The Rise Of Fashion On Tiktok

With its meteoric growth, more and more brands and influencers have landed on the app. We find out why, and how they’ve found their place there.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

1. Local influencer Willabelle Ong

2. US Tiktok star Charli D’Amelio, at Prada’s FW ’20 show

3 & 4. Zalora’s #SelfCarewithZalora campaign

5. Local influencer Nellie Lim

6. Filipino actress Janeena Chan’s entry for #SelfCarewithZalora

7. US Tiktok star Noen Eubanks’ Celine campaign shot by Hedi Slimane

8. Indonesian influencer Ana Octarina’s entry for #PomeloGirlsAtHome

9. Vestiaire Collective’s social media manager Valentine Tedo 

Andy Warhol declared in 1968 that: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” But apparently, 15 seconds is enough. Enter Tiktok. While it was launched back in 2017 by Chinese tech giant Bytedance, the app is seeing a host of newer joiners from fashion.

Fresh faces include local influencers Nellie Lim and Willabelle Ong, who both started in April 2020. Partly motivated by the new-found time at home due to circuit breaker measures, they say they’ve been drawn to Tiktok, which allows users to create 15-second clips of comedy skits, dancing etc, as it’s making them rethink the content they create.

“IG has always been more like a magazine – curated, glossy and beautiful. Most people are surprised that my IG doesn’t reflect my offline personality, so it’s great that I have Tiktok to let my actual personality shine,” says Nellie. The 31-year-old has already garnered over 16K followers on Tiktok. She says : “The comedy videos with my husband always do the best because they’re relatable.”

Willabelle agrees. While she maintains a “strong fashion element”, she loves that “the content does not have to be perfectly edited”. But less “perfect” does not mean less work. She plans the main concept, outfits, song choice and transitions, then spends an hour or two filming each.

Both Nellie and Willabelle have seen their videos going viral (with over a million views). But who are behind these views? Doreen Tan, User & Content Operations manager at Tiktok Singapore says the key demographic ranges from 16 to 26 years old. The bulk of users hailing from Gen Z explains why some of the biggest players right now are teenagers. 

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Posting seven to 10 videos a week, Willabelle Ong spends hours planning each detail and filming. 

Take Charli D’Amelio, 16. The US Tiktok star has amassed 60 million followers from partaking in (or leading) viral dance challenges. And fashion brands have been taking notice. In February 2020, she was invited to Prada’s FW ’20 show at Milan Fashion Week and a video of her dancing with three models raked in 6.8 million likes. Then there’s Noen Eubanks, 18, who went from creating silly lip-syncing videos to becoming the face of French fashion house Celine.

Local multi-label e-commerce site Zalora created its Tiktok account in September 2019 in hopes of targeting this very market, identified as one of the fastest growing consumer groups. “This is the first generation purely born into the digital world, so the way we market to them has to be different, like experimenting with new tools that allow us to better engage them,” says Illya Nadira, regional head of social at Zalora.

The results are already showing. Its #ZStyleNow campaign last September gained 1,160 entries in six days, far exceeding its weekly average of 200-300 in Singapore. To achieve this, Zalora roped in its community of influencers in Asia, including Camira Asrori from Singapore.

Homegrown label Pomelo is also basking in the figures. Despite joining only in March 2020, its campaign #PomeloGirls AtHome has already garnered 2.4 million views. 

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Unlike the polished images on her IG feed, Nellie Lim’s Tiktok feed has videos of her dancing or having fun with her husband. 

But with Tiktok still in its nascent stage, many brands are still figuring out how to use the platform fruitfully. “We know that there are many Tiktok users who do not use other social media platforms,” says Severine Tetaz, head of global social media of Vestiaire Collective, who launched the site’s account in April 2020. “Our challenge is that we are not able to drive direct traffic from Tiktok to our own platform without placing ads.”

Still, the increased participation of brands to engage the young circles back to growing opportunities for them. “More brands hopping on means more partnerships,” says Willabelle.

While no one can say for sure that Tiktok won’t share the same fate as apps like Vine or Snapchat, the app is promising in the positivity it perpetuates, and this community spirit is appealing to brands and individuals who are looking to engage an audience. Severine says: “It’s leveraging everyone who’s part of the community to give it a human and spontaneous touch.”