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TikTok has revitalised the fashion influencer model

Transforming the way we approach style both online and IRL, Gen Z’s app du jour has fostered an entirely new community for discourse, experimentation, and criticism.

If there’s one statistic demonstrating quite how drastically TikTok has become entwined in our lives since arriving full force on the scene just two years ago, it’s that people worldwide spent 2.8 billion hours scrolling through the For You Page in 2020 alone.

While last year’s numbers are yet to be revealed, if the short-form video platform’s monthly active user count of 1.1 billion is anything to go by, it likely won’t be long before we see this figure skyrocket more so than it already has – you do the math.

On this note, it’s somewhat unsurprising that TikTok became 2021’s biggest fashion influencer.

Revitalising the model first introduced by Instagram (and lest we forget, #ootd), it has transformed the way we approach style both online and IRL by fostering an entirely new community for discourse, experimentation, and criticism.

@miks_tiks should i do another there’s just so much cheug #cheugyfashion #cheugymillenial #cheugy #fashionstudent ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey

Yes, Instagram will of course for ever be the OG of giving us access to a once-unthinkable global audience, but it has unfortunately lost much of the authenticity that made it so great to begin with, leaving those seeking limitless self-expression to flock to alternative platforms.

Pursuing this growing desire, most have digitally congregated towards TikTok, where anyone can create their own modes of dress and behaviour, unbound by outdated pressure to conform to just one style and far from the curated feeds we’ve become so used to.

‘Fashion is legit on TikTok,’ says the director of creator community at TikTok, Kudzi Chikumbu. ‘It goes beyond the outfits and into creative expression. TikTok is a place for joy, and it’s giving the fashion industry a whole new way of showcasing their art and personality.’

Though Instagram and the subsequent 2010 ‘influencer’ boom certainly made a significant dent in the process of getting garments from their early stages into the hands of consumers, it barely scratches the surface in comparison to what TikTok has achieved in the blink of just two years.

@queerbrownvegan i love goblin #goblincore #goblin #ecotok #halloween2021 ♬ Fairy – Deanmakes

Its community, as well as the wide range of formats on the app, from challenges to sound trends, has allowed fashion creators and brands to democratise the old influencer model.

Content creation is no longer about showing a cult of stylish personality – I’m talking influencers who created a following solely based on what they wore and promoted – but rather understanding that fashion really isn’t that serious.

‘TikTok offers an unfiltered and authentic approach to fashion,’ says Vanessa Craft, head of content partnerships at TikTok. ‘I view other platforms as places to share a highlight reel of your life, whereas TikTok is where people go to be themselves and to find a community of other people like them.’

Pre-2020, the fashion industry was arguably the only voice directing the approaching season’s trends, with some help from popular culture along the way.

@sissyhankshaw Getting ready for #fashionschool, I only wear my own designs 💓#fashioninstituteoftechnology #nyc #fashionnyc #fit #grwm #fashionstudent ♬ Current joys – Skins Edits

Whether this involved a new colour palette, material, cut or ensemble, it rarely went from runway to rack without the approval of major fashion editorials relied on by designers to give their pieces the go-ahead.

Now, if one of your favourite creators changes their aesthetic due to a single viral video, a whole style can be born out of it.

Thus, more and more, people are tapping into TikTok to see what emerging styles are ‘in’ (skinny jeans most certainly are not) and what previously popular trends are coming back around.

One only needs to think back to Y2k’s nostalgic resurgence for an example of this, which saw us suddenly obsessed with the clothes and accessories we’d collectively sworn never to wear again.

@jesseo8thrift flip♬ original sound – Monaleo

While its impact is clearly felt in the industry, it’s over on TikTok itself that the app’s ability to shift the fashion landscape is really obvious.

Whether designers are ‘thrift flipping’ their charity shop finds or stylists are sharing outfit inspo, TikTok has spawned fashion trends and triggered whole cultural waves.

This isn’t to say that fashion shows and professional models have lost their effect, but one could argue that the impression left on the lips of 2021’s fashion culture was made more heavily by content creators than designers.

I say this because nowadays, I rarely look to the runway for an idea of what to put on in the morning. Instead, I simply need to unlock my phone.


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