Social web: The root of change in the fashion business

by Cynthia Baloyi

As I lie down on my bed, surrounded by a heap of clothes, some still unworn with price tags, I struggle to figure out what I am going to wear to a girls night out. I tried on couple of outfits, with Beyoncé’s Freakum Dress song playing in the background for motivation, but nothing seems to work. In case there’s a man reading this, please note that this is the 3rd struggle after labour pains and period pains for most women – I genuinely have absolutely nothing to wear.

This could have been my life struggle 5 – 10 years ago. Where I had to wait a month for a fashion magazine to be on the shelves and a fashion show to be broadcasted on TV. Social media has changed all of that, the world of fashion is within fingertip reach. Before the social channels, as consumers, we were forced to consume what we were fed. Because the fashion business was just a one way street. Now, that social media is the platform, the dialogue is more open and we are able to consume what we like and not only discard what we don’t, but have a voice in why we don’t like it. This is where all the culture conversations take place. If you remember, not too long ago, H&M advertised a hoodie with a monkey on it, worn by a black boy and the social community had a major antagonistic reaction. But one has to understand that, this can be a good space and a bad space at the same time. You need to be able to control what to take from it, and what to ignore.

This is an era where the business of fashion is doing away with the conventional model – tall, extremely skinny, enhanced cheek bones – those things are no longer married to the title. The rule now is – THERE IS NO RULE. The term influencer is more dominant. And there is no age, height or colour restrictions. You just have to be YOU and this is the good part about it. You are given the platform to be who you are, demonstrate your talent, hone you voice, find your community, keep the conversation going and make money while you at it. Perfect example – My online obsession, ThickLeeyonce (Lesego Legobane), when I see her doing her thing and doing it successfully, I feel reassured and more confident to follow my wildest dreams. If she told you 10 years ago that she aspired to be a model, most of you could have laughed terribly. But today, because millions of people relate to her story, the brands put her at their forefront.

As a certified Image Consultant, I religiously follow fashion on line and one of my saddest discoveries is replica stores. I found that to be a hard knock for big brands that put their all in creating and maintaining the image that the business holds. But at the same time, we live in the fast fashion world, where repeating an outfit is not an option and shopping from replica stores makes financial sense. These stores are equally hard at work, very active in advertising their offerings on social media and they are on par with trends. They follow exactly what international celebrities/influencers wear on social media and make the exact same piece within that season, moderately priced. I am a very curious one, I went to visit one of these replica stores and I couldn’t get in the store because it was full. From where I was standing, 80 if not 90 per cent of the people in the store were our favourite social media models, living their best eco-luxe life… And this is the ruination of most big brand bricks and mortar stores.

With all the thrill of rapid change, comes melancholy of trying to acquire the “influencer” status and businesses trying to keep up. Don’t get engulfed by the social web. Allow your path to be inspired, but don’t lose your authenticity. The important aspect that most don’t know is, in this competitive field influencers have to put in unreasonable hours to be on top of the game, they don’t even own half the things they post with and they are not on holiday every other week. It is not all glitz and glam. Building yourself as a brand and maintaining it, while not losing sense of self in the process is hard. Being a public figure is a full time job, every single thing you do, is under scrutiny. What you eat, how you talk, who you associate yourself with and what you wear are the prime factors.

As I continue building my brand Cynthia_TheStylist online, I cannot stress enough the importance of mental health, staying true to self and understanding my value.

My nil worth advice to fashion businesses or fashion influencers – Stay firm on your seat, recognise the power that is social media, you might be popular today and a joke tomorrow. Make sure that you are not affected by volatility.

And to those who aspire to be part of this creative world – There is enough pie for everyone, but this is the jungle. Find your perfect niche, work smart, be prepared to be undervalued and overwhelmed and learn to navigate through online haters and bullies.





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