Special Report: No future without digital – Sophie Fontanel

Sophie Fontanel, writer and journalist “Instagram creates a direct link with others”.

A writer, journalist and fashion enthusiast, Sophie Fontanel has 250,000 followers on her Instagram account @sophiefontanel. Which makes it, of course, an absolute success, but also a textbook case in its unusually skillful distillation of everything that Instagram fans expect. For Première Vision, Sophie Fontanel takes us behind-the-scenes to explain an approach that combines complicity, expertise and a feeling for the times.


When did you create your account and what was your goal?

I launched it in 2015, but I had previously created a blog on the Elle magazine website where I worked as a journalist. It was doing well and allowed me, quite quickly, to understand how much people were looking for a connection. I proposed daily appointments, something very personal. I posted looks I liked and took a humorous approach to decoding the day’s news and trends. When I left Elle, I wrote on my last post that people should start following me on Instagram. The next day, I already had 20,000 followers! Today, I split my time between L’Obs, where I write fashion reviews, and my Instagram. These two media have helped me build my reputation.

How do you explain your success?

It’s about connection, but expertise counts too. I’ve always loved fashion. At Canal +, I had already started talking about it, but it was during my years at Elle that I started to specialize in it, while developing my own unique approach – something at once sociological, funny and authentic, which is very important. On my Instagram, people see me, I show the clothes on my own body. But I rarely reveal my face. This is also a way of making my point, which is to show how well of a job I am doing in dressing myself. My looks are all in line with this quest for a perfect look. I recently was on the cover of Kunel, a Japanese magazine. And I’m very proud of this cover photo which was seen all over the world, because I think I pulled off my look perfectly!

Your Instagram is about more than fashion no?

I don’t have a strategy but I know where I’m going. This Instagram account works because there’s a truth there, and fashion that’s part of a relationship with the world, a way of life. I run my account like a magazine. Various fashion companies send me clothing , I make my choices and my goal is to say what I think of them.  I also buy clothes – at the Monop’, in thrift shops and vintage stores – that help put together a style and a lifestyle. People follow me because they find it reassuring. Some women tell me, “You make me love my age”. I don’t tell anyone what to do, I express a point of view in a subtle way – “I think it’s difficult to wear a miniskirt after 50, but a minidress in summer is fine”.

Has social media helped desacralize fashion?

It desacralized itself –  the show doesn’t have the same magic! Instagram, especially, has shown that fashion could come right into the street and this liberated people, considering how conventional many of them are. This change is also due to the creativity of new influencers. Some, unfortunately, are still just posting the pieces they receive, while posing. They even film themselves unwrapping the package! Where is the work? But I can see a very different, more creative and socially liberated generation emerging. I’m thinking in particular of 25-year-old Jean-Jacques Ndjoli, who lives in Sarcelles and started by reworking his father’s clothing, which he used to build his own looks but most of all an entire universe, with a flair for images that is so captivating and inspiring. Today, he works for big brands even though he might never have been a model or worked for a fashion magazine. Again, you see someone who didn’t fallen into the tyranny of appearances –  his approach is so well thought out.

How do fashion houses use Instagram ?

Most don’t really take advantage of it. They buy followers, distribute content, post slightly stiff images that would be more at home in glossy print publications than on social media. For Instagram to work you have to step into real life, but brands are often afraid of real life. Gucci pulls this off perfectly, with an extraordinary sense of aesthetics and a way to inject color into daily life. What life best goes with these clothes? What relationship is there between the garment and what we feel? In essence, what meaning does a fashion house gives to its fashion. And this question is key, because consumers already know how much each piece costs, which is usually a lot. So they are more than ever asking themselves its reason for being.

What do you see as the next steps of your project?

I’ll continue doing it on my own, that’s the beauty of the adventure. One day, I might not want to post my own looks anymore but I’m not thinking about tomorrow. For the moment, I’m also interested in interior design. A major website has approached me, and I’m going to stage my selections, with the same philosophy.

You once said, “Instagram cured me of everything.”

It’s true! It cured me of the eventual bitterness of being fired from Elle, of the fear of aging, of the complexes I had for so long, of anonymity… I’m now one of the 500 most influential personalities in fashion, according to Business Of Fashion. But Instagram is mostly a place where I can be, think and express myself. I write novels, poetry, and I broke free of the whole promotional system. 250,000 people follow me, I get 400 messages a day. I created a direct link with other people.

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