TikTok users took to the social platform to participate in the "Gucci Model Challenge" at the end of August, posting videos of themselves posing in whimsically patterned, heavily layered outfits inspired by the company's aesthetic.
Despite garnering more than 12 million views, the challenge was not a savvy marketing ploy from the luxury brand, but rather an organic effort built within the TikTok community.
For Gucci and its luxury brand counterparts, the "Gucci Model Challenge was an example of the untapped power of the platform, which until recently, most fashion companies had left untouched. That is, until the pandemic hit.
Louis Vuitton joined TikTok on Tuesday, becoming the latest in a smattering of high-end brands creating accounts in recent months. In July alone, TikTok welcomed Fendi, Balenciaga, Dior, and Stella McCartney, coming on the heels of newcomers like Burberry, YSL, and Gucci earlier this year.
While the types of videos shared by these brands varies widely — as does the cadence, with some like Prada and Tiffany & Co. sitting idly with zero posts — experts told Business Insider it's clear their presence on the platform is integral to their survival.
Luxury fashion looks to appeal to the youth
According to a recent survey conducted by YPulse, a marketing firm specializing in Gen Z and millennial consumers, 54% of Gen Z respondents said that they currently use TikTok. This compares to 35% in February 2020. The uptick is largely a result of the pandemic, said YPulse's Vice President of Content MaryLeigh Bliss.
"Luxury brands are beginning to join the platform and the reason is really clear: the growth of TikTok among the next generation of shoppers has been so enormous," Bliss told Business Insider. "Especially in the last six months, we've seen TikTok usage among Gen Z skyrocket and quarantines and the pandemic are certainly behind a lot of that activity."
Bliss said that while these days it seems every brand wants to cash in TikTok's captive audience of 100 million active monthly users in the US, the mad dash among luxury brands is significant given their historical reticence to join such platforms.
"Luxury brands are traditionally slower to adopt to new social media and this is also the case with TikTok because so many younger brands or smaller brands adopted it really quickly and have really embraced it," Bliss said.
Still, some luxury retailers are already emerging as early winners on the platform. According to Thomas Rankin, cofounder and CEO of the visual marketing platform Dash Hudson, retailers like Balmain and Gucci — which have long proven to be favorites among younger shoppers — continue to outshine competitors on TikTok.
Rankin said Gucci, in particular, has found success in light-hearted posts like its Gucci Moves series, which features a series of diverse, non-models dancing in Gucci attire. Since joining in February, Gucci has racked up nearly half a million followers, with many of its videos generating millions of views.
TikTok as the fashion show of the future
Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer at Publicis, said getting on TikTok is vital to fashion brands looking to weather the storm of the pandemic, a period that some have dubbed the "end of fashion."
"Some of the other vehicles that brands have historically had for building their brand are less available to them during COVID. So they're looking for new mediums," Goldberg told Business Insider. "For luxury and fashion in particular, it mirrors this pivot in the way people shop and the way they become aware of products they want."
Though global fashion weeks are still slated to take place this month — including a heavily modified, spectator-less version of New York Fashion Week — the concept and its antiquated delayed fashion calendar have long been in decline. As a result, high-end brands have struggled to keep up with the pace of e-commerce.
"The fashion industry used to be about going to these heavily curated fashion shows you know and then the clothes got delivered six-to-nine months later," Goldberg said. "That model was dying and then its been accelerated by COVID. Instead, people are now influenced by an influencer in their circle."
Rankin echoed Goldberg's point and said TikTok may ultimately become the fashion show of the future.
"During the pandemic, and with fashion weeks currently a thing of the past, luxury brands must shift their perspectives on how to engage audiences, and deliver content that is not a replication of fashion weeks, but a reimagination of it that works on new channels like TikTok," he said.