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Over a dozen times a day, my phone chimes with notifications from Substack. Rarely is it a new newsletter from one of the over 60 I subscribe to. Most of the time, it is a chat notification. On a select but growing number of fashion Substacks are a thriving group of active community members who chime in at all hours of the day. They’re weighing in on the fit of a particular brand, questioning how to style something currently trending, seeking recommendations for a certain product category, offering musings about shopping regrets and even looking to offload purchases that didn’t fit.
Among those with the most active comments section is the Substack of Megan Strachan. Strachan is not a writer, but rather the founder of the popular jewelry brand Dorsey, known for its lab-grown sapphire tennis bracelets and necklaces. Strachan started her Substack, “What I Put On Today,” at the start of the year, based on the fact that her 31,000 Instagram followers were frequently asking for links to items in her outfits. The Substack now has over 8,000 subscribers, who, according to Strachan, include editors, writers, entrepreneurs, Dorsey customers and Strachan’s Instagram followers. They often find her Substack through other Substackers who link out to and mention it.
“I’m a woman who loves getting dressed — I always have been,” Strachan said.
On Instagram Stories, she lamented, links to shop disappear in 24 hours — and she’s not a fan of the platform’s Highlights feature. She briefly flirted with its newer Broadcast feature, but disliked its one-sidedness.
“We’re all women who have companies, or maybe families or similar interests, and as you get older, it’s harder to meet people,” she said.
Those who have shown up in Strachan’s comments include Jenna Levine, founder of plant-based skin-care brand Linné Botanicals, and Kerrilynn Pamer, co-founder and CEO of natural beauty marketplace CAP Beauty. Based on the conversation, these are busy, successful women who are looking to the group to find out information like which boots from The Row fit true-to-size and what everyone thought of Khaite’s Benny belt that sold out everywhere.
“It’s like the loveliest form of people helping one another and bonding over something,” Strachan said. “Life has been very heavy over the last several years.” As such, Strachan said, she would never shut down her Substack.
“It almost doesn’t need me to sustain it anymore,” she said. “I didn’t create this community — [rather] it was the women who started the chat threads. … What is cool is that a lot of these women are not putting themselves out there [in the same way] on Instagram, [for example]. But in a smaller community, they’re [comfortable] talking to one another and asking for advice. … It makes the world feel smaller, and that’s such a good thing.”
Dorsey is frequently mentioned in Strachan’s posts, but it’s not a regular chat topic. In fact, when a subscriber recently started a thread asking about Dorsey, another member had to inform them that its founder is the host of the Substack.
For her part, Strachan said, “I just go about my work day and then I check in about once every couple of days. If I have anything to add, I’ll add something.” She’s been influenced by the community to make a few purchases, she said, including some kids’ stuff and a pair of boots.
While Strachan hasn’t explored whether her Substack has driven Dorsey sales, she said she “only [wears] Dorsey jewelry,” so her readers see the product that way. Still, the two have become intertwined in other ways. Strachan is currently forming a focus group for the brand with members of her Substack community.
“Talking to real women has probably been the greatest gift of my Substack,” she said. “There are so many executives that sit behind computers all day thinking about how to market, but they don’t talk to real people. Dorsey spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on Meta ads every year. We’re showing those ads to people, and I want to talk to the people we show them to.”
According to Substack, the total subscriptions in its Fashion & Beauty category are up 80% year-over-year. Christina Loff, the company’s head of lifestyle who helps writers and influencers launch on the platform, said the fashion category has blown up in the past year. “We’ve put more energy behind [fashion] by reaching out to more [new] people and supporting those already [on the platform],” she said.
“We’re trying to cultivate that community” and have worked to make it a place for more than just “serious, long-form writing,” she said.
According to Strachan, her newsletter’s active, commenting community has especially grown in the last few months.
Loff said the ability for the comments section to facilitate conversation has been a draw on Substack. She cited Leandra Medine and her Substack, “The Cereal Aisle,” as an example. “Someone will ask, ‘Where’s the purse from?’ And [Medine] is right up in the comments, answering. I think that’s super thrilling for people to hear directly from her.” Medine’s paid subscriptions range from $5 per month to $50 a year. A $250 annual membership grants access to a Geneva chat.
For her part, Strachan currently does not charge for her Substack.
“I don’t know [what’s driving the community],” Strachan said. “The only thing I can say is that I only post things that I actually wear. There are brands that gift me, but 95% of what I wear, I buy — and there are no paid advertisements. I have a job; this is not my full-time job. It is totally separate.”
Loff mentioned a similar reason for fashion-focused Substack’s popularity: “[For readers] it’s a different feeling than reading an article someone’s written online about a fashion piece that probably has advertisers or where the point of view is stripped down because [the story is] connected to a publication.”
In that way, Substack seems like a plausible answer to the decade-long debate about the future of media, specifically how publications and writers can remain profitable in the changing landscape.
Reva Luft, a Toronto-based fashion stylist who has primarily met with clients via Zoom post-pandemic, also runs a Substack, “Trouping.” Like Strachan’s, it has a vibrant community, of 2,000 followers, eager to discuss all things fashion. Luft was, in part influenced by Medine to get on Substack. Medine launched her Substack in January 2021. Luft immediately followed, though paused the Substack during a busy time, from around the summer of 2021 to this past summer. Like Strachan, Luft gains Substack subscribers via her Instagram (where she has 6,892 followers), press and mentions from other Substackers.
“What I think people love about the chat is that people are writing, and there’s no incentive for them to write,” she said. “These are [just the] honest opinions of like-minded individuals. … I think people feel like, if they love a certain person with a Substack, chances are, they’re gonna love what their audience loves, too.”
Luft is active in her comments section, based on the fact that readers pay to subscribe. Subscriptions cost $5 per month or $45 per year. On December 21, a reader asked, “Hi Reva did you alter the Aligne wool coat? I got the UK 6 and it’s so long on me. I am 5’4 tall,” referring to a coat Luft had mentioned in one of her newsletters. “I did!!! An easy alteration!” Luft quickly replied.
According to both Luft and one of her active commenters, Nicole Rejwan, the excitement around the Trouping Substack calls to mind the early days of social media.
“One of my friends called me this morning, and she was like, ‘I just got a notification from your chat, and then I was reading through [the comments]. It’s amazing.’ [She was like], ‘What is Substack? Where did this come from?'” Luft said, adding, “I don’t know what it will be in a year, but right now, it’s great.”
As for what Rejwan gets out of being in the community, she said, “I can talk about the things like that are hard to talk about — stupid shit, like [learning] how certain shoes fit before buying them, from people who have already purchased them.”
And, while Rejwan can’t afford to shop the way some people participating in Luft’s and Strachan’s communities can, she said, “I get to be in it [through these chats]. And I get to choose my level of participation. … It’s nice that you can go to Substack for community, but you don’t have to get distracted by a million things [like on Instagram].”
But who have to yet made their way to many of these fashion chats are “women who aren’t tall, skinny, human giraffes,” Luft said, noting a lack of body inclusivity.
Many of the things discussed in Strachan’s Substack are prohibitively expensive to the everyday consumer — less so in Luft’s, but still true. Luft is aware of this fact and said, “[Some] people will buy the expensive things, and some people are messaging like, ‘I need something cheaper.’ But a lot of times, people will also message me, saying, ‘I can’t afford anything you just wore, but I wore navy pants and a beige sweater [inspired by it], and I’m so happy.’ And that’s what I live for.”
Spate Trend Watch: Nail art gets a Christmas twist
Christmas-themed nails, a seasonal hit on TikTok, are currently experiencing 58.8 million average weekly views and achieving 300.9% month-over-month growth in engagement, according to Spate data. Amid the holiday season, consumers are seeking nail inspiration and tutorials to add a festive flair to their celebratory manis. The trend extends beyond traditional nail salon visits, with DIY options included — there’s a notable focus on UV nail stickers, which are essentially at-home gel mani stickers.
Nail enthusiasts are exploring a myriad of creative designs, ranging from Santa-inspired looks to charming Rudolph themes, as well as elegant, wreath-inspired designs. Some creative at-home artists are even painting nails to look like cozy Christmas sweaters. The surge in popularity indicates that people are finding joy in expressing their creativity which has worked to fuel engagement.
“As ‘Christmas nails’ takes center stage on TikTok, it goes beyond a trend; it’s a festive movement celebrating individuality and creativity. Brands can tap into this by offering products that resonate with the holiday spirit for a complete vibe,” said Yarden Horwitz, co-founder of Spate.