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Drapers Comment: Instagram - 'the water cooler for the fashion industry'

Just seven days ago, Instagram reached over 400 million users. Probably the social network to have had the biggest impact on the fashion industry, that’s a large potential reach.

Speaking at an event in London this week, head of fashion partnerships at Instagram Eva Chen (@evachen212) said: “It’s a fashion education. Users can see through the eyes of so many people at fashion weeks and it’s amazing to be able to capture fashion in this way.”

Famed for her use of Instagram’s slow-mo feature, Chen described Instagram as “the water cooler for the fashion industry” and said the platform has allowed fashion to be amplified and have a live stream.

Just this week, Swedish young fashion retailer Monki has announced that Instagram will be included in its latest campaign. It will encourage customers to tune into #monkiworld100 on Instagram this weekend for updates as it opens its 100th store. Fashion brands and retailers see the platform as an increasingly integral part of any visual campaign.

Instagram also continues to announce new updates and features, the latest this month being Instagram Direct, a feature that lets you send photo and video messages to friends by tapping the arrow next to the heart and comment icons.

But where did it all begin? Launched as a free app in October 2010 in the US by co-founders Kevin Systrom (@kevin) and Mike Krieger (@mikeyk), over 75% of its community is now outside of the US. UK user numbers recently reached 14 million.  

Also speaking at the event, Systrom said the business’s values remain the same as day one: “Instagram is community first. Whatever your perspective you can share it with millions – instantly.” While he said there will always be room for more social networks, Systrom believes Instagram’s USP is the focus on moments that last alongside creativity - recording the world as it happens. He said the platform “provides a visual voice for everyone that wants to participate”.

Editorial director and publisher of Dazed Group Jefferson Hack (@jeffersonhack), who personally joined Instagram just two weeks ago, speculated on the panel that, if he was to start again, he would probably just publish straight onto Instagram. He said the platform is “inspirational, creative thinking by a new generation”.

Retailers who want to reach that new generation must be part of the Instagram community – the challenge now is standing out in a sea of 400 million. Those who use the platform in a way it works best - less for the infamous selfie and more for creative, abstract and capturing visuals - will lead innovation in this space. While it is still not possible to link from Instagram posts, so direct sales are difficult to measure, ROI can be found in engagement, audience interaction and an increase in traffic to sites following impactful posts.

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