Social media is helping people venture outside the fashion norm. Not only can you familiarise yourself with brands, you can also see how clothing fits on people of all sizes and stay in touch with the latest trends.

Instagram has quickly become one of South Africa’s most used and favourite apps – the ultimate data chower. The platform has gained considerable popularity in the country since its official launch in 2012, and now has more than 2.68 million local users – there was a 133% increase in users in South Africa during the course of the past year alone.

With a global community of more than 600 million mobile app users and 80% of people following business accounts (the app has roughly 5 million active business profiles), Instagram has positioned itself to give its users more opportunities to discover and explore something new every time they open the app.

It’s not just a selfie and foodgasm platform, but also a place to find amazing fashion collections.

With Instagram stores offering clothes and accessories at affordable prices, users see the app as an aspirational discovery platform where they can look to celebrities and bloggers for fashion inspiration.

The brand says it’s creating more opportunities and simpler ways to discover products, and strengthen relationships between people and the brands they love.

New way of shopping

Internet-based businesses such as Instagram stores are connecting well with consumers because they offer personalisation, great value, quality service and a unique look – something the apparel industry has been ignoring.

The shift in how people are buying clothes illustrates why it has been easy for consumers to gravitate towards buying from Instagram stores. Shoppers aren’t just browsing in stores and then buying the items online at a cheaper rate as they did during the infant stages of online shopping – these days, it’s a more significant separation from the mall, something that will create big problems for large retail chains.

Retail is increasingly becoming boring as much of the merchandise in stores is old-fashioned, however, there’s a new assortment of products online every day that is presented in a youthful and appealing way.

Big department stores are now fighting a market in which people are buying fewer clothes, spending more time and money online, and demanding more personal and convenient ways to shop.

While Instagram-shopping is a rabbit hole that can suck hours from your life, it’s a great source for finding brands and products from sellers that you may not have heard of.

Instagram stores provide an opportunity for young people who are interested in fashion and retail to sell their merchandise without any start-up capital or the stress of paying rent for a store.

HERE ARE JUST A FEW OF THE AMAZING LOCAL FASHION LABELS AND STORES OPERATING THROUGH INSTAGRAM:

@ELIZABETHSUMMERACCESSORIES

Elizabeth Summer was started in August by salesperson and socialite Jess Clarke, who saw a gap in the South African market for unique, high-end accessories.

Clarke sells a wide range of pretty personalised summer hats (R750), belly baskets (R700), bracelets (R150) and merino wool blankets (R1 600 to R6 500).

She says the range embodies the ideals of living spontaneously and stylishly, and will develop along with the seasons. Email info@elizabethsummer.com

@bagditta

Be daring and add a gorgeous bag to your outfit.

Bagditta has cool handbags, such as stereos (R400), acrylic video camera (R500), winking SpongeBob (R450) and old-school telephone (R350) to add some spice to your day. Email: evodittal@gmail.com

@everyday_runway

You’ll be glad you visited Everyday Runway, an online women’s boutique featuring a wide range of clothing to fit every lifestyle. The brand provides the most current trends at prices you’ll love as much as you love the clothes.

It only sells its items via social media so that it can keep its prices low. Email: info@everydayrunway.co.za

@Dollhouse_by_tamrynwalker

Tamryn Walker sells bespoke Indian sari kaftans and gypsy tops (R500), which she makes with love. Email tammy.dollhouse@gmail.com

@voila_feelbeautiful

Voilà! strives to restore the dignity of the girl child and to empower disempowered women in Africa through its creations.

The main objective of this initiative is to reduce the rate of absenteeism of girls from school because of the lack of access to sanitary pads – with every purchase you make, you’re directly creating employment for one unemployed woman, and a portion of the proceeds generated will go towards purchasing sanitary pads for girls.

The brand uses upcycled T-shirts to create garments. We love brands that try to make a difference! Email: winnie@voilafeelbeautiful.co.za

@streetlinesapparel

Nuraan Samsodien, the founder of Street Lines Apparel, says she created the brand when she decided to cash in all her savings and go fabric shopping. Street Lines embodies the youthful, vibrant and bold South African woman with comfortable but edgy apparel. Email: info@streetlines.co.za