NEW YORK, United States — Tyler Gaca, a 25-year-old comedian and art teacher, is not the kind of influencer you'd expect to see at New York Fashion Week.
On any given day, he's posting comedic sketches that portray him as a Victorian dandy, singing the gospels of silk ruffle shirts to his 289,000 followers on TikTok, the viral video-sharing platform beloved by Gen-Z.
It's precisely content like Gaca's that NYFW hopes will give it the boost it needs. This week, TikTok is sending three of its creators to fashion week, in a partnership that signals TikTok’s ambitions for becoming a destination for fashion — and NYFW’s latest bid for relevancy.
Here’s who to watch out for at the shows in addition to Gaca, who teaches drawing at the Columbus College of Art & Design when he’s not on TikTok: Cosette Rinab, a 20-year-old student at the University of Southern California with 1.6 million followers on TikTok, and Taylor Hage, a 30-year-old blogger from Minnesota.
While all three make style content for the viral social platform, they aren’t the sort of high-glam fashion influencers who typically swarm the shows — which is exactly the point. TikTok is the social media platform du jour. In November, it reported 680 million monthly active users and has everyone from Justin Bieber to Will Smith to The Washington Post vying for eyeballs.
But it’s still trying to convince advertisers that its short videos — often lip-syncing teens and pranksters — is a good fit for advertisers. Fashion week could help TikTok “grow up a bit,” said Vic Drabicky, founder of the marketing agency January Digital. Fashion week could also use an injection of fresh blood this season, with well-known designers like Tommy Hilfiger, Jeremy Scott and Tom Ford showing in other cities and many A-listers choosing the Oscars on Feb. 9 over the front row.
Fashion week on its own is dying and could use the help of cooler creatives.
“TikTok can’t just be about 15-year-olds dancing forever,” said Drabicky. “It needs credibility and fashion week can help with that. And fashion week on its own is dying and could use the help of cooler creatives.”
@ghosthoney??Ghosthoney’s Guide to Dressing Like a Love Stricken Victorian Dandy??♬ Chefs Table - Mibe Music
Gaca said he plans to create content showing NYFW footage that compares “unflattering photos of my ballet days that involve sequins and bowlcuts as a fun juxtaposition.” Rinab said she plans to show followers how to recreate runway looks from H&M and Zara.
“I’m going to be respectful because I know it’s a prestigious event, but I’ll definitely be making it fun and more casual than the type of fashion content you’d see on Instagram or YouTube,” said Gaca.
TikTok is working with IMG, the producer of NYFW, which has created accounts on the platform, including @NYFW and @FashionWeek. The collaboration is unpaid. The PR firm KCD is handling access, granting Rinab, Gaca and Hage front-row seats and behind-the-scenes admittance to shows like Anna Sui and Rag & Bone, as well as invites to parties hosted by brands like Bulgari.
“We are always looking for new ways to heighten mobile reach and social media relevance,” Leslie Russo, executive vice president of IMG's fashion events, wrote in an email. “There’s one global stage today, and that’s the phone.”
TikTok is hardly the first platform to send creators to fashion week — back in 2011, Tumblr sent 24 bloggers to cover the shows. Over the years, influencers have become an ever-greater presence in the front rows and at parties, as brands shifted the focus of their shows to reach a mass audience online, as opposed to the editors and buyers in the room.
There’s one global stage today, and that’s the phone.
In September, Snapchat sponsored Teen Vogue’s fashion mentorship event, Generation Next, co-hosted by the YouTuber Emma Chamberlain during NYFW. This season, E! is producing a behind-the-scenes show of NYFW that will run on Snapchat. Instagram isn’t working with any creators this season, although photos and videos of NYFW are now ubiquitous on the platform. A spokesperson for YouTube’s fashion division said it won’t have many creators at NYFW this year (although YouTube will be live streaming events from New York, London, Milan and Paris fashion weeks throughout February).
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While the music and entertainment industries have figured out how to use TikTok in their favour, fashion has been a bit slow to coming around to the platform. Brands like Burberry, Calvin Klein, Victoria’s Secret and Poshmark have experimented with content and ads, and Celine tapped one of TikTok’s more visible stars, Noen Eubanks, for a recent campaign.
But most companies still default to Instagram and YouTube for their social strategies.
TikTok is also facing scrutiny over its parent company, ByteDance. The Beijing-based company has been accused of censorship to meet restrictions on speech enforced by the Chinese government. It is facing a national security investigation by US lawmakers.
Bryan Thoensen, head of content partnerships at TikTok US said “fashion trends and style inspiration” do work on TikTok, so long as it “plays into the creativity, individualism and elements of surprise that really resonate with our users.”
Rinab, the USC student and TikTok creator, noted most of her followers are middle and high schoolers who are interested in her posts about fashion.
“TikTok is all about positivity and making your day, so fashion on the platform is about having fun and not taking it too seriously,” Rinab said.