This piece was originally published in The Gryphon in print and online, and can be found here.
This Milan fashion week menswear show saw YouTubers and “social media influencers” alike not just on the elusive front row but strutting down the runway alongside models. Specifically Dolce and Gabbana invited a host of millennial “influencers” and celebrity offspring that the fashion duo dubbed favourably as the “DG Princes”.
Social media or millennial influencers are so-called real people, who make content – that often being photos, videos or tweets about themselves – and gain a large following, “influencing” in some cases millions. Where Keeping up with the Kardashians, Big Brother, Made in Chelsea and even Myspace musicians blurred the line between the celebs and ‘real’ people, Youtubers and Instagrammers have followed. Naturally, it only makes sense for the new social media millennials to follow reality stars such as Kendall Jenner onto the runway.
The epitome of the influencer is Vine sensation Cameron Dallas, with a worldwide following that shows itself in over 17 million followers on Instagram, over 5 million on Youtube and his own Netflix TV show Chasing Cameron – that you need to guilty-pleasure watch right now. If you’re still not convinced, he won the award for “Social Media King” at the Teen Choice Awards last year. In terms of fashion, Dallas markets himself as a model, taking artsy shots on his Instagram that helped shoot him to fame. This January, Dallas lead the runway at the D&G show, and if it wasn’t clear enough who was boss – he
wore a crown on the final walk on. He first became fash-pals with D&G back in September, when he attended their Spring Summer 2017 Ready-to-Wear show and frequently posts photos of himself with the designer duo on Instagram.
Tapping into the large audiences that the social media influencers have can only be a good thing for brands, and it’s also connectin the younger and thus perhaps newest audiences, keeping brands as relevant as possible. It also serves to make the influencers themselves feel more legitimate; on his TV show Dallas states: “They’re shedding a light on social media and what the power is; two years ago they wanted nothing to do with us, but now we’re literally the biggest part of their show”.
Yet perhaps the most interesting and eyebrow-raising aspect is suggesting that the chosen millennials were #realpeople on the catwalk. Yes, in post-truth, over Photoshopped times we’re craving authenticity, people, brands and a lifestyle that seem real. Seeing a person everyday on your social media feed makes you feel like you know them and what they’re really like. However, if reality shows, filtered Instagram shots and deleted tweets have taught us anything, it’s that there’s not a lot of realness online, and how can there be with all the tools easily available to edit ourselves? Sure, in the constant debate over unattainable size zero figures; the “real” Youtuber is a get-out-of-jail-free card. They’re beautiful and often wealthy, but because they started at home behind a camera they’re just like you and me. But if anything it only reinstates that as an audience we’re told we want something real, but not too real.
By Lynsey Rose Kay