Fashion Goes Social at #SMWNYC

Orli Sharaby is a Senior Social Marketing Strategist, Lifestyle at 360i. You can follow her on Twitter @orlibeth.

The fashion industry isn’t generally known for being on the cutting edge of technology, communication and media, so it was an interesting scene at last night’s Social Media Week panel The Devil Wears Prada and Tweets About It, as well as the subsequent Digital Divas party. While undoubtedly the best dressed crowd so far (though the week is still young!), it was clear from the panel discussion and audience questions that the fashion industry is still grappling with how to adapt to today’s changing media landscape and consumption habits.

The panel and party were hosted by Emily Gannett of, Peg Samuel of Social Diva, Yuli Ziv of My It Things and Rachel Sklar of Mediaite.

The discussion was led by moderator Andrew Cedotal of Mediaite and the soon to be launched Styleite, and panelists were:

Conversation topics focused on the small (how can an aspiring designer use social to compete?) to the large (is luxury dead?) and even included a little eye rolling (was Tavi’s hat too big?). Here’s a sampling of the best nuggets from the night (note: all commentary below is paraphrased, and does not represent actual direct quotations by panelists).

On aspiring designers using social media to promote themselves:

Yuli: It’s easy for designers to build a fan base online, but fashion is not adapting to the potential of social media platforms like music has. Possibly because they still have this fear of being copied or having their ideas stolen.

On ensuring that the talented ones, and not the “Tila Tequilas,” will rise to the top:

Orli: Social media is a natural weeding system, where true talent will be recognized. Also, established design houses can and should use social to source their talent, which ensures the integrity of designers and stylists who rise to the top in this way.

Yuli: People will not last in the fashion world unless you actually have talent, and unless you are creating things that people want to buy, because fashion fans will not stand for it.

On the value of creativity and uniqueness:

Yuli: The real path to success for aspiring designers is for the designer to focus on their identity and making something unique and different.

Deirdre: Big brand days are over, people want luxurious unique design. Something with good craftsmanship. A clear branding message and identity is important early on.

Orli: Etsy is a good example of how this can play out extremely successfully, the fashion industry has yet to see major success in this area but it’s a huge opportunity.

On the changing definition of luxury in today’s world, especially as knockoffs are so readily available:

Yuli: Bottom line, brands need to educate the public on what they are buying. People are more interested now in where and how their products are made, and small and luxury designers can capitalize on that by educating consumers.

Orli: If a brand is scared of educating its customers, they have a bigger problem.

Yuli: Social is a great medium for putting yourself out there and letting consumers know exactly why luxury matters.

Deirdre: Dedicated fans talk to each other online and through this conversation they weed out the lesser quality items.

On blogger integrity and the grey line between journalism, PR and marketing:

Yuli: As a blogger, I have a new policy that I don’t accept gifts from brands. The brands need to be responsible when it comes to gifting and not make bloggers feel uncomfortable.

Orli: Traditional media, especially magazines, have been deceiving consumers for decades by not being clear about the gifts, products and incentives they receive, and by graying the line between advertisements and content. Bloggers are actually more transparent, not less.

On what is missing right now in fashion & social media, and what the current leaders could be doing better:

Deirdre: Conde Nast should invest in technology. They have the voice, but aren’t using it to move forward into social media.

Yuli: There is not currently a successful social network for the entire fashion industry and fashion consumers, which is a miss. Also, the link to the commerce aspect is completely missing from editorial.

On bloggers in the front row of fashion shows:

Orli: The recent front row appearance of bloggers at the Dior show was nothing more than a PR stunt, they did it for the news. They’re not forming authentic, lasting relationships with these bloggers which is unfortunate.

Yuli: Those bloggers were in the front row because of celebrity status, no different than inviting Penelope Cruz to sit in your front row.

Andrew: If I were a designer, it would make more sense for me to invite the blogger who’s built up a half million person a month readership from scratch, than to invite the assistant editor of a magazine with the same circulation. Obviously the blogger who’s built it from scratch is going to be better at promoting your brand.


As we look forward, 2010 has the opportunity to be a major turning point for the fashion industry in social media. With so few fashion and luxury brands having the entered the space in earnest, and so few of the major publications/media companies investing heavily right now, there’s an apparent white space just waiting to be filled. It will be exciting to see who rises to the occasion and who is left in the dust – and how that might impact what’s on the racks and in the closets of tomorrow.