Instagram is changing the way brands make clothing, and it's leading to some head-scratching designs
- Clothing designs that seem impractical yet are visually alluring continue to go viral on social media.
- Brands like Carmar Denim, PrettyLittleThing, and Jacquemus have released designs that go viral yet are divisive on social media.
- Public relations and marketing expert Stephany Greene told INSIDER that the tactic is effective for quick brand recognition, but it doesn't always lead to long-term impact.
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The designs typically go viral for their out-there ideas, and it seems that more and more brands are jumping on the trend of clothing that is slightly impractical, extremely divisive, yet strangely alluring at the same time.
These designs seem to exist less for the sake of practicality and more for the sake of an eye-catching photo shoot that spreads quickly on social media
It's essentially a thin outline of a pair of jeans with no real practical purpose other than to look aesthetically pleasing. Perhaps it would fit right in at Coachella, but it's hard to see this design as wearable in everyday life.
But Instagram is not everyday life
Instagram is where you can fake a European holiday from the comfort of your own couch, or go on a luxury shopping spree without ever spending a single penny. It's not entirely surprising that these out-there designs are thriving on the social media platform, so much so that the jeans ended up having a waitlist when first released.
The tiny bag trend was also taken to a new impractical level in February when designers like Jacquemus sent models down the runway with handbags that couldn't even fit a tube of lipstick. Kylie Jenner even sported a similar design on Instagram. There's no discernible use for such a small bag, but like the cutout jeans above, it does make for a striking visual.
This trend became more apparent than ever when PrettyLittleThing went viral for selling a bikini that was not suitable for use in water. The site listed the item as being for "poolside posing only," which several Twitter users thought was the brand's way of catering to an Instagram-obsessed consumer.
When asked how social media influences the brand's designs, a representative for PrettyLittleThing told INSIDER that it mostly uses it to gauge its customer's needs.
"Social media has allowed us to build a direct relationship with our millennial customer," Nicki Capstick, head of marketing at PrettyLittleThing, told us. "We've built a brand that puts the customer at the heart of our growth strategy and through social engagement we can react quickly to what she wants."
Though the term 'viral' is relatively modern, the act of producing a design for attention is certainly not
Public relations and marketing expert Stephany Greene told INSIDER the trend can be traced back to the '70s and '80s when designers would create shocking ensembles in the hopes of ending up in influential fashion magazines.
"Then - and now - the point of producing shocking and impractical designs was not to sell the actual piece itself," Greene told us. "The point was to get more photographers shooting the designer, and magazine editors writing and talking about them. Now, the point is to get more followers and customers talking about the brand, with the goal of increasing shares and reposts to spread the word and gain more attention."
However, the success of viral fashion is likely to be short-lived
When it comes to catering to the viral market, Greene says it works for those looking to get attention quickly, though the success doesn't always last.
"If designers only care about being a flash in the pan and 'hot' ... then going viral should and will be the focus," Greene said. "The most insecure designers, who tend to be new in the game, will focus a lot of extra time and energy on crafting viral designs. The catch is, they may never go viral and then all their time and effort is wasted."
Greene has worked with plenty of brands with long-term success, such as Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. She thinks the key to similar success in the Instagram-era is knowing your core audience and making sure your content resonates with them.
"Expensive runway sets and perfect Instagram posts are less important than knowing if and how followers will share the posts in the first place," Greene said before adding, "Remaining authentic to the brand, and its loyal fans, is still what keeps designers around for the long haul."
She predicts that at some point, people will start to see through the viral marketing tactics and crave authenticity.
"Consumers will tire of the 'impractical design' trend and see through its inauthentic nature," she said. "However, as these audiences see through it, younger audiences won't ... Within the next five years or less, these tactics won't work on either market and authenticity will win after all."
Representatives for Carmar Denim and Jacquemus did not immediately respond to INSIDER's request for comment.
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