Young minds, influencers, and streetwear are leading the future of fashion

Influencer: the word that’s dominated the eyes, trends and minds of the fashion world this year. To the general public, social media is the new currency; one’s following is today’s go-to indicator of power and net worth. We aim to take a deeper approach to this measure. But no source is more reputable for defining influence than the Business of Fashion’s annual BoF 500 list. “A hand-selected community of the people shaping the global fashion industry,” the list comprises the top designers, executives, creatives, models and muses with a finger on the pulse of fashion. Accompanying the list release is the #BoF500 print edition “Generation Next.” With Selena Gomez, Adwoa Aboah, Lily-Rose Depp and Chinese pop star Kris Yu on the cover, these faces typify 2017 being the year of the youth and forward thinking.

This year’s 99 new additions vary greatly in nationality, culture and expertise – coming from over 40 different countries – but there are overarching trends that resonate amongst the group. 2017’s political climate had a heavy toll on the industry – on and off the runway – and many of the BoF’s new inductees are using fashion as a platform for change. Elaine Welteroth and Phillip Picardi are the young visionaries behind Teen Vogue’s celebrated revamp from tween glossy to Gen-Z empowerment manifesto.  Stella Bugbee’s sleek rebrand of The Cut turned the NY Mag’s famed fashion edit into a nexus of the feminist zeitgeist.  In the beauty arena, Maxine Leioad and Valerie Wickes – founders of Beauty Papers – we’re recognized for “bringing a more intellectual and diverse perspective to the beauty industry.” Four sustainability-focused founders have joined the ranks, environmental fashion champion Livia Firth of Eco Age, and the duo behind AllBirds’ acclaimed eco-comfort shoe and ethically minded designers Gabriela Hearst and Anita Dongre. Model activism garnered acclaim, with Hanne Gabe Odiele’s Intersex advocacy, gender-bending Slick Woods, hijabi beauty Halima Aden and Afro-Arab supermodel Imman Hammam being added.

As this year has seen the most diverse runways to date, the industry push for cultural inclusivity extends to a curiosity towards non-Western markets. Vogue Latin America EIC Karla Martinez and Columbian designer Johanna Ortiz were added to the roster, as well as Mexican retail mogul Patrick Slim Domit. Across the Atlantic, West African stylist Jenhke Ahmed Tailly and South African media mogul Khanyi Dhlomo were celebrated for promoting African culture to foreign markets. As the Asian clientele continues to dominate the market, a host of Korean, Chinese and Japanese power players were added to the mix, and retail execs from the burgeoning market of Ukraine.

It’s not just industry insiders landing the list – millennial movers and shakers are making quite the impact. Social media has become a dynamic marketing tool for brand exposure and scalability, with insta-obsessed Gen Z-ers cashing in on their following. Super-bloggers Camila Coutinho, Camille Charriere and Tao Ling were added to the BoF 500, as well as Chinese millennial media magnate Liang Chao. The digital generation has changed the way traditional advertising is consumed, putting an emphasis on IG-worthy aesthetics and shareability. Older houses have tapped into fresh talent to reimagine their branding for a younger audience, with Gucci faves Petra Collins, Coco Capitan and Margiela’s tulle wizard Benjamin Shine making the cut. The faces of fashion are also getting younger, with emerging brands Attico, Y/Project, and Michael Halpern sitting alongside iconic minds like Nicolas Ghesquière and Phoebe Philo. The millennial consumer’s streetwear-loving, “flipping” culture has catalyzed a resale culture to feed their perpetual desire for newness in an oversaturated market.  This has backed the meteoric success of e-resale platforms Grailed and Poshmark, and streetwear authorities Kith, GR8 and Highsnobiety – whose impressively young founders have joined the ranks of retail innovators like Dover Street Market, Net-A-Porter and Luisa Via Roma.

The age-old industry maxim of sex sells has shifted to youth for 2017. If you glean anything from the #BoF500 list this year, it’s that the industry’s leading tastemakers stem from the next generation. Fashion’s leading execs, editors and creatives are getting younger each year, as well as the target market they’re vying for. Gone are the days of being too glam to give a damn, with an increased consumer demand for corporate consciousness and transparency. Gone too is the era where experience and expertise were keys to success – as social engagement has become just as marketable. The BoF 500 are the shapers of an industry whose impact is as global as it is individual. Fashion creates culture, fosters growth opportunities, and acts as universal language across humanity. These young visionaries are making fashion a better model for tomorrow one hashtag at a time.

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