Article in brief: How the author’s experience as an undercover ‘fashionista’ changed her appreciation for fashion and the realization that its use as a self-expression could contribute to the economy.
What is it with people and their obsession with fashion? That’s what I asked myself when I noticed the explosion of fashion bloggers and the swarms of people flocking to their sites seeking style inspiration and advice. I am all for looking good and moderately stylish but what I couldn’t understand was, what seemed to me, the obsessive need to look good and flaunt it. Aren’t there more important things to worry about?
Given the number of people doling out their opinions, it seemed rather easy to become a bona fide “fashionista.” I came up with two theories: either these people have expertise and talent above and beyond a regular girl like me; or the interest from their followers is not really genuine. I don’t like being judgmental, so the best way to find out, I decided, was to give it a go myself.
First, I figured out how these fashionistas operate. They either post photos of themselves wearing their luxury items or they post photos of the stuff they like accompanied by advice on how to style it. The next step was to create an Instagram account where I would do the same. To keep the experiment real, I posted photos of items I already owned and provided advice I considered genuinely stylish. I shared shots of my vintage Gucci bags and my favorite pair of Louboutin’s. I dished out advice on the products I buy that I find truly flattering, such as a great brand of foundation and a certain shade of lipstick that perfectly enhances my skin tone.
To my astonishment, people loved it. Within four months, I had more than 4,000 followers. Some of them were “fellow fashionistas.” Others were “style novices” who sought my opinion before making a purchase, or asked where they could buy the items I had promoted.
The conclusions I came to is that anyone who can create a succession of “looks”, combining brands, and post on Instagram can be considered – rightfully or not – a fashionista in the social media sphere, and attract a following. But the interest and enthusiasm of those who follow fashion bloggers is genuine. I realized that, in some ways, fashion is just a conduit for people to interact and share. It’s not, in most cases, about having exceptional knowledge about fashion so much as how open you are to expressing yourself authentically, and sharing what you find useful to benefit others.
Social media is doing two things: it has unleashed a new passion for fashion, and it’s driving awareness and demand for both luxury and affordable brands. But, as it’s been said before, fashion is a lot about self-expression; what you wear says a lot about who you are. People want to express themselves and, yes, many crave attention, and social media facilitates this.
I’ve met many people who believe that fashion is superficial, and its followers are shallow. They are slightly disapproving and have a tendency to believe people are becoming increasingly materialistic. Let’s not forget though, fashion is a serious business and plays an important role in any economy. According to Euromonitor International, global apparel and footwear sales are expected to pass the $2 trillion mark by 2018. The Middle East and the African region is a significant driver of this growth.
International fashion houses are flocking to the UAE, and there is an increasing recognition of the importance of this industry by government and business. Even more importantly, domestic fashion designers are starting to emerge. His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who established the Dubai Design and Fashion Council, underscored this. This organization will help nurture young talents in the UAE and guide the development of the industry. Developing a fashion industry is one important way to diversify the economy, which falls in line with the government’s economic vision. Having such a high concentration of luxury brands and the increasing number of international and local fashion events is also attracting tourists to the UAE.
I cancelled my Instagram account, but my experiment has altered my appreciation for fashion. I will admit I enjoyed my 15 minutes of fame as a style guru and the process of interacting with my followers. But, more importantly, I no longer think of fashion as frivolous. I now appreciate just how important social media is in driving such an important industry – one that boosts the economy, creates jobs, attracts tourists, and develops local talent.
Founder of @BetweenTheSips -a social media initiative that moderates social conversations. Alanoud’s passion is public speaking and designing infographics, reading and researching.
Through “Beyond Inspiration”, Alanoud aims to share personal experiences, struggles, and aha moments that can spark a flame within the reader to reach their full potential.