Instagram has become the go-to social network for fashion professionals because it is a powerful and efficient way to share one’s work, cultural references and skills. However, has it also evolved into a recruitment tool? Do luxury and fashion brands examine candidates’ Instagram accounts when they’re looking for new employees? “With all certainty!”, says Carola Adami, founder of Adami & Associati, one of Italy’s leading headhunter companies specialising in luxury and fashion. “Instagram’s peculiarity – of being a platform for sharing images – allows for a preliminary evaluation of the candidate’s cultural and visual references. It also reveals a number of important visual skills that cannot be quickly assessed via professional networking platforms like Linkedin, such as the ability to create coherence or rhythm among images. Most of all, it allows for a rapid assessment of the aesthetic sense and the good taste of the candidates, which, for a luxury company looking for new staff, is gold.” The headhunter goes on to quote Coco Chanel: “‘Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity.’ Fashion and luxury are not just business sectors, they embody a lifestyle. And Instagram, more efficiently than any other social network, allows recruiters to understand if candidates cultivate that in their own everyday lives.” The ever-growing platform has established itself as a powerful tool in the hands of those seeking a job, too. It is a particularly disruptive resource that is rewriting the rules of self-promotion. In the past, we had to “sell ourselves” on the market. In the Instagram era, however, we can opt for a much more nuanced approach to “put ourselves in the best conditions for being bought”, explains Luigi Centenaro, an advisor and speaker in the field of personal branding. As well as teaching at some of Europe’s top business schools such as SDA Bocconi and St. Gallen, he is also known as the author of the visual self-promotion method called Personal Branding Canvas. He says: “Go and knock on a fashion brand’s door with a CV under your arm, and you’ll most likely receive no as an answer. But if you are ready to impress when they decide to come and scrutinise your Instagram account – one that has been carefully designed for the purpose – your chances of success will be far higher.” Which characteristics should an Instagram account have to catch the eye of fashion houses and luxury brands? “The specific skills that luxury brands search for on a person’s account may vary significantly depending on the job typology. However, there are two general rules of attraction that always work. First of all, luxury brands want to understand if you are ‘one of them’. Candidates whose accounts show a genuine passion for the industry are preferable to others because, if hired, experience tells they are more likely to work with dedication. And frankly speaking, they may be even more inclined to accept a lower entry salary to grant themselves access to the glamorous world of fashion,” he observes. “Secondly, brands are eager to discover if you will be able to contribute to their success with brilliant ideas. What is your unique vision of the fashion industry, business processes, style or business models? If you are able to communicate it visually on Instagram you might impress them even more. For a finely tuned brain, the door is always open.” Brands may decide to look more closely at your Instagram account after you have applied for an open position. Alternatively, one can also lure them into doing so by tagging them in a story or via a direct message (DM) on the platform. “That’s all it takes to get in touch with fashion houses nowadays,” says Alice Litscher, who teaches arts and fashion design at the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) in Paris. “Instagram acts as a powerful dialogue facilitator between students and brands. Some ex-students at our school found a job by contacting fashion houses, or their designers, directly on the platform. Others got the gig by reacting with a simple comment to job offers posted on the fashion house’s stories. In a couple of cases, it was the fashion house that reached out to our students after having inspected their accounts. In all cases, an internal survey revealed that the quality of our students’ Instagram accounts contributed significantly to their success in finding a creative job in the fashion industry.” These encouraging results convinced IFM to launch a new master’s course starting in 2020 entirely dedicated to Instagram. “The major obstacle to the creation of a successful Instagram account, one that is capable of attracting followers and making a good impression on potential employers, is of a psychological nature: the fear of being ridiculed. In particular, there’s the fear of appearing excessively narcissistic when posting about oneself,” explains Sophie Fontanel, the journalist and influencer who will be holding the course. “The best antidote against this inhibition is to use the same account to show our admiration for others’ work, too. As an example, I invite everyone to have a look at Jacquemus’s account: the designer’s almost childlike ability to marvel, both when he posts about his or other designers’ work, makes him simply adorable, and immune from the risk of looking full of himself.” Fontanel concludes with two more golden rules: “Create your own world on Instagram with the means at hand, always preferring original to pre-existing content. And don’t be afraid to be creative, funny, even a bit crazy. If you are a fashion designer and you admire Suzanne Koller, make a cute adorable portrait of her, then post it and tag her. She might love it.” For those who want to learn more about the art of seducing employers with posts, hashtags, stories, DMs and other unconventional weapons, here is some good news: Fontanel’s upcoming master’s course – in a unique case for the world of fashion schools – will be partly open to the public. So how can you access it? Via her Instagram account, of course.
Text by Michele Fossi
Published in L’Uomo Vogue, Novembre 2019