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HOW SOCIAL MEDIA DECONSTRUCTED THE FASHION INDUSTRY’S ELITISM

I’ve always been nonchalant about the fashion industry, not because I didn’t find appeal in it, but mostly because I found it intimidating. Being a huge fan of TV series such as ‘Sex & The City’, ‘Ugly Betty’ and the widely successful ‘Devil Wears Prada’ movie might have had an influence on my attitude towards the industry. At most, the fashion industry is depicted as narcissistic, catty, and cold, which is enough to overwhelm anyone who harbours an interest in penetrating the field. The industry has also over the years been widely criticised for its elitist and racist nature. That ,coupled with the fact that I couldn’t even pronounce half the fashion houses and jargon really made the industry seem inaccessible.

Fashion Eliticism
Vogue creative director Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour

The consistent rise of social media and its increasing impact on pop culture has been credited with democratising the landscape of fashion. Social media’s disruptive impact on the fashion world has given a voice to ordinary users by providing them with a platform to showcase personal style and opinions on fashion. Fashion commentary is no longer reserved for fashion editors, now anyone with a smart phone and access to information can share views on what’s happening in the previously exclusive industry. “Before social media, we were in a little enclosed circle – fashion designers and fashion journalists. But fashion is not elite any more: it is a democracy. The real new things are things you see on the street,” Donatella Versace once told The Guardian.

Fashion Eliticism
SA Fashion Week FROW

Supermodels Kendall Jenner and her pals, sisters Bella & Gigi Hadid faced much discrimination upon joining the fashion industry for not being “real” models. The revolutionary change that is social media once again came to play by making them hugely influential industry ­players, giving them the kind of commercial clout that was once preserved for a handful of ­editors of glossy magazines.

Fashion Eliticism
Bella, Kendall and Gigi backstage at the Victoria Secret show

Social media has provided a complete revolution in the way that the fashion industry operates. Within the pre-social media landscape, fashion show attendees were strictly limited to fashion’s elite group such as editors, stylists, designers and other fashion insiders. Social media has completely deconstructed the landscape by altering the required credentials for those wishing to enter the fashion industry, creating new roles along the way; the most elusive being the fashion “influencer.”

Fashion Eliticism
SA Fashion Influencers front & center at SAFW

Most importantly the previously intimidated are finding comfort and slowly warming up to the fashion industry. Renowned fashion brands and publications are embracing people with similar backgrounds and ethnicity as us. “Normal” people are taking up their rightful place in fashion. Thanks to social media, fashion is now a happy, accessible and inclusive space. All of a sudden, fashion feels like home.

Fashion Eliticism
Lupita Nyong’o for Mujerhoy Magazine x Lancóme

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