Will followers of social media personalities buy anything that they recommend or wear? More and more apparel makers are betting they will as they forge tie-ups with these "influencers" - people with the power to sway the masses through Twitter, Instagram and other social media - to develop clothes and accessories.
Major apparel maker Onward Holdings Co. in Tokyo, for example, has established a women's clothing brand called "Two Faces" jointly with C Channel, a Tokyo-based operator of a fashion video platform website. The new label started selling items online on March 15.
On C Channel, female models are among those posting videos of their outfits and hairstyles, along with fashion tips. The content draws over 600 million views a month. Seeing the popularity of the items introduced on C Channel, Onward became inspired to enlist their help to create a new brand.
Two popular female C Channel influencers in their 20s joined the product development team for the new brand, which centres on clothing that can be worn more than one way, such as blouses with removable sleeves or collars.
"A plain, simple dress that can be worn at the office reverses to become a lacy one to wear at a party that night," said Manami Shimizu, who is one of the two posters. "Because you can wear it in two different ways, you get the feeling of getting a bargain."
Two Faces' blouses sell for between ¥4,000 (S$50) to ¥7,000 and dresses between ¥6,000 and ¥9,000, plus tax. They are cheaper than Onward's other brands, with the aim of increasing its base of younger customers.
Stripe International Inc., an Okayama-based apparel maker, has also taken this route to launch its "CIRCUS" line under its "E hyphen world gallery" brand. The company has asked influencers popular among the teens-to-20s demographic to design clothes for the brand.
The company posts product images on the social media accounts of the influencers, and then decides the production volume of each item based on the number of responses such as "likes" received within 24 hours.
When the first batch of items went on sale on March 5, the entire stock reserved for online purchases sold out soon.
"Thanks to tie-ups with influencers who are full of individuality, we have been able to expand our customer base," said Stripe International spokesperson Mami Kawaji.
Stripe International plans to have partnerships with eight influencers by this summer.
3Minute inc., a Tokyo-based operator of a fashion video magazine, established its own brand called "eimy istoire" in July last year. The company invited a woman who has about 180,000 Instagram followers to be a designer.
In February, the company opened a brick-and-mortar shop in Tokyo, with the location in the Shinjuku area decided based on the opinions of her followers.
"For followers, influencers are people who they feel both familiar with and inspired by," a 3Minute official said. "It also makes it easier to lead them to actually make purchases."
In a survey of women in the 10-to-40s range, carried out by market research company Trenders Inc. in April last year, about half of the 829 respondents said they had purchased a product after being influenced by a post on social media.