Have You Noticed That We’ve All Stopped Wearing Black?

If a picture tells a thousand words, Instagram is a Proustian anthology on how fashion has changed since the dawn of the #selfie

Have You Noticed That We've All Stopped Wearing Black?

by Lucy Morris |
Published on

There used to be this joke in fashion that you could spot a French Vogue staffer a mile off because they’d be the one dressed head-to-toe in black. But, since the dawn of street style photographers, their Instagram feeds and the rise of the #selfie this has all changed. Now, dressing to get noticed is in and wearing subtle, subdued clothes is well and truly out.

Courtesy of social media, fashion is a 24/7 business that evolves and sells with every double tap. ‘Acting as a digital megaphone, Instagram’s eager global audience creates and amplifies fashion trends,’ Nicole Barclay, Global Head of Social at Net-a-Porter recently shared. And, she’s right, a trend can live and die on the ‘gram.

Take Saint Laurent’s autumn winter 17 Niki Swarovski studded boots for instance. They were defined as Insta-bait the second they walked the runways and sold out as soon as they hit Net-A-Porter regardless of the fact they came with a £6,855 price tag. Why? Because they were attention grabbing, new, shiny and fashion editor’s are Magpies who are keen to hook a trend on anything that photographs well. And, everyone knows shiny crystals shoot like a dream.

In the days before Instagram, brands had to work harder to get in front of their shoppers. They needed to buy advertising slots, to hack the internet's billboards and to dress celebrities. But, since the dawn of the ‘gram, they have a host of so-called influencers who will happily and readily wear their pieces with little more than a please, thank you and a bank transfer. Now, fashion and the ‘gram are intimately related. The social media site attracted over 42,000,000 people who created 83,000,000 interactions related to either New York, London, Milan or Paris Fashion Week between 10th February and 9th March 2016.


‘Instagram has definitely had an effect on what people wear, particularly at the younger end of the market’, confides Sara Maggioni, trend-spotting agency WGSN’s Director of Retail & Buying. While black remains the top colour across shopping categories, it’s matched by print and bold shades like pink. Maggioni thinks this, ‘means the customer is definitely embracing pattern and bold colours a lot more than in the past.’ This is a sentiment echoed by Instagram themselves, Eva Caiden, Head of Emerging Trends for the social site in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, explains: 'Over the years we’ve seen trends like pom-poms and slogan t-shirts really catch fire on Instagram and we often see that looks that start on Instagram quickly become mainstream. Because our community is global it also means that people are able to follow and be exposed to a diversity of looks – different body types, skin colours, hair types, ages. Instagram allows each person to craft their own ideal of what fashion and beauty can be - that’s a powerful thing.'

The astronomic rise in popularity of Millennial Pink is a clear example of Insta’s influence. WGSN calculated that its presence in fashion, store design, packaging and marketing has increased 24.4% year on year in the UK, with roughly the same response in the US. The fetishizing of this shade of salmon pink may resonate with the amplification of the gender fluidity debate, but it also happens to look attractive when photographed. The colour shoots just as well under the harsh lights of a studio as in the hazy glow of a bedroom.

Photographer Marco Vittur explains, ‘I always advise people before a sitting to avoid wearing white and black if possible, as colours and large patterns show more personality and a pinch of courage. But, more than that print and colour is more eye-catching for a viewer flicking through a magazine or scrolling through Instagram. Black and blocks of dark colour can photograph quite flat.’ Maggioni echoes Marco, adding, ‘a lot of retailers (and luxury designers) are now keeping Instagram in mind when designing: if a piece is Instagrammable, essentially you get free publicity and sell more (most of the times, although that’s not always the case, especially at luxury level), so it makes sense. And it makes sense that people buy more “Instagrammable” product because it looks good in pictures.’

This explains the popularity of the bold, eccentric designs of Gucci. In Alessandro Michele’s hands, the label has become an ode to maximalism, it’s directional with a more-is-more acceptance of print, unusual colour combinations and heaps of embellishment and embroidery. ‘You could also say that the reason why the Gucci look took off in such a big way is also because it’s so “Instagrammable”’, rationalises Maggioni.

Everyone knows Instagram is not reality, that it’s life seen through an edited filter. While ‘gram-friendly clothes may be selling well and the discovery of young designers has never been easier, what’s happening on social media is only a refracted reflection of real life. In fact, traditional items, like navy winter coats, jeans, basic jersey items and block coloured knitwear still sells well. Yes, people want to dress to impress, but that’s only for photos. Though social media may have disrupted the clothing market, not everyone is documenting their every move on Instagram, which means, thankfully the market for plain coloured basics and classic denim isn’t going anywhere fast!

Graphs courtesy of WGSN

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Follow Lucy on Instagram @lucyalicemorris

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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