How Creators Influence Brands — and Why They Listen 

While skinny jeans have been on the outs for a few years, staying trends include the “clean girl” aesthetic and Crocs, according to Gen Z and millennials at least.

But when deciding what trends are in and what trends are out, who holds the most influence over these fashion choices? Is it the brands and retailers, the creators and influencers, or the very Gen Z and millennial consumers themselves? And, of course, what does this actually mean for brands and retailers? 

In the current fashion landscape, power dynamics have evolved due to the rise of social media and the internet, allowing consumers to have more control over shaping trends. Gen Z and millennials, as digital natives, actively participate in online communities, sharing and consuming content related to fashion. This has given them a strong voice and an influential role in driving trends. They have the power to amplify certain aesthetics and styles, as well as propel lesser-known brands into the spotlight. 

Brands and retailers, on the other hand, play a vital role in shaping fashion choices through their product offerings, marketing strategies, and collaborations. They invest in research and analysis to identify emerging trends and cater to the preferences of their target audience. By partnering with creators and influencers, brands can amplify their reach and appeal to a wider consumer base. These partnerships can generate buzz and sway consumer choices. 

Creators and influencers have become key players in the fashion industry, particularly with the rise of Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Their personal style, interests, and influence are often the result of their authentic connection with their audience, who trust their recommendations and opinions. 

The power dynamics among brands and retailers, creators and influencers, and consumers are interconnected and constantly evolving. While brands and retailers can introduce new styles, creators and influencers have the ability to amplify them and make them more accessible to consumers. Simultaneously, consumers play a crucial role in adopting and popularizing these trends by incorporating them into their personal style and sharing them on social media. 

What the consumer data says 

According to influencer marketing platform LTK (formerly Like To Know It), Gen Z women rely on TikTok and creators, in addition to their friends, for fashion inspiration. And when it comes to beauty inspiration, creators rank as the top influencers for Gen Z.  

In terms of social platforms, Gen Z shows a preference for TikTok when seeking fashion inspiration, while millennials still turn to Instagram.  

When it comes to prevailing trends, Gen Z tends to gravitate more towards goth or grunge styles rather than the Barbiecore aesthetic that has gained popularity over the past year. Gen Z individuals generally view themselves as the most fashionable generation, with a higher percentage of respondents (41%) considering their style to be fashionable and trendy, compared to the general population (20%). 

On the other hand, the southern U.S. stands out for embracing the Barbiecore style as a prominent fashion trend for the summer. Across various regions and among respondents from both Gen Z and millennials, the “clean girl” aesthetic takes the lead as the predominant style trend for summer 2023, with florals ranking closely behind in second place. 

Notably, these two younger consumer generations have reached a consensus when it comes to skinny jeans. Survey results reveal that wide-leg jeans are the preferred choice for both Gen Zers and millennials this summer, demonstrating a shared preference among these demographics. 

Furthermore, 40% of Gen Z women have indicated their plans to incorporate Crocs into their summer fashion lineup. In the recent month alone, searches for Crocs on the LTK platform have seen a notable surge of 53%, indicating a growing interest in this footwear choice among shoppers. 

Additionally, denim skirts are making a strong comeback across all age groups, with nearly half of Gen Z individuals intending to incorporate this style into their summer fashion repertoire. On the LTK platform, searches for denim skirts have experienced a significant surge of 72%.  

Retail Buyers, Listen Up! 

So, while Barbiecore may be the new fashion trend for summer and denim skirts are having a moment, despite the latest trend, the fact is trends are always changing. Here’s what brands and retailers really need to take away from this: It’s not the brands and retailers dictating the latest trends or even the consumer, its creators.  

While Gen Z and millennials place more trust in creators compared to advertisements and celebrities, individuals across all age groups are increasingly making online purchases through creators’ affiliate links, with Gen Z leading at 75% and millennials following closely at 67%. Furthermore, LTK research solidifies the notion that consumers are significantly influenced in their shopping decisions by what they observe on social media platforms. 

Brands and retailers are increasingly embracing this trend and adopting a more strategic approach when selecting influencers for promotional partnerships. Rather than solely focusing on the most popular or talked-about influencers or celebrities, businesses are now prioritizing collaboration with creators who align with their values. The objective is to establish a more authentic and meaningful connection among the brand, influencer and target audience. 

For instance, a skincare brand might form a collaboration with a dermatologist to produce content that emphasizes the importance of sunscreen usage. Similarly, a meal kit delivery service could team up with a nutritionist to develop nutritious and enticing recipes. These partnerships allow brands to leverage the expertise of professionals in relevant fields to create valuable and relevant content for their audience. 

Read more: How Brands Are Collaborating With Experts, Influencers and Nonprofits to Connect With Consumers 

The shift follows the growing prominence of influencer marketing, as the sector reached a substantial value of $16.4 billion in 2022. In fact, 67% of brands and retailers have expressed their intention to increase their expenditure on influencer marketing in 2023. Furthermore, 23% of these businesses plan to allocate more than 40% of their overall marketing budget specifically towards influencer marketing initiatives. 

Tying Creator Marketing to Trends and Sales  

As creators and influencers employ effective sales conversion tactics, platforms such as LTK will continue to have a front-row seat to observe the preferences of consumers as they serve as an essential bridge between brands, creators and consumers, offering insights into the latest trends and consumer preferences.

Similarly, platforms such as Lily AI can seize the chance to assist brands and retailers in harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) to accurately attribute products at scale, which can ultimately widen the net of consumer engagement and sales while also reducing returns.  

Read more: Bloomingdale’s, thredUP Look to AI-Powered Product Attribution to Drive Sales 

In light of this, creators will continue to maintain a significant influence in shaping and directing consumer trends. Nevertheless, it is ultimately the consumers themselves who validate the impact of creators through their spending habits, thereby playing a pivotal role in determining the latest trends prevalent in the market. 

And for those who are curious, wide legged jeans have officially replaced skinny jeans.