Head of fashion at Instagram, Eva Chen, tells Stylist’s Billie Bhatia about the exciting things to come on the social media platform…
What’s the first thing you do in the morning? When asked that question, I would often say that the first thing I did was turn my radio on (to Country FM, naturally). But this is actually a lie. This is the second thing I do in the morning, because the very first thing I do when I peel back my eyelids is reach for my phone and check Instagram.
For a long time, it seemed too vain to admit that this was my very first action of the day, but we have come a long way since Instagram was just a virtual photo album. Where our biggest concerns were whether our post got above 11 likes, and if we should have turned down our ‘Amaro’ filter.
Instagram is now a tool used in every aspect of everyday life. A platform where communities are built, communications are constant, and you have the ability to share the very best and worst of yourself as and when you please. Instagram has become a shopping tool, a place for entertainment and most importantly where news is broken.
We sat down with the formidable Eva Chen who heads up fashion at Instagram to discuss the great things coming out of the app and how we will be using it in the future.
Discovering new brands on Instagram:
Every day I stumble across a new brand on Instagram, that might have something to do with the fact that 80% of the accounts I follow are ‘fashion’ accounts (the rest are dogs and Nineties throw backs). Either on my discover page, ‘suggested for you’ or brands posted by friends in the industry there is so much out there to discover. In fact at the Net-A-Porter trend presentation earlier this year there was an entire deck dedicated to brands found on Instagram that are now stocked on the e-commerice site.
I love London, I studied here and I feel like the style really influenced me. There are so many businesses and brands doing cool things here like Simone Rocha, Victoria Beckham and Rixo (even though due to flight delays I missed the presentation).
Actually, Rixo is a brand I discovered on Instagram because people were tagging their printed wrap dresses and skirts. Ganni was another brand I discovered on Instagram too when the Copenhagen street style girls would all be wearing cool pieces.
If you think about 10 or 20 years ago, to build a business there was a very set way to do it. Now, because of Instagram, you could be a cool jewellery designer making woven jewellery and then you can reach out to an editor or an influencer to collaborate with them. Or, you can reach out to a make-up artist and they do your look book - suddenly it becomes this rich ecosystem that really allows young scrappy business to flourish without the constraints a big business might have.
We opened an account called ‘ @Shop’ recently, which is really focused on celebrating small and medium business on Instagram. When I think about some of the brands we’ve covered on @Shop, which - spoiler alert we’re covering Rixo - it’s brands that were born on Instagram, or have amazing founder stories. Essentially, we want to build a platform for creativity to flourish.
Shopping on Instagram:
Shopping on our mobile phones have become part of our daily lives. A quick browse of the ASOS app on the way into work often ends in a sweatshirt or three being added to my basket and delivered to the office the following day. Or a book I have just seen an advert for on the tube is conveniently checked out on my Amazon app. Now Instagram is playing a part in this too - whether it’s a swipe up from my favourite influencer or a cute vase for a friend’s birthday present that I have spotted whilst scrolling. And it’s only about to get bigger, better and way more convenient.
So, I’ve been at Instagram for 4 years now, and I remember when we launched shopping - just plain old shopping. The classic shopping experience is, I see a super cute pair of Balenciaga shoes, I go on Balenciaga’s Instagram and when I tap on it I get taken out of Instagram and it says ‘view on website’. £4,000 sneakers… depressing and then you complete the purchase on balenciaga.com.
But we’ve been trailing something called ‘Instagram checkout’ in the US at the moment with a view to expanding it to the UK. There are about 30 brands being tested and instead of being taken out of Instagram to the website of that brand, you’re taken to a checkout within the Instagram app. I enter my credit card details and I enter my address and then I’m done. So where it would say ‘proceed to checkout’ , it says ‘place order’. One click and you’re done.
The response has been great but it’s brand new so we are still tracking it and haven’t really done much around it. Instagram are like that though, they just drop new functions because we want people to discover them on their own. In the US, we’re trialling this with 30 brands such as Michael Kors, Nike, H&M and Zara for example. There are also make-up brands like KKW, Kylie Cosmetics and Huda Beauty too.
We have influencer-owned brands, big fashion retailers and what we call digital disruptors too like Warby Parker (an optical brand that donates a pair to children in need for every pair sold).
We already know people are inspired on Instagram, and one of the things we’ve been working on is how to take things from inspiration to actually being able to get the item that they’re being inspired by, because we want to close that loop a little. How annoying is it when you see someone whose style you like and you’re like ‘omg I’m obsessed with that’ but they don’t tag the brand?
Imagine a world in which someone you follow wears a cool designer like Grace Wales Bonner or Rejina Pyo and through a tag, you can just buy it.
That, to me, is like the fashion dream. I’ve only worked at Instagram for 4 years but this has always been my dream. I think it’s something that a lot of people - hopefully - will be excited about when it launches here.
I have so many questions about IGTV: will it take over actual TV? What are people watching? Is this the new Netflix? Do people still watching TV on a TV?
To be honest, IGTV is still very new for us, it’s only 14 months old so it’s like an infant. Instagram Stories has around half a billion users, 130 million people are using the shopping tags on Instagram and overall there is around 1 billion people on Instagram. IGTV is about creating a consistent franchise. For me, I do hotel room tours (I’m really excited to do this room it’s amazing). There are some make-up artists who are doing make-up tutorials, and they just prop their phone up and do their routine.
IGTV is all about finding your voice, creating a character that people can get behind and feel some kind of affiliation with because you are holding their attention for much longer than you would on stories or even on feed. Tutorials are a really popular type of content on IGTV, and in particular styling videos - people are literally propping up their phones and filming their outfit changes in hyperlapse.
So IGTV is still evolving with people’s demands but it’s certainly growing.
An Instagram community:
Often, we are faced with situations in our lives that are hard to talk about with people that might share the same perspective as you. For example, I am a plus-size woman of colour in the fashion industry and there are few very people I could talk to who share the same experience as I do. But if I cast the net wider to include social media, I suddenly go from being isolated to being part of a community.
A sense of community is one of the most important things to come out of Instagram, because as a platform it allows you to use your voice and find people who want to share the same message as you do. We all lead busy lives and sometimes things can feel isolating, and Instagram can be used in such an effective way to bring people together.
Images: Getty / Instagram