands become more sophisticated in their use of influencers. Disney Roller Girl's Navaz Batliwalla and Yasmin Sewell may have a fraction of the reach that some of their peers have, but they both began their careers within the fashion industry. Batliwalla was fashion director at CosmoGIRL! as well as an experienced stylist, while Sewell was buying director at Brown's and chief creative consultant at Liberty. This experience cements their reputation and guarantees an audience of industry peers, as well as promising an informed and experienced perspective.
Despite the sheer numbers available, creative influencers are becoming increasingly popular and lucrative channels for brands. Unlike many celebrities, they are not just mouthpieces for brands. Instead, audiences view them as authoritative and trustworthy - which in a world that is increasingly reliant on word-of-mouth over traditional advertising can be priceless.