Why brands are investing in Underdog Influencers

Gucci is killing it.

This mental thesis began thrumming through my mind while scrolling (spare me the eye rolls, I’m a millennial) through Instagram, fanning over my latest musical digs like Børns, Wild Belle, and Aurora. All of them, it seemed, were decked out in surprisingly high-brow labels — McQueen, Valentino, and most unanimously, Gucci.

Clearly, these artists weren't going out and purchasing every item out of pocket, I thought - many rising musicians tour to simply stay financially sound in their early years - and to drop several thousand dollars on one outfit, instead of investing in new equipment seemed out of the question. Also, having followed the modus operandi of Gucci over the past years, a connection seemed apparent - this newly restructured label has risen from the out-of-touch ashes its peers (however temporarily, certainly) have sunken into. Thanks to Alessandro Michelle — who has been at the helm of Gucci for just over one year — that $3000.00 Dionysus bag doesn’t seem exorbitant (it is) or out of touch (it might be, considering North America’s consumer culture is known for excess), but rather symbolic, rebellious, and as we’ve probably caught our parents saying as we bought our first “work outfit” — A total investment piece.

What’s working? Well, big brands are starting small — they’re reaching out to form relationships with smaller indie bands, brands and bloggers who have a true aura of authenticity — they’re in the bubble that Chanel, Dior, even Vetements at times — seems to exist beyond. By dressing cool 20-somethings as they perform at dive bars, local pubs or grab coffee in Brooklyn, these super-brands are tapping into every market they can, including the most powerful one — ours.

It’s powerful, too — For who are our discerning eyes going to believe, at the end of the day? Is it Chiara Ferragni and her Instagram account, brimming with literally every sellable it-item in the industry? Or, will it be the girl-next-door with undiscovered style, carefully selecting who — and what — she represents? Either way, there is certainly a spectrum. But I would venture to say that the millennial consumer - exhausted, perhaps jaded from the most recent election - and our rising gen-Z counterparts would rather see reality than pretty pictures. They'd see through it like swiss cheese. 

Jen Rubio, co-founder of luggage brand Away, mentioned that “from a cost perspective, for emerging brands, you’re going to get the most bang for your buck gifting to those [micro] influencers versus potentially paying someone who’s much larger to post.” Jen has also embraced the digi-era by nixing brick and mortar stores, operating on a direct-to-consumer basis, much like US beauty brand Glossier, or Texas-based Outdoor Voices before turning their NYC pop-up shop into a permanent destination. Cites Eva, “When Instagram started, people were putting up more marketing images … and now what people want is behind the scenes and the story behind the product ... Smaller brands are more willing to go out on a limb and be a little bit more authentic, or maybe it’s the founder themselves posting.” Given this, could it be possible that our industry is craving a trip back to its roots? 

Regardless, it's some food for thought as we take the next decade to observe, shape and carve fashion into an industry that’s fantastic for all.

Photography by Jeffrey Chan

madison schill