Let’s be honest, the world of fashion has always been a bit of a popularity contest, and I’m not talking about the people who work in it (don’t believe what you see in the films, kids) but rather the mechanisms that keep the wheels turning. The industry has long operated in a way that means, season to season, certain styles are thrust into the spotlight, while others are put on ice, waiting for their inevitable reprisal. While fashion has been dancing this sartorial hokey-cokey for decades, the birth of online shopping and social media has irreversibly changed the landscape.
Hour to hour, we have the potential to be exposed to unlimited quantities of clothing and accessories, all of which can be bought at a click of a button and, in some cases, delivered that very same day. We can scroll through an app that allows us to both project our personal style to the world and get inspired by other fashion lovers who influence followers in the thousands. It’s hard to imagine the days of popping down to our local high street to peruse the rails—shopping is now a far more targeted and efficient affair.
“Big brands have always managed to infiltrate the mass market, influence trends, and create It products. The difference with social media is the speed at which this can now happen,” explains Elizabeth von der Goltz, global buying director at Net-a-Porter. “Creating cult products and moments via Instagram and memes is a guaranteed way to attract the attention of millennials and Generation Z, not only for the purpose of sales but as a brand-building exercise. Customers are using social media more and more not just to shop directly, but as inspiration. Often, when an influencer is spotted wearing a cult piece, it can lead to huge sales spikes.”
Already known for being a fast-moving industry, the growing online sphere has kicked things into another gear. Pre-digitalisation, you would see big-name designer bags papped on the arms of the celebs of the moment and, only after the course of a few months, be recognised as It items. Now, it seems as though an item can go from new-in to sold-out in a matter of days. Going viral is the ultimate aim for many fashion brands—it’s all about creating hot-ticket items that will rake in the likes.
“The S/S 20 collections were more about key shopping list items rather than larger trends, highlighting that cult item–driven fashion could be the way forward. For example, the Versace J.Lo dress took over Milan Fashion Week from a social media point of view. It was the ultimate Instagram moment, and we invested in the runway and commercial looks for next season because of it,” von der Goltz continues. “Our investment in brands like Bottega Veneta is up 460% versus last year, whose mesh chain anklet pump was a hard-to-get-your-hands-on viral item. We sold out via our personal shopping reservations and EIP preview upload before the style could even make its way onto the site.”
Therefore, 2019 shall be known henceforth as the year that launched a thousand sell-out successes. They say knowledge is power, and with the insights of online metrics and instant consumer feedback coming in from all angles, it’s no surprise that the formula for creating a viral fashion item has, over the last 12 months, been expertly refined.
From the famous Zara polka-dot dress that spread like wildfire in the summer and the Bottega clutches that were glued to every editor’s arm at fashion week to the “ugly” sandals that couldn’t stay in stock and M&S’s winning ballet pumps, scroll down to see and shop the pieces that went viral in 2019.