Lisa Aiken, retail fashion director at Net-a-porter, is currently in the UAE. She was part of a panel discussion in Dubai’s Design District on April 20, with the designers behind Borgo de Nor, Carmen March, Oscar Tiye and Sara Battaglia – brands that are new to Net-a-porter.com this season. Guests varied from emerging local fashion designers to digital influencers and other fashion industry insiders.
The discussion aimed to educate local designers about the importance of having solid digital strategies. While traditionally, fashion labels would scout for brands during international fashion weeks in Milan, Paris, New York and London, Aiken revealed that in today’s social-media-driven world, she discovers many brands through Instagram.
“I remember when YouTube came along and changed how you discover music. I think Instagram did the same thing with fashion,” she says.
Oscar Tiye, for instance, which is a footwear brand founded by Milan-based Jordanian-Romanian Amina Muaddi, gained a popular social-media following, especially after actress Zoe Saldana wore a pair of the brand’s shoes.
“She [Muaddi] first caught our eye on social media,” admitted Aiken. “I’ve scouted brands on Instagram and have even used Direct Messaging on Instagram [to contact them].”
And while the designers behind all of the brands agreed that digital “influencers” and fashion bloggers are key in increasing brand following, they make sure to align themselves with personalities who embody traits and aesthetics that reflect their own labels, as well as those with long-term potential.
“I ask myself, which influencers were here four years ago, and which are going to be here four years from now,” says Madrid-based designer Carmen March.
And, much to our relief, while influencers may play a major role in fashion marketing strategies, the designers, and Aiken, all still place a high value on print media: “What print magazines give is prestige,” says Muaddi.