Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
When it comes to marketing, fashion labels, beauty brands, and major media outlets all seem to agree that digital “influencers” get the job done better than traditional celebrities. But a look at end-of-year reports from search engines and retail platforms like Polyvore reveals that a whole lot of shoppers are, in fact, still plenty eager to dress like their favorite celebs.
So which star is successfully shilling the most product? One way to track is Google searches, specifically the search engine’s handy annual Year in Search report. Of Google’s ten most-searched fashion designers of the year, seven happened to be celebrities, including The Row’s Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Zendaya, and Beyoncé.
Sure, those names were most-searched in part because they’re famous to begin with — even outside of the fashion industry. But consider this: The vast majority of shoe styles up for grabs on the Daya by Zendaya site are almost completely sold out. Meanwhile, Beyoncé’s Ivy Park collection sold out just minutes after its mid-April release — and according to e-commerce analytics firm Slice Intelligence, when the superstar’s athleisure line launched at Nordstrom, it was the top-selling brand at the department store that whole week.
People are searching for these stars and buying their stuff. So who is selling the most? Let's dig in.
Sure, by all accounts, Gigi Hadid had a banner year in the fashion industry. She covered countless magazines (Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, W, and Allure, to name a few), launched collaborations with Tommy Hilfiger and Stuart Weitzman, and generally dominated everyone’s social media feeds. Her model BFF Kendall Jenner also covered numerous mags, appeared in global Estée Lauder campaigns (and served as the muse for the beauty brand’s millennial-focused Estée Edit collection) — and, until halfway through the year, had the most-liked picture on Instagram.
But when it comes to actual retail influence, both young women pale in comparison to Kendall’s younger sister Kylie, who according to Polyvore’s “Polydata” report was this year’s top female fashion icon, inspiring users to shop for items like bomber jackets, crop tops, and thigh-high boots. By contrast, Kendall and Gigi (also acolytes of stylist Monica Rose, like Kylie) came in third and fourth in the icon rankings.
How to track that influence? A clue: Polyvore’s top two beauty trends this year were nude lipstick and matte lipstick — Kylie Lip Kit, anyone? Year over year, Polyvore searches for nude lip colors increased by a whopping 553 percent; matte lipsticks, 267 percent. For anyone who’s spent hours feverishly refreshing the Kylie Cosmetics homepage in hopes of scoring some loot, those numbers likely aren’t shocking.
But really it’s Google where you can see Kylie’s dominance. Google Trends comparison of searches for Kylie Lip Kits or Kylie Cosmetics versus searches for, say, Gigi Hadid’s Tommy Hilfiger collection, prove just how far ahead Kylie really was when it came to generating buzz — and, in turn, inspiring purchases — in 2016. (Those two huge spikes in Kylie Cosmetics searches in late July and late November correspond to the releases of her birthday and holiday collections, respectively.)
But don’t discount Rihanna (as if you could). According to Polyvore’s data, the Anti singer was the second most-searched female style icon in 2016, thanks in large part to Fenty Puma by Rihanna. While RiRi also inspired shoppers to search for things like kimonos and band tees, her Puma creepers were by far the most sought-after item connected to the style star.
Below, a look at how searches for Rihanna’s Puma shoes stacked up (pun intended) against those for Kylie Jenner’s makeup:
Note that Google searches for Rihanna’s collection spiked in mid-April (when her fur slides dropped), late May (when her creepers were restocked), and early December (when the creepers were released in a velvet version), as well as the first and last weeks of September (when she showed her collection at fashion weeks in both New York and Paris).
In early December, the shopping aggregator Lyst shared that the Fenty Puma by Rihanna creeper was its most-searched item of the entire year, and that searches for Puma had increased by 183 percent over 2016.
Accordingly, Puma’s third quarter report showed the Fenty collaboration had accounted for a 16.4 percent increase in footwear sales.
Like Rihanna, Kanye West was responsible for driving a ton of sales in 2016, thanks to his notoriously hard-to-score Yeezy Boost sneakers. According to SSIData from SportsOneSource cited by StockX, the Yeezy 350 V2 managed to outsell the Nike Air Force 1 — widely regarded as the best-selling athletic shoe of all time — the week it dropped in late September. In other words, Yeezy really did jump over Jumpman, if only temporarily.
On the resale market, Kanye’s sneakers have an even bigger impact. The $220 Boosts regularly go for upwards of $1,000 on eBay; StockX reports that Adidas now represents 30 percent of the resale market, in dollars — and 75 perecent of those dollars come solely from Yeezys. That’s particularly impressive when you consider the fact that just two years ago, Adidas represented just one percent of the overwhelmingly Nike-dominated secondary market.
And as the below Google Trends data reveals, Yeezy mania easily rivals — and, often, surpasses — the Kylie Cosmetics craze, particularly when Kanye releases his sought-after shoes in new styles or colors.
Next year: Selena Gomez?
When it comes to overall influence, Instagram tells a different story. According to the photo sharing app’s 2016 review, no celebrity comes close to challenging the influence of one Selena Gomez. Not only is she the most-followed human being on Instagram, with 103 million followers to her name, but she was also responsible for all five of the year’s most-liked posts, as well as four out of five of the year’s most-liked videos. She also gained more new fans this past year than anyone else, adding over 50 million new followers. That’s more new followers than Rihanna has in total, and more than Gigi Hadid and Bella Hadid have combined.
Add that to the the fact that Instagram has pledged to prioritize shoppability in 2017, and it’s pretty clear why Louis Vuitton and Coach tapped Selena as their new campaign star and guest designer. Suffice it to say that twelve months from now, she might be giving Kylie, Kendall, and Kanye a run for their money. Literally.