Throughout last year’s apocalyptic pandemic, Black creatives persevered while the rest of the fashion world was rattled to its core and pressured to rethink the industry formula. Among the labels to adapt effortlessly to uncertain times was Telfar. The brand has rapidly evolved into a cultural phenomenon that is internationally recognized by the signature logo featuring Liberian-American designer Telfar Clemens’ initials. Their social media marketing approach is clearly informed by their values of inclusivity and celebrating diversity and it has proven to be a fruitful strategy. What Telfar has done to build a solid core following is something brands across all industries can dissect and learn from when they’re trying to create strong and ethical strategies to tap into multicultural markets, especially through social channels and influencer campaigns.
Telfar establishing itself as a household name began with their vegan leather, logo embossed crossbody bags. Initially released in 2018, the unisex Telfar shopping bags were first adopted by the communities that Clemens himself is a part of; the underground, queer and Black scenes of New York. Not even a year after it’s debut, it began to maintain a ‘sold out’ status on all sites that offered it. The designer of the “Bushwick Birkin” went on to receive prestigious recognition when Clemens received the Council of Fashion Designers of America Award for Accessory Designer of the Year in 2020 and was named one of TIME magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People.’ The bag has also received the stamp of approval from countless celebrities, influencers and politicians.
The global enthusiasm we see around the Telfar brand rests on a foundation of staunch supporters who are largely Black, LGBTQ+ and gender fluid youth. Having one of the most influential groups in the market as your core consumer is bound to garner high demand for whatever they’re buying. This particular demand, however, isn’t fueled by overindulgent consumerism for the sake of instant gratification. People are instead drawn to the brand because they see themselves in it. Telfar is a champion of representation and inclusivity and it is one of the primary factors behind the brand’s success.
“Not for you – for everyone” speaks to a dedication to cultivating a safe space for celebrating a diverse community. Telfar’s marketing approach relies on heavily integrating the groups they reach into their social content by highlighting the different people who bring Telfar into their lives. The best example of this are the campaigns promoting the restocks of certain colors that the bag comes in. Another instance was Clemens’ recent appearance on the Wendy Williams Show where he debuted new colors for the bag, modeled by people who are a part of the communities that make up his core audience. The move to have the face of your brand be the faces of all the people who support the brand is one of the larger takeaways from Telfar’s marketing strategy.
Though it seems a small effort, it allows everyone to see the brand coveted deeply, compelling others to want to have the same kind of connection with a staple item. It tells the audience that they can be a part of the brand experience as they are, instead of having to assimilate to meet a different set of standards in order to feel “a part of.” It also allows the Telfar brand to give everyone who identifies with these multicultural communities something to connect with. This is a simple strategy for building a bond with a target audience that maintains authenticity and is an impactful means of presenting inclusion.
Telfar doesn’t play exclusivity as their ‘it’ factor but instead they promote inclusivity and the total embrace of one’s true self. Their transparency and genuine care for the communities that support their brand have taken them far and secured a devoted following that renders it timeless. When other brands are looking to build strong campaigns that reach diverse audiences, Telfar provides multiple nuanced tactics that can apply to any industry, product or service.
Khariff Tyson is a queer interdisciplinary artist, marketing strategist and a contributing writer for CultureHub. Native to Atlanta, GA., Tyson shares in conversations culture, especially within the fashion industry and global DJ community. Find him on Instagram @darkattribute.