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What is High Fashion Twitter?

Everything you need to know about the social space observing fashion with a critical eye

What is High Fashion Twitter?  Everything you need to know about the social space observing fashion with a critical eye

The internet is full of memes, opinions, and culture. Back in the 80s and 90s, subcultures were the answers to unrest within the system. People gathered and started a conversation. First, with one another, then eventually, with the world. Slowly, what started as a small niche became a mainstream phenomenon. Today, we still have the streets, but we also have the internet. The web kind of took the geography out of a traditional subculture – suddenly, you could be part of a movement, no matter if you are based in New York, London, or rural Europe. In fashion, we have the shows, and the glamour, which is usually accessible to the lucky few industry people. Altogether, it is pretty exclusive and closed off. On the internet, we have High Fashion Twitter, which is pretty much the antithesis of everything the conservative fashion system stands for.

«I would describe HFT as overlapping organized communities of fashion fans and industry insiders, for example, journalists or stylists, who are updating Twitter about fashion news, runway reviews, fashion history, and theory,» says Rian Phin, a very active member of the community and a fashion writer and consultant based in New York City. «Some of them are direct reporters from mainstream fashion media, others just share their own unique perspectives on fashion.» In fashion, a lot of people are invited to the table, but very few are welcome to stay. Jobs are rare, and making a living is significantly harder for the ones who come from a less privileged background. In these trying times, building your own platform is the way to carve out a space for yourself in this very exclusive sphere. Phin's page is followed by 48K people, giving her numerous consulting opportunities, but nevertheless, Twitter does not have the reach or popularity other social media has. It is a difficult tool to monetize, partly because of the honesty. On Twitter, people say their opinion, on Instagram, they paint a vision. Chloe Iris Kennedy, another member of the community who is a fashion journalist from Houston, Texas has been part of the community since 2019.

She is one of the organizers behind the High Fashion Twitter Met Gala, which is an event she organized with ten of her friends in order to democratize the highly exclusive event. «We wanted to use our digital platforms to amplify the voices of independent designers, writers, and creatives within our community. It was supposed to be a small fun project for High Fashion Twitter, but it quickly evolved into something much bigger than we could have imagined,» Kennedy says. Since its inception, they have hosted three events: Temporal Conflation, inspired by the About Time exhibit, Faces in the Mirror, a horror-themed introspective gala that they designed themselves, and In the Americas, which was the community’s answer to the two-part In America exhibit, highlighting the theme through a lens that included all of North, Central and South American fashion.

Last week, the annual Met Gala took place, but the HFT one didn’t. «We decided not to participate in the 2023 Met Gala theme since it is an honorary exhibit to Karl Lagerfeld. No one in our group is ignorant of the impact that Lagerfeld had on the fashion industry and we do think there is an appropriate way to learn about that history, but it does not involve fanfare,» explains Kennedy. Hinting at Lagerfeld’s infamous inappropriate remarks, it didn’t feel right to host the gala for them. Unlike the costume institute, they saw the persona and the work through a critical lens. «Until his passing in 2019, Lagerfeld had made many disgusting comments about Syrian refugees, gay marriage, women’s bodies, and sexual workplace violence – just to name a few,» she explains. The organizing team of the HFT Met Gala covers every single demographic that Lagerfeld has ever insulted, so naturally, there was no interest in devoting their time, resources, and energy to a celebration that would have felt hypocritical.

Standing in for the right thing and not pleasing a potential advertiser is one of High Fashion Twitter’s strengths. Unlike a magazine, they don’t have to play the game – but that comes at a price. When talking about monetization of the platform and the valuable knowledge people are posting there, brands still prefer to put their money into a cleaner form of social media, such as perfectly curated Instagram images. «Almost 100% of HFT is not monetized, which is a shame based on how much visibility they are able to give brands,» adds Phin. She empathizes that the lack of organization on Twitter as a whole might play a role in brands not favoring it.  Instagram, on the other side, is made for monetization, as seen in the example of their creator’s department.

Even though the lack of monetization could morph into a problem long-term, it is also the strength of this subculture. «For me, there is no competition within this space. I genuinely believe that we are all here because we have something to offer to our audiences, alongside a deep love, respect, and understanding for fashion,» says Maximilian Kilworth, an image maker, and visual researcher whose Twitter account has about 20 million impressions per month. Unlike other platforms, there is a genuine sense of community here. It is not about who has the latest brand deal or more cultural capital. «It is a great platform when it comes to learning and growing. Without Rian’s sensibilities, I don’t think I would have challenged myself as much as I do when it comes to my understanding of fashion,» he says. For now, High Fashion Twitter is the place on the Internet where you can get the most sensible and informed discourse on fashion, archive pieces, and visual culture. It is hard to determine what is next for the platform, but right now, it is one of the warmest communities in the fashion sphere.