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Is Instagram Replacing The Job Of Fashion Magazines For Couture Labels?

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At first glance, the shoot with captivating imagery bears all the pomp and ceremony of a typical multi-page editorial project. But the goal is something far more innovative: a fashion campaign aimed squarely at Instagram, thus replacing traditional formats.

 

Gulaal from The Udaipur Collection S_S Couture 2017 by Sabyasachi Mukherjee_Front Row With Shweta Shiware_Hauterfly

Gulaal from The Udaipur Collection Spring/Summer Couture 2017 By Sabyasachi Mukherjee

 

On February 25, Sabyasachi Mukherjee staged what could be a communion between couture and digital, with his Spring/Summer Couture 2017 Insta-feed, titled The Udaipur Collection. Its glossy storyline illustrated the haute bohemia of Indian weddings against the lavish backdrop of Udaipur’s Taj Lake Palace.

Neatly apportioned French chiffon and vivid velvets caressed European flora and fauna motifs, as models stood outfitted in Mukherjee’s reenactment of royalty. The show grabbed an astounding 22.5 lakh eyeballs.

 

Campaign for Palermo Afternoons collection by Sabysachi_Front Row With Shweta Shiware_Hauterfly

Campaign for Palermo Afternoons Collection By Sabysachi

On April 1, he took us on a fantastical ride with #InstagramExclusive Palermo Afternoons, a virtual outing at a picturesque villa seated a few miles from Palermo, Italy. This sepia-toned escapade was an extension of the brand’s prior collection, but with a twist of whimsy for the adventurous couple.

“This concept was designed to give our consumers a sense and direction of what they could do with a destination wedding,” Mukherjee adds.

One would assume that a digital launch format has its perks: slimmer budgets and an absence of the ‘who-to-seat-on-the-front-row’ anxiety.

“Not really…doing a show on Instagram does not mean we will shortchange [customers] on exuberance,” explains Mukherjee, who will continue to enthrall the media and front row-worthy clients with a fashion show, once a year, at Amazon India Couture Week.

The Palermo Afternoons campaign was shot by leading shutterbug Tarun Khiwal, who was flown to Italy armed with a crew of 10 models and 6 assistants, backed by a full local production team. “It was money well spent,” Mukherjee smiles. Six days post its release, the Instagram figures have touched 9 lakhs.

The rise of social media has amounted to the Instagram-ication of fashion presentations, and when it’s Mukherjee with a hefty tribe of 1.1 million followers which he has gathered in just a year, instant gratification definitely is part of the cultural zeitgeist.

You cannot ignore Instagram. The photo-sharing app, owned by Facebook, has become the key hub for fashion’s tastemakers and their platoons of fans since its launch in 2010.

 

 

DEMOCRATISING FASHION

“After reviewing the format of shows, we realised that they were appealing to a region-specific customer, be it in Mumbai, Kolkata, or New Delhi. But Instagram reaches a larger audience seamlessly…someone sitting in China, Middle East, America, or Africa has the same access as someone in India,” Mukherjee says.

What he is not telling you about is the underlying Insta-bait – by adopting the online format, Mukherjee’s brand took ownership of real-time fashion communication in a controlled environment, which he can influence, instead of letting others do it for him. ‘Others’ here denoting the fashion media.

“We want to talk to our consumers directly, by cutting out the middlemen. Apart from the media, I believe a brand should also have its own point of view, and that should reach the consumers directly,” he adds.

 

 

So, Instagram is now performing the job earlier assigned singularly to fashion magazines. If you’re streaming live videos or launching campaigns, that’s fulfilling the same function a fashion magazine does. It has made the once ‘exclusive’ fashion industry accessible to the public, which is something users appreciate.

“With a medium like Instagram, the brand defines the context. I’d quote a friend here, who said, “content is king, but context is queen”.

Exposure on the digital medium is definitely more intimate and direct, as opposed to, say, having a spread in a fashion magazine, because the latter could interpret the context differently,” explains Raul Rai, co-founder of Nicobar, a lifestyle and fashion brand.

 

 

Co-founded by Rai with Simran Lal in 2016, the brand explores a fresh design language that blends ideas of modern India with local fabrics and regional colours, underlined by the charming comfort of styling.

But, unfazed by 23K followers on Instagram, Rai makes a convincing argument for the tactile, touch-and-feel shopping experience. “I’d prefer 100 ‘Loves’ from my customers than a million ‘Likes’ on social media.”

BUSINESS OF INSTAGRAM

The idea to calibrate images to create an inclusive, immersive experience was first explored by Mumbai designer Masaba Gupta in March 2015. Smartly aligned with the then ongoing Lakmé Fashion Week schedule, the uploaded Summer/Resort 2015 ready-to-wear collection, labeled Sugar Plum, picked up 1 lakh ‘Likes’ on her Instagram handle.

“Visual communication is a great tool for recognition and recall,” believes industry expert Sabina Chopra. But as fashion presentation formats become grist of the digital mill, she wonders whether the ‘Likes’ translate into actual sales.

“Instagram followers may not necessarily be your customers, so I’m skeptical about this platform reaching out to a relevant clientele.”

 

 

Rai agrees with Chopra. “Statistics on Facebook or Instagram don’t capture the entire picture. We depend on analytics about consumer purchase habits at our stores, both online and offline.

“Instagram is a channel to tell stories, set a context, and create engagement and happiness…make buyers aware about our philosophy, irrespective of whether it leads to conversion or not,” he tells you.

Mukherjee believed he was an old soul until he fell for the seduction of immediate consumer reaction – anywhere between 35K to 80K ‘Likes’ per post. The idea suddenly acquired traction since client reactions made the tedious task of merchandising and forecasting easier.

“For an engaging experience, my customer is always welcome to walk into my store. With online campaigns, I’m moving beyond selling trousseau…I’m creating dreams.”

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Shweta began writing on fashion when it wasn’t quite the opium of urban India. With a master's degree from London’s Central Saint Martins, she has previously worked as Fashion Features Editor with Grazia India, and authored a coffee table book titled Aharya, tracking the aesthetic attire at the Kumbh Mahaparv. Sh​weta​ is currently enjoying ​the liberating space of freelance​ writ​ing​ with beloved long black ​by her side.

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