The Bella Effect: How Instagram's Favorite Models Impact a Brand's Bottom Line

Ever doubt the actual value of an endorsement from one of the fashion industry’s favorite Insta-models, as they have been coined? Fannie Schiavoni doesn’t. You might not know this Sweden-born, London-based designer’s name but chances are, you have seen her work.

Lady Gaga has taken a liking to Schiavoni’s chainmail and slinky mesh garments, as have Nicki Minaj and Kim Kardashian. Rihanna appeared in one of her official Puma campaigns wearing one of Schiavoni’s barely-there frocks (layered over a Puma dress, of course), and even Cher is a fan.

Not just a celebrity favorite, Schiavoni – who has been praised for her “technical training and flair for tailoring” – has garnered quite a bit of industry cred. Before launching her collection for Spring 2009, Schiavoni cut her teeth with the likes of Hussein Chalayan and Giles Deacon, and has since been honored with the prestigious NEWGEN Award from the British Fashion Council. Additionally, she has collaborated with an array of designers, including Alexandre Vauthier, Matthew Miller and Craig Lawrence, and created one-off pieces for Rihanna, Interview Magazine, and Lane Crawford.

But despite her formal design skills and past projects, Schiavoni says that her biggest break thus far came when Bella Hadid wore a chainmail dress from her eponymous label this time last year.

The scenario is likely not what you might expect. It turns out, Schiavoni did not gift the dress to Hadid as a marketing move – a common tact for many brands. Instead, Schiavoni says, Hadid “actually purchased the dress from Curve, one of my stockists.” And the impact was both “immediate” and “impressive,” per Schiavoni, who says “it 100 times more significant than any other celebrity wearing my work.”

On the heels of Hadid’s October 2016 outing, Schiavoni says British, American, and Italian Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue Teen, and W magazine - among others - all dedicated space on their sites to her brand. “Some of them several times over.”

Her Instagram went wild, of course. “There was definitely a noticeable difference in brand awareness on social media, which had never happened before with any other celebrity,” says Schiavoni. There was also a marked rise in sales.

According to Schiavoni, “I think it really came down to timing and the fact she looked absolutely stunning.”

This should not come as a surprise, as both Bella and Gigi Hadid, among other big name models, are known for their ability to attract younger consumers. As noted by WWD's Joelle Diderich late last year, "The rise in popularity of models with a strong social media following coincides with a surge in influencer marketing, as Millennials shun brand messages in favor of peer recommendations. And 2017 is shaping up as a defining year for the practice." 

While brands - including Schiavoni - are not offering up exact revenue figures in connection with the use of model-influencers, Tommy Hilfiger was willing to speak to his on-going collaboration with Gigi Hadid last year in terms of web traffic and to allude to sales figures. 

For instance, on the heels of his brand's September 2016 fashion week show, Hilfiger said there was a "900 percent increase in traffic" to the brand’s web site. “Seventy percent of visitors to the site were new, which shows progress in our mission to attract new women consumers." As for sales, Hilfiger said, Hadid's ambassadorship "has continued to create a ‘halo effect’ across all regions — we’ve seen double-digit sales growth across the women’s category.”

As for how Schiavoni hopes to translate her own new-found fame and brand awareness into future sales, she says she plans to do so by “staying true to what I believe in and what I want to achieve," which is what differentiates her brand from others. For her, that means not “selling out and mass producing a shitty product.” That is “something I cannot do that,” she says. “I want my pieces to last for generations. I want to be proud of what I am making.”