When people hear the expression “the latest fashion”, their thoughts unconsciously move to Paris, New York and Milan. Not among the young men and women of Kuwait today. When they hear the expression, they do not think of the cities considered as the fashion capitals of the world. Instead, they think of the accounts of their favourite fashionistas on Instagram and Snapchat.
In the realm of high fashion and the latest trends, a new world has opened up for fashion houses, the young attractive people known as fashionistas and their millions of followers and fans. What started off as a simple display of clothes and accessories on social media among friends has now turned into a million-dollar business and a new way of life for tens of fashionistas and millions of followers.
When Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Gulf University for Science & Technology (GUST) Dr Israa Omran heard from one of her students that she was contemplating dropping out of the university to become a fashionista, she realised how deep an influence this new fashion business has become.
She was the second student to opt out of the university to take up modeling on social networks. “It is a world that has become highly attractive for university women, especially that it does not require capital,” Israa said. “In fact, being a fashionista means that she will make a lot of money. It will be much faster and easier than working hard at the university in order to graduate and look for a job that might not match her university aptitudes,” Israa told Kuwaiti daily Al Rai.
The choice between hard work for a higher university degree and easy money for a fun “job” was moving inexorably towards dropping college education in order to make money from marketing clothes, accessories and perfumes. However, Israa warned that the phenomenon needed serious thought and decisive action from Kuwaiti society, where the number of followers on Instagram and Snapchat could twist the lives of young students. “I do not really blame the two students who told me they want to drop out of college, lured by the social status and lucrative bank accounts,” she said.
“However, I do blame the society for not taking the issue seriously in the beginning and for contributing to inflating the numbers of followers of the fashionistas’ accounts because the high figures attracted high fashion companies which saw a great publicity and marketing opportunity.”
Israa said that she remained optimistic that most young Kuwaiti women would continue to regard the university degree as a top priority. “I am grateful that our women still prefer to obtain their university degree before on embarking on seeking a popular status on social media. My serious concern though is that the students think of the degree as a goal, and not as a means to deepen their academic knowledge and take up a good specialisation.”
She added people should be well aware of the implications of their acts on social media. “The solution to this growing phenomenon is to ensure that people should not take what is being written and posted on social media lightly. They must be careful because if they do not know how to behave, they will not change the life of a single person, but rather the whole community.”
However, Israa said that the fashionista phenomenon is not sustainable. “Their world is getting saturated because there are far too many fashionistas in it. People will get used to the phenomenon and there will be fewer calls and opportunities from high fashion companies. Those who want to join must appreciate that it is a short span, and not a lifetime career.”
Dana, a university student and a model, said that she was confident she made the right choice by staying at college. “To me, education is an obligation while the modeling is an option,” she said. “I do admit that working in the fashion sector does take up a lot of time from our studies, but it is also a good opportunity to make money. In all cases, my top priority remains a degree from my university.”
However, Dalal Al Shammari, another student, said it was normal for a young woman to drop out of college in order to devote herself to her commitment as a fashionista. “There is no harm in as long as the issue is within the confines of the public taste, customs and traditions of Kuwait,” she said.
“Today, with the rapid development of social networking sites, the fashionista represents her society and has become a role model and an example for her followers. There is personal freedom of course, but a fashionista has to represent the Kuwaiti society in an elegant and beautiful way.”
Dalal said that the lure of an outstanding social status and high financial income regularly influenced students to turn into fashionistas. “Many are keen on making a lot of money easily and quickly,” she said. But Sarra, another student, told Al Rai that the easy and quick money could not replace the significance of the university degree.
“Being a fashionista is ultimately a phenomenon, and as such it will not last and therefore it cannot be reliable,” she said. “No matter how attractive it is, it cannot replace the importance of a higher education degree.” However, she admitted that some fashionistas enjoyed a star status. “They are not just people displaying clothes and accessories and focusing on the latest trends. They command a lot of influence, and this is really interesting.”
However, their influence is not always welcome, as one blogger posted. CrazyinKuwait, a blogger who describes herself as a “California girl sharing everyday experiences in Kuwait”, wrote how some fashionistas were “fake” and how she resented their negative attitudes. “All I see is a campaign telling the youth that being natural is not acceptable and you should run after plastic surgery to make yourself feel better,” she posted.
“Nose too big? Not acceptable, you must have plastic surgery! Brown Eyes? Not acceptable, you must get contacts! Overweight? Not acceptable, you must have surgery! Natural eyebrows? Not acceptable, must be plucked, primed and colored! No Cartier bracelets? Not acceptable, go take a loan and buy some! No Porsche? Not acceptable, you must take out another loan to get one! I miss the days before technology!!!”
SOURCE : GULFNEWS