The social media platform TikTok has announced its own fashion month as a digital innovation aimed at rivaling the physical fashion weeks that take place around the world as well as to try to threaten Instagram’s supremacy over fashion content online.
The month-long event will begin on Friday and ends on 8 October and is set to feature a variety of hashtags and live videos. It will see a livestream of two fashion shows a week from labels such as Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent and Alice + Olivia. Meanwhile JW Anderson will debut their women’s spring/summer 21 collection on TikTok.
Up until very recently fashion was an industry slow to adapt to the platform, which launched in China in 2016 and has since taken off explosively, especially with young people.
“I think [fashion labels] were unsure of its marketing potential,” said Jessica Schiffer, contributing editor of Vogue Business. “When it first started taking off outside of China, it was a platform filled with non-famous individuals creating still, off-the-cuff content,” she says. “The lack of stylization probably seemed antithetical to fashion, which loves the polished confines of platforms like Instagram.”
Over a summer where the fashion industry’s usual furious pace was replaced by an existential crisis in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, “online” became the new heart of the industry as the catwalks emptied due to health fears. Short, earnest, arty films replaced physical fashion shows and, unexpectedly, the most compelling and fun fashion trends moved on to TikTok, where users created endless fashion content that often went viral.
The spirited, outdoorsy cottagecore movement – the hashtag has 3bn views – and the gothy Dark Academia – 61m – were popular sartorial arenas. While the #harrystylescardigan challenge, which saw TikTok users trying to create the rainbow JW Anderson cardigan the singer Harry Styles wore on US TV, was social and all-embracing.
“We’ve seen the fashion industry reinvent what luxury fashion means to culture and society through TikTok by bringing fashion into the homes of our community during quarantine,” said CeCe Vu, fashion content partnership lead at TikTok, in a statement about their fashion month.
Although the platform isn’t in direct competition with Instagram – the other social media platform most aligned with fashion – the differences between the two social media giants are significant. TikTok is seen as a scrappy insurgent in the fashion world, whereas Instagram is more traditional and carefully curated.
“TikTok is where authenticity meets creativity and people are genuinely comfortable sharing their true selves, from personal style to fashion,” said Lauren Jenkins, TikTok’s creator communications leader.
Where Instagram has a comment section, TikTok creates a more immersive and communal link between fashion label and user thanks, in part, to the hashtag challenges. “The TikTok experience is completely different from other social platforms and that uniqueness is a real draw to fashion labels,” said Jenkins.
Of course, there is also a lot of money at stake. Despite the young average age of a TikTok user (69% are 13-24 years old), their spending potential is huge.
“They have huge influence over what their older parents purchase,” said Schiffer. “They can dictate everything from what food is eaten in the home to what clothing brands are purchased most. Getting in the good graces of Gen Z now, as their marketing power is building, is the smartest move a brand can make.”
Luxury fashion labels have been taking notice.
In July Celine’s campaign for its spring/summer 21 campaign was visually inspired equally by skaters and TikTok’s e-boy subculture. The short film from the brand’s creative director, Hedi Slimane, featured TikTok influencers Noen Eubanks, Chase Hudson and Anthony Reeves. In the same month Marc Jacobs unveiled his new handbag campaign featuring the hair sculpture artist Laetitia Ky, who has 1 million TikTok followers.
“[TikTok influencers] will become just as, if not more, important than Instagram influencers for fashion marketing,” said Schiffer. “We’ll see them lining the front row, starring in high-fashion campaigns and hosting brand events.”