I’m sat waiting for the Marc Cain show to start 1,000miles away from Paris’ Couture Fashion Week, which is in full swing. My show is delayed - as per with this industry - but this time it’s not because the designer isn’t ready to go or a model didn’t turn up in time to have her hair done, it’s because the paparazzi are going wild for the front row. I twist my neck, to see who’s there, who could possibly be skipping Couture, the most exclusive event on the industry’s calendar. Could it be a celebrity, is it Diane Kruger? As I tut about fashion’s obsession with actresses I realise, the front-row is a wall of influencers, or businesswomen as these five like to be known.
With a collective following of 6.87million on Instagram (for comparison, that’s 1.6million more people than the population of Scotland), it says something that these multi-hyphenate models would give the cold shoulder to Chanel to see this fashion show. It doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? Why would some of the most powerful moneymakers on social media skip Couture to attend Berlin Fashion Week? Moreover, German fashion has long been an object of derision. Let’s be honest the external vision of Germanic taste isn’t in the same league of Paris on Milan’s.
‘German fashion is tricky,’ says Caroline Daur (1.5million followers), ‘You need to think that Karl Lagerfeld and Jil Sander are German, there are cool and creative people everywhere.’ While Kaiser Karl went off to Paris and Sander’s to Italy, Marc Cain has stayed put and it's paid dividends. Founded in 1973 by Helmut Schlotterer (the company is named after his Canadian friend as it was seen as more globally palatable), the label is stocked in over 233 stores around the world and (evidently) has a very high-profile following.
‘I liked the floaty dresses’, says Stefanie Giesinger (3.3million followers) of the label’s spring-summer 19 collection. ‘It gave me a lot of inspiration for my next summer vacation. I really liked the neon a lot and the colourful dresses,’ echoes Xenia Adonts about the runway show, which drew inspiration from the Middle East, Mattise and Henri Rousseau. ‘I loved the mix of oversized dresses and big earrings’, adds Leonie Hanne (1.7million followers). It’s not just what they like about collection that these women have in common, or their tentacular social media reach, or heritage (though they are all German) but how recent their social media fame is. For British influencers, like Susie Lau (Style Bubble) and Katherine Ormerod, blogging has been part of their personal brand for nearly a decade. Meanwhile, Marc Cain’s coterie is relatively new to the game, clocking in just five years at most.
Germany is Europe's largest consumer market and unlike other fashion captials, like New York, London and Paris, there isn't a universal German style that exists, believes Ben Jeffries of Influencer, a global content marketing business that specialises in maximising the impact of social media brands. 'This allows for German Influencers to be more creative and inspire multiple arrays of different styles; as such different creators from, Caroline Daur to Marina Ilic, have achieved mass followings promoting different styles', explains Ben.
Data from LIKEtoKNOWit, an app that social media entrepreneurs use to make their Instagrams instantly shoppable , dovetails with Ben's analysis, showing that there has been a 35 per cent increase of German influencers in the last 12 months and that they make up 17 per cent of the company's European influencer cohort.
‘I don’t know what we do differently, I have been asking myself this a lot lately because there are a lot of very successful German influencers,’ reveals Nina Suess (271K followers). It’s undeniable that they are all well-dressed (today with thanks to Marc Cain), have delicate features, lithe figures and meet the Western beauty standards. Could this explain it?
But it’s more than that, Xenia puts it down to their intelligence. ‘All the girls with big followings are very smart and learn quickly. When we all started we weren’t very fashionable but we were influenced by international fashion weeks and influencers and learnt to adapt to that style.’ As soon as the dictaphone is switched off she is quick to reveal fashion isn’t very popular in Germany, which means there was only a small pool of influencers to compete with. For these homegrown social media entrepreneurs, marketing and branding exercises may have been rehearsed on a small Germanic stage, but it set them up for when their global audience tuned in.
Germany may be very successful at exporting beers and cars, but as far as actresses and musicians go the success rate is more miss than hit. Sure, there’s Kruger and Marlene Dietrich but ask someone to name anymore and we bet you’ll feel the weight of silence. Leonie and Stefanie see this as one of the reasons their influence has grown so much and so fast. Giesinger jokes, ‘influencers are the new rock stars’, but she has a point as her followers are just as fanatic as any 1D fan, and as Hanne points out, they are very ‘loyal’ too.
However, it’s not the lack of competition that Leonie thinks has really propelled their success but a nationwide trait. ‘I think in general us Germans are not about so much fun but getting things organized and so when we saw Instagram we knew we had to be really tough businesswomen to get our businesses together as the market and media changes so much and the competition is always changing, you need to be really focused and smart.’ This is one of the reasons why Caroline rejects the moniker influencer, she sees herself as more than that as she personally manages her marketing, distribution, contracts, PR, product and strategy of her brand, even though the brand in question is herself. ‘I am in front of and behind the camera’.
With the help of local labels support, like Marc Cain, as their training ground, these women have gone on to work with some of the most powerful names in the industry - Vogue, Elle, Dior, Fendi, Cartier, adidas, Dolce & Gabbana and many more. Sure, Marc Cain may not command the same name recognition as Cartier, but these influencers are determined to use their power and nebulous global following to change that