WWD ran an interesting article recently, entitled, From It Girl to Business Woman, about the rise of the “a growing class of young women taking advantage of their social standing, turning followers into customers, ‘likes’ into dollar signs and their names into bona-fide companies. Call it the business of being an It Girl.” Here are some particularly telling excerpts …
What, exactly, is an It Girl today? The term has been thrown around for almost a century, but in recent decades has come to describe the type of women who sit front-row at fashion week, appear on event tip sheets and get photographed by Billy Farrell.
There are numerous forms of It these days: It models such as Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss, who dominate the headlines; bloggers like Man Repeller or The Blonde Salad with impressive social media followings, or reality TV stars who are It for baring all — think the Kardashians.
But the origins of the term were more linked to women like [Olivia] Palermo — social gadabouts — and today they are out to make a buck off of their It-ness. In the modern world, they’ve all but replaced the Ladies Who Lunch in terms of social currency, thanks in part to the power of personal branding.
In some sense, it is brands that started the monetization process — tapping into influencers and social media instead of traditional advertising to tout their wares, or to up their cool factor. Take the proliferation of female DJs — Alexa Chung, Hannah Bronfman, Harley Viera-Newton, Chelsea Leyland and Atlanta de Cadenet Taylor among them. “Before, [brands] would have these smelly dudes with vinyl records come and do their party,” says one industry public relations rep. “And then they thought, ‘oh, we can get more bang for our buck if we can get some of these girls to wear a pretty dress and DJ. They have social media followings and they hang out with cool people and our stuff can be seen on them.’ [Brands] just wised up.”
In doing so, they created a new career path. Bronfman and Leyland get paid $5,000 for an appearance — more when they’re DJing or contractually Instagramming. De Cadenet Taylor rakes in $4,000 a gig, according to industry sources. “Brands are going to hire you if they know that you’re an addition to a tip sheet that’s automatically going to generate Vogue coverage. Plus [it helps] if you’re a cute girl and you can wear the clothes,” says Sydney Reising, chief executive officer of her own p.r. firm. She adds, “You have to pay girls, this is the modern-day business. Brands that refuse to accept it, I’m like, ‘you guys need to adapt.’”
Beyond appearances and DJing — and before starting your own business, like [Lauren] Remington Platt or [Lauren] Santo Domingo — there are a number of ways to turn a following into cold, hard cash. Collaborations are one easy way, particularly because brands are so eager. “We learned really early on the importance of celebrity and implicit endorsements from tastemakers through their Instagram or just by wearing it or being photographed in it,” says Robert Denning, the founder and creative director of the Los Angeles sunglass company Westward Leaning.
Meanwhile, new apps have sprung up solely to cash in on influencer appeal. Net-a-porter’s social network, The Net Set, for example, has a roster of women including Poppy Delevingne and Natalie Joos to “curate the products and content they love…as well as contribute their own imagery to create a personal edit of what they are loving right now,” according to Sarah Watson, vice president of social commerce for The Net-a-porter Group. Though Watson says they work “all for the love of fashion,” when pressed for information on payment, public relations manager Christine Kapp notes, “We have individual agreements with each of our Style Council members, tailored specifically for each person.”
Another commissions-based app, Liketoknow.it, has been used by the likes of Bronfman and Sanchez de Betak — it frequently pops up in their Instagram captions. Part of the company RewardStyle, Liketoknow.it allows users to tag items in their social media posts, be it clothing, beauty or furniture brands. If their tags drive a sale, they receive a 7 to 20 percent commission, depending on the company. It’s a hefty fee — average affiliate commissions hover around 3 percent — but RewardStyle vets incoming applications and those accepted are called “premium influencers” by the sales team. In case one was wondering about the power of said influencers, since launching in June 2014, Liketoknow.it has driven north of $60 million in sales.
Which is all to say there is legitimate money to be made — and why shouldn’t she make it if she can? Especially while she still can. Because the It Girl thing has a shelf life.