Is TikTok showing us the future of fashion?

Fashion is being changed by the digital world. (Photo: Raden Prasetya/Unsplash Creative Commons)

Digital platforms and products have boomed in 2020 as coronavirus lockdowns and safe distancing have forced people to spend more time online.

The fashion industry has been no exception, as brands scramble to discover a new online approach to adapt to a housebound audience.

A-list celebrities, with their very stylish children seated front row of the runway, are out the window, and the frenzy of beautiful catwalk models wearing incredibly expensive clothes no longer seem relevant for sitting at home in iso.

According to Australia Post’s key insights of eCommerce this year August was the biggest month in online shopping in Australian history. Between March and August, over 8.1 million households shopped online – a 16 per cent increase from last year.

But will this force a lasting reset of the fashion industry? Will online stores replace the need for bricks and mortar shops? And with consumers at home, idly scrolling through social media, its the obvious choice for marketing.

The advent of #TikTokFashionWeek, which ended yesterday, saw luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent and JW Anderson host live stream runway shows and two TikTok exclusive shows.

It ended with a virtual fashion runway live stream, featuring PUMA and Alice & Olivia, with it’s own after-party for viewers. The stream was hosted by TikTok creator Nick Tangorra, who told fashion publisher WWD that he’s excited about what the digital aspect will bring to future fashion events.

“This is, I think, going to change the way that fashion shows move forward because you’re going to be able to get that experience of seeing the look,” announced Tangorra.

Although the app is still facing threats from the US government wanting to ban it, TikTok’s audience is expanding more rapidly than any other social network and is now considered by young people and creatives as the platform of choice.

The strength of TikTok’s audience was shown in the 2 billion views the #TikTokFashionMonth hashtag racked up. Creators like Wisdom Kaye said tens of thousands of users had tuned into the live streams that included styling tips and modelling classes from none other than Coco Rocha.

However, when did a redesigned version of the 2016 app Vine become a place for fashion. The 15 to 60-second videos are full of very trendy gen-Zers expressing all sorts of creativity. TikTok also comes with its own new brand of dancing and lip-syncing influencers that are cooler than any 16-year-old should be.

Australian social media content creator, Erika Dwyer, says the app has allowed her to share her fashion insights with the platform in an authentic way. 

“TikTok has massively changed how I create my content. Before I was only posting to Instagram and dabbled in YouTube as well,” says Erika.

She has gathered up nearly 8,000 followers on Instagram and over 122,000 on TikTok. 

Erika Dwyer has reached over 122K followers and a total of 2.2M likes.
Photo: @erika.dwyer

“I feel like Instagram is so superficial and transactional, maybe it’s the audience it attracts, I’m not sure,” she adds.

According to Sensor Tower Data, while Instagram has a larger audience and over 1.8 billion downloads, the less well-established TikTok reached 1.5 billion downloads in November last year after just a couple of years.

“TikTok made it easier for me to put out high quality, short-form video content, that I could make from the comfort of the 1-metre wide space at the end of my bed. And this reached over hundreds of thousands of people,” says Erika.

Claire Madden a social researcher says Generation Z (typically those born between 1997-2008) has grown up with a digital voice and as collaborators, so using a platform to express creativity is no surprise.

“Other generations grew up with encyclopedias, those huge books that were stacked in volumes in the library. Gen Z grew up with Wikipedia as an encyclopedia which is a global collaborative content,” says Claire.

“The generation has always expressed themselves on platforms like Facebook, until their parent joined, then migrated to Instagram which was a cleaner and more visual platform which is easier and quicker to consume. TikTok then replaced Vine by providing short-form video loops.

“This creative expression (on TikTok) is simply easier through video, it’s interactive and clothing is seen dancing, moving and being lived in.”

TikTok fashion is varied and explores aesthetics while being authentic to yourself. Anyone that has used the app has probably been exposed to many different styles. The hashtag #cottagecore has over 3 billion views and as it sounds, is dressing like you live in an off-the-grid cottage in the woods.

E-boys and E-girls epitomise the internet style of the generation, much like hipsters were in 2010. The Vogue magazine cover filter is inspiring trends like living out the fantasy of posing as if you’re on the front page. TikTok is like being in a stereotypical high school cafeteria with sectioned groups. Still, no matter what table you sit at, you fit in.

Erika’s TikTok showing both #cottagecore and the E-girl aesthetic.
Photo: @erika.dwyer

Claire explains that savvy brands have already changed how they are using TikTok.

“TikTok is the new place to sell. It creates a new way to advertise that Gen Z often tunes out of. It’s an authentic and genuine marketing that brands need to get their head around,” says Claire.

CeCe Vu, TikTok’s fashion content partnership lead, said these big brands use the apps in a unique and community-driven approach to showcase their clothing authentically. 

“We’ve seen the fashion industry reinvent what luxury fashion means to culture and society through TikTok by bringing fashion into the homes of our community during quarantine,” says CeCe Vu.

“I think TikTok allows for fashion content better than other apps and it does it in an engaging way,” says Erika. She has actively been participating in #TikTokFashionMonth.

“I have mixed feelings about the fashion industry. While I feel it’s changing for the better, it’s not fast enough,” Erika explains. She is an advocate for more diverse representation, making fashion accessible and better environmental sustainability. 

“There are so many people we must see represented more frequently in fashion. Those of different race, age, size, gender identity and ability.”

The app also partnered with black TikTok creators throughout the month-long event and a portion of the money raised through sales went to the Equal Justice Initiative.

“TikTok has been great for people who don’t fit into the fashion industries typical norms,” says Claire. “They can rightfully insert themselves into that community and build audiences that can relate to and look up to them.”

Main image by Raden Prasetya/Unsplash creative commons.