The Outside View: Fashion and Luxury’s Social Media Responsibilities – WWD


If the media formats society, social media does it better than most. We must remember that social networks can not only influence the results of elections but can also give rise to social movements like #MeToo. We are connected continuously, spending more than five hours daily on our cellphones, and as interactions seldom stop in the digital communications sphere, the societal impact of social networks is thereby crucial.

Luxury and fashion brands must also be aware of this societal impact, and they have a reinforced duty of responsibility because they create and diffuse trends. On social media, these influential and revered labels are also imitated by mass market brands, so their power is multiplied. Brands increasingly use social media to increase their exposure, work on their influence strategy and display their values: inclusivity, body positivity, transparency, diversity, and solidarity. One example is the French lingerie brand Chantelle, which was one of the precursors on inclusivity issues back in 2018, or shoe designer Christian Louboutin when it comes to diversity, or even more recently, French skin care company Vichy, which is tackling taboos with its #Menopositivity campaign. Of course, Jean Paul Gaultier is also an inclusive brand from start to finish. 

Brands must not be late in taking steps toward change, nor be too modest if they genuinely carry values, as afterward they are regularly labeled with all kinds of washing, including greenwashing. To avoid this, being credible and proactive toward your community is crucial. Patagonia is a great example, as the brand sees through on its ideas. Also worth mentioning is London-based designer Karoline Vitto, whose spring-summer 2023 show during London Fashion Week was groundbreaking in showing only plus-size models. 

Today some brands are exemplary in the way they also guide others to push back their limits. They have values with which they align concrete actions and this provokes instant reactions. Responsibility can flourish everywhere: on social media, in communication, in the choice of words, in products and even in major financial decisions. At the same time, we need to remain alert because manipulation is never far away.

Today it’s clear that it’s story-proving that matters. We must privilege proof and put it in the spotlight. Audiences are searching for proof, pledges and guarantees. We also need to match what we wear with who we are, as the exterior no longer suffices in terms of authenticity. The interior must also be aligned.

In terms of change, we should also mention brands’ relationships with their audiences, which are no longer “top-down.” There is more horizontality, thankfully, as brands are increasingly being challenged by their audiences, customers, prospects and competitors within their ecosystems. Today’s brand and social media territories are made of interactions, collaborations and personalization. Entertainment can dazzle us but should never blind us as to our responsibility. We are in a real world, one with real stakes.

The communicator’s profession is not spared from these questions. Indeed, communicating means raising awareness among tomorrow’s consumers, creating messages that will reach them, setting the tone on social networks and thinking about advocacy and influence strategies, all the while remaining responsible both toward brands and the younger generations. This is an eminently critical moment for communicators, marketers and agencies who work on territories of influence and power such as social media, as they must arbitrate important questions to guide both brands and the young, and one can no longer go without the other. 

It’s a twin challenge: that of being an excellent professional without compromising the responsibility of being a good parent, especially when you’re “shaking” disciplines which are constantly under observation. We can’t do anything and everything in the race for results and audiences. There is a space to be created that values agencies, communicators and talents who do things well. 

We talk a lot about responsible influence but actually, all our work must be as accountable as possible. It’s also a very topical subject on a political level, but where we are concerned, there is a duty to set an example. These modern, animated and rapid interfaces can have a very dark side. CTZAR has always wanted to stay on the bright side and stick to demanding values regarding education and transmission. This is also why we were the first agency to become a member of French advertising self-regulatory organization ARPP and to integrate transparency labels into our platform and our way of working with influencers.

Social networks are currently writing a new chapter, partly because of their algorithms that have favored divisive and superficial content. But the world is changing, and new models are already emerging: the rise of communities with more proximity, companies launching media such as newsletters or podcasts, influencers that advocate authenticity, TikTok that gives pride of place to spontaneity, and gives credit to niche creators. Nobody wants walking billboards anymore! Social media also brings out fashion trends. For example, luxury and fashion brands have massively moved into the secondhand market, and it’s partly due to social network personalities who have managed to “recool” secondhand clothes and accessories and made them appear as something other than sub-fashion.

Who are these people, really? In 2021, we released an article about the end of the word “influencer,” and this reflection is still relevant today. We are convinced that we must be highly vigilant and not mistake influence and “influencer.” Influence is only a kind of loudspeaker, an amplifier, a consequence. It is the sign of legitimacy acquired within the communities. The latter will have recognized themselves in a personality with an authentic, fair and credible character, a talent capable of showing imagination and creativity, and a voice that has the stature to carry ideas and values. The influencer hides under different profiles; they are never just an influencer in their life. Have you ever noticed how people don’t want to be called influencers? The term has been used so much that it almost has a negative connotation. That’s also why at CTZAR, we talk about social talent or makers instead. It’s more relevant to everyone, and it’s closer to reality.

Camille Olivier and Thomas Silve are founders of the creative agency CTZAR and specialize in social media and influence.

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