IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Famous on Instagram

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Aug 23, 2013

Boutique owner Yoyo Cao reaches for her phone at least once a day to snap a photo of what she is wearing.

She started documenting her outfits on Instagram, a social media application, as a hobby about a year ago because she was interested in photography and fashion.

But she has since found that it is a good marketing tool as well.

The 25-year-old, who owns Exhibit, a boutique at Far East Plaza, takes pictures of her outfits every day to show the 21,000 followers of her Instagram account, yoyokulala, how to mix and match items from her shop with other pieces.

It is the only form of advertising she uses and, out of all her 21,000 followers, only about 100 are her friends.

"I've noticed that business has become better with the increase in the number of followers," she says.

She adds that she gets customers going to her shop armed with their phones, asking for entire outfits that were featured in her account.

Ms Cao is among the many tastemakers showing off their styles on Instagram.

The photo-sharing application was started in 2010 by two Stanford graduates, Mr Mike Krieger and Mr Kevin Systrom. They sold it to Facebook in April for US$1 billion (S$1.26 billion). With 130 million users worldwide, it offers filters and editing tools which allow users to enhance photographs and broadcast them with the click of a button. In turn, followers can "like" what they see.

Fashion, food and travel are among the most photographed topics on Instagram.

Fashion stylist Karen Ng, 41, says that uploading pictures of what she wears, also known as OOTD or Outfit Of The Day in Instagram-speak, allows people to take fashion cues from her.

"I do it when I feel like I've captured a great dress-up moment; it's a compilation of my different looks," says

Ms Ng, who styles socialites and professionals such as bankers and doctors.

Within a year of opening her Instagram account - karenngkarenng - she has garnered more than 5,200 followers, of which only about 150 are people she knows personally.

POWERFUL MARKETING TOOL

While many of those with large followings have blogs, they say that Instagram allows them to reach out to more fans because it is more immediate than blogging or going on Facebook.

Ms Linda Hao, 23, a designer and DJ, used to upload photos to her blog, but she now uploads them to Instagram several times a week under her account lindahaoliyuan.

"With a blog, you have to upload the pictures from your digital camera and edit them; only then can you post them on your blog. With Instagram, it's instant," says Ms Hao, who blogs only about once a month now.

In Ms Cao's case, her shop's Facebook page would get only about 10 new followers a day, but her Instagram account gets about 100 new followers daily.

One of her followers, student Elizabeth Seow, 21, agrees that Instagram is a more convenient way than blogs to keep up with her favourite style icons.

"I can view all their pictures on one platform. On their blogs, there is a lot of text. Now I can skip that and go straight to the visuals."

It is no wonder that fashion brands have jumped on the Instagram bandwagon. Luxury labels such as Celine and Louis Vuitton each has more than 100,000 followers, as do designers such as Rebecca Minkoff and Prabal Gurung.

A spokesman for Club 21's digital marketing team says Instagram is a useful tool in helping the home-grown multi-label retailer reach out to new customers. "We connect with customers on a day-to-day basis by answering comments and queries about our posts and the products posted," says the spokesman. Since it joined Instagram in 2011, Club 21 has garnered more than 8,700 followers.

In an e-mail interview, Mr Daniel Saynt, creative director of marketing agency Socialyte in New York City, tells Urban that Instagram is a powerful marketing tool that gives brands the ability to expand beyond what is published in magazines.

"Facebook and Twitter provide ways for brands to connect with fans, but Instagram provides a way to tell a story," he says.

Adding to the appeal of Instagram is its video function, which was launched in June and allows users to post videos of up to 15 seconds long.

Ms Hao, who has 25,000 followers, says she occasionally uses the video function to capture her outfits better. For instance, details on a long skirt can be seen only when the wind is blowing.

DARK SIDE OF INSTAGRAM

But with the good, comes the bad. Some Instagram accounts have become a medium for showing off wealth. Take, for instance, the Rich Kids Of Instagram blog, which has become so popular it is being made into a reality TV show.

The blog is a compilation of photos taken from the Instagram feeds of wealthy young people all around the world.

It includes images of fast cars, watches that cost tens of thousands of dollars, meals at Michelin-starred restaurants, Hermes bags and other extravagant purchases.

On their photos, these "rich kids" add hashtags such as #hermes or #christianlouboutin, so people know what they are flaunting.

Local Instagrammers who frequently post pictures of their pricey possessions, such as socialite Jamie Chua, 38, and entrepreneur Kane Lim, 23, have been criticised by netizens for being show-offs.

Through her account ec13m, Ms Chua gives her 88,000 followers on Instagram a glimpse of her high life by uploading pictures of her expensive outfits, outings with friends and, notably, her extensive Hermes Birkin bag collection.

Mr Lim, who goes by kanelk_k on his Instagram account, is among those featured on Rich Kids Of Instagram, but it is something he says he is not proud of.

"I don't want to be associated with popping bottles and posting receipts," says Mr Lim, whose Instagram account is filled with pictures of his extensive designer shoe collection - more than 200 pairs at last count - which includes brands such as Christian Louboutin and Giuseppe Zanotti.

Despite the negative comments, Mr Lim has more than 27,000 followers, including pop star Rihanna, and the number is growing.

Psychologists say Instagram can breed insecurity in both the user and the viewer.

"It tends to create resentment and anger because those who work hard but do not have such means will be filled with disappointment, regret and envy," says Mr Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre.

"The person who owns the Instagram account may get more egotistical if his audience gets bigger and he gets more responses. As a result, he may need to do even more to uphold his standing," he adds.

Agreeing, Dr Brian Lee, head of the communications programme at SIM University, says: "Pictures can say a thousand words, but they can also hide a thousand problems. Photos may not reflect the reality."

Dr Lee notes that as social networking sites, such as Instagram, gain popularity, counsellors are also seeing a rise in youngsters seeking help for self-esteem problems.

But engineer Eric Ng, 29, says that Instagram can also help to motivate people.

"Many of us may not be able to afford the luxury items, but we can aspire to own them one day," says Mr Ng, who follows Australian blogger Nicole Warne (garypeppergirl) and model Miranda Kee (mirandakerr).

"Of course, many are just showing off, so I'll only follow those who are also stylish."

staceyc@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Aug 23, 2013

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YOYO CAO, 25, OWNER OF EXHIBIT, A BOUTIQUE IN FAR EAST PLAZAInstagram: yoyokulalaFollowers: 21,000

Originally from Macau, Ms Cao, who is single, has lived in Singapore for 10 years. She uses her Instagram account to promote her shop as well as show off her personal style. Many of her photos are stylishly shot, use interesting effects and show her in quirky poses.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

I've always been interested in photography and this is a way for me to show people how to mix and match items. I don't believe in wearing labels from head to toe. Money cannot buy style.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

From Monday to Friday.

Describe your style.

It's minimalist. I'm not girly; I wear more pants than skirts.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

Mostly my friends and my boyfriend. They're very supportive. When we get a perfect shot, they will shout "Yes". My friends also post OOTD photos. If I'm around, I give them tips on how to pose.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Celine, Alexander Wang, Givenchy and Maison Martin Margiela.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

Denim shirts and shorts. I love denim.

I try not to take pictures during weekends, just to draw the line somewhere. I don't want my life to become too public.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

Los Angeles-based fashion blogger Jayne Min (stopitrightnow). She also posts OOTD photos. Her style is similar to mine and I like how she mixes clothes from Zara and Topshop with designer labels such as 3.1 Phillip Lim.

What else do you shoot?

I travel a lot, so I like to take pictures of the places I visit. Japan, South Korea, Thailand and, of course, Macau, are just some places I've posted pictures of.

What is the worst comment you've received?

I haven't really had any and I wouldn't respond if I did, because everyone has their own opinions.


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KANE LIM, 23, ENTREPRENEURInstagram: kanelk_kFollowers: 27,000

It is no wonder that this Los Angeles-based Singaporean has made it to the Rich Kids Of Instagram blog - his account is filled with photos of his huge collection of Christian Louboutin shoes, designer togs and lots of bling. Pop star Rihanna is one of his followers and even helped him pick between two jackets to wear to her Diamonds World Tour concert in Los Angeles in April by commenting on his account. The bachelor recently started his own bespoke line of jackets and handbags.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

To share my passion and also to get inspired by incredible people every day. It is great to find so many people out there who share my interest in fashion.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

Every day, even when I'm travelling. As long as there is Wi-Fi, I'll Instagram my outfit. Fashion never stops. I want to be known as someone who dresses up daily and who is a representative of men's fashion.

Describe your style.

Bold, wild, crazy and gloriously free. The great Coco Chanel once said: "In order to be irreplaceable, one has to be different". That is why Coco Chanel is Chanel and Kane is Kane. I always say, why blend in when you can stick out?

Who takes your OOTD photos?

My friends, my helper and just random people, such as the valet or sales representatives of shops that I'm at. I'll take a selfie (self-portrait) if I can't find anyone.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Most definitely French labels, such as Balmain, Givenchy, Chanel, Hermes, Cartier and Christian Louboutin.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

I dress up even to go to the doctor's or the supermarket. There's never a dull moment.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

My friends, socialite Jamie Chua (ec13m) and stylist Nini Nguyen (ninistyle).

What else do you shoot?

Cars, food, art and my pets.

What is the worst comment you've received?

Some people assume that because I'm Chinese, my things must be fake. Negativity makes me stronger. I focus on the positive comments and they inspire me to take risks in fashion.


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KAREN NG, 41, PERSONAL STYLISTInstagram: karenngkarenngFollowers: 5,271

Ms Ng, who is single, provides styling services to professionals such as bankers and doctors, as well as socialites. Her photos show her at local and overseas fashion events, as well as hobnobbing with celebrities such as former model Yasmin Le Bon.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

In the past, I would put a whole new look together and just take it off at the end of the day. I realised that it was such a waste, as so much effort went into putting it together. I decided to take pictures, so that I remember the look.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

About two or three times a week. It's not a daily diary. I upload only when I want to show a different style or outfit. Getting followers and likes is not my focus.

Describe your style.

It's eclectic, dramatic and bold. I always want to make a statement. I'm always looking for interesting structures and striking silhouettes.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

Usually friends or random people on the street who look happy - if the person isn't happy, you'll never get a good shot. Because I'm using a mobile phone, I need to take about 20 photos before I get the right shot. I'm quite a pain and some of my friends are quite agitated with me already.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Balmain, Givenchy, Mugler, Christian Dior, Celine and Chanel.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

My casual look involves throwing on a Givenchy or Balmain T-shirt. I don't usually post pictures of myself in my casual clothes because they would all look the same. The only thing different would be my accessories.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

Former Harper's Bazaar Russia editor Miroslava Duma (Miraduma) and editor-at-large and creative consultant for Vogue Japan, Anna Dello Russo (annadellorusso). They're trendsetters and I get inspiration from them to style my clients.

What else do you shoot?

Art and also food, but only at restaurants that are difficult to get in, so that people who can't get in can see what the food is like.

What is the worst comment you've received?

I'm lucky, I've had only two "haters" so far, who called me names. I deleted their comments and blocked them.


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MAX ANG, 23, SALES ASSOCIATE WITH CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTINInstagram: maxan9Followers: 6,267

Mr Ang, who is single, is known to his followers for emulating the style choices of K-pop star G-Dragon - think loud prints and coloured hair. A friend of popular Instagrammer and socialite Jamie Chua, he often posts photos of them together.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

To help guys who are more conservative in their fashion choices. I want to show them that dressing up can be more than wearing a grey or black suit.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

Usually every day.

Describe your style.

I try to dress in all ways: street, formal, casual and crazy. Dropped- crotch trousers and studded Christian Louboutin sneakers are among my wardrobe staples.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

Friends or strangers if I am desperate to share my outfit and my friends aren't around. I don't feel weird posing in front of strangers. I don't really care what people think.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Rick Owens, KTZ, Balmain and Hermes. I also wear Zara. I'm always seen in Louboutin shoes because most of my outfit shots are taken on days when I work.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

I always make it a point to dress up; it has become a habit.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

My friends Jamie Chua (ec13m) and Arthur Soo, a sales associate at watch retailer Yafriro, (arthurkinggggg). We exchange fashion tips.

What else do you shoot?

My designer shoes, T-shirts and accessories. I don't feel bad about showing off my items because I work very hard and I'm proud of them. I spend about $2,000 a month on shopping. I get a discount on Louboutin shoes but I have to buy them at full price if I reach my allotted limit.

What is the worst comment you've received ?

Occasionally, I get comments about how I don't dress in a very "masculine" way. I respond to some of them by saying "it's all right if you don't like it, it's my style".


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SHAREL HO, 39, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF DEFRED JEWELLERSInstagram: sharel89Followers: 1,968

Mrs Ho, who was born in Ipoh but is now a Singaporean, is married to Mr Fred Ho, the owner of jewellery shop, DeFred Jewellers, who is in his 50s. They have two daughters. She joined Instagram at the end of last year. Her photos show her at society events and riding horses at the Singapore Polo Club.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

It's entertainment for me. I'm quite vain; I think I'm the only one among my friends uploading outfit pictures. Every woman should be vain to a certain degree; only then will she take care of herself.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

Almost every day.

Describe your style.

Girly, but from last year, I decided to try edgier looks, such as putting on a denim jacket with a very feminine organza skirt. I just want to be more versatile and to have more fun with my looks.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

My daughters, Khailie, 14, and Khailing, 10, and my helper Loreta Tablizo. I don't need to train them as they're natural at taking photographs. They are the ones telling me what poses look good and if my hair is out of place.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Miu Miu, Lanvin and Alexander McQueen.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

Shorts and singlets from brands such as Alexander McQueen and Zara. I post pictures of myself and without make-up sometimes. We don't have to be perfect all the time.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

Malaysian model Venice Min (venicemin) and other Asian celebrities. Asians are more petite, so I identify with them better.

What else do you shoot?

Almost all my photos are of my outfits. I just want to concentrate on fashion. I started horseback riding three years ago, so I also have some photos of me horseback riding, taken by my trainer and rider friends.

What is the worst comment you've received?

I haven't had any so far. I think it's because I don't identify what I'm wearing through hashtags. It's about my fashion sense and not the brands. You have to put yourself in the position of others - not everyone can afford luxury items.


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NICOLE WONG, 24, CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND CO-FOUNDER OF WOMENSWEAR BRAND AMEN AND MENSWEAR LABEL CRAWFORD & SONSInstagram: ncwongFollowers: 4,855

Ms Wong, who is single, graduated from Lasalle College of the Arts in 2009 and started her clothing labels in 2011. Dark and edgy outfits and jewellery feature heavily on her Instagram account.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

To showcase my clothing brands and also to show people how to mix and match other clothing with items from my brand.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

It's usually spontaneous.

Describe your style.

Minimal and clean, with a mix of tailoring.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

My fiance, Mr Clinton Leicester, 25, who is the co-founder of my brands. My photos are almost always shot against a plain background.

What are some of your favourite brands?

Apart from my own brands, I like Ann Demeulemeester and BLK DNM, as well as jewellery brand Beneath The Roses and local hatmaker Hat Of Cain.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

Usually jeans and Chelsea boots. Why not?

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

That's tough as there are so many who inspire me creatively. For instance, some Instagrammers I follow find ways to turn ordinary things, such as magazines, into tables.

What else do you shoot?

Clean interiors and greenery. I've always loved being outdoors. Clean and minimal interiors reflect what my two brands are about.

What is the worst comment you've received?

I am very fortunate that people have been very nice and open. So far, nothing negative has hit me and, if it ever does, I doubt I will be bothered. I believe different people have different views and opinions.


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LINDA HAO, 23, DJ AND OWNER OF ONLINE CLOTHING STORE, YESAHInstagram: lindahaoliyuanFollowers: 25,000

Originally from Shanghai, Ms Hao, who is single, moved to Singapore when she was seven to attend school here. She is known for her love of brightly coloured outfits, which she occasionally posts videos of.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

It's not about showing off. I love taking pictures and I love fashion. The two just come together.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

I upload whenever I'm dressed nicely. It can be every day; it can even be twice a day.

Describe your style.

I'm very versatile and I love to explore new trends and unusual fashion accessories. I'm a very colourful person.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

Most of the time, it's my boyfriend, Jacky Lee, 28, a film-maker. But if I can't find someone to take them, it's no big deal.

I am usually the one telling him what to do; they are photos of me after all. But normally, we just take one picture as there's no such thing as a perfect shot.

I take videos once in a while if they help to bring out certain details of my clothes, but it's too time-consuming.

What are some of your favourite brands?

None at the moment.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

Boyfriend jeans and T-shirts. It really depends; I would if I'm doing something hilarious or Insta-worthy, such as wearing bedroom slippers in public.

Who are your favourite instagrammers?

New Yorker Naomi Davis (taza).

She is a hipster mum of two super adorable kids. I need to look at her pictures before going to bed or when I'm feeling down. She posts mainly pictures of her kids.

What else do you shoot?

I love shooting special moments, such as when I'm having fun with friends. Instagram is a way to collect memories as no one prints photos any more.

What is the worst comment you've received?

I always take photos of myself in different make-up looks. There was one person who kept questioning each make-up shot and asking me if I was a boy or girl.

Perhaps because I have short hair and the pictures were in black- and-white, he could not tell. I reported and blocked him because he did it more than once and my friends kept stepping in to defend me. I just didn't want a commotion. I'll block people if they ask stupid questions repeatedly. Simple.


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VALERIE WANG, 22, STUDENT Instagram: valerie_wangFollowers: 10,000

Ms Wang, who is single, is an illustrator who studying in fine arts at Lasalle College of the Arts. A part-time model for some blogshops, she is known for her casual and chic style. Her Instagram account, which she started about a year ago, has a clean and simple aesthetic. Some of her photos are shot with a digital camera, while others are shot with her mobile phone.

Why do you upload Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) shots?

It was partly a "monkey-see- monkey-do" situation; some of my friends were using Instagram and uploading outfit photos and I wanted to see what it was about.

I'm also paid to showcase clothes from blogshops that I model for and I find that Instagram is the fastest and easiest way to share what I'm wearing. I don't think I'm popular; it's mainly exposure from the blogshops.

How often do you upload OOTD shots?

Almost every day.

Describe your style.

Simple and casual. I wear flip-flops a lot. People may say it's sloppy, but it works for my style.

Who takes your OOTD photos?

Most of the time, my maid as she is the only one at home. All the filtering and editing is done by me. I tell my maid what I want her to do and she just snaps the picture.

What are some of your favourite brands?

I'm not into brands. I'll wear whatever looks nice.

How do you dress on lazy days? Do you post pictures on those days?

Every day is a lazy day; I dress with comfort as a priority.

Who are your favourite Instagrammers?

American leather goods brand, Stitch and Hammer (stitchandhammer) and interiors blogger Jennifer Hagler (amerrymishap). They're not celebrities, but they have pictures of nice products and home interiors.

What else do you shoot?

My illustrations. They don't get as many likes and comments as my outfits, but it doesn't bother me. Art, like fashion, is subjective.

What is the worst comment that you've received?

I have not had any bad comments, but if I did, all one has to do is to ignore them.

PHOTOS: COURTESY OF YOYO CAO, KANE LIM, KAREN NG, SHAREL HO, MAX ANG, NICOLE WONG, LINDA HAO, VALERIE WANG