Back in 2011, when Oscar de la Renta and his peers were Instagramming backstage at Fashion Week, the platform’s involvement was pure luck. But now it actively positions itself as the fashion world’s infinitely scrolling newsreel, one sign of how it stokes its hypergrowth and is creating a premium product inside Facebook. Instagram develops partnerships in the fashion industry with the help of a fashion and art community leader: advertising agency vet Kristen Joy Watts, who had previously co-launched Lens, the New York Times’s photo blog. Watts spotlights the most creative fashion houses, off-duty models, professional photographers, bloggers, and tastemakers, in order to inspire others to see Instagram as having the power to transform their popularity. In tandem, a team led by Sara Wilson manages Instagram’s fashion and lifestyle partnerships.
Instagram’s growing fashion clout has also influenced the features it develops. “Explore” once pulled up random posts popular across the entire network, but it wasn’t a hit. Last year, it relaunched as a tailored survey of user interests—handbags if you follow Rebecca Minkoff, couture gowns if you follow Dior. Last August, Instagram introduced a new app, Hyperlapse, which generates time-lapse videos. Runner-up for Apple’s 2014 App of the Year award, it’s another gift to the fashion world—ideal for a makeup artist applying eyeshadow, say, or the final adjustments to a photo-shoot tableau.
Now fashion companies are seeing Instagram as not just a place to promote their wares, but to advertise them as well. Instagram’s first ad launched in November 2013; it was with Michael Kors, and subsequent campaigns have been with the likes of Levi’s, Macy’s, and Burberry. Users are liking and sharing the ads just as they do with other content, and that’s proved Instagram’s worth in a big way: It made a deal last spring in which global ad giant Omnicom promised to buy a reported $40 million in advertising, and the photo-sharing app is a major component in Facebook’s multiyear ad deal with Publicis Groupe. And with that, Instagram’s fashion partnerships come into full focus: The industry brought intrigue to the platform, and now it’s going to bring the revenue, too.
[Photo illustration: José Romussi, Source Photo: Victor Virgile, Getty Images]