nss magazine | 15s of fashion

«In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes». The sentence, attributed by almost everyone - including MoMA - to Andy Warhol, is considered one of the cornerstones of the modern way of understanding pop culture. Warhol was referring to the explosion of the mass media, which would make anyone with some kind of talent, popular. But what if that time, those 15 minutes, is shortened so much that it becomes 15 seconds?

If the age of social media had destroyed the old way of understanding infotainment, TikTok has pulverized it. Its speed and algorithm paved the way for new creators who, in record time, became far more popular than their Instagram counterparts. And this popularity has affected all cultural sectors, from food to music, even culture. However, there is one thing that TikTok has not yet figured out how to deal with: fashion.

"15s of Fashion" is nss magazine's tenth Digital Cover, born with the aim of investigating the relationship between fashion and TikTok, from the content point of view, of course, but especially from the aesthetic one. The main protagonists are in fact the most famous TikTokers in Italy, the members of Def House, imagined within a fashion editorial. This is an ambitious experiment that we are happy to present during Milan Fashion Week, in a period in which TikTokers are increasingly becoming part of this industry. But with what canons? And representing which aesthetics?

- Francesco Abazia

Can fashion survive TikTok?

According to my iPhone, every day I spend about two hours on TikTok, a figure that doubles during the weekend which leaves no doubt about my obsessive relationship with the app. Unlike the more classic socials like Facebook and Instagram, what makes TikTok so catchy is its infinite variety of content that you can passively enjoy by vertically scrolling with your pointer finger and letting the algorithm choose for you. Imagine it like the map of Game of Thrones, a world divided into many small kingdoms, small categories capable of satisfying anyone's desires and needs: some talk about books, others talk about gossip, but especially some use the platform to talk about fashion. Among these, one of the most famous is @carlarockmore, with 1 million followers and over 13 million likes who talk about fashion directly from her walk-in closet. «My videos are a very quick reality show. In a very short amount of time I take you through my thought process as I get dressed», this is what she told us to describe her videos on the platform. «I say whatever I am thinking. It’s part voyeurism and part education because of my fashion background.» Carla Rockmore, who Vogue called "the Real-Life Carrie Bradshaw," represents just one facet of the way fashion has arrived on TikTok through the passion of its users. If on Instagram an elaborated and artifacts aesthetic is the best way to show yourself, on TikTok realness seems to be the right key to tell something. 

Steady shot and minimal editing represent the lowest common denominator in many of the fashion-related content on the platform, as in the case of @dapperdom, 61 thousand followers, and 1.8 million likes who define himself as "cool dad" in his bio. «I like to offer style help, “get ready with me’s”, brand and gift recommendations, along with organic content about my life,» said Dom, who in some videos often shares the screen with his wife @aileciajones, 35.8 thousand followers, and 1.4 million likes. You can call them TikTok couple, but the idea of a bare-bones account of fashion passion seems to have become the universal language for "fashiontok," in which creators like @oldloserinbrooklyn and @guyfieri.superfan have managed to talk about fashion constructively without having to resort to any particular tricks and gimmicks. «Others talk about more of the nitty gritty side of fashion, whether that be analyzing runways, talking about the business side, and more», @mark_boutilier, who on TikTok has 83 thousand followers and 6 million likes, told us.  «Ultimately the sky is the limit and it is exciting to see everything from DIY’s to thrift hauls to styling to analyzing fashion history.»

But if on TikTok fashion is in the hands of creators, what about brands? Since the first success of the platform, companies of all kinds have tried to approach the world of TikTok, often feeling almost obliged to impose their presence in unknown territory. A bit like a social moon landing, the first step of fashion on planet TikTok was the wrong one, choosing not to understand the new language of the platform but to try to use what has already been done elsewhere transplanting it into the new reality. But if there's anything my brief experience as a Tiktoker has taught me, it's that behind those fifteen seconds videos there’s a lot of research and study that goes beyond the most superficial idea of "making a TikTok." «I do think there is space for brands on TikTok. I also believe most brands do not know how to use TikTok in the most effective way,» said @mark_boutilier. «TikTok in general does not like “ads”. They don’t want to see a regurgitated commercial put into a TikTok. They want to see behind the scenes content, helpful tips and tricks, and entertainment. If you are a brand and your strategy is to regurgitate content from your other socials onto TikTok, it might be time to hit the drawing board again.»

That may be part of the reason why many of the fashion industry's biggest names have taken some time to find their voice on the platform. Arc'teryx, for example, did so by riding a trend and using a more ironic language, while Balenciaga brought its "alien" aesthetic to TikTok by adapting it to the platform. Among the first to understand the potential of the platform was Moncler, which in 2020 launched its challenge involving, among others, Charlie D'Amelio, the most followed TikToker in the world with over 136 million followers. Despite the distance between D'Amelio and the fashion world, Moncler's initiative shows how the brand understood the key role of creators on a platform like TikTok. If on Instagram an influencer represents a means to reach a wider audience, on TikTok it's a free pass to find credibility in uncharted territory by making those fifteen seconds of fashion truly effective.