Pinterest: a fashion discovery tool


Over the last few years, Pinterest boards (or “pinboards”) have proven to be a valuable tool in the hands of fashion lovers who want to discover, bookmark and categorise images (or “Pins”) of clothes and accessories, create virtual wardrobes and wish lists, and find inspiration for new looks. With 97 per cent of user searches being unbranded and generic (such as “outfits for Coachella”, or “sexy looks for spring 2020”), and 76 per cent of search results (in the form of Pins) that do include brand names, Pinterest has also established itself as a powerful brand-customer matching tool, one that allows fashionistas to discover new brands, and brands to be discovered by new potential customers. 

But can it also be used as a professional tool to boost careers in fashion? In particular, can it help fashion students and young professionals catch the eye of fashion brands, and get their entry job in the industry? 


People looking to work in fashion should fully exploit the possibility of creating multiple pinboards in their Pinterest profile to generate ‘multidimensional’ business cards,” says Saverio Schiano Lomoriello, partner manager at Pinterest in Italy. “Don’t limit yourself to one pinboard with a selection of your best works, as you would do on Instagram – that would be a reductive use. Instead, add more pinboards hosting collections of the objects and images you like the most, ranging from ‘my favourite shoes’ to ‘my favourite lamps’, without forgetting to add a pinboard dedicated to the items that you think will be fashionable in the future. These kinds of Pinterest profiles, which provide a multifaceted visual representation of a person’s passions, can prove highly useful in convincing luxury brands that you possess two of the most sought-after qualities in the industry: good taste and long, sensitive antennas, capable of sensing trends in the air before the others.”


Those lacking the latter skill can still hope to make a good impression with their future employer by exploiting Pinterest’s “intrinsic future-oriented nature” – as Schiano Lomoriello puts it – and using the platform as a “digital divining rod” to intercept trends (not necessarily only in fashion) before they reach the mainstream. “‘Pinners’, as Pinterest’s users are referred to, project their desires in their searches, making the platform a powerful trend predictor, one that can ‘smell’ trends at least three months in advance,” Schiano Lomoriello explains, citing “Beyond binary”, “90s rerun” and, curiously, “Space everything” as examples of the currently top-trending searches on the platform. “To advance professionally, fashion students and professionals can use the valuable statistics about the top-100 trending searches on Pinterest, which are reported for free on the webpage With a bit of practice, they can even learn how to spot more specific fashion trends on their own, refining over time the art of using Pinterest as a crystal ball. How? By following as many brands’ profiles as possible and checking which fashion items other users save the most. ‘Pinterest trend hunter’ could in principle become a job in its own right.”


The recent introduction of new AI-powered features into the platform has meanwhile revolutionised Pinterest’s efficiency in suggesting relevant visual information, making it an even more powerful instrument for fashion professionals, at all stages of their career, to find inspiration for their work. “We recently implemented ‘computer vision’ to identify visually similar objects, including fashion items of all sorts. We also mix machine learning and human curation, by observing how people are labelling Pins and naming boards, to ‘digitally describe taste’. This allows us to put billions of user-specific recommendations in front of people every day, based on overlapping interests across the platform,” says Schiano Lomoriello, who goes on to explain how such features can be fully exploited by fashion professionals. “If you are a designer specialised in women’s shoes, you should start by creating a pinboard in your profile containing a selection of your favourite shoes, including some of your creations. From that moment on, this pinboard will serve as a template for Pinterest’s algorithm to provide you with new and highly pertinent Pins on a regular basis, tailoring them to your specific research and taste. Far from being static, such pinboards are like lively ‘home gardens of ideas’, where you can go and pick fresh suggestions every day.” 


More generally, these new features in Pinterest’s algorithm are recasting the platform’s “fashion discovery” experience to all of its users, not only fashion professionals. By taking a picture of a watch with your phone, Pinterest will now direct you to a large selection of Pins of similar watches; by taking a picture of a friend wearing a denim jacket you like, it will suggest a whole selection of denim outfits. “Most users are still unaware that by simply zooming in on the Pin of a generic fashion look, they can extract more specific information about the single items, be it the bag, the trousers or the shoes. Since last September, if the Pins of such fashion items are linked to the brand’s e-commerce site, pinners can even decide to buy them just by clicking on the product Pin.” 


Without many of us noticing, Pinterest has silently evolved from a playful “discovery tool” into a massive shopping platform – one that aims to attract millions of dollars in “advertorial Pins” (a new entry since the beginning of the year), and compete with Instagram as the go-to online tool for fashion. Remarkably, the number of active Pinterest users worldwide has reached 300 million (14 million of whom are in Italy), with year-over-year growth of 26 per cent and 37 per cent respectively. This is quite an impressive evolution for a platform that, despite the narcissistic and voyeuristic times we live in, has always refused to transform itself into a social media site. “Pinterest should be considered a kind of “personal media” instead, a platform people use mostly for their research, without seeking interaction with other users. Eighty per cent of its visual content is not user-generated, coming from brands, publishers, bloggers and other websites. Selfies, although not strictly banned, don’t easily make their way into the final results of any search.”


As Schiano Lomoriello reveals, although only a handful of pioneering fashion houses have so far started investing considerably in advertorial Pins (with Armani and Gucci leading the way), many more, over the past two or three years, have begun using the most primordial of Pinterest features, pinboards, as a means to visualise the inspiration behind their products or advertorial campaigns. Search for Ralph Lauren’s “Fragrances” mood board and you’ll find yourself catapulted into a tropical paradise, among Pins of sexy surfers, ocean waves and lush vegetation; check out the mood board of Burberry’s “Weather” campaign and you’ll stumble upon atmospheric urban landscapes illuminated by the first dramatic sun rays after a storm. “Traditionally, fashion houses have kept their mood boards secret. Now, somewhat belatedly, they’ve discovered this new way to engage with consumers, one that can help them add new dimensions to their products. Here we have another job of the future: ‘Pinterest pinboard manager’, a new professional figure specialised in the creation of compelling pinboards capable of expressing, day after day, the uniqueness of each brand’s DNA – a visual language that few people master today.” Meanwhile, such pinboards are offering fashion lovers a new voyeuristic pleasure to discover and indulge in: the illusion of rummaging in the drawers of their favourite brands’ creative minds in search of their once-inaccessible mood boards, and finally, accessing the secluded world of references and ideas that inspire their creations. 



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