Can A Hashtag Save Luxury?

Photo: via @Margauxnollet.
For most of us, with the exception of secondhand finds and sale deals, items from luxury labels like Gucci, Bottega Veneta, and Chanel are aspirational rather than attainable. But ever since the pandemic began earlier this year, there’s been a sort of humbling effect in the fashion industry. No one label has been immune to the effects of COVID-19 — which include decreased consumer spending, shut-down factories and distribution centres, and store closures — and every brand, from Urban Outfitters to Loewe, has had to adapt in order to stay afloat amidst the uncertainty. One way that luxury fashion labels have responded to the changes is by interacting more with consumers, not just by engaging with them online but also by inviting them to participate, with social-media campaigns like #AtHome. 
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At the beginning of April, back when New York City was four weeks into quarantine, French fashion label Jacquemus, helmed by social media maven Simon Porte Jacquemus, kick-started an Instagram campaign centered around recreating the brand’s iconic asymmetric heels using products found at home. He named the campaign #JacquemusAtHome and went on to repost dozens of worthwhile submissions — which employed everything from avocados and lemons to toilet paper rolls and sponges — to the brand’s account, which at publish time has more than 2.2 million followers. 
Next came #WangFromHome, a “White T-shirt Contest” that encouraged the brand’s followers to customize their white T-shirts by ripping, pinning, tying them, etc. During the campaign, Alexander Wang went live with model Behati Prinsloo via his Instagram series #StayingInWithAlex to demonstrate how he makes a perfect T-shirt. Then, on May 3, Wang, accompanied by Kaia Gerber, chose two winners and went on to send them handpicked packages full of his favourite goodies, each worth up to $1,000. 
In the five weeks since, more interactive at-home campaigns have come from the likes of Bottega Veneta, Isabel Marant, Roxanne Assoulin, R13, and more. One from Christopher John Rogers shows influencers taking the brand's avant-garde and colourful gowns and styling them for their daily activities, which range from drinking tea to arranging a floral bouquet and eating noodles, while using #CJRatHome. 
Non-luxury fashion brands like Urban Outfitters, Free People, and Building Block are also creating challenges with the hashtags #AtHomeWithUO, #DressedInFP, and #bbbagsathome, respectively. Unlike their luxury counterparts, though, these campaigns are more literal, showing what you could look like if you purchased a matching sweatsuit, pair of jeans, or a handbag — items that are considerably more affordable and realistic for one's wallet right now.
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Marketing on social media is hardly a new method for getting customers talking. But for long-standing brands that were previously able to utilize just their name to maintain sales, COVID-19 has been a kick in the ass to get more digitally involved and connect with an audience on a more meaningful level. “There’s an extraordinary opportunity for brands to explore more broadly their aura beyond products,” Patrizio Miceli, head of creative agency Al Dente, told WWD; Miceli reps luxury labels like Louis Vuitton and Emilio Pucci. “A new relationship is emerging between brands and their audience, and communication has to be much stronger. There should be less focus on products, and more on services,” he said. 
According to a survey published by Optimum, roughly 38% of US adults plan to spend less on fashion and clothing items as the financial burdens caused by COVID-19 continue to rise. At the same time, a fourth of those questioned aged 18 to 34 actually plan to increase their spending on fashion items in the wake of coronavirus, making it all the more important for luxury brands to focus on younger consumers — younger consumers who engage with brands via platforms like Instagram. 
“For luxury houses, the big change will be how to help people fill their time in new ways,” Miceli says. If shopping for extravagant shoes and black tie gowns wasn’t in the cards for you before coronavirus, it almost certainly isn’t during it. You do, however, have all the time in the world to recreate these coveted fashion items #athome with an equally as sought after roll of toilet paper. If you’re lucky, you might just get a $1,000 goodie bag out of it.

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