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New York Fashion Week Through The Lens of An Influencer

By Cullen Ormond

On a gloomy Saturday in Tribeca, New York on the corner of Varick and Beach streets, one will find Spring Studios, the heart of New York Fashion Week (NYFW). The ominous, chunky, holy combination of letters that all designer-handbag-clutching, too-high-heel-clacking, premature-carpal-tunnel-Instagram-tapping fashionistas worship: NYFW. It is during this seven-day period, in which style gurus from all over the world flock to New York City to attend shows, network and post on social media platforms.

Amidst the frenzied mix of bulky camera lenses, jolting flashes and clusters of security personnel dressed in black, it is easy to spot fashion influencers. They stand perfectly poised absorbing all the clicks from the sea of professional grade cameras. These designer-dripping divinities who sit on the sidelines of the runway have become the window to the exclusive fashion week shows and events for the average consumer.

“Once the show starts, I like to capture all of the outfits, so I can keep my followers informed and entertained,” said Julia Havens (@jujhavens), an influencer and blogger from Dallas, Texas. Havens believes that the relatability influencers offer consumers correlates with increased benefits for brands. “You could see an advertisement in a magazine for a fragrance, but if you follow someone on social media who is your age or who you really look up to, especially if you love their style, and they have the fragrance and say it smells really good, then an influencer is much more likely to drive that sale with a peer who trusts them,” Havens said.

A woman with pink sunglasses and a gold tank-top.

Image courtesy of Julia Havens via Instagram.

Janée Barbre (@janeebarbre) who is also an Instagram influencer from Jacksonville, Florida uses her social media relatability to make fashion week more inclusive. “I never dreamed I’d be at New York Fashion Week,” said Barbre, over 5,000 followers while posting about fashion for five years. “I want all of my followers to be able to attend fashion week.” The influencing industry took off around 10 years ago but has grown exponentially, according to Havens.

“The newer generations believe that, especially millennials, digital is life. We can see other opportunities to create incomes using social media that never existed before,” she said. “It turned into this booming industry.” Success in the industry takes time, but once an influencer is established, collaborations with brands are sometimes accompanied by gifts. “I bought my plane ticket, but all of the outfits and accommodations while in New York for fashion week were paid for by Meow & Barks boutique,” said Allana Marolt (@_blackenedwhite), an Instagram influencer from Florida, who in three years has amassed a following of over 3,000 people.

A woman in a red jacket with gold hoop earrings.

Image courtesy of Allana Marolt via Instagram.

Havens viewed fashion week Sept. 5 thought the 12, as a “business investment” and began preparing in July. She reached out to the public relations team associated with specific brands and included links to her posts with statistics of her posts’ performance.

She had a strategy – purchase around $600 worth of clothing from brands she would like to work with. Photograph herself in the clothing. Upload photographs to social media. Tag the brands. Repeat. A month prior, she reached out to the public relations team associated with specific brands and included links to her posts with statistics of their performance.  When asked her feelings on spending that much before fashion week, Havens admitted that it was a significant amount, but worth it. “To me, it doesn’t feel like a risk,” she said. “I know that seems like a lot, but it’s an investment. Hopefully, the money will come back if you get the attention of those brands and then get contracts with them then you’ll earn that money back quickly.”

Upon touchdown in the big apple, Havens hit the cobblestone running (in a pair of clear, four-inch Windsor heels). Her busiest day was Saturday. Her day began at 6:30 a.m. at the Self-portrait show located at Gallery I of Spring Studios. She was collaborating with Bumble and Bumble, who provided Havens with a backstage pass to document the experience of the fashion show. Immediately, her Instagram was filled with videos featuring a plethora of spray infused nineties style ponies. After documenting the entire runway show for her followers, she was onto the next venue. She changed into a “black co-ord oversized suit set”, with a snakeskin patterned bandeau underneath and comfortably, as this outfit allowed for chunky white sneakers and rushed to the Christian Cowan show.

Around 3 p.m., she realized she had not eaten all day. But, detailed her quick bite to eat, a large slice of Lombardi’s Pizza, donned her next outfit change: snakeskin pants, a Louis Vuitton bag, white heeled booties, sweater and a denim coat. Post-photoshoot, the grand finale of her busiest day ended with a fourth outfit change and an appearance at the rewardStyle, LIKEtoKNOWit event at the Bowery Hotel.

The week of robust backstage events, exclusive cocktail parties and networking opportunities sped by in a glittery flash and Havens made it look easy. However, the road to becoming a successful influencer can be trying. Some influencers balance the drive to be popular with a full-time job.

Taylor Winbush (@taylorwinbushtv), an influencer from Jacksonville, Florida, has grown her brand for five years while balancing a position on the Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleading squad. In order to be successful, she will plan her posts ahead of time. Winbush is not alone. For the past two and a half years, Havens has balanced a full-time job as a social media strategist at Sephora’s private label, Sephora Collection. Her career has allowed her to be on the other side of the influencer space: behind the brand while working with influencers to manage marketing campaigns. “I feel like it’s no different than starting any other business and so, I feel like you sacrifice your personal life and your social life in order to dedicate enough time,” she said. For Havens, the end goal is always in sight, which is to jumpstart her own lifestyle business based on the popularity she has amassed from her current platform. However, Havens is currently collecting earnings from her social media efforts.

A woman smiling into the camera.

Image courtesy of Taylor Winbush via Instagram.

Havens admits that for every 1,000 views on YouTube, she could be paid upwards of $100. For Instagram, because she has a “smaller” following (a meager 11,600 followers), she can acquire $25 to $50 per 100 likes on a single photo. But, she plans to grow.

In a time when seemingly all aspects of life are documented and shared in seconds, it will be interesting to watch the influencer industry become even more immersive. Currently, the industry may seem saturated with the average Instagram feed clogged with seamlessly filtered posts and the caption “#Ad” sprinkled throughout. But, according to Havens, the influencer industry is just beginning.