Wanna be an Instagram star? These days, it seems that all you need is an Hermes Kelly and a couple pairs of Jimmy Choos.
One of Instagram's fastest-growing subcultures is made up of bored housewives, rich international kids and wannabes who gain upwards of 20,000 followers by posting photos of their Hermes Birkins, Louboutin red soles, and Chanel J12 diamond-encrusted watches. They're not famous. They're not fashion people. They're just regular folks…with large spending accounts. I like to call them the "Real Housewives of Instagram."
First, let’s just set some benchmark Instagram stats for comparison. As of publication time, Lucky editor-in-chief and beloved social media superstar Eva Chen has over 83K followers, Insta-newbie Gwyneth Paltrow just hit 30K, Lucky contributing digital editor and social media groundbreaker John Jannuzzi counts almost 11K, and this freelance fashion writer can't even break 200. (I know.) Speaking for myself only, maybe I’m just not posting the right material.
Then, let's look at self-described “mother-fashionista” or “momista,” Gheely, who skyrocketed from zero to nearly 15,000 followers in a little over a year.
“I went back to the first picture I posted,” she reminisces. “A pair of Christian Louboutin Pigalle—my most favorite style from the designer.”
More than anything, the Instagram popularity of this certain set is driven by labels. The fancier the clothes and accessories you snap, the more followers you have.
“One hundred percent—Hermes is the most popular," says IG Girl #1 (she wants to keep her handle private, even though, yes, her account is public) who has a near 3,700 and growing following.
"Christian Louboutin, Chanel, Cartier then follow. I get loads of likes when I showcase Hermes and Christian Louboutins.”
International young man of means, Kane—also known as Kanelk_k—attracted more than 30,000 followers in just a year. He doesn’t think it’s just the flashy labels and statement pieces that guarantee Insta-celebrity, though. (And this guy seriously loves him some studded Loubie smoking slippers and designer man-clutches.) “The ‘secret’ is to have one’s individual style and taste,” he explains. “Staying authentic to who you are, as you are your own brand! I never follow trends or what is ‘hot’ in Hollywood. I would wear a mink coat in summer if it makes me happy!”
“The great Coco Chanel said that ‘In order to be irreplaceable, one has to be different,’” he continues [technically the quote is “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” Semantics.] “That is why Coco Chanel is Chanel, and that is why Kane is Kane. I always say why blend in, when you can stick out?”
While traditional bloggers still have a stronghold on the market, brands are talking notice of these newly minted Instagram stars, too. Another “momista” Instagrammer—who also asked to remain anonymous, even though her 10,000+ followers know her handle quite well—tells me of small jewelry and accessory designers gifting her items in the hope that she’ll post photos of them on her Instagram account. IG Girl #2 says that the brands experienced an increase in sales after she posted pics of her wearing said pieces. (Of course, she had tagged the designers in her posts.)
Kane's documentation of lavish shopping expeditions and fancy wardrobe reveals has garnered attention from some pretty big names. “It is still surreal to me that brands such as Balmain Paris have commented on my page numerous times,” he tells me. “Designers such as Fausto Puglisi, Prabal Gurung, Loree Rodkin, and many others have liked my pictures and shown incredible love. To say the least, I am beyond grateful.”
Guys, he even gets VIP invitations and trips.
“I met Sue Gragg [a footballer wife favorite and friend of teen millionaire fashion designer Kira Plastinina] who is an international renowned jeweler in Texas,” he explains. “We exchanged information and found a friend in each other. She was kind enough to invite me to her annual jewelry show and an art auction in Dallas. Still today, I am still shocked by such hospitality I was shown when I attended her show. Since the trip, I have been calling her Mama Sue!”
Kane’s friend mrposhspice (hands down my favorite handle of this post), who’s inching his way to 3,000 followers, even experienced social marketing from the consumer level.
“I have had employees at Christian Louboutin ask me to post photos of their shoes without knowing my Instagram handle, actually, which I found really funny!” he recounts.
But seriously, as the US continues to inch out of the worst recession since the Great Depression, does this show of excess kind of, well, piss people off?
IG Girl #2, who posts Hermes and Chanel purchases on a pretty regular basis, has had some experience with that. “I just like to share my passions and interests and found people with similar tastes and likes,” she says. “Of course, you get the occasional haters, which bothers me, but you just block and move on.”
Overall, this crew is happy to have found an on- and off-line “family” of people who share the same guilty pleasures as they do and can be totally unapologetic about their love of fashion and shiny expensive designer goods.
“In my real life, I am humble and really don't show or tell people what brand I carry, use, or wear,” says IG Girl #1. “Instagram gives me that guilt-free pleasure of saying ‘look’ without feeling guilty. Being anonymous has its advantages. In real life, not all your friends have or are at the same level in terms of lifestyle. You don't want to make someone feel bad because ‘I have or own this’ and they don't. On Instagram, no one knows me therefore I can get the, ‘oh wow...that's so pretty!’ comment and not have to feel guilty.”
“I never expected this to happen,” says IG Girl #2. “I just thought I was going to share some pics and that was it. But I feel like I have made some good contacts and a lot of them have met in real life and people seem to really find real friendships.”
“Indeed, I feel I have this network of Instagram friends and it all happened because of fashion,” Gheely says. “Fashion brings people together.”
Or as Kane puts it, "Birds of a feather flock together."
But not everyone in the greater Insta-group can be trusted. With so many followers and “friends,” there are bound to be some creepers. “Yes, I heard of a tale of two women meeting up in real life,” IG Girl #1 dishes. “One of them was using the other woman to get close to her hubby…crazy! I’ve heard of stalkers and I have had some crazies follow me, ask weird questions and even get possessive! You need to be careful.”
And, uh, yeah, maybe don’t create a tag with the exact geographic coordinates of your home filled with all your expensive possessions and then post photos of yourself when you’re away on vacation. (We all know where this is going.)
“I heard a very scary story lately,” Gheely says. “An account I've been following suddenly was closed and I found out recently that this person was robbed at home while on vacation because people were able to locate her house through geotag on Instagram. Scary!”
The takeaway? You don’t need to go to Bravo to find intrigue, dramatic relationship and designer-fashion-filled entertainment. It’s all right here on trusty ol’ Instagram. And, hey, maybe a member of this fabulous circle will let me borrow a Birkin or Chanel J12 (white with diamonds, please) so I can get to 200 followers. But an overall lesson in personal safety: Don’t just give potential robbers your home address via social media. Even the Bling Ring crew had to work for it.