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What are fashion brands doing wrong on TikTok?

The complicated relationship between luxury brands and the coveted social media

What are fashion brands doing wrong on TikTok?  The complicated relationship between luxury brands and the coveted social media

• With over a billion users across 150 countries, TikTok is the latest platform on which luxury brands are ready to invest. 

• To reach Gen Z, brands must immerse themselves in a world made of very specific social rules, trends and aesthetics that are difficult to penetrate. 

• For luxury brands, it won't be enough to replicate content created for other social networks on TikTok, but they will need videos made with a language tailor-made for the platform.

• Gen Z doesn't seem willing to welcome traditional luxury brands on its happy island, especially in a social network where there's a lot of talk about sustainability, second-hand and DIY, but where also fast fashion is still going strong.


"Don't make ads. Make TikToks"
is the warning that stands out on the first page dedicated to business on the social network website. The one repeated in dozens of branded TikToks is, however, more than a simple quote, it's a real warning for all those brands ready to approach the world of TikTok in the hope of embracing a new audience.
If Facebook and Instagram seem the past, the social network created by Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang has become the reference platform for Gen Z, but above all a happy island away from the trends and catchphrases that pervade the rest of social networks. Not just dances, but real mythology made up of songs, themes, audio and trends to be respected and observed in order to aspire to the much desired "For you page", what separates a TikTok from anonymity to virtual fame. Despite the warnings, however, very few fashion brands have decided to approach TikTok respecting the phrase “Don't make ads. Make TikToks", in many cases ending up seeing the platform as yet another social network in which to share commercials and videos in vertical format. 

According to Marc Sebastian Faiella, model, stylist and co-founder of Voices4, on TikTok, there's no road to success, but above all there is no brand to imitate, someone who is doing it the right way or who may have given the example. Everyone is simply doing their best. For Celine's SS20 campaign, Hedi Slimane, the brand's creative director, had chosen the very young Noen Eubanks, a TikTok star with over ten million followers, as its new face. However, Slimane's choice had immediately seemed a forced way to enter the platform, trying to make room without respecting and applying that language born within TikTok and that many, from Burberry to Prada, seem to have ignored in their entrance to the platform. On the occasion of the fashion show for the FW 20/21 collection, Prada had reserved a front-row seat for Charli D'Amelio, who from the top of her 100 million followers should have captured the best moments of the show to share them on her personal profile. The beginning of a love story that never really blossomed between TikTok and the brand, which since its arrival on the social network has done nothing but share videos of its fashion shows relying solely on its name. 

Someone who managed to capture the essence of TikTok was Gucci, able to intercept one of the trends that have become viral on the platform and reuse it on its official channels. Started as a mockery of the style of Alessandro Michele's brand, "How to look like a GUCCI model" has instead become a catchphrase in which models wore the brand's items in an ironic way, respecting the language of the social network but above all the now-famous phrase “Don't make ads. Make TikToks". However, Gucci's the only virtuous example in a panorama that sees brands like Ralph Lauren, Jacquemus and Burberry venturing into challenges and behind-the-scenes videos of their fashion shows. The feeling, however, is that of finding oneself in front of a series of attempts by those who feel compelled to be there, to impose their presence in a place that doesn't truly belong to them. With the advent of digital fashion shows, many brands have decided to take advantage of the new digital platforms, from TikTok to Twitch, trying to enter the world of fashion within realities that aren't eager to alternate a digital show with a game on Fortnite. 

If in the beginning, the brands had approached digital platforms in a more direct way, with collections and collaboration with streamers and eSports teams, the next step was to enter that world with a straight leg. A world that lives fashion passively, in a disinterested way or with a world of values ​​far from that proposed by luxury brands. Among the most famous trends of recent months, there was certainly "What I'd wear front row at a designer fashion show" in which some tiktokers showed homemade outfits to wear during the fashion shows of some brands, from Versace and Balenciaga, with an aesthetic exaggerated and deliberately joking. A way to underline the detachment of a world that prefers sustainability or the hauls of shopping done on Shein and that doesn't look favourably on the idea of ​​finding oneself in its feed with fashion shows with clothes and accessories that are unattainable for many. The confirmation then comes from the comments on the individual TikTok, in which the few positive opinions on the videos of the collections and Fashion Weeks are far exceeded by the ironic ones, "They really dug into granny's closet for this one" suggests someone talking about the last one Prada collection, or as real trolls.

Last December Dior chose Twitch to present its Fall 2021 Menswear collection in an attempt to intercept a slice of the public that seems to be distant and disinterested in the world of luxury. The attempt of Kim Jones' brand, as well as that of Prada, are the answer to the question of what fashion brands are doing wrong in their approach to new social platforms: imposing one's presence is not enough, to really be there you have to immerse yourself in the chosen role and play by the established rules. If the communication needs of a fashion brand can be compatible with social networks such as Clubhouse and OnlyFans, also besieged by realities such as The Attico and Rebecca Minkoff, it is not so obvious that the same can access with TikTok or Twitch. The secret of success, if there really is one, is to adapt and change one's language, and not vice versa, truly opening up to the novelty and not just claiming a place in a reality that doesn't belong.