Christina Najjar, better known to her 1.3 million TikTok followers by the moniker Tinx, grew a following on the platform with her videos on her love life, her affinity for edibles and as she calls it, “rich mom” culture. It’s not internet fodder that might traditionally appeal to labels in search of influencer partners for New York Fashion Week. But this season, Najjar’s candid and comedic online presence has landed her an invite to presentations and shows including Cinq à Sept, Ulla Johnson and Brandon Maxwell.
“It’s always fun when it’s someone’s first time, so we’re really leaning into that, my first impressions as a guest,” said Najjar. “My followers are so excited for me and they want to know all the details, from what I’m wearing to what the food is backstage, the schedule and what celebrities smell like.”
Najjar is one of several fresh faces attending New York Fashion Week this season, the first in-person version of the event since February 2020. TikTok influencers, in particular, are a new presence, thanks to the platform’s rapid growth from the cusp of social media stardom to a verifiable powerhouse during the pandemic, birthing a new generation of digital talent with followings in the millions gained solely over the past 18 months.
The wider talent pool has encouraged brands to team up with creators who break the fashion influencer mould, whose presence was ubiquitous at fashion month pre-pandemic.
Brands have loosely experimented with TikTok in the past. Prada commissioned Charlie D’Amelio to post videos from its Fall/Winter 2020 show in Milan, to lukewarm results, while talent firm IMG signed TikTok influencer Wisdom Kaye, who specialises in men’s fashion content, in August 2020.
But this season marks the first time TikTok’s emerging power in fashion has been put to the test in real life, marking a shift in how creators and brands approach fashion week partnerships and content. Static street style images that once worked no longer resonate, while short-form video is gaining traction. It’s also pushed other platforms that might not have had a strong fashion week presence, like Pinterest, to rethink the opportunity.
TikTok Takes Over
This year, the number of brands seeking out TikTok talent “increased substantially,” said Vanessa Flaherty, partner and executive vice president of influencer marketing agency Digital Brand Architects (DBA). Any look around the shows in New York this season confirms it, as Noah Beck’s schedule appears to be as packed as a typical mid-level fashion editor’s. TikTok talent now makes up a third of DBA’s roster, with the majority of those signings taking place over the last 12 months.
“We weren’t seeing those kinds of requests in prior fashion weeks or really even prior to 2021,” she said. “I suspect the front rows are going to look very different this season.”
The rush in TikTok talent has also prompted a shift in the content brands and platforms are looking to produce during fashion week, as they open up opportunities to a wider range of creators, with diverse interests and specialities.
“Brands are now open to partnering with creators outside of just fashion and beauty,” said Cece Vu, TikTok’s fashion and beauty partnerships lead, adding that requests for TikTok talent this year were “overwhelming”.
One example is Serena Kerrigan, a United Talent Agency creator prolific on TikTok who bills herself as a real-life version of Sex and the City character Samantha Jones. On Wednesday, she attended the Prabal Gurung show, an invitation she secured not because of her fashion chops, but because she had hosted Gurung on her Instagram Live show, Let’s F-ing Date, which attracted five million views over 50 episodes in 2020, Kerrigan said.
“I did fashion week before the pandemic, but now I get the sense that people are way friendlier, way more open to meeting and it’s less daunting,” Kerrigan said.
With that, TikTok-style, fast-paced, short videos have also emerged as a top media trend, overtaking previous content standards, such as outfit of the day posts and street style photos, that may have performed well at previous fashion weeks.
“Video content is king right now,” said Caroline Vazzana, a content creator partnering with Pinterest for fashion week. So far Vazzana has seen a mix of “old school influencers” and a “new generation of influencers that sprouted during the past year” at shows.
It’s also changed the dynamic between creators and the brands they work with. That’s particularly true for brands that were late to join the app and may not yet be well-versed in its intricacies.
“Brands are allowing for a lot more experimentation on TikTok,” said Flaherty when it comes to content strategy. “They’re really putting a lot more trust in creators on that platform versus others.”
For its part, TikTok is also putting a spotlight on fashion week-centric content. It introduced a list highlighting popular creators in the fashion and beauty space to create content for the week, partnering with brands including Tatcha, Tory Burch and Staud, as well as fashion site Rag Report to produce video content of their personal style and fashion week coverage.
A post by TikTok star Victoria Paris, for instance, shows her posing in her room with products from Tory Burch and Vince Camuto, yelling at a friend in between listing each brand she wore to a show.
TikTok has also provided hashtags and a series of prompts for users to engage with when it comes to fashion coverage, from rating outfits to dress-up challenges with themes such as cottage core and Y2K, which the app helped produce.
Greater Social Shifts
Other platforms are also taking note of this shift, and adjusting their fashion week approaches accordingly. Pinterest and YouTube are among those this season who are focused on teaming up with creators who can make video content at shows and events that is then shared exclusively with a platform’s audience.
This year, for the first time, Pinterest is an official fashion week sponsor. The platform installed a lounge in Spring Studios with a branded “Creators Studio” that gives creators a place to create original video content and promotes its idea pins feature, Pinterest’s own video content offering.
“We’re not looking for influencers, we’re really partnering with inspiring creators who have actionable ideas to share,” added a spokesperson from Pinterest.
In identifying creators to work with this season, Pinterest went beyond typical fashion types and is working with a range of figures, including hairstylists and nail artists, to teach users about different facets of the industry. The platform hopes to differentiate itself by offering creators long-lasting value in their content: the posts they create will live on beyond the week and will be available for users to find when looking for fashion inspiration later on.
“Pinterest is this expert-driven content that you know people can come and really learn something from people,” said Marta Topran, the site’s creator management lead for beauty and fashion. “We’re looking for people who are inspiring, who teach you how to do things.”