The concept of influencers can still carry negative connotations in the fashion world, seen as vacuous by some or inauthentic by fashion purists. But there’s no denying that many in the industry- still with no clear sure-fire money-making strategy in a post-print world- view social media as a potential marketing promise land. While the majority of the focus has been on those models who come with the tools of a famous surname, an unlimited budget, and a professionally managed online strategy, there’s a growing number of self-made model influencers with innate social media skill. And it is a skill: the visual curation of their Instagram feeds; the organization needed to schedule and conceptualize content; the ability of knowing how much (or how little) to engage with the following they have built, maintain, and grow; the nuance needed to balance being aesthetically aspirational with enough relatability and likability to sell. Some people just have it, but most don’t. In this new feature series, newfaces highlights the new generation of models successfully navigating the Insta-verse.
Photography Elliott Wilcox for — Styling Tara Greville — Hair Natalie Shafii — Makeup Poppy Micklem
A few years ago Clara Berry was a fashion student in France, just another exceptional girl modeling as a hobby but at a slight disadvantage — though a classic beauty with a look reminiscent of 90’s supermodel Cindy Crawford, at 5’7” Clara is shorter than the typical model. Spotted on the search section of Instagram by Ash Mosley of PRESENT MODEL MANAGEMENT (London) in June 2016, after a brief DM exchange with the London agent Clara was signed and in the UK a week later. Working non-stop from that point onwards, 24-year-old Clara, who was born in New Caledonia and raised in the South of France, has appeared on the cover of Lui Magazine and counts Tommy Hilfiger, Viktor and Rolf, Off White and Diesel amongst her clients. Her burgeoning career can be attributed to the backing of a management team willing to push for her, as well as a blessing of genetics and personal charm. But there’s no denying that there’s another component helping to spur interest: her social media presence.

When did you first start using Instagram?
Three years ago I started to see that Instagram was becoming the new trendy social media. I saw in it a business opportunity that I didn’t want to lose and I started to love the creative part of it, so I did my best to become who I am today.

Were you already modeling and signed with an agency?
Yes, I was modeling for 7 years already. But at the time it wasn’t my goal, it was more a hobby that paid for my bills.

In what ways has social media enhanced or changed your modeling career?
It gave me the opportunity to show who I am beside my modeling career. I can be my own director and show what I love.

Have you received more opportunities and/or interest from agencies/clients now that you have a large following online?
I think that the modeling world changed a lot in the past few years because of Instagram, yes. When clients see that you have success on Instagram you become even more interesting for them.

What have you learned about social media since you started? How has your IG content evolved over time? 
At first, I noticed how hard it was to keep it real when you’re so influenced by the constant judging of what you show to your public. So besides the fact that I wanted my Instagram to be likable, I tried hard to keep my style and authenticity during those years. It’s really easy to do something that will work and [attract] buzz on Instagram just following the codes, and sometimes I know even before posting that a picture will not be understood or loved, but I’d rather be myself and be liked by 10% of the audience than please everybody [while] losing myself.

Do you consider yourself to be an “influencer”? What does that word mean to you?
I do not consider myself an influencer but over time I couldn’t not notice the repercussions of my posts and so, my influence. But it wasn’t my goal at any time. For example, I started to notice that when many girls started to write to me to thank me for helping them accept their body because seeing that I accept mine was inspiring for them. For me, an influencer is somebody who really tries to use their image to influence the public and that’s not my case.

How much time do you spend on creating content each day?
It really depends if I’m in a creative mood or not. But I like to prepare my posts to have coherence in my feed. It can be two hours, more or less.

Do you read the comments? How does negative or positive feedback affect you?
Yes, I read everything, even if now I’m trying to read it a little bit less because you can easily get hurt or influenced by what some people say. It’s funny to see that most of the time we will remember the only negative comment in the middle of a hundred positives ones.

In what ways are you different online compared to how you are in person? 
I understood with the time that you have to choose what you show, now I’m trying to protect myself a bit more, showing less of my private life. But I really think that I’m the same person online and in real life. Same craziness, maybe worse in real life.

Do you think having a large social media following gives models more control over their careers? Is it an asset or do you feel like the two things are unrelated?
Yes, of course, I think that the more you affirm your style with your community the more the clients will see you that way. Then it will attract jobs that fit you more. It also helps me to show what I can do to the clients. But the thing that really gives me control over my career is myself.

Is there anyone you were really surprised or excited to have following you?
Yes, one day Chris Brown started following me and actually commented on one of my posts. I was really surprised… I didn’t expect that at all.

In what ways do you think social media will develop or change within the next few years?
I’m hoping things will not change too much even if I’m already seeing some evolution in the algorithms and the position of Instagram in the industry.

What tips do you have for models who want to build more of a social media following?
Work hard, even harder and never give up.

Quick Questions

Imagine you can only follow 3 IG accounts. Which ones are they?

What’s the strangest DM you have ever received?
Some guy one time wanted to buy all my silk clothes, and when I saw his Instagram I quickly understood what he would do with them.

What’s the last post you liked?

What’s your favorite picture you have posted on your IG?

What’s the last picture you took but didn’t post on IG?
I didn’t post this picture because it’s pretty simple and there is nothing special or artistic.

Follow Clara on IG – @clara.berry.
Thanks to Ash Mosely.