Did Havaianas pay people at NYFW to bring thongs back?

Illustration by Twylamae
Words by Bianca O’Neill

An investigation.

Last year at MBFWA I spoke about how street style has become so fake these days, it has lost its relevance as a source of real-life fashion inspiration. That discussion was fuelled off the back of branded gifting, strategically placed in order to engineer new ‘trends’ – trends which were, essentially, manufactured by the brands themselves.

It’s a slick new form of guerrilla marketing that has become more and more prolific at fashion weeks around the world.

Cut to 2018, and we’re now hearing that Havaianas are back ‘in’. Personally, I was pretty chuffed at the idea – I loved the early ’00s pre-professional-styling days of celebutantes attending red carpets in thongs paired with denim minis and Paris-Hilton-style spangly tops. Well, on Paris Hilton anyway…

It was a carefree era of casual style and minimal social media, when the most important thing you had to think about was who should be in your top eight on Myspace.

Today, social media is about money – and lots of it. Whether it’s showering influencers with extravagant gifts in order to get your product out there, or paying them to do it, influencer marketing is everywhere – and it works.

We recently saw the ‘return’ of the Dior Saddle Bag (again, from the early ’00s) via strategically seeded blogger posts, all timed within 48 hours of each other. Basically, if you’re a human on Instagram, you couldn’t have avoided seeing a post with a Dior bag in it.

Flash forward to Copenhagen Fashion Week last month, and again at New York Fashion Week this month, and this time Havaianas are having their moment on the feet of fashion influencers everywhere. They even walked down the Dion Lee runway, if that wasn’t enough cred to get you dusting off your old pair. But was this a legitimate trend – or more branded strategic marketing?

Lee, on the one hand, told Who What Wear that the choice wasn’t exactly editorial, explaining that he worked with Havaianas on the collaboration:

“The Australian lifestyle has always been a strong source of inspiration for me. Working with Havaianas, we integrated such a quintessential Australian footwear style in with the overall collection. They are such an iconic Australian look, we loved being able to include them in our NYFW show.”

The influencers? Well, that’s a little harder to discern. You see, they barely disclose at the best of times – if the minimal disclosure from the recent Dior drop is anything to go by. It is hard to imagine that this was simply a gifting situation – what blogger worth their salt would take a pair of $16 thongs in exchange for a post?

So it was either paid for, or genuine trend-based momentum following on from the Olsen twins’ recent obsession with the humble thong. Funda Christophersen tagged Havaianas in her post at CFW, albeit not specifying for what.

Cecilie Thorsmark neither tagged the brand, nor specified it was sponsored, and neither did Emili Sindlev.

Admittedly, Tibi also sent thongs down the runway, and they weren’t Havaianas – as did Zimmermann. So the humble thong does seem like a genuine trend taking off. For the minute, anyway.

I do know one thing, however, if the recent Dior Saddle Bag blogger-seeding was anything to go by: if it seems suspicious, it probably is.

Follow Bianca at @_thesecondrow or listen to her podcast at @thefashionpodcast.

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