When lockdowns began in March following worldwide coronavirus outbreaks and a resulting pandemic, fashion influencers had a dilemma. Though most managed to squeeze out the last bits of show appearances from a Paris Fashion Week that refused to shut down, the canceling of events and ensuing travel restrictions meant that most influencers were without a place in which to stage their carefully crafted street style and location photography. Add to it that brands were slashing marketing budgets left and right, and even those with the largest followings were struggling to find their usual income.
Fast forward six months and brands have started to warm up to marketing budgets and influencer fees, just in time for fashion month. But with a U.S.-Europe travel ban still in place — and the majority of shows and presentations happening virtually — influencers are still finding their footing around what used to be their prime time for both exposure and income. How influencers are adapting to the situation is likely to influence how brands spend their marketing budgets in the future, even when pandemic life is over.
European influencers have had an advantage, and traveling to Italy for Milan Fashion Week has been more of a personal decision than a restriction for them. Both Fendi and Max Mara hosted their own rosters of names for their in-personal runway shows, whose guests lists were edited considerably but still large compared to in-person shows that happened during New York Fashion Week (Fendi’s attendance was 130, while Jason Wu’s live show on the rooftop of Spring Studios was only 30).
On September 18, Bryan Yambao, aka Bryanboy, posted a photo on his Instagram account showing himself in an empty airport. “Milano, I’m coming for you! Let’s make some coin and get that bag!!!!!” The seasoned influencer flew from his home in Sweden to Milan to attend the Fendi, Boss and Max Mara shows.
Yambao was joined by the likes of German influencer Caroline Daur, Paris-based model and artist Sharon Alexie, German actress Lisa Vicari and Milan-based editor and photographer Tamu McPherson.
While all of these influencers participated in branded social content surrounding the shows they attended, McPherson also hosted a socially-distanced Instagram live chat with Tod’s creative director Walter Chiapponi.
European influencers may have a leg up this season, but that doesn’t mean their U.S.-based peers aren’t participating. Fashion and mom influencer Jessica Wang has spent the week posting sponsored content from her home in the U.S. “Made it to a show on time for once. The commute was a breeze,” the multi-million-followers creator posted.
For brands looking to cut down on the costs of traveling, lodging and other expenses that typically come from an influencer appearance, Wang’s take could be a new solution.