Even relative to comparable fashion launches, yesterday’s Balmain x H&M debut stirred up a particularly virulent frenzy. On London’s Regent Street, scuffles broke out amid shoppers eager to snag the limited edition apparel.
“I really want to get a beaded dress for my 18th and then put it out all over Instagram,” one teenage shopper told The Guardian. “Although of course then I’ll never be able to wear it again. Not once it’s been on social media.”
It’s hard to overstate the importance of Instagram – not only to the thousands of consumers now showing off Balmain x H&M beaded jackets, but also to the brands themselves. Without the photo-sharing app, neither the French fashion house nor the fast fashion retailer could have conjured up such passion.
Both Balmain and H&M have used Instagram to generate a vast following. Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing has used the app to revamp the brand’s reputation, partnering with the Kardashian clan and other popular influencers to place Balmain at the forefront of fashion. Similarly, H&M has established itself as a leader on the platform by sharing inside looks at runway shows and other content. The brand’s Instagram community tripled in size to more than 10 million over the past year; the only retailer with more followers is Victoria’s Secret, according to L2’s Digital IQ Index: Specialty Retail, which raised H&M from the Average to Gifted category based on that success.
At the Balmain x H&M runway debut on October 20, the two brands combined that reach to generate hype before yesterday’s launch. Led by Kendall Jenner, the models, designers, and performers attending the event spread the word to their 59 million followers. That hype was further flamed by celebrities like Kylie Jenner, whose own photos from the event garnered almost four million likes, according to the L2 study.
As yesterday’s chaos fuels the social media frenzy, it demonstrates how Instagram has leveled the playing field in retail. Balmain and H&M come from opposite ends of the price spectrum; in past years, their fan bases would not have had significant overlap. But thanks to Instagram, they draw the same crowds.