From models to bloggers to It Girls, the constant stream of gifted shoes, bags and sun-soaked, carefree faces clogging up your Instagram feed can sometimes make you (if you are not a model/blogger/It Girl) forget why it is you work crazy hours for tuppence in an industry that, at least on the outside, appears to only favour the famous. But are you just following the wrong people on Instagram?
Here's a scenario that might seem all too familiar to you if you work in fashion: it's 4PM on a Tuesday. You've got a major deadline in two hours but you haven't been able to start working on it because you're getting about ten emails a minute that all require urgent responses. You just found out you'll have to help prepare for an event in the morning (read: all-nighter). You make the bold move to dash out for a cup of coffee in fear of otherwise collapsing onto your keyboard. You're in line at Starbucks and, trying to distract yourself long enough to breathe, you do a quick Instagram scroll. There you see fashion colleagues living out their Tuesday afternoons.
There's the in-demand blogger smiling with Designer X, holding the bag he's just given her months before anyone else will be able to get their hands on it. There's the DJ/ model /writer/ It Girl kicking off her jewel-encrusted Birkenstocks on the beach at Montauk or on the Côte d'Azur. There's the - well, you're not sure exactly what she does, but she wears a lot of amazing clothes - "sneaking" shots of the private luncheon she's enjoying at Valentino's estate outside Paris.
It can be easy to get discouraged thinking that the world you’re seeing in your Instagram scrolls is all there is: you are in one realm of fashion nobodies while the It Girls with the gifted runway pieces are the true successes.
Fashion's done a lot of evolving in just a few short years, as we're constantly reminded by every newspaper, magazine and style site. The bulk of that change is due to the rise of blogging and of Instagram. Thanks to the now-commonplace role of "fashion blogger" it's the daily routine of some to share their enviable experiences in the industry, from the parties and shows they attend to the gifts they receive from designers. And much of that is done on Instagram, the platform used by not only these bloggers, but by editors, journalists, models, muses, It Girls and tastemakers to give quick, perfectly arranged peeks of their photo-ready lives.
The entire industry has adapted to the fact that now it's not just a few select journalists writing about shows in their columns, but the masses click-click-clicking away on their smart phones to share their take on the shows and the clothes with their thousands of followers. To keep up, designers have tailored their creations and presentations to be appealing in the instantaneous shots shared around the world. As Alexander Wang explained in Matthew Schneier's piece for New York Times, Fashion in the Age of Instagram the picture is "something we always take into deep consideration, even developing a collection. Sometimes, I have to admit - as a designer, you get into this trap of thinking about clothes for a picture rather than what’s going to go into the market or showroom.”
The problem is for those of us working in and loving fashion, but without the thousands of Instagram followers? It can start to feel like it's not our world anymore. Those It Girls and bloggers wield a lot of power in their pink iPhones. They offer publicity that is instantly global, and so the industry caters to that relationship by making these Instagrammers' lives perpetually photo-op-worthy.
Think of the dizzying whirlwind that is the Instagram feed of Snob Essentials’s Tina Craig. Her shots bounce from Florence to New York to LA with frequent appearances by bold-faced fashion names and gifted shoes, bags and beauty treatments. The vicious cycle is hard to break into: this is a business accommodating you if you have a staggering amount of followers, but it can be difficult to reach a staggering amount of followers without these intriguing shots that make users feel like they're stealing glances at a life so unlike their own. If you've got your nose to the grindstone as a writer or a PR assistant, you might not have the Instagram followers to attract that sort of life, or the salary to make it happen on your own. The gap between the costs of luxury fashion and what most of the people propelling that industry forward earn can be overwhelmingly wide. Those Proenza Schouler knee-high boots that everyone’s getting for fall are over a grand. The Row’s suede sling bag (good luck finding one) is twice as much. According to a survey conducted by Fashionista.com this past August of 5000 industry professionals, the average salary in the US for an editorial assistant is $33,900. For a copy editor, $34,000, for a writer, $44,600, for an editor $66,400.
For the average fashion industry professional, work weeks are full of long days behind a desk or on set. You fight to get ahead in this business because of your love for the clothes and the designers. Seeing someone on Instagram get much closer to that elite part of fashion - meeting those designers, jetsetting around to be photographed in those clothes - can be frustrating when you know you have the drive and the skill set to get there, but feel like you might not be obtaining the same opportunities because of your nine-to-five (or nine-to-nine) responsibilities and not having enough social media followers.
Shots bounce from Florence to New York to LA with frequent appearances by bold-faced fashion names and gifted shoes, bags and beauty treatments.
It can be easy to get discouraged thinking that the world you’re seeing in your Instagram scrolls is all there is: you are in one realm of fashion nobodies while the It Girls with the gifted runway pieces are the true successes. These days we’re seeing social media clout translate into opportunity. Those with the right amount of followers are rewarded with endorsement deals, like Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad’s Si by Armani perfume campaign. According to a recent report from WWD, one top blogger charged a brand $5,000 to post a product shot, and these personalities can get up to $50,000 for appearing at events like store openings. These opportunities and presumably glamorous lifestyles are not always going to the people putting in long hours at the office every day, in any sort of traditional sense, at least, and Instagram can be an irritating reminder of that.
All is not lost for the style-focused cubicle dweller or assistant. When you’ve got the talent and the determination, amazing things can happen in this business. Try to tune out the noise from your Instagram feed to see how many people do big things with hard work. As your mother will remind you, all you can do is your best and when your best is hard work and devotion, you’ll experience the kind of moments that made you want to do this in the first place. Admittedly, it can be hard to remember that when the person breezing past you to air-kiss Carine is someone that you can't even remember what precisely they do for a living.
In this age of street style and Instagram, that flashbulb-popping parade has indeed started to upstage the real show: the incredible work being done by the designers, the smart commentary of journalists, the painstaking work of editors, the frenzied dedication of PR assistants. As Suzy Menkes wrote in her oft-quoted piece for New York Times' T Magazine, The Circus of Fashion: "The fuss around the shows now seems as important as what goes on inside the carefully guarded tents."
Reading Menkes' article, though, you realise it’s written on one inspiring condition: that there is an entire community of fashion industry professionals who are there for the designers. You'll remember this magic when you talk to a designer just starting out, working 16-hour days to create the collections they believe in with their whole beings. Bloggers are clearing a cool million a year: take it from Vanity Fair's recent revelation that even a blogger from Salt Lake City (Rachel Parcell of Pink Peonies) can hang with the millionaire club of BryanBoy blogger Bryan Grey-Yambao and Song of Style's Aimee Song. But you can even forget that when you wander into that cool new boutique downtown and start talking to the shop owner about that dress from a label you've never heard of, and before you know it, an hour's gone by while you two have introduced each other to new up-and-coming lines you love. Fashion still exists beyond the bloggers changing six times a day, the gifted handbags and the flattering filters. It exists as the gritty, exciting passionate world that's been quietly pumping on behind all of that smooth glitz. If you forget that, you might be following the wrong people on Instagram.