Imagine you’re selling your own line of clothing, and a major retailer asks to buy a few thousand of your designs and sell them in stores. You might be tempted to sign on the dotted line for your shot at the big time with the help of an established chain, but for the social media savvy among us, that’s just not a priority.
To the contrary, some young designers have found a more direct path to success by harnessing the power of Instagram to gain social influence and create an air of exclusivity around their products, Bloomberg noted recently, driving customers to their online stores instead of to chains like Urban Outfitters. Going for direct sales is a pretty sophisticated strategy given the supply chain issues and speed necessary to compete these days.
Take the example of a teen hat designer living in Paris who goes by the nickname Millinsky: He hired a contractor when he was 17 to help him with the manufacturing side of his business, while he focused on working his connections under the company name Nasaseasons.
“I didn’t really know how fashion worked but I knew social media,” he told Bloomberg. “And as a teenage fashion designer, that’s all I needed.”
It turns out he was right: He was catapulted to fashion fame and success after he was tagged in an Instagram photo of Rihanna wearing a hat bearing his slogan, “I Came To Break Hearts.”
He sold more than 500 hats within days, selling so many so quickly that he had to shut down his web store, he says. Other celebrities soon followed in the inevitable rush to be relevant and cool.
Since then, Millinsky’s brand has been carried by more than a dozen retailers around the world, including some luxury stores that charge anywhere from $50 to $70 per hat.
Instead of relying on those bricks-and-mortar stores to bring in the money, however, he’s instead bending them to his purpose in order to create an air of exclusivity.
To wit: Soon after Rihanna was spotted in his hat, Urban Outfitters asked him for 10,000 hats, 10 times the volume Millinsky had at the time. He gave the deal a hard pass, telling Bloomberg that it would have pushed the “underground aspect” of the brand straight out the window.
“We make sure that our products are sold out quickly through retailers,” he says. “We create rarity, and then— boom! — we have waves of clientele coming to our website directly, no middleman necessary.”