Mar 31st, 2021, 02:54 PM

Clubhouse is Creating a Unique Oppurtunity for the Fashion Industry

By Emily Spennato
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
If leveraged the right way, the new audio-only social media platform could have an industry reach far beyond Silicon Valley.

It’s hard to believe, but there was a point in time where fashion media was completely textual. Today, we are bombarded with so many images and examples of trendsetting via social media that it becomes hard to define your personal style, especially when times to dress up are few and far between. Our perception and consumption of fashion has become entirely visual.

“If you study the history of media, there has been a civilization of writing,” says Sophie Kurkdjian, historian and fashion professor at AUP. “Text was everything. Fashion media was journals. Everything was conveyed through words. We are now in the civilization of images.”

Because of this, it’s understandable why the next social networking phenomenon is targeting the human sense that could always use a little more exercise — our ability to listen. The push towards radio and podcasts as forms of entertainment is capitalization on a natural progression towards a less-visual aspect of our society. Or perhaps it’s an emphasis on the disruption n communication — the ultimate marketing tactic.

Whatever it is behind the push towards sharing audio through social media, it is also behind the next big socio-cultural phenomenon: Clubhouse. With roughly the same birthday as COVID-19, Clubhouse came on the scene in March 2020 as an audio platform where users can engage in various chatrooms covering a wide range of topics. Users listen in on whichever room interests them. On-demand, live podcasts combined with Ted Talks? That’s pretty much it.

So why is it gaining traction? “We want answers, and we want answers immediately and from experts,” says Kurkjidan.  "People want to hear someone explaining something without filters, as opposed to what we see on Instagram. It might be a way to transform it into something a little more intellectual. Discussing with someone is so different than watching images.”

For now, Clubhouse is an invite-only platform and to get access, you must be invited by an already active member. Once you become a member, the more you use the application, the more invites you get. With just over one million users so far, it’s still unclear to see if Clubhouse has the potential to be more than Silicon Valley’s current crown-jewel start-up.

According to fashion industry legend Virgil Abloh, Clubhouse has the opportunity to bring intimacy back to fashion. The artistic director of Louis Vuitton Menswear appeared on the Business of Fashion podcast to discuss the new app’s potential for the fashion industry.

“I think with the advent of Clubhouse focusing on audio, it’s an interesting case study and making sure that brands have something to say,” said Abloh in a VOICES 2020 discussion with Clubhouse Co-founder Paul Davison and Business of Fashion’s Imran Amed. “I for one, think it’s a new landscape to hear what a brand is about without the use of image...that becomes compelling for us, as a fashion industry, when we can use our voice to create engagement.”

The fashion industry is in an opportune position to leverage the power of ideas and to bring a sense of intimacy back to interactions with consumers. So much of our style is inspired by what we see on Instagram and in fast-fashion markets, that we often ignore a brand’s integrity all together. Achieving inclusivity and sustainability in the fashion industry depends on its consumers’ understanding and awareness of those ideas and their execution.

And it’s not just a tool for large fashion houses or top brands to spread awareness. After being advised to use Clubhouse as a networking opportunity, AUP graduate student Lea Luellen joined the app when launching her jewelry business, Divine Elements Shoppe, back in January. “I didn’t have many followers when I started my page,” said Luellen of her brand’s Instagram. “I was making handmade jewelry just for fun. Clubhouse really helped me reach people in other countries and other parts of the world.”

Clubhouse isn’t like other social media platforms where you make a profile and start posting. In fact, there isn’t anything to post because it’s all live. Joining a room can be intimidating, depending on its number of people. “It can be intimidating at first,” said Luellen. “Some rooms are like five people and some can be 100 people. I started hosting rooms and I met a wide variety of people who I would just make connections with and would invite me to more rooms. It’s a great tool for business but it’s also a great tool to just start a conversation if there’s something you want to talk about.”

For an industry that has been criticized as slow to adopt technology, fashion leaders like Abloh are encouraging brands to capitalize on this new social media arena. Whether you use Clubhouse as a networking tool or a form of entertainment, it’s offering more intimate interactions than other social media platforms now. This interaction on Clubhouse also gives the fashion industry an opportunity to discuss important topics, like sustainability and diversity, which have often been pushed under the rug. Clubhouse might just be reversing that cycle, and just maybe, it will teach us how to talk to each other once again.