The seating arrangements at Fashion Week’s fashion shows are a pretty reliable indicator of the new pecking order. Whoever manages to garner front-row seats is considered a big shot. It used to be the most important buyers, the editors-in-chief and the top writers of the big fashion magazines or famous actors and actresses. Today, however, these seats are mostly occupied by super young girls who dub themselves bloggers/vloggers/Instagrammers, whom I don’t know at all and who make the women to their left and right, but particularly those behind them, look rather old. Not just because of their dewy fresh complexions, but also because they are clad from head to toe in the latest designer creations, including those that have only just appeared on the catwalk.
Because I’m part of a generation that grew up without smartphones and don’t need a guide dog to lead me through the city because my eyes aren’t glued to my phone, I didn’t know these new stars, and was able to ignore them for quite some time. This hasn’t been the case for a few seasons now. The influencers are everywhere.
At the last Paris Fashion Week, I was catapulted into a chattering crowd of German star influencers. During a 30-minute shuttle trip to a fashion show in a tennis club outside of Paris, we were cramped together like sardines, and I couldn’t help overhearing: the girls were mad that Dior wasn’t giving away their clothes, but merely renting them, and that they had to sit in the second row of the show. Smartphones were passed across the seats: selfies in head to toe luxury outfits (“That was a gift!” – “I had x million clicks in this outfit” – “Isn’t my new frilly top just adorable? Simply perfect for Instagram”), photographed in luxury hotel suites or crazy chic Airbnb apartments that the girls of course got for free because they would later promote them on their blogs (“I got a deal with them. Didn’t you?”). They bragged that they were starving themselves, and that for days they had only been eating the sweets and mineral water provided in the cars. Admittedly, my first instinct was envy. My second: God, I’m so old school. My third, but by that time I was already home: If only I had transcribed their every word
When the press officer of a well-known Paris jewellery and watch company informed me that one of the leading German bloggers was given an all-expenses paid stay in the most expensive hotel in Paris, was given a choice of three products from the new collection and was being paid 7000 euros for three posts with them – no matter what length or whether just one hashtag and photo on Instagram, she finally piqued my interest in these spoiled fashion divas: What is the secret of their success?
I clicked through the brave new world of ballerina flats and business class, luxury hotels and lipsticks, Photoshop and breakfast cereals. I found out exciting facts such as: they love lattes, particularly those from brand XY, that they stroke their cats before going to morning yoga in the super comfy organic cotton shorts from brand X or that the Coachella Festival in Palm Springs is “totally amazing”. A flood of verbal banalities and pompous photos that any normal journalist would get fired for. Who cares about such things? The comments from their followers spoke volumes. “You always look so great. Where do you get the money to buy such beautiful things and to travel so much?” Young girls are worshipped by even younger girls who are obviously clueless about the business principle of an influencer. Teenagers who imagine themselves part of the perfectly staged dream worlds of their seemingly inaccessible stars who sometimes even deign to respond to their most loyal fans with a heart comment or a thank you. But one thing remains puzzling to me: what business principle would lead a big brand to invest more and more in influencers than in classical advertising? Do all these clueless followers really have the pocket money to buy their products? Hardly. And so I ponder this from the second row.