Saturday, May 28, 2011


What makes someone an influencer in modern society?

Who are our influencers?

In fashion, our past influencers are clear: Chanel, Vionnet, Dior, Gres, YSL, McQueen-- all are responsible for a distinct shift in perspective on design. In furniture design, Chippendale in the 1700's, Eames in the 20th century and Piet Hein Eek in the 21st century come to mind. In architecture, the innovators of their day included Frank Gehry and Frank Lloyd Wright.

I think people like Madonna, Gwen Stephanie and Lady Gaga are influencers in music, but have a temporary influence as true trend setters. It is in their saturation that makes them less of an influence, as they seem to become mainstream the moment they are copied. In today's society, people still think Gaga is an influencer. I would say that is true a year ago, but today, she is predictible and is so immitated and followed. This makes me believe she has lost her influence to be a true innovator, but simply a leader with a following. She is not unlike any other leader in the world who has a herd of sheep following blindly as they are lost and looking for someone or something on which to hang an identy.... or adopt an identity.

In the media, Mark Zuckerburg would have been an influencer in the world of social media and the way in which social media would be used today. Anna Wintour, editor of American Vogue was an influencer in the fashion media, but her power is continually being challenged by new media outlets, such as online blogs and magazine. Tavy Gevinson, the fourteen-year-old blogger truly challenged the old guard of the fashion writers with her influential blog. Hugh Hefner was an influencer in the 50's with the introduction of the first Playboy magazine.

Watching a documentary on Hugh Hefner in the 1950's made me realize something I had never thought about him- he was ahead of his time, he was not "popular," in fact, when he started, he borrowed any amount of money he could and his first issue sold only 50,000 copies. WIthin a year, he tripled that. He was ahead of his time and went against the grain of society; he did not have a following for many, many years and he promoted something that went to against what was the norm in a 1950's society and forever changed the American ideal of women and created an unattainable standard by which many American women measure themselves. Unfortunately, the start of Playboy magazine made for a perpetually-sexualized undercurrent in society that has become validated through the media and by his own controversial lifestyle. Playboy forever changed the ideal of American beauty.

His magazines were not initially all about sex, but they also included politics and controversial sibjects in the magazine. Utilizing the controversial platform of the magazine, he included in those pages his own ideas about controversial issues, like black rights in America, politics involving President Carter, racial bias in stand-up comedy artists in the 60's, etc. In his day, he was an influencer, but today, his lifestyle seems almost obscene or mundane, depending on perspective, but it is no longer innovative, nor are his ideas.

I am not perpetuating Playboy or any kind of pornography. What I am hoping for is that thought-proving change comes from talking about those who really change a mind set or a society's point of view or at least their discussions.

Are influencers those who have a large following and are popular? Is popular even a component of an influencer? Or does the influencer begin to lose his/her innovative quality because he or she is followed by so many? Should an influencer have an important point of view or vision that is innovative and intuitive to change and can influence that change?

It seems to me that the moment the influencer becomes mainstream the power he or she has is really only to get a bunch of people to copy his or her style and adopt it as their own identity, under the guise that they are truly innovative in their own personal style, when in essence they are only copycats. It seems to me that the moment he or she becomes popular is the exact moment he or she ceases to be innovative. Why is being innovative a necessary trait for an influencer to possess?

So, who are our influencers today?

INFLUENCERS TRAILER from R+I creative on Vimeo.