How Gucci Slides™ into 2019
By Emily Elvish
I love a YouTube binge session as much as the next person. It's just relaxing sometimes to go down a rabbit hole of unboxing videos, vlogs or makeup tutorials, etc.
Yet, as I was binge watched Sister Squad videos the other night (for those of you who don't know; consists of Sister James Charles, Emma “me editing” Chamberlain and the Dolan twins), the 20 times they bought expensive gifts for each other, the 8 Gucci store visits and the continued appearances of Sister James’ Balenciaga shoes, made me question how apparent luxury spending is on YouTube.
Sure, it is a widely known fact that all famous Youtubers own a Tesla and their bank accounts have more digits than the average phone number, but the reason they are so addictive to watch is because they are one of us.
The whole appeal of YouTuber culture circulates around their relatability. They talk to you, create with you, and sell for you. However, doing so while they are wearing a $25,000 outfit.
Designer brands have shifted from only being seen in magazines and on red carpets to being ‘unboxed’ during Taco Bell mukbangs, being bought as a casual Tuesday gift for your best friend and being worn to a Sephora haul.
We, of course, pay less attention to this fact when your favourite creator mentions that, just like you, they spent at least 2 hours looking through Target and went on a 2am Maccas run. Distracting from the fact that as they tell you this, they are drinking coffee from a Gucci mug.
According to Forbes, Millennial and Gen Z consumers have attributed to Gucci’s 49% sales growth during 2018, as a result of the brand appealing to the “demographic desire” for personal satisfaction and ethical purpose.
As is, it recorded that 50% of Gucci sales are attributed to the Millennial/Gen Z market, I’m led to wonder the extent to which YouTube’s luxury culture has influenced these statistics. In contrast to the findings discrediting influencers as the reason for this resurgence in designer spending, Deloitte surveyed that 20.5% of this market noted social media as their source of luxury trends and interest.
Now, I am not attempting to give into these problematic generalisations of demographic, which marketing analysts use to reduce individual consumers into a stereotyped statistic. Nor am I suggesting that viewers of luxury Youtube (who happen to fall into the Millennial or Gen Z age bracket) are so devoid of free will as to purchase whatever creators advertise to them.
I am highlighting the correlation between the increasing normalisations of designer brands on the platform, and how this sparks audience interest in these products through YouTube’s relatability complex, myself included.
Maybe this is just a reflection of YouTube’s implicit power over audiences. The ability to market through a sense of commonality and authenticity. In an age where audiences are growing increasingly aware of the fabricated nature of mass media, perhaps the only truly driving means of marketing is through the mediated communities formed by social media influencers.
As Jeffree Star gives you a personal tour around his mansion, you are so distracted by his 20 pin ball machines and silk quilted wall that your subliminal need for the Gucci slides he is wearing drifts to the back of your mind. As you are running through LA with the Sister Squad, you barely realise how the volume of spontaneous Gucci they purchase has become a normal occurrence for you.
This leads into the problematic trend of Youtubers “playing poor” in an attempt to relate to audiences. In Shane Dawson’s mini-series documentaries, the punchline always seems to revolve around the other Youtuber’s luxurious lifestyle making him feel poor, followed by a redemption arc which highlights their humanity despite the veneer of affluence they live under.
Whilst this is all a well-meaning attempt to further YouTube’s relatability complex, this dynamic masks the fact that whilst Dawson is feeling intimidated by Trisha Paytas’ crystal coffee machine, he too is wearing a pair of Gucci slides.
Whilst it is impossible and a sweeping generalisation to directly attribute YouTube to the increased in designer sales noted by Forbes, it can be seen as a microcosm of the implicit influence of social media upon audiences. As representations of designer products become more normalised on our screens, so too will our interest in these brands, allowing the luxury market to stay relevant and grow into the new generation of consumerism.