Does Anyone Care About Fashion Anymore? for So-Called 'Influencers' It's a Hot Topic.

By Linda Besner May 5, 2020

Lansky says her follower count is stable but people are reaching out for more than brands (Courtesy of Jillian Lansky)

In a recent video entitled “How to Look Chic at Home,” she starts by saying, “I’ve gotten a few requests for a loungewear video, so I thought I’d show you what I’m wearing.” She stands up. “Surprise! It’s s–tty sweatpants.” While cute loungewear videos are indeed making the rounds on social media, Lansky isn’t buying. “The only fashion I really care about right now is the personal protective equipment that doctors are wearing,” Lansky says. These are not just words: Lansky is married to an ER doctor who is working on the pandemic’s front lines in Toronto.

When lives are at risk, the “lifestyle” category smacks of gallows humour. In 2019, influencer marketing was a global industry with an estimated value of US$8 billion. But now, in the midst of a global pandemic, even some fashion influencers aren’t that interested in fashion. Management consultancy firm Bain & Company predicts that the global market for luxury goods will shrink by 25 per cent this year alone. Are we done with aspirational content? Have we moved on from caring about $300 cashmere sweaters, Dior throw pillows and picture-perfect lives?

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There is also the question of how tasteful it is to hawk skin cream or Balenciaga flip-flops during a global crisis. Smith believes that people aren’t wrong in thinking this is a bad time to share fashion posts, but fashion and beauty have always been some people’s lifelines during dark times. In England during World War II, the government recognized the public’s need for sartorial variety—fashion designers were brought in to design the “utility suits” that consumers could buy, at a time when materials for civilian clothing were being rationed.

Valeria Lipovetsky (Courtesy of Valeria Lipovetsky)

When entire populations are churning with fear and anxiety, there’s valour in small acts of glamour. “Getting dressed, feeling good about yourself and putting on lipstick—those things aren’t cancelled,” Smith adds.

From a production standpoint, influencers may now have an advantage over traditional fashion media; influencers were already working from home and putting together their content with small teams, and can still reach their audiences while major sporting events, music festivals and other advertising venues are shut down for the foreseeable future. In Finland, influencers have been classed as “essential workers” because of their ability to spread information quickly among younger people—an interview with health experts conducted by Roni Back, a blue-haired vlogger who usually does videos like, “Trying Finland’s HOTTEST snacks!” was viewed 100,000 times in two days.

Longer term, Lansky believes fashion influencers will continue to be relevant in our new economy, but they will no longer be making “haul” videos, showing all the disposable fast-fashion items they bought at Zara. “I think moving forward there’ll be more videos of five or 10 ways to wear the same jeans, or the same blazer, because that will be more realistic for what’s going on,” Lansky says.

That may well be true. But, without the major ad buys from brands, fashion influencers may have all the influence with none of the cash. They, too, may go back to basics: Rather than being VIPs making six-figure salaries, they might once again become ordinary people who want to show you their clothes.

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