The ubiquity of influencers who have garnered fame on borrowed wardrobes is, these days, a reality, while self-made icons – like Lee Radziwill or Jane Birkin – are sadly a thing of the past.
As the fashion sector struggles to define what an influencer actually is, organisations like the Federal Trade Commission in the United States are cracking down on false influencer advertising. In other words, if an influencer has been paid to wear a brand’s clothing, they will now be obliged to say so.
On Wednesday, in an interview with NOWFASHION, Carlo Capasa, the head of Italy’s fashion chamber, said the time has come for “influencers” to specify whether or not their clothes have been borrowed or gifted to them in exchange for monetary retribution.
“The fundamental aspect is to protect followers,” Capasa said. “It is essential to clarify the correct use of hashtags and a correct definition of different cases, such as gifts or clothes on loan, not forgetting the need to distinguish the difference between influencers and celebrities.”
According to a Eurostat survey from 2017, the uses of hashtags and promotion of brands through influencers on social media has significantly increased since 2013.
Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana published a report last week entitled “Influencer Guidelines and Interpretive Rules for Influencers.”
The report followed a similar one published by the FTC in October which stressed the need to protect consumers from “deceptive or inaccurate information online, which pollutes the e-commerce marketplace.” The FTC added that it was poised to take legal action against such behaviour.
“Dishonesty in the online marketplace harms shoppers, as well as firms that play fair and square,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Posting fake reviews on shopping websites or buying and selling fake followers is illegal. It undermines the marketplace, and the FTC will not tolerate it.”
In an ever-changing fashion landscape, the current digital revolution has created a variety of new possibilities and trends which have been affecting a number of sectors of the Italian and international industry. Industry leaders have also struggled to define what an influencer versus a celebrity actually is.
Although a legal definition of influencer does not exist, Italy’s Istituto dell’Autodisciplina Pubblicitaria has provided a definition which can help define its limits and determine the difference between an influencer and celebrity: “influencers are figures who are able to influence consumers in choosing a product and express opinions about a brand.” On the other hand, unlike influencers, a celebrity is someone who has gained popularity within the entertainment industry who can also be an influencer.
Social network platforms have become the main tool for influencer communication, although they were not initially conceived for a commercial purpose. The role of the “influencer,” in particular, has recently risen in popularity, increasing the number of opportunities for brands to operate in a sector that has very peculiar characteristics in terms of relationships, image, and reputation.
Elsewhere in the document, Camera cited the need to include a different, more specific hashtag for gifts, such as #gift followed by the brand name, which should be used by the influencer whenever the influencer posts content in which he wears a product given by the brand.
At the moment, these guidelines are not legally binding, and for now they represent a framework for brands to adopt when envisaging their social media-driven campaigns.
In light of these changes, a dialogue between social platforms and the authorities is called for in order to define the tools embedded in platforms that, on one side, allow a transparent communication and consumer protection, and on the other side, facilitate the brands and influencers’ disclosure activity.
“Italian brands are among the main protagonists in influencer marketing activities. For this reason, the good practices identified by the document published by CNMI can become a reference for the entire fashion system. It will also be essential to open a dialogue with national and international institutions so that the needs and peculiarities of our sector are taken into account,” said Capasa.