Earlier this year Luxury Society revealed that one of its most popular topics for luxury executives was influencers. This came as no surprise given that two thirds of luxury brands are active with influencer marketing, according to a report from eConsultancy. However, almost half of these brands admitted that their influencer programs were still in their infancy - at less than a year old.
There is a plethora of information about how to work with influencers, including Luxury Society's most read article, but hearing direct from the influencers themselves offers an insight into the world of social impact.
In order to delve into what makes a successful partnership, we caught up with digital influencer, consultant and stylist Soraya Bakhtiar last week, while she hosted the Bulgari Serpenti Twist Your Time event in partnership with our parent company, DLG, in Geneva, Switzerland.
With an impressive 97k-plus Instagram follower-base, we asked what motivates the London based fashion blogger, and what luxury brands should know about working with women like Soraya, whose voices are making waves in the industry.
Soraya for Bulgari Serpenti at the #TwistYourTime Ladies event in the Bulgari Boutique, Geneva
What motivated you to start your blog and ultimately become a stylist and consultant?
I read in a magazine recently that our generation is known as a ‘slasher’ as we do so many things as once. Stylish slash consultant slash blogger - generation slasher!
My background is in fashion journalism in London and then worked in a fashion magazine. Eventually I felt inspired to start my own blog and it has been a few years. Last year I started styling others, having been used to styling myself. I am able to give women a boost, which is incredibly important and exciting.
How do you choose the brands you will partner with?
For me it is essential that there is an authentic connection between myself and the brand. My followers will notice if I work with a brand that does not match my aesthetic or values. Not only that, but I aim to put passion and creativity into everything I do, so if I have that genuine connection with a brand, it will show - naturally and authentically.
In the case of Bulgari, my mother has always been a huge fan of the brand. When I was younger she had one of the original Serpenti watches. It was delicate, yet still powerful. I remember being mesmerized with how it curved around her wrist in the most feminine way. I loved playing with it, fascinated with how it looked!
In the past year I decided it was time to buy my own version, which I bought from the Geneva boutique. It means a lot to be connected to her in that way and is particularly exciting as I was born during the year of the snake. Today my mother still has that same watch, and she is here today wearing it!
As a stylist what kind of advice do you usually provide to your clients?
I always try to take into account the lifestyle and personality of my clients. Clothing plays a big part, but I find that the accessories can totally transform an outfit. The right watch or jewelry can make a woman feel phenomenal.
If we take the case of the new Bulgari Serpenti, it is extremely versatile and transitions beautifully from day to night, which is what I love the most about it. It can be worn in so many different ways catering to many types of women; whether they are more classic or love a little twist on their wrist (literally!)
As an example, if we did a campaign on styling it would start with the basics of how to style it for different occasions:
During the day it can be worn with your favorite denim and a shirt, the watch speaks for itself as it is already a statement piece that will spice up casual attire.
For a more polished look, I picture it worn with a floral dress, or colorful silky blouse. I like statement pieces so I wouldn’t be afraid of mixing color, especially at this time of the year.
For the colder months, I would wear it a long sleeve top and wear the watch over the sleeve for an edgier, more editorial look. It’s actually something that I quite like to do and really makes the piece stand out.
Your background is a mix of Swiss, Iranian and Egyptian – how important is it that you represent, and stay connected to, your roots?
I have a big readership in the Middle East and I didn't know that until I started using Google and Instagram analytics. I started going out there more and reaching out to them, and in return I was inspired by the fashion there and their exquisite taste. I try to capture some of that and share it with the Western audience.
As a digital influencer, who or what has impacted you most?
Starting my career in Geneva and pursuing my dream of living in London has impacted me the most. I kept the best of both worlds in me: the sophistication and appreciation for luxury of Switzerland, mixed with the edginess of London.
Which women inspire you in your life and career?
There are a lot of creative women in my family; my mother, my aunt and my grandmother. Creativity runs strong in my family! I found this inspiring from a young age, to pursue my dreams. Knowing I would be supported gave me motivation to spread my own creative wings.
More recently, the women I’ve met in my industry, whether they are designers, PRs, agents, consultants, journalists, digital influencers or TV presenters, never seize to impress me and I’ve learnt a lot from them. It is very endearing to see the unity between these women and how they support each other.
All those women have inspired me and I am incredibly proud to include them in my powerful girl gang.
What advice would you give to brands looking to work with digital influencers?
I would tell them to be more selective with the influencers they work with. Today, things could start to feel « too sponsored » and the authenticity gets lost along the way. An influencer needs to genuinely connect with the brand, this way the collaboration will be smooth and effortless.
I have a theory, if you wear something you love and feel good in, it shows. Your energy showers everyone around you, so to me, it should be the same when it comes to brands/influencer collaboration. This is something that I’ve always promised myself to stay true to, no matter the value of the paycheck. It’s crucial.
And a last question, what is the first thing a stylist slash international fashion and beauty influencer does each morning?
I know I should say drink a glass of water or meditate, but the reality is I check my messages/emails and instagram feed as soon as I open my eyes!
Soraya for Bulgari Serpenti at the #TwistYourTime event in the Bulgari Boutique, Geneva
There’s no doubt that digital communications, and in particular social media influencers, has made the luxury industry accessible to more and more consumers.
And the industry is seeing the results too, with 73% of brands noting that influencer campaigns are ‘highly effective,’ especially around product launches. For example, LA Times revealed that one Snapchat post from influencer 'Something Navy', for a new mascara by Yves Saint Laurent, sold 422 units in 24 hours, driving $13,500 in sales.
The nature of social means that brands need to be careful with who they work with, and importantly how they work with them. Forging authentic relationships is the key to successful influencer campaigns, and will ensure consumers can interact with your brand on an entirely different level.
Main image courtesy of Soraya Bakhtiar. Photographed by @annasndl