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To Thrive or to Perish: A Literary Review on the Rise of Social Media in the Fashion Industry

Isis A. Ruiz-Hurtado

University of Texas at El Paso



The purpose of this literature review is to address the matter between social media and

the fashion industry. The use of social media has proven to be a double edge sword; it has a

double standard. In todays world, social media is as important in the daily life as much as

socializing is. It is through this online life that people expand their horizons, and are able to get

out there without getting outside their houses with just one click. Businesses have seen this as an

opportunity, and the fashion business did not stay behind. It is almost impossible to find a house/

brand without an Instagram page, where they advertise their latest collections. Brands such as

Dolce & Gabbana, have taken the lead and have even gone the extra mile to only work with

internet personalities. The outreach is such, that controlling what or who will be the latest trend

is not so hard. Still, it remains to see up to what extent the public will let the industry control

what is going to be the next big thing.


To Thrive or to Perish: A Literature Review on the Rise of Social Media in the Fashion


The fashion industry is an old business literally as old as time (Beauty and the Beast,

1999). It has been present at every culture, at every civilization, and it is part of them as much as

any piece of architecture built by that generation. But time passes, and the world changes; the

Era of Marie Antoinette came, and so did the veneration for fashion. The fashion business

became a more serious business; ateliers were respected and forced to modify the way they did

business. By the early 1900s pioneers like Paul Poinet, and Lucile transformed fashion by

hosting the first elite fashion shows, and by naming their creations, giving way to the famous

Fashion Weeks (Fashionista, 2016). Still, the time where fashion shows and magazine

advertisements were not enough, and it was time to think outside the box. Not for nothing the

father of advertisement, David Ogilvy, said, If you are trying to persuade people to do

something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language in

which they think. And so, online advertisement was the savior.

It is sad to recognize that technology controls todays society; it has been proven that

most people cannot go through with their day without their phones. Social media is used for

everything, whether it is because the HR department is stocking the companys employees, or to

even look for a relationship (hello tinder!). Fashion advertisers have learned to use the social

media in their favor, thus controlling the retail advertising industry. With a single Instagram post

house brands, retail companies, and fast-fashion business can sell out an entire collection (ask

Kate Middleton). And the best part is, that the companies do not even have to do it themselves,

as long as its someone with a couple of followers, and a public account. Ogilvy was right, to

sell, the seller must know how to sell it, and who to sell it to. Todays fashion industry is not only

influenced and advertised by the typical magazine or show, but by the customers decisions and

statements, which leads to the following questions:

1. How are consumers affected by social media advertising?

2. How are consumers influenced to buy fashion products?
3. How has social media affected the fashion industry?
4. How are fashion brands using social media?

These questions will guide the literature reviews direction towards the investigation of the

relationship between social media and consumers, plus the negative or positive impact social

media has in the fashion industry.

How are consumers affected by social media advertising?

Fig 1. Displays the revenue obtained from different advertisement means, and shows that

from all the mediums, social media is the most effective with customers. Retrieved from

The use of social media constantly exposes the users to potential purchases through

advertisement affected by their search history. The most prominent feature of social media is

thane fact that it lets people communicate amongst each other without having to even be in the

same country. It is that constant exposure to social media that gives businesses to opportunity to

approach their customers from a different perspective. The traditional interaction between a

company and customer would be just exactly that, between the customer and the company

(which gives the company a high degree of control over the customers thoughts on the business)

(Mangold, Faulds, 2009). However, in the age of the internet, social media allows for customers

to talk to each other, making the business kind of an affair. Theres the relationship between the

customer and the company, but in the background, theres another customer sharing information

with the initial customer. In the article named Social Media: The new hybrid of the promotional

mix authors Mangold, and Faulds (2009) explain the relationship between customers,

companies, and social media. Mangold and Faulds explain that the ultimate goal for companies is

to learn how to shape and manipulate what customers are saying about the company (2009). To

engage the customers, businesses managers learn to manipulate blogs, networking platforms

(such as the companies own website), and finally, learn how to sell and who to sell the

promotional tools like discounts and special sells (Mangold, Faulds, 2009). One of the most

effective platforms for this last manipulation tool, is by email. The customer is offered to join the

email list and is immediately rewarded with a 10% or 15% discount; the company wins (starts

building the loyalty and trust relationship), and so does the customer. Another way through

which business manipulate customers is through their same advertisement and Google ads. A

person could be searching through the Forever 21 website, and not ten minutes later, his or her

Facebook will be full of Forever 21 advertisement which will end up with the person buying

something from the products advertised. As easy as that the media controls the masses without

even them knowing it.

How are consumers influenced to buy fashion products?


Fig. 2 depicts customers social media interaction with a product or brand through

Facebook. Retrieved from


Personal, environmental, marketing, and even psychological factors influence what the

customer is going to buy. When the customer goes to the mall it is almost a fact that he or she is

going to come out of the building with a bag. In a study portrayed in an article by Perk, Kim, and

Forney (2006), they concluded that the main reason why this occurs is due to impulse buying

behavior, based on the Hedonic consumption tendency (the tendency to experience happiness

and pleasure (Perk, et al., 2006)). Through strategies such as the way the store is displayed, the

product is shown, package design, extended store hours, and convenient return policies,

companies seek to influence the customer to buy from their business (Perk, et al., 2006). Take for

example Victoria Secret, the store has a nice and flashy outside display, meanwhile on the inside

everything is also flashy and cute, and the bags that they give out to customers with their

merchandise is so distinctive that women love to walk outside the store with those bags. Another

result the authors reflected in their study was Hans (1999) research and discovery that fashion

oriented students had a bigger tendency to buy clothes than those studying a different major

(Perk, et al., 2006). It is important to emphasize that it is imperative for companies to understand

fashion buying impulses in order to create the perfect marketing sale strategies.

How has social media affected the fashion industry?

The use of social media has expanded the outreach of the industry to the customers,

making the brands at the palm of the hand. Like explained before, the use of social media

makes the interaction between the customer and the business more personal. In the study

Fashion creation and diffusion: The institution of marketing authors Atik and Firat (2013)

explain fashion marketing as an institution that involves associations with customers and

organizations based on a constellation of relationships, interactions, and practices that have

been and will be repeated in the future, keyword being relationships. Social media brings that to

the table, and as a plus social media is the most convenient and cheapest mean to communicate

(Ahmad, et al., 2015).

Another plus of the fashion industry and social media is that when a person is in search of

a quick and cheap purchase, with just searching #InstaSale on his or hers Instagram search bar,

that person will find an infinity of possible items on sale by ordinary people just like them

(Schiavocampo, 2014). Sales like this have inspired big companies like Steve Madden and

Aropostale have direct links to items promoting in their Instagram. It is undeniable that those

companies that do not take advantage of promotional social media are going to be reporting the

lowest sales of the year. And those who do see the true value of social media and take the

advantage, will be the ones with the most sales and followers. An additional plus for retailers is

that it helps anticipate fashion behaviors and to study the trends (Ahmad, et al., 2015). After the

financial crisis of 2008, customers started to be more careful with how and with what they

bought. Just like for everyone, the fashion industry was taken by surprise, and recorded the

lowest sales in years (Mohr, 2013). Designers and retailers had to start being more specific and

unique in order to caught the consumers attention (Lutz, 2012). Max Azria from

BCBGMAXAZRIA has even said that if only they would have a more specific tool to follow

fashion behaviors, the comeback would have been easier (Mohr, 2013).

How are fashion brands using social media?

The constant advertisement on popular sites, and the opportunity of feedback from

customers gives brands the chance to use social media to their advantage. It has been

psychologically proven that in order to create trust, there must be recognition. In a case study

conducted and recorded by Laroche, Habibi, and Richards (2013), 411 people were questioned

with the purpose of showing the outcome of the relationship between customer and brand with

the social media factor. The subjects were shown various websites that now had customer

support chats on their websites, and as they shopped they could ask an employee though the chat

window any concern they had about their products. As a result, brand communities had a positive

response and effect on customer/ brand, customer/ product, and customer/ company

relationships which equaled in brand trust and brand loyalty (Laroche et al., 2013).

Last February, Dolce & Gabbana hosted their annual Fall/ Winter Fashion Show. Their

designs were gorgeous as always, but what stood out was the event itself (Blanks, 2017). Taking

social media by storm, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana did not only show their followers

their latest fashion collection, but a collection of internet influencers (Cameron Dallas, Juanpa

Zurita, Marcus Butler) and the sons and daughters of worldwide recognized stars like Presley

Gerber (Cindy Crawfords son), Sofia Richie (Lionel Richies daughter), and Rafferty Law (Jude

Laws son) (Blanks, 2017). The idea of these young stars walking the runway was so fresh and

original, that it didnt matter that most of them did not even know how to walk it. Domenico and

Stefano knew how to bring a new market into the business and from what it seems it was the

right choice.

Where do you take your fashion inspiration?

Social Media Street Style Own Style

Fig 3. Depicts survey question #4, in which the survey takers where asked from where

they took their fashion inspiration, with 37.7% for both social media and street style, while 25%

answered they had their own style.

My way of researching the relationship between fashion and social media was through a

survey named Customers and Social Media in El Paso Survey, which I conducted for two days

outside an Aropostale store. Twenty-four people accepted from the ages ranging between 17 to

22, (5 boys and the rest girls) to take the survey, and based on their answers I came out with

surprising results (for me). There were six questions on the questioner, with the following

answers: How often do you shop? A) once a week, B) once a month, C) only when I need to; Do

you limit yourself monetarily when you shop? A) Yes, B) No, C) depends on what Im buying;

Where do you prefer to buy, online or at the mall? A) online, B) at the mall, C) other; From

where do you take your fashion inspiration? A) social media, B) from people I see, C) I have my

own style; Do you follow any brands on social media, and if you do approximately how many?

A) Yes, 2-3, B) Yes, 3-6, C) Yes, more than I can remember, D) No; In your own opinion, do you

consider yourself to be influenced by social media with what you buy and how you dress? And it

was an open question.

The results were the next: For the first question, 20.5% said A, 42% said B, 37.5% said C; for the

second, 25% said A, 45.8% said B, while 29% said C; for the third question, 58% answered A,

25% answered B, and 16% said C; for the fourth question 37.5% said A, 37.5% said B,

meanwhile 25% said C; for the fifth question, 33.3% answered A, 29% said B, 20.5% said C, and

16% said D. For the last question, the most common answer was that yes, they did believe their

style was influenced by social media, one girl even gave the example of the Adidas Superstar,

which 2 out of 3 teenagers own (this last fact hasnt been proven).

Conclusion/ Synthesis

To close off, it is imperative to reinstate the purpose of this literature review, to talk about

the media monster that is social media and how it can be used by industries to control in this case

the latest trends. The purpose of this analysis is to talk about fashion and the social media,

however, if looked more in depth, the media controls society. As mentioned before, a person

could have searched for a dress in some random website, and the next thing is that the persons

Facebook is full of advertisements advertising that same website that the person looked for the

dress in. One thing to be learned from this is to learn to control the factors that influence society.

Yes, social media brings everything to the palm of the hand, but it is important to be aware of

what this will mean in the future.



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Empirical investigation from karochites. Journal of Resources Development and Management, 7,

2-7. Retrieved from ResearchGate.

Atik, D., & Frat, A. F. (2013). Fashion creation and diffusion: The institution of

marketing. Journal of Marketing Management, 29(7-8), 836-860.


Blanks, T. (2017, Feb 27.) Dolce & Gabbanas social media panoply. Retrieved from


Mangold, W. G., & Faulds, D. J. (2009). Social media: The new hybrid element of the promotion

mix. Business horizons, 52(4), 357-365.

Mohr, I. (2013). The impact of social media on the fashion industry. The Journal of Applied

Business and Economics, 15(2), 7. Retrieved from ProQuest.

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intelligent decision support prototype system for social media competitive analysis in fashion

industry. Journal of Organizational & End User Computing, 28(2), 13-32.

Laroche, M., Habibi, M. R., & Richards, M. O. (2013). To be or not to be in social media: How

brand loyalty is affected by social media? International Journal of Information

Management, 33(1), 76-82.

, E. U., Kim, E.Y.,& Forney, J. C., (2006) . A structural model of fashionoriented impulse

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22, 2017, from