As we leave behind the decade that birthed Instagram, it seems appropriate to think about the future of influencers. No, not those influences, the originals. Think Alexa Chung and Olivia Palermo. The original influencer was the ‘It Girl’: she could be found perfectly at ease in the front row of a fashion show, the opening of a new gallery, on the red carpet of the Grammy’s, or simply snapped crossing the street and brandished on front pages.
The 2000’s and early-2010’s were far from the beginning of the ‘It Girl’ (the 60’s and 70’s were full of women like Jean Shrimpton, Edie Sedgwick and Jane Birkin), but the beginnings of social media offered these new cult figures coverage like never before. It was almost impossible for a month to pass by without an article dissecting Chung’s impeccable eye-liner, or a 6-page spread following Palermo’s unbelievable New York Socialite life. For a while, these stories seemed to captivate the fashion and beauty industries. There were make-up lines, blogs, invites to couture shows, eponymous labels. These women were taken seriously, and used effectively to market product to wide and willing audiences.
Of course, fashion is fickle, and nothing lasts forever. Audiences’ tastes began to change. Suddenly, the unattainable life of Palermo, and the unending commercialisation of Chung lost some of their appeal. There to fill in the void were the beginnings of a new generation of ‘It Girls’: the Instagram influencers. Sure, both women transitioned to the app and maintain healthy followings to this day, but the social world is ruled by new faces.
Has the scale of the ‘It Girl’ phenomenon has outgrown itself? We are now inundated with stylish socialites. Just take a scroll through Instagram and see women like Camille Charriere, Aimee Song, and Laura Jackson walking the paths through this modern ‘It Girl’ landscape that Chung and Palermo helped to forge. With so many chic women to follow, there is no longer this small, exclusive group of ‘It Girls’, but rather a burgeoning culture of approachable figures revealing the ups and downs of life in the public eye.
Where the old school ‘It Girl’ was shrouded in mystery, the new generation of influential women offer a relatively relatable view of themselves: vlogging fashion weeks, answering personal questions on Instagram Stories, and often meeting with followers face-to-face.
As we enter this new decade, and Instagram looks towards its 10th birthday, I wonder when these new faces will inevitably fall from grace, and what the new wave of iconic women will look like.