Sep 20, 2019 | By Athena Chen
Jan 31, 2017
In the saturated space of men’s fashion and lifestyle blogs, Floruss is a standout. He brought One Dapper Street to life back in 2013, cultivating and nurturing the blog in its earliest stages within the halls of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology where he was pursuing a degree in Fashion Merchandising at the time.
The former dancer who has also dabbled a bit in professional modelling, simply began taking photos of himself in his signature aesthetic (he often pairs elements of streetwear and suiting together- hence the name of the blog), which has since seen him emerge as a regular fixture on the menswear scene.
Fast forward to now, and One Dapper Street has garnered a loyal fan base with 316k Instagram followers, and brands far and wide have taken note. The 25-year-old Brooklyn-based influencer (represented by social agency Socialyte) has worked with a number of diverse fashion and lifestyle companies including Barneys (for its recent holiday gift guide), Armani Beauty, Gillette, Lucky Brand and AC Hotels (a Marriott affiliate); proving his versatile style has translated to his portfolio of brand sponsorships, too.
Perhaps most impressive though, is his recent endeavour with Italian luxury brand, Dolce and Gabbana, for which Floruss was asked to walk the runway alongside an impressive cast of young model heart throbs (we’re looking at you Lucky Blue) and celebrity offspring (think Presley Gerber and Rafferty Law, both in their sophomore season for the brand). The runway however was also packed with another group of familiar faces more similar to Floruss: social media influencers including former Vine superstar, Cameron Dallas (who previously sat front row at the brand’s fashion shows) and the buzzy Weibo fashion commentator Gogoboi.
Luxury brands have undeniably been slow adapters to the changing digital landscape though Dolce and Gabbana might be considered the ‘exception’ rather than the ‘rule’. Throughout the design duo’s past couple of collections, they have showed telling signs that they recognise the younger generation is becoming a crucial component to the future success of their brand.
Last season for example, during its S/S 2017 men’s show, the designers invited a cast of famous young people to sit front row and the women’s show for the same season quickly followed suit. Those who scored a front row seat were invited for the influence they have over their online communities, and many of them returned as models for the brand’s most recent men’s show for its F/W 2017 collection (think Dylan Jagger Lee and Sistine Stallone).
Capitalising on young celebrity offspring is nothing new, but inviting bloggers and other social stars to be models is where the brand is pushing boundaries. Perhaps they are on to something. It seems, that the more followers a person has equates to more branded opportunities on the runway. Could bloggers and social media influencers replace traditional runway models? And could social media agencies be the new modeling firms?
As the luxury customer ages, there is great pressure for brands to figure out ways to engage with a younger audience. Dolce and Gabbana has pioneered this movement, embracing social media as an extension of its seasonal story telling efforts, which is perhaps more important than ever according to Floruss. “As potential customers become more affluent, [they’ll] know where to go first,” he says. By educating young people about the heritage, inspiration and design aesthetic of its brand (via tapping bloggers and other young social celebs with a devoted fan base and engaged online community,) it offers them the potential to create a ‘ripple-effect’ which Floruss notes will enable brands like Dolce and Gabbana to capitalise on the global media exposure influencers can offer. A blogger’s global community might not otherwise know, engage or necessarily care about Dolce and Gabbana otherwise- especially if their spending power does not align with the price point of the brand just yet.
Floruss is also quick to note Dolce and Gabbana’s latest feat is not some sort of ploy for a heritage luxury brand to remain relevant. Instead, he calls the brand’s use of bloggers and social stars a ‘smart move’ and a ‘natural progression’ of the traditional runway format as technologies, consumers and community interests evolve. “Fashion cycles are sped up because everything is online immediately, shows aren’t just for press and buyers anymore, they’re for the world to see. I think embracing that will be key for all brands,” he says.
Dolce and Gabbana offered those who participated in the show full creative freedom according to Floruss. “We got to choose our own looks, and complete them with our choice of shoes and accessories.” Though Floruss would not disclose the financial elements of this endeavor nor the terms or conditions to how much content he was expected to produce during his three days in Milan, he did note his online community responded well to the content he shared. “People actively engaged with real-live content (on Instagram stories), the photo I posted on my actual account was the most liked photo on my account, and long-term fans even sent emails congratulating me,” he says. (Floruss’ photo which generated the most likes received an impressive 4% engagement rate in relation to his follower count.)
As Instagram continues to reign as the supreme visual platform for those with a keen eye and good aesthetic, the sheer popularity of it globally has made it increasingly more challenging for accounts to stand out amidst the clutter and noise. With that said, one begins to wonder: are social media influencers a dying breed? “I don’t think it’ll disappear completely anytime soon. I can see it moving into the background a bit,” says Floruss though he is quick to note that authenticity and evolving with the changing media and consumer landscape could be the secret sauce to success for years to come. “There’s no reason I shouldn’t transition what I currently have to a stylish daddy blog in 10 years, as my audience matures with me,” he says.
In the end, Dolce and Gabbana’s decision to feature bloggers as runway models was risky but is likely to generate continued and future success for the brand. The entire endeavour proves that even luxury brands can step away from tradition, embracing the happenings of culture without straying too far from their brand ethos or devaluating the aspirational element to their name. “No matter how big you are as a brand (and want to stick to tradition) the industry much like fashion itself, has to keep evolving,” says Floruss.
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