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Free People Ditches the Mega-Models and Launches an Instagram Campaign

The brand takes a breather from its supermodel rotation to flex some social muscle.

It's a well-documented fact that Free People kills it in the catalog department, forever booking models you'd otherwise find in the pages of Vogue and its international sisters. Karlie Kloss, Freja Beha Erichson, Anja Rubik, Joan Smalls — you know, bona fide supermodels. The festival-happy brand makes monthly print catalogs not just enjoyable, but an editorial treat. 

This time around Free People has ditched its tried-and-true formula (mega-model + scenic location + fishtail braid = $$$) and is replacing it with an Instagram campaign. The team has recruited 27 models, bloggers and cool semi-famous people who will post "selfies" — actually the product of 14 days' worth of professional photoshoots in New York, Paris, London and L.A. — in Free People clothing. Those same images will appear in the print catalog that follows. 

According to Jed Paulson, the director of marketing at Free People, the cost of this campaign was "comparable" to the cost of producing its monthly catalogs. Doing some minor math, that means Free People booked 27 women varying in their prominence from well-known to more niche for the price of one Karlie; the most high-profile models involved in the campaign are Camille Rowe, Martha Hunt, Daisy Lowe and Langley Fox. In some ways, it's a matter of quantity over quality, if you're measuring quality in terms of fame, day rates and industry standing. 

But if you've already proven you can get the big girls, why not flex a little social muscle? 

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Instagram campaigns are nothing new, nor is the selfie conceit, which Rag & Bone pioneered with its "DIY" project, and which CK One and Equipment have both used to great effect in recent months. That said, Free People is in a particularly good position to leverage the photo platform, having cultivated an avid social following through integrating customer photos onto its product pages and via its online community FP Me. Its shoppers feel both invested and involved.

Most of the campaign stars have Instagram viewerships in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands, giving Free People access to their various, often intersecting, pools of followers. The one exception to that is Michelle Collins, a Free People customer and power user of FP Me, whom the brand brought on board as a nod to its fans. 

As of Tuesday night, Collins had 1,338 followers. We're guessing that by the end of day on Wednesday it's going to be quite a bit more than that.