• Brittany Ferdinands

Opinion Piece: MBFWA as a Micro-Influencer

If you’re on Instagram, or any social network for that matter, chances are you’re aware that MBFWA was held in Sydney a few weeks ago. The glittery event that takes place annually - adorned with sponsored posts, lavish parties and a saturation of photos among the exposed-brick backdrop of Carriageworks, certainly gains a lot of attention each year.

There’s coverage on the street style looks and upcoming collections sure, but the louder coverage tends to derive from media publications like The Daily Mail - calling out Instagram influencers and “Z list” celebrities for feeling important enough to attend such event. As a micro-influencer with an emphasis on the word 'micro', this is often followed by the reception of patronising memes from friends (under a veil of humour of course) alongside casual remarks from Instagram followers, questioning what your job "actually" entails and an overall cynical undertone - making you reconsider your worthiness to be part of a scene which, prior to social media, was strictly viewed as exclusive.

All this negativity surrounding a week that is supposed to be about celebrating Australian fashion is problematic and certainly serves to taint the zeitgeist of Fashion Week in its entirety. As a PhD student, part-time marketing assistant and freelancer, I am fortunate enough to have a fairly flexible schedule. This means that when events like MBFWA roll around, I am able to attend without feeling guilty about the time taken away from my ‘real world work’ (and I will acknowledge my privilege here). But in all honesty, I wasn’t planning on going to MBFWA at all this year. Due my stagnant Instagram following and lower-end status as an influencer/blogger, I was conscious of others perceiving my attendance as a hubristic belief in my own self-proclaimed importance. However, when I started being approached by brands and PR agencies (who I genuinely love) to collaborate with them this year- I decided to re-orientate my thinking.

I reflected back on previous years and focused on what I loved about the week in hindsight, and that was its ability to force me out of my comfort zone (on both a stylistic and social level), as well as the job opportunities it exposed me to - and of course, the new friends connected with. I must also admit that I find the week fascinating from a sociological perspective. As a research student, who is currently writing a thesis on monetising digital influence, I find myself ethnographically observing the social dynamics of the week each year; using it to inform my overall understanding on this social ecology that is playing such an important role in the fabrics of our modernity.

Whilst I acknowledge the event can be superficial in nature; beyond that is a group of women and men who are expressing their individuality through fashion, supporting local Australian talent and the new found opportunity to enable “less important” micro influencers like myself, to be involved in something that can be so creative and inspiring. Yes it’s fashion, and no it’s not saving lives, but we may need to reflect on our vernacular and press coverage of industries and events like this one, as they are not always supposed to be a direct microcosm of society. Sometimes fashion should just be seen as well, fashion.

On another spectrum, at a time where feminism has arguably garnered more vocal momentum than ever before, why are we judging women who take photos of themselves and post them online in this sort of context? Additionally, in a society where we are constantly trying to encourage dialogue about self-love and promote a more accepting and tolerant culture- isn’t it hypocritical to explicitly dismantle the egos of those exuding such confidence? Considering social media status is becoming a powerful modern currency, if we only ever accept and celebrate the “successful” individuals - who deem worthy enough to attend events like Fashion Week - then the 'rich' are only going to get richer and the 'poor' will stay poor. We should instead, encourage those who are trying and may be less well known, because at the end of the day - the more voices and diversity we have online the better. And that's the beauty of our citizen journalist age. There is opportunities for lay-individuals like myself, to engage in industries previously reserved for the elite.

At MBFWA this year, I didn’t see a bunch of white, privileged women strutting around like the prejudices tend to suggest. I saw friends empowering one another, taking turns photographing each other and exchanging words of praise. I saw humans of all different shapes, sizes, genders and cultures walk down a runway. I saw local Australian designers being applauded for their creativity and talent. I saw keep cups replace plastic cups and an overall increased consciousness of fashions footprint on our environment. I saw beautifully curated shows in various locations across Sydney, and I saw an audience of all different ages, genders and status’. Instead of mocking the “Z-listers” for attending a once prestigious event, why don’t we applaud that the industry is becoming more and more diverse and, despite still having a long way to go in terms of classism; is taking conscious steps in the right direction?

As long as we are cognisant of the societal pressures events like this may manifest, and transparent about capitalistic motives like sponsored posts, I really don’t see the productiveness in slamming those who aren’t as ‘credible’ for attending events like MBFWA. Now without sounding egotistical, I loved the outfits I wore to fashion week this year, and had a lot of fun wearing them, so I am going to post them - despite not being an A-lister.

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