Made in Italy is immediately recognisable
Tens of thousands of followers, collaborations with some of the biggest companies and best brands, sharing your life on social networks as well as invitations, events, photos, photos and more photos: we could be describing the life of an influencer, but we’re actually talking about KOLs, an acronym standing for Key Opinion Leaders, and which in China – as two KOLs told us last February – is a category that goes beyond influencers to include celebrities, bloggers, vloggers, models and live streamers.
Following the attendance of five KOLS at the previous edition of MICAM, two have returned to visit the fair: Danso and Sarah, who were joined by HiyaSonya.
We took the occasion to meet them and sit down together to ask a couple of questions about their work, Italian style and, obviously, shoes.
ITALIANSHOES: When did you decide to become an influencer? Who inspired you the most to take this path?
Danso: I studied fashion design and I wanted to share what I was learning and who I was passionate about online. This was in about 2006. I then started getting follows from students and young people in general. That’s how I became an influencer.
Sarah: I started very recently. I’ve been a KOL for a year. My background is in TV. I used to work as a presenter and in advertising. I became an influencer because the many people who were inspired by my style asked me to.
HiyaSonya: I’ve been a blogger and an influencer for three years. I studied in the UK. I also used to be a TV presenter but I was looking for a job that would give me more independence.
One day I went to Los Angeles for an event for YouTubers and seeing all these young people doing a job they love, totally free and independent, gave me the push. When I went back to China, I quit my job.
ITALIANSHOES: How would you describe the KOL panorama in China?
Sarah: there’s a great deal of variety. You can find KOLs doing all sorts of things: travel, fashion, cosmetics, food.
ITALIANSHOES: How do you choose the products for which you become “ambassadors”?
HiyaSonya: the most important thing is that you genuinely like the brand or product. If I don’t like it, I turn down the collaboration, even if they are offering me a lot of money [she laughs, editor’s note].
Sarah: I think the most important thing is choosing what’s right for you, what really represents you. Your followers appreciate you for what you are and they’ll notice if you’re wearing or using something you don’t like just for money.
Danso: I agree. I only choose the things I love.
ITALIANSHOES: Like everybody, though, you’re constantly evolving. Tastes change so perhaps something that appears to be “out of line with you” is actually just a reflection of that change.
Sarah: yes and the youngest followers are also the most open in terms of style and taste.
Danso: it is of course important to try new things too. To be daring, pave the way.
ITALIANSHOES: How are Italian brands positioned in China? I’m talking specifically about fashion brands.
HiyaSonya: in China, Italian brands are synonymous with the highest quality, reliability.
Danso: when I see Made in Italy, I know for sure that the quality is high.
HiyaSonya: with shoes in particular, I look immediately for where they have been produced.
ITALIANSHOES: What are your favourite Italian shoe brands?
Danso: for men’s shoes, definitely Santoni. Their colours are incredible.
HiyaSonya: I love Sergio Rossi.
Sarah: I don’t have a favourite brand and I find it difficult to remember the names, because the ones in Italian are so difficult! [She laughs, editor’s note]
I often buy shoes handmade in Florence.
ITALIANSHOES: What does it feel like to wear a pair of Italian shoes?
Danso: comfortable. Comfort is really important. I often create my outfits around shoes.
Sarah: I think Italian shoes can really “illuminate” the whole look.
ITALIANSHOES: What type of shoes are in fashion at the moment in China?
Danso: I think that for young people trends are more or less the same all over the world. At the moment, sneakers are the most fashionable piece to have.
HiyaSonya: it’s very unusual for young women to wear high heels today.
Sarah: we’re all extremely busy doing lots of things. Women need something beautiful as well as comfortable and fashion sneakers are just perfect.
ITALIANSHOES: Did you see anything interesting at MICAM?
Sarah: yes, a lot of things. I liked the MICAM experience in general. I also went to a barber shop. They gave me a 1950s cut.
I was fascinated by all the people at MICAM: they are so elegant and very stylish.
Danso: I met football players. I also noticed how there is a very strong connection between shoes and football players here in Italy.
Sonya: I really loved the Emerging Designers show. I saw some very interesting ideas for future trends.