How to Pop Your TikTok Cherry with the Class of 2022

by Hetty Mahlich on 27 May 2022

TikTok and SHOWstudio tasked first year Central Saint Martins Fashion Communication and Promotion students with going viral in the lead up to the hotly anticipated graduate fashion design show this week. Here, meet and discover the #FashionFilms of Central Saint Martins Class of 2022.

TikTok and SHOWstudio tasked first year Central Saint Martins Fashion Communication and Promotion students with going viral in the lead up to the hotly anticipated graduate fashion design show this week. Here, meet and discover the #FashionFilms of Central Saint Martins Class of 2022.

With over 1 billion active users, TikTok is the place to be. Last week's bludgeoning new Instagram update, where grid post feeds now mimic stories, was another bonafide indication of TikTok's influence. Creators on the social media platform, like Bryan Boy, Yu Masui and Benji Park, are the new influencers now dominating fashion week's front row. TikTok's fashion content is surging; cultural hot takes by the likes of @digifairy or fashion analysis by Rian Phin frequently go viral. Increasingly, more luxury fashion brands are joining in on the fun, with OFF-WHITE announcing that their next show will be streamed on TikTok. Without a presence on the app, brands risk missing out on marketing opportunities, or even worse, being deemed irrelevant by Gen-Z and Millenial audiences.

Many social media users, students included, remain averse to a platform they reductively view as being nothing more than a place for viral dance videos. Exploring the creative potentials of TikTok with a brand-building exercise, Central Saint Martins, TikTok and SHOWstudio threw students in at the deep end, tasking the first year BA Fashion Communication and Promotion course with the challenge of going viral. Giving viewers an insider's scoop on the world-renowned fashion and art school, students were briefed by TikTok, SHOWstudio's content editor Calum Knight and head of fashion gaming Raquel Couceiro to shadow BA Fashion Designers in the lead up to their graduate show on Tuesday 24 May. Posting behind the scenes and fashion film content with the hashtags #bafcsm22 and #fashionfilm, so far, the project has amassed 18.7 million views for #bafcsm22 across 430 posts.

SHOWstudio's features editor Hetty Mahlich spoke to the students to find out what they learnt, why TikTok is about more than trivial humour, and what goes into popping your TikTok cherry.

It’s a very accessible platform for any emerging creatives or anyone wanting to establish a brand for themselves.

@dotheyknowegotocsm - Sophie Richardson and Italia Minchella shadowed knitwear designer Alice Morell Evans, who received this year's L'Oréal Professional Young Talent Award.

Were you initially excited about the CSM x TikTok project? What were your hopes and fears.

Sophie Richardson: When I first found out about the project I was really excited. While there was some trepidation amongst a few of my peers towards the brief (due to the idea of making TikToks), I immediately recognised it as a great opportunity. That said, I was a little worried when I realised that we were going to be shadowing final year designers as I felt some may consider the act of making TikToks to be too trivial or unimportant. I had never actually made a video on the app before this project so I took it as an important learning experience. I always understood the appeal of the app to be focused on short, fun videos so I just wanted to enjoy the task while experimenting with the app.

Italia Minchella: If I’m honest, at first I was perplexed. However, hearing from the TikTok team and visiting the offices made me excited for what this project could bring to my practice. It opened my eyes to another platform to express my creativity, which I never considered before, and all the opportunities that may come with it.

What did you learn about creating content for TikTok?

SR: I learnt that making TikToks is so easy. There are certain things one should do to appeal to the algorithm, such as using trending sounds and ensuring your video is full resolution but, regardless, it’s a very accessible platform for any emerging creatives or anyone wanting to establish a brand for themselves. I think once you get past certain predisposed judgements people may have towards the app, a world of opportunities awaits.

IM: I learnt to always go into filming with a concept in mind, or everything will get over complicated and messy. But also don’t overwork your idea, interactions happen when the video feels natural and not too staged.

Why did you choose to work with Alice Morrell Evans and how did you approach documenting their collection?

SR: We chose to reach out to Alice because her work has such a strong sense of character and understanding. Hearing her talk through her concept and connection to Mari Lwyd [a pagan festival], her ideas and themes felt very intimate and personal; having family from South Wales, I felt more contextually inclined to document her collection.

IM: I think we both admired the level of consideration and craftsmanship that goes into her work and were very eager to work with her because of that. Additionally, her work comprises so much colour, texture and detail which is something that would be eye-catching to the viewer. We tackled the filming of her collection by initially recording in the fashion studio, for the viewer to gain insight on behind the scenes content of the work and commitment that went into creating her collection. Following on from this, we then were very kindly invited to record content for our short fashion films at her collection shoot, which was located at Alice’s grandparents home. We were immersed in the world that her collection lived and got to hear first-hand about her grandparents memories of the Mari Lwyd festival, which was enlightening and influenced the way we approached the fashion films.

What was the concept behind your fashion films?

SR: For our first film, we wanted to evoke a sense of introspective intimacy and familiarity between the viewer and Alice’s collection. We felt that demonstrating the strong ties between the collection and Alice’s family made it feel more human and create less distance between the collection and the audience.

IM: After speaking to Alice’s grandparents we wanted to tell their stories and keep the memory of Mari Lwyd alive through an artistic medium. The themes of the film comprise of nostalgia, narrative, family memories, nature and tradition.

SR: For the second film, we were also working alongside menswear designer Flora Xu. We decided for this film to completely juxtapose the atmosphere created by our Mari Lwyd film and create a more upbeat fashion film. We wanted to use this film to explore the overlap between 3D modelling and digital fashion and their real world counterparts.

Which type of content did you enjoy making most, and why?

SR: Creating the behind the scenes content for this project was so much fun; to be able to watch the way in which the collection progressed over the past few weeks has been insightful and invaluable. Working so closely with these designers was really enjoyable and what made the brief so special for me.

I loved bringing 3D modelling and digital fashion into this project – it’s something I have a particular interest in. 3D scanning the garments and models and using them to create animations in the appropriate software was very rewarding. With digital fashion on the rise, I’m hoping to do more of this type of work in the future.

IM: I enjoyed filming and editing the fashion film, as its a practice I’m personally interested in. I love creating a narrative through stylised visuals and sound.

What was the biggest challenge in the project?

SR: Personally, I found the biggest challenges for this project were some of the limitations placed on the films we made. Due to the fact that they were to be published on TikTok, there are certain guidelines in terms of audio, aesthetic and more which had to be followed. For example, while submitting, I found that my film had been muted due to copyright restricted music which subsequently impacted the final result.

IM: The biggest challenge for me was time management, as we already had so many projects occurring at the same time. However, this project brought a lot of enjoyment to me, so it felt easier to complete.

@fawnkongsiri - Fawn Kongsiri and Isabelle Martin shadowed fashion designer Abbas Alam.

Were you initially excited about the CSM x TikTok project? What were your hopes and fears.

Fawn Kongsiri: Initially I was a bit skeptical of the project as I wasn’t sure if many designers would agree to working with us as they would’ve been quite busy. A lot of people also have their own pre-conceived views on TikTok; either they love it or hate it, so my main fear was getting someone on board.

Isabelle Martin: I was intrigued by this project, but hesitant about sharing longer content on a platform that is primarily for shorter clips. 

What did you learn about creating content for TikTok?

FK: Through creating content on TikTok, I learnt that what people like on there is very unpredictable. My first TikTok for this project was low effort and very short with no editing, yet it was the most popular. There really isn’t a secret recipe to go viral, no matter what hashtags you put or what time of the day you post. It’s kind of hit or miss.

IM: TikTok is an app that I use to post my personal life, I have never approached it in a creative way. However, l’ve learnt how easy and simple it is to create lo-fi content and the importance of not overthinking, getting the content out there as soon as possible before it ages.

Has the project changed your creative approach to TikTok?

FK: I never considered TikTok as an app that I would approach creatively; it was more so for fun, friends and for me to watch other people’s creative content. However, this project has made me realise how fun it is to use the app in a creative way and share mine and other people’s work. As TikTok has such a variety of content, especially with no context, I feel I can post anything. Even if it’s bizarre or not funny, no one will judge you.

Why did you choose to work with Abbas Alam and how did you approach documenting their collection?

FK: Me and Izzy were struggling to find a designer who were open to the project, as the few that got back to us were already working with other students. We took to the studios and when we approached Abbas he was so enthusiastic and open to the idea that we knew we wanted to work with him. Right away he took us through the inspiration behind his collection; his crazy cat fantasy that he wanted to bring to life, and the sketchbook in which he visualised those ideas. It was a whirlwind of vivid prints, shimmering fabrics and cats absolutely everywhere. He was extremely easy to work with as everyday he had something new and fabulous to show us, whether it was a giant stitched cat head or the prosthetic cat noses his models were to wear. We had endless material to document and he was happy to let us film his journey from start to end.

IM: I documented his collection by filming everything he showed us and later putting all the clips together. I didn’t really overthink it and always considered which sound would fit best for the videos.

What was the biggest challenge in the project?

FK: It didn’t feel as though we faced any major challenges as I enjoyed the project and how it didn’t feel too serious. The only aspect I’d say was challenging was trying to think of a way to make my content engaging and different with each TikTok. However, in the end I realised it was better to not overthink it and just post.

IM: The biggest challenge was how I was going to approach the fashion film. I thought about what I would want to watch and ended up filming BTS from the day of the show. I also filmed so much content that at times I had no idea what to do with it. Overall, I really enjoyed working with Abbas and Fawn on creating successful content together.

@madbymad - JT Yang, Caiqing Zhu and Caoyueying Hou shadowed fashion designer Mata Durikovic.

Were you initially excited about the CSM x TikTok project? What were your hopes and fears.

JT Yang: We were very excited about the project as two of our group members are heavy Douyin (Chinese TikTok) users. We were hoping to create aesthetically pleasing content as the account that the designer handed over to us already set this vibe, instead of entertaining contents that we usually watch on Douyin. This was a fear for us, as this kind of content is way harder to spread and gain views than entertaining content. Although Douyin and TikTok is the same company and share the same function, its target audience and content is completely different. So it was also a challenge for us to find out what kind of videos are popular on TikTok.

What did you learn about creating content for TikTok?

JT Yang: Through the process of creating content for TikTok, we have learned that gaining views and likes is actually a very hard thing to achieve, especially with an account that has only a few followers. Therefore, we are still discovering the right content to push our content to. For one of our group members, who isn’t a TikTok user, she felt the huge difference between TikTok and other platforms. TikTok is the first platform using vertical framing, which means footage we took had to fit the framing. Content wise, it’s always the ones that don't have complex information or in-depth education which spreads the most.

Why did you choose to work with Mata Durikovic and how did you approach documenting their collection?

JT Yang: We chose to work with Mata as she has a unique world in her mind which makes her collection extremely meaningful. During lockdown, she was trapped in her apartment in Paris. To escape from this situation, she began to recall the memory of her childhood, and she created a world for her to escape to. Her grandmother used to remake old clothes into new garments she wore, playing different characters in imaginative games where they teleported and traveled through different galaxies. Besides that, the only way she could connect to her best friend was through FaceTime, which lead to another important element of this imaginary world—the fairy. The fairy could only enter her room on the full moon day, when the crystals can be charged to convert into a source of power to open the portal for the fairy to travel, on the normal days the fairy could only stay in the mirror. This has later become her inspiration and concept for her final year collection—Pink Matrix.

The other important part of her collection is sustainability in luxury fashion and textiles. Her aim is to show the various uses of bioplastics in luxury fashion, while maintaining a high standard of haute couture, proving that luxury can be sustainable. Therefore, the collection was mostly made by bioplastic jelly material, which she has developed into a leather-like consistency.

We were mainly focusing on documenting her materials, as they are very aesthetically pleasing, and we thought this might attract an audience immediately when they scrolling through TikTok. We have also documented behind the scenes of Mata making the garment and shooting the lookbook to attract an audience who want to have a glance at the life of fashion students.

What was the concept behind your two fashion films, and what did you want to achieve with them?

JT Yang: Our film concept is simple: to visualise the designer’s background story, as well as her own ideas about sustainable fashion, and make it into an interesting, easy-to-understand short film featuring her garments. Night of the Full Moon was based on her concept of a fairy living in the mirror and protecting the little girl. A Fairy Tale of Strawberry is a story of a girl from strawberry galaxy eating the strawberry and becoming strawberry itself.

What was the biggest challenge in the project?

JT Yang: The biggest challenge for us was the long film. Normally TikTok users are into short content, because nowadays people can only concentrate for a short period of time. Therefore, making a six minute-long fashion film for TikTok was a real challenge for me. Although I thought of making each scene shorter and have more transitions, due to the shortage of footages, the scenes I could use was limited. As expected, the long film didn’t have as many views and likes.

Content creation had always slightly intimidated me, and without the prompt of this project I probably would not have delved into it.

@agnes.rosenbech - Agnes Rosenbech and Elle McDougald shadowed fashion designer Brontë Crouch

Were you initially excited about the CSM x TikTok project? What were your hopes and fears.

Elle McDougald: Initially, the idea of downloading TikTok did not excite me. However, I realised it was a fantastic opportunity to learn how to use and harness this platform. Content creation had always slightly intimidated me, and without the prompt of this project I probably would not have delved into it.

Agnes Rosenbech: I wasn’t exactly excited about the project initially. I think it felt a bit invasive and scary at first to be honest, the prospect of potentially having to post from a personal account, if say the designer we were to work with didn’t want to post from theirs for the project. All the projects we have at CSM of course reflect our personalities through our artistic voices, but the formats have never required posting on social media, which therefore felt very private to me. Still, I definitely hoped to get some sort of validation through our content performing somewhat okay hopefully, as my main fear was just making a fool of myself and our project falling to the ground. 

What did you learn about creating content for TikTok?

EM: My main takeaway about making TikToks was the importance of quirks and natural expressions. The best videos were always the ones that captured the subject’s natural character. A silly eyebrow raise or cute shuffling walk can make a video.

AR: A combination of creating content being more demanding and time consuming than I expected, but on the other hand realising what does well is the least edited, candid, and naturally funny, not forced, or expressive content.

Which type of content did you enjoy making most, the 'hot take' interviews looked particularly fun.

AR: Elle and I definitely had a lot of fun creating the hot take interviews. I loved the balance in the interactions, with the springing of questions on people and getting their instant reactions and first thoughts on our questions, but on the other hand that also sprung an element of surprise on me reacting to their answers instantly on camera - I think that allowed for that very candid and naturally funny (not at all rehearsed or planned) content, that just works super well. Elle and I had a lot of fun further reacting and writing comments to the interviews when editing the TikTok!

Why did you choose to work with Brontë and how did you approach documenting their collection?

EM: I was introduced to Brontë by a friend who was assisting her. She was eager to sign on to the project and interested to know our specific plans. This was very encouraging, and Agnes and I feel very lucky to have found such lovely collaborator. Her work also stood out to us as something that would show up well on TikTok due to the beads and metallic material. When documenting the collection, we wanted to showcase the detail and incredible skill that goes into her pieces. We also felt it was important to document her as an artist and our experience as documenters. To do this we split the content between her account and Agnes’s.

What was the biggest challenge in the project?

AR: The biggest challenge was probably not overthinking the content, letting go of being too self-aware in order to have fun with it and just go with it! Even posting the first TikTok, breaking that barrier. It was really great doing the project with Elle, a close friend as well as my classmate. I think that allowed for such a safe space being okay with feeling a bit silly and cringey together made it easier.

@nimiwill - Nimie Li had the two most viral videos reaching 8M and 6M views.

Were you initially excited about the CSM x TikTok project? What were your hopes and fears.

Nimie Li: Initially I wasn’t too keen on the CSM x TikTok project as I never really saw it as a creative medium but after the SHOWstudio panel with TikTok, it led me to think more critically about it and how I could take advantage of it. The fear has always been associating yourself/your brand to a platform which at its core does not align with your creative practice. This was also a lot of designers' concerns.

What did you learn about creating content for TikTok?

NL: The power and democracy it has for overnight fame/attention; anybody with a phone could do it. I also feel detached creating content for TikTok; I do not have to be precious with each post I make, it’s like a playground. It is kind of addicting when you’re blowing up; I woke up every morning checking how many views I had gained. I also had fun replying to hate comments in what I consider witty, funny and thought-provoking ways.

Has the project changed your creative approach to TikTok?

NL: Before this project I was just posting whatever I wanted to about my life; during this project I was posting whatever I wanted about the show.

What was the biggest challenge in the project?

NL: Thinking of ideas for the TikToks and the good ideas not going viral :(

What are the three magic ingredients to go viral?

NL: Quantity of videos, just keep posting ! A keen eye for the right moments and a phone with storage to capture those right moments.



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