“Fashion girls are freaking out over this new brand on Instagram,” wrote Who What Wear in June. In March, PopSugar listed the “22 signs you are a legitimate fashion girl.” (Sign No. 1: “You own six pairs of sneakers, and none are actually the kind you’d work out in.”) “Meet the celeb-approved line fashion girls are obsessing over,” announced Yahoo Style in August. And in July, Vogue asked the pressing question: “Why do fashion girls always fall for skater boys, anyway?”
It feels like in the last few months, the term “fashion girl” is everywhere, in media and in marketing.
In fashion media, the term “fashion girl” identifies the woman who’s nailed the personal style game, leaving everyone else to follow in her trendsetting footsteps. She sits front row at fashion shows, and has made a name for herself in the industry regardless of whether she has actually studied or worked in fashion. She’s always “obsessing” or “freaking out” over new brands and wearing a photo-ready street style uniform, per her rampant coverage in publications like Vogue and Who What Wear.
Right now, she’s probably walking the streets of Manhattan wearing patchwork denim jeans, block heels, and silk neck scarves, according to a Who What Wear report on what all the fashion girls are wearing during New York Fashion Week.
The fashion girls, basically, are the street style stars worth watching and emulating by fashion followers. They might be bloggers, or editors, or budding designers; an Olivia Palermo, Tavi Gevinson or Chiara Ferragni. While “fashion girl” is a made-up title reserved for those who brands and publishers know carry more weight in the street style sphere, she’s bigger than ever before, thanks to social media’s ongoing democratization of fashion.
“The fashion girl has evolved from the socialite, or the editor, into simply the woman who has great personal style,” said Hannah Weil McKinley, senior fashion editor at PopSugar. “She’s not just a blogger, either — that has become a lesser title. The term fashion girl carries an authority that people recognize your personal style.”
— Who What Wear (@WhoWhatWear) September 8, 2016
Unsurprisingly, social media has had a hand in propelling the rise of the fashion girl, but she isn’t just someone who can wield her phone for a street-style Instagram post. Instead, she’s used social media to define her style and build an audience, while becoming instantly recognizable at every fashion event she attends.
According to Whitney Robinson, style director for Town & Country, the term “fashion girl” has always been around — it represents a staying power that a social media influencer doesn’t have. That means the fashion girl is a high-power executive, like Instagram’s head of fashion partnerships and former Lucky editor Eva Chen, Russian fashion entrepreneur Miroslava Duma, or a blogger-turned-fashion mainstay, like Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine and Fashion Toast’s Rumi Neely.
“There is the sense that you graduate into being a fashion girl,” said Robinson. “I’m more skeptical when I hear the word influencer than I am when I hear fashion girl. They’ve paid their dues and they’re knowledgeable.”
As a result, fashion publications use the term in headlines to define current style trends for readers, and from a marketing perspective, brands aren’t far behind. Rent the Runway recently called out “fashion girls” in an email newsletter subject line, and currently trending brands like Vetements, Gucci and Brother Vellies have fashion girls and their social media influence to thank for their hot status.
“Social media creates this tipping point, when you’re seeing the same things on all these different people around the world,” said Hillary Kerr, co-founder of Clique Media Group and Who What Wear. “When a fashion editor in Italy, a major blogger in New York, and a style-minded celebrity in Los Angeles are all wearing the same thing or styling a key piece a certain within the matter of a week, and you know this because you follow them on Instagram, that’s an impactful moment.”
A photo posted by Olivia Palermo (@oliviapalermo) on
Fashion girls are often cast as shallow. When the phrase peaked in 2012 thanks to Youtuber P’Trique’s parody video “Sh*t Fashion Girls Say,” the term became synonymous with mindless phrases like “Did you see ‘Gossip Girl’ this week? I want, like, all of Blair’s coats.” But according to Robinson, fashion girls are the ones to take most seriously.
“They’re part of the industry,” he said. “It’s bigger than just a selfie. That’s the difference between a fashion girl and an Insta girl.”