How controversy on social media is changing the fashion world as we know it

Global fashion-search platform Lyst’s ranking of the hottest brands is showing us that controversy = conversation, and that maybe being a meme isn’t the worst thing after all…
How controversy on social media is changing the fashion world as we know it

In a world that is more fashion-conscious than ever before, designer goodies are in high demand. The digital age means boosts in sales can happen because of a viral meme, controversy or influencer collaborations, and trends are changing faster than you can say faux pas. Here’s how these brands made the list...

Embracing Controversy

Topping the list is Off-White, Virgil Abloh’s brand that has been going from strength to strength even since before he became the Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton. Thanks to the popularity of the logo belt (which is the second most-searched for item this year, by the way), much-loved sneakers and huge social media following, it’s no surprise it has won the crown.

Virgil's disruptive brand takes the top spot this year

Following close behind is Nike – the classic fan favourite that’s been around for over 50 years. But what do you get when you combine Off-White, Nike and a dash of controversy? Answer: world domination. When Serena Williams (queen of tennis and all around SHEro) wasn’t allowed to wear her signature cat suit at the French Open, Off-White and Nike joined forces to create Serena’s now-iconic leotard with attached tutu. Serena wasn’t the only winner that day – the collab lead to one million social media mentions and skyrocketed sales for both brands.

If only we could wear our tutu in public

While collaborations often lead to magic, Nike has shown that it can also dominate conversation on its own, thank you very much. NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s national-anthem protest had people talking all over the world. Enter Nike. If people are going to be talking about something, it may as well be your brand, right? Their inspirational Nike campaign featured Colin alongside the tagline ‘Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything’. Despite initial backlash, the campaign was well received overall and was mentioned 10 million times in the 24 hours after the campaign dropped, ultimately boosting digital sales by 36 per cent. Not bad.

Colin Kaepernick's inspirational Nike campaign

What do you meme?

Being made into a meme may have been a celebrity’s worst nightmare in the past, but those days are over. By poking fun at their favourite celebs, customers are creating hype and demand for products and essentially marketing the brands themselves. Who needs a marketing team when you’ve got millennials, eh? Traditional fashion cycles are no more – social media has disrupted the fashion world so much that spikes in sales are happening according to what’s trending. Lucky for some celebrities, like Twitter-addict Kanye West (who we think goes by Ye now… it’s hard to keep up), being the centre of social-media conversations, whether they’re about his too-small slippers, mega-famous family or questionable lyrics, has consistently made his brand one of the most talked about in the world, and 7th on this list.

Keeping up with Kanye

Gucci and Balenciaga come in at second and third, respectively. With Gucci’s Flashtrek sneakers embracing the ‘ugly sneaker’ trend and Balenciaga’s sock/sneaker and seven-layer jacket, it’s no surprise that social media buzzes about their weird and wonderful creations – and why customers are emptying their wallets with every new release. Considering even our grandma knows what a Gucci sneaker looks like, it seems these fan-faves will always have a spot on the hot list.

Balanciaga is embracing its inner Joey Tribbiani


Influencers – whether you love them or not, their power is undeniable. Dior and Staud know exactly what we mean. Online searches for Dior’s nostalgic saddle bag increased by a massive 957 per cent in 48 hours after 100 influencers posted themselves with it on their arm. Another brand that owes its popularity to Instagram is Staud– an affordable designer brand whose social-media buzz has made its Shirley bag the 7th most popular item this year.

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Dior's saddle bag is the most popular item this year

If the digital age has taught us anything, it’s that brands, when combined with influencers, memes and possibly a little controversy, are unstoppable. Someone hide our credit cards.

Photos: Instagram