The business of influence: Have we hit peak influencer brand?

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This story is part of The Business of Influence, a series charting the evolution of fashion’s creator economy, where there’s profit to be made and where the industry is headed next. Read parts one and two here.

The fashion and beauty influencer boom spawned a batch of influencer brands, as content creators saw an opportunity to launch product lines tied to their personalities and tapped into their following. Now, the early influencers-turned-founders are figuring out how to make sure their brands thrive as the social media landscape evolves, and a new generation of creators quickly rises.

Prominent influencer-entrepreneurs include Chiara Ferragni, who founded The Blonde Salad blog in 2009 and has since launched her own namesake brand, which encompasses clothing, footwear, accessories and makeup. Her personal and brand Instagram accounts total 29.3 million followers. YouTuber Michelle Phan counts over 8.8 million subscribers and runs Em Cosmetics, a multi-million-dollar beauty brand that she first launched with L’Oréal in 2013. Song of Style blogger Aimee Song, who has 6.6 million followers on Instagram, launched her fashion brand in 2019. Danielle Bernstein, with 2.9 million followers, and Arielle Charnas, with 1.3 million followers, have grown their blogs WeWoreWhat and Something Navy to fully fledged brands. Influencers Tina Craig (over 512,000 followers), Marianna Hewitt (1.1 million followers) and Jen Atkin (4.7 million followers) have leaned into their passion for beauty, launching premium labels U Beauty, Summer Fridays and Ouai, respectively.

More are coming. Technology news site The Information estimates that last year, VCs invested over $2 billion into 50 creator-focused startups in the US.

“There are more influencer brands now than ever before,” says Josh Constine, an investor at venture capital firm Signalfire. Part of that is due to the relatively low cost to entry: anyone can set up a website, and many influencers already have the relationships necessary to build a brand, says Conor Begley, co-founder of influencer marketing platform Tribe Dynamics. “The difference between today and 20 years ago is that historically you had to have significant scale in order to even exist,” he says, adding that it takes about $50,000 in capital to get a new brand off the ground today, compared to anywhere from $5 to $20 million before.

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