So, what is High Fashion Twitter? Commonly referred to by its shorter designations such as HF Twitter, HFT, and hftwt, High Fashion Twitter is an online community devoted to discussing luxury and high-end fashion. It is an immensely interactive space, populated by thousands of fashion enthusiasts with usernames cleverly alluding to fashion (i.e. @BOTTEGAHOENETA, @mooglare, @LAVIDAPRADA).
Sharp and lively, HFT has made itself known for its vivid fashion commentary and criticism, often dealt out with unabashed honesty. Unlike other online fashion communities which are more focused on discussing purchases or trends, HFT takes a more intellectual approach, wielding fashion expertise as currency. Though some members may have a real-world relation to fashion, such as being a student or industry professional, others do not have connections to fashion at all.
“HFT is just so accessible and lets anyone and everyone participate in an industry that is seemingly so inaccessible.” – Corinne Bickel (@MIUCCLAMUSE)
Corinne Bickel (@MIUCCLAMUSE) says that the atmosphere of HFT is a refreshing departure from the fashion industry. “HFT is just so accessible and lets anyone and everyone participate in an industry that is seemingly so inaccessible,” she says, noting that anyone on HFT can amass a major following, regardless of their appearance or proximity to the fashion industry. Bickel herself is a senior at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and with an audience of 141k followers, is a key player in HFT.
Other leading voices include Linda Sumbu of @itgirlenergy, who is currently pursuing a Masters in Research in Digital Arts. Based in South Africa, she shares up-to-date fashion commentary on her account of 146k followers. Another is Kea Cauwelier, a lawyer who posts under the handle @jacquemusx to 100k followers, reviewing a scope of topics from runway looks to the latest editorials.
HFT members like Bickel, Sumbu, and Cauwelier regularly draw in thousands, sometimes millions of impressions on their posts, outpacing the engagement seen on the Twitter accounts of established fashion publications. If people on Twitter are into fashion, they’re most likely not getting their news from places like Vogue – they’re getting it from High Fashion Twitter instead.
“I think a lot of HFT sometimes has the influencing power to make things cool or valuable to Gen-Z audiences.” – Rian Phin
In comparison to fashion commentators on Instagram and TikTok, the fashion industry has been reluctant to acknowledge those on HFT. “A lot of people in the fashion industry secretly love or secretly hate HFT,” says fashion writer Rian Phin. “When I go to runway shows and fashion events, sometimes people in the industry who otherwise never interact with me on Twitter tell me about my interactions on Twitter. I think a lot of HFT sometimes has the influencing power to make things cool or valuable to Gen-Z audiences.”
“There are so many times when people take ideas or comments from HFT and use it or monetise it.” – Chloe Kennedy
This type of power hasn’t gone unnoticed within the industry – in fact, quite the opposite. “There are so many times when people take ideas or comments from HFT and use it or monetise it,” says Chloe Kennedy, a freelance fashion journalist and HFT member. “There have been several times where I have written or I’ve seen my friends write things online that eventually get recycled in articles several weeks later.”
Kennedy herself was involved in a more prominent instance of this in April 2020, in which she and several HFT members coordinated the HF Twitter Met Gala, a virtual event held in lieu of the real Met Gala, which had been postponed due to COVID-19. “It was just supposed to be something for the community, but since there was no press about the actual Met Gala happening, publications started picking up on what we were doing and it quickly became something way bigger than us.”
However, publications did more than just take notice. Kennedy recalls that two days later after she and the other event coordinators were interviewed by Vogue, the magazine announced their own hashtag, the #MetGalaChallenge, which followed the same concept as the HF Twitter Met Gala, without any recognition of the latter.
“There’s an ever-growing frustration, that maybe the industry doesn’t quite know what to do with this community or how to interact with it.” – Rachel Tashjian
With ideas being taken from HFT without credit or payment, this industry practice has led to a rise in resentment amongst those in the space. “There’s an ever-growing frustration, that maybe the industry doesn’t quite know what to do with this community or how to interact with it,” observes Rachel Tashjian, a fashion writer at The Washington Post. While publications have increasingly been spotlighting HFT members as important fashion contributors to watch, there is still a long way to go, Tashjian notes.
“What shocks and angers me is that Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and institutions like Vogue, have not done more to work with this community,” says Tashjian. “That’s what I find really odd. I do not understand why.”
Kennedy thinks that the industry could benefit from directly partnering with those on HFT. “There are people on the platform who have hundreds of thousands of followers and have a really large outreach, and they all have valuable things to say,” she says. “It’s not just reposting whatever the brands have posted, but it’s commentary, it’s educational and I think HFT in general just teaches people to critically and intellectually engage with fashion.”
More recently, fashion brands including Telfar and Coach have reached out to HFT members, sending PR gifts and event and show invites. As a whole, the presence of brand partnerships within the space is still relatively fresh.
Now, with the overhaul of Twitter (now X) brought on by Elon Musk since his acquisition of the platform in October 2022, HFT members may have an opportunity to leverage their own influence. The monetisation features of X Premium and Premium+, in particular, have generated interest within HFT, as eligible users could earn revenue through ad impressions and creator subscriptions. It’s a prospect that is enticing to those with large followings and could potentially allow HFT members to gain the same level of recognition as their Instagram and TikTok counterparts.
“What I enjoy most about the HFT community is our commitment to interacting, learning, unlearning and sharing.” – Cydnie Cole (@fellinysl)
There has been discussion on HFT about whether the community could be replicated on another platform, should Musk’s other changes become too intolerable. Despite a number of options being floated as a replacement, Twitter remains the steadfast preference, due to its short-form text format – which is ideal for making quick-fire observations – and more importantly, the existing HFT community.
“What I enjoy most about the HFT community is our commitment to interacting, learning, unlearning and sharing,” says NYC-based producer Cydnie Cole, who runs @fellinysl. “I think it’s very rare to find a place online where there are so many like-minded individuals dedicated to this one subject and developing real-life relationships outside of that space.”
With its priority on sartorial knowledge, many find HFT to be an ideal place to engage intelligently with fashion. One can find thoroughly researched threads analysing a range of subjects, from designers unknown to the Western public to the inspiration behind clothing design, both archival and new.
Furthermore, the space frequently maintains discussions on deeper issues within the industry, from the rights of garment workers to the lack of representation in (frankly all) areas of fashion. Untethered by sponsorships or industry relationships, HFT members are more inclined to convey their honest opinion, levelling criticism that working professionals may be unable to express themselves.
However, due to the casual nature of the platform and its tendency to uphold “clapback” culture, conversations can become passive-aggressive or even hostile. Alexandra Hildreth, a freelance fashion journalist, remarks that the short-form text format that drives Twitter can lead to unproductive interactions. “If you are arguing in a forum that has character limitations in how much you are allowed to type in a single response, by default, the conversation is going to be fruitless and lack a lot of necessary context,” she explains.
Despite encouraging an open, educational environment, HFT can sometimes be found reproducing toxic industry clichés. “Someone can be down your throat, like, ‘Oh my God, you’re meant to be active in this, you’re meant to be into fashion, you’re meant to know everything about it,’” says Maximilian Kilworth. An MA Fashion Image graduate from Central Saint Martins, he once received some harsh DMs from a fellow HFT member after accidentally misdating a Margiela collection. “I’ve got over 30,000 posts on Twitter and I think that’s probably the only time I’ve ever gotten it wrong, right? Simple human error. She was just really kind of piling it on… I was just like, ‘It’s really not that deep, you know?’”
There’s an unspoken expectation for those in HFT to be on the pulse of fashion, 24/7. “A lot of people adopt the elitist mentality of the fashion industry,” observes Kennedy. “Like it’s something to strive for and might possibly be an entryway into the fashion industry if you start to adopt their behaviour.”
Whether or not HFT users are formally inducted into fashion’s fold, having an active presence outside of the industry is nonetheless valuable. “I think that fashion is very unique in the sense that I don’t know any other industry that would be interacting with an online forum of ‘outsiders’ as much as fashion does,” says Hildreth. “With HFT, even if the old guard in fashion treats HFT like a gnat that they’re trying to swat away, they’re still interacting with it. I can’t think of any other industry that would even have that channel of communication.”