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The partnership agreement between Kanye West and Nike - the same that, over the years, will become the main fighting reason between the parties - was the first that Nike made with a non-athlete - despite the supermodel Tyra Banks having recently admitted that she thought she was the first ever.

It was 2009 and that huge phenomenon that in the following decade would have forever shaken the world of fashion, sneakers, was nothing more than a niche stuff, a niche that, for decades, had firmly rested its bases in basketball and NBA stars. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson for Converse, Dominique Wilkins and Allen Iverson for Reebok, and, of course, Michael Jordan for Nike and Jordan brand: the main sneaker creators, the inspirations behind the sneakerheads most-wanted silhouettes were the best professional athletes in the country that more than any other had made sport a cultural thing. Now, one of the things that social networks have done, Instagram in particular, has been completely overturning that narrative: it is unlikely that in recent years one of the most hype sneakers on the market has been created by an athlete, much easier than the name of Kanye West or that of Travis Scott would be printed on the silhouette.

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Today, this era too seems close to change, the creators who have dominated the scene in the last ten years are evolving their position leaving the forefront of global culture to move further upstream, just like Kanye, who escaped in the mountains of Wyoming. So who will be the main characters of the next ten years?

What has happened in past years has multiple, broad motivations, which have much to do with the evolution of fashion, the incredible development of streetwear and the natural trends that periodically involve the fashion system. On the other hand, however, more or less simultaneously with this phenomenon, the foundations of the fashion industry were also shaken by another earthquake, which over time we learned to know by different names: basically, the influencers.

Born from the ashes of bloggers and then evolved into creators, influencers and the way they lived fashion was the main trend of the last decade, capable of radically changing the way brands approach their audience and marketing. As The Fashion Law notes, influencers have over the years replaced the role that had been of celebrities in the late 90s and early 2000s: «what qualifies as a “celebrity" and how marketing experts are using their sales power, it has progressed quite significantly».

The idea that influencers - and with them the fashion brands - tried to install in consumers is, as Naomi Fry writes in the New Yorker: « that with a little help from the products the brand sold, everyone could become like them». Over the years, however, the "creators" - a term born on Youtube and coined for the first time by the Next New Network - have taken the place of influencers and the equation that wanted they to be used merely to sell or make known a product has completely disappeared .
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Creators have become part of the industry, if not the industry itself. In a piece published in the Wall Street Journal last February, Jacob Gallagher tried to explain how the paradigm we all thought was in place on social media - and which saw influencers and digital creators, such as Chiara Ferragni, take the place of designers - was actually going in another direction.

Fashion designers have become the best possible influencers / creators for their brand, breaking down a barrier that - primarily - allows their brands to save a lot of money: «The more people follow [the profile of a designer], the less money that brand must spend on traditional advertising. That investment can move elsewhere and generate an advantage for the brand» Professor Jonah Berger told the WSJ.

If Virgil Abloh and Marc Jacobs have transformed the role of designers in relation to Instagram, there are also those who, like Jacquemus or Heron Preston, have completely demolished that relationship, disintegrating the differences between the designer's personal account and the brand's official account.

Meanwhile, the celebrities / creators have become billionaires: in March 2019 Kylie Jenner was certified by Forbes as the youngest billionaire ever, thanks to her Kylie Cosmetics' of course, but above all thanks to a firepower on social media with very few equal to the world - «it's the power of social media», Jenner said.

The emersion of sneaker culture, streetwear and the fusion with the world of traditional fashion are all phenomena that have accompanied the last 10 years of the fashion industry, all linked - in one way or another - to the creator figure. The cultural sectors of our society, including fashion, music, art and cinema, have gradually reached a level of interconnection that can be represented as a single monolith, constantly fed by social media.

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In the report compiled by Hypebeast together with PwC, we read: «And it’s the collective community that has the power to determine what’s cool as much as the industry insider. With social media, that relationship has been amplified. Consumers may rely on brands and media platforms to create the product and convey the news, but it’s consumers who organically spread the word through likes and shares».

The industry paradigm shift has concentrated power in the hands of social media, as well as that of creators. If it is perhaps risky to say that the creators were the most relevant figure for the fashion system, it is safe to say when we look at the "celebrity creators". Again according to the PwC report, in fact, they are the artists and the "industry insiders" who are considered as the most reliable sources by consumers, while the influencers / creators have undergone a dramatic drop in their ability to condition the consumption of their audience.

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In the era of widespread celebrity, the power of social relevance ended up concentrating in the hands of true superstars, putting an end to the creator world as we knew it. The pandemic took care of the outcome: a Launchmetrics report highlighted how Instagram-sponsored content fell from representing 35% of the posts on Instagram for the category to around 4%.

But the change could be deeper than the mere economic crisis, as highlighted by Brittany Hennessy, author of "INFLUENCER: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media" at VICE: «I believe that the market is experiencing a kind of return to the origins». The pandemic could only have exacerbated and speeded up this phenomenon. But in what will still be the social media era for a long time, the role of the creators does not disappear, but is transformed. So who will be the next creators?

In an essay published in 032c, "The Trump-Balenciaga Complex", Kolja Reichert describes social media as the most democratic platform of all: "They hand over the aspect of power that is dependent on reputation, not on laws, to ordinary individuals, who have the capacity to reinforce it with every subscription, like, comment, and forward ... The Queen must not only compete with Kanye West and Donald Trump, but with fashion brands such as Balenciaga, who have the same media tools at their disposal».

In its democratization, commanded by algorithms and the unexpected possibility that they are alternated, social media, however, guarantee a continuous and incessant exchange of talents and creative figures: from athletes to artists, passing through influencers and celebrities to Youtubers and gamers. Trying to predict what the next creative figure will be, the next "creator", to whom we will refer in order to understand the future of the fashion industry and that of entertainment in general, means first of all to understand who has actively contributed to the change of those creative figures. In two words: the media. After that social media destroyed the barriers of intermediation, allowing both artists and celebrities to interface directly with the audience and creating, in fact, creators, the media remained the only ones capable of selecting among the enormous number of options available, those that more than any other could become the new creative voice.

What can be defined as the "media paradox" was created: on the one hand social media wiped out traditional media and on the other they were unable to offer a solution other than the curatorship that the media were capable of to do.

We have heard very often about how the flattening of the quality of the media was due to the run-up to the hype, the desire to follow the influencers but in reality they were the influencers who chased the media.

Always Reichert, in his essay, puts forward an interesting hypothesis: everything, today, assumes relevance only if inserted within a shared network. «people don’t simply sit in front of screens anymore but are themselves nodes in a network flooded with cultural content that they consume and forward». When the consumption of a product - consumer or inspirational - turns from passive to active, the role of the creator changes. In its "Prediction for Journalism 2020" report, Nieman Lab - one of the most important media study and research centers in the world - predicted the increase of "influencer journalists".

Today that the term journalist as we know it has become obsolete - and it is more correct to speak of "media creator" - the emergence of authors and information groups that convey the huge amount of information available on social media has become not only essential, but inevitable. The very idea of ​​what a media is today is under discussion, with the birth of social projects aimed at replacing, in weight, the world of influencers. So: what if the media were the new creators?

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