In recent years, in the Blogmeter, Forbes, Lyst and Financial Times rankings, Chiara Ferragni is the only Italian to be mentioned among the most influential international women in the world of fashion and beyond. Her voice, progressively more reliable, describes the everyday life of a businesswoman, mother, woman and the dreams of a young girl using the tones of positivity, without excluding references to current affairs.
«Art and philosophy have to deal with phenomena, with public figures that have transformed our public space, our contemporary imagination. If there were a spirit of the times, […] Chiara Ferragni would probably be its perfect declination», says Lucrezia Ercoli, speaking of her latest book, Chiara Ferragni. Filosofia di una influencer. With a pop-philosophical perspective of analysis, Ercoli strips the Chiara Ferragni-phenomenon of both the moralistic and apocalyptic visions that make her the symbol of our decadence and the laudatory and hagiographic tendencies that unconditionally elevate her.
But why, like the dandelion with a gust of wind, the influencer spread everywhere in a vast and unpredictable range of action? Two aspects have made the Chiara Ferragni-phenomenon powerful, persuasive and effective: imitation and storytelling. In addition to these aspects, there is the timing of usage of the new media to stand out from the crowd at a time when, as soon as they were created, the possibilities they offered included less ruthless competition than today.
Chiara Ferragni and the myth of normality by everywoman
One thing is certain: Chiara Ferragni is a myth. In the age of new media, The Blonde Salad‘s creator offers a model of identification that does not generate inferiority complexes and whose cult is based on the concept of normality, whether real or presumed. «Chiara Ferragni and Fedez’s life is inscribed in the narrative paradigm of normality», writes Lucrezia Ercoli, «no excesses, no perversions, no addictions, no scandals […] The ordinary normality of a couple of young parents unfolding in an extraordinary context», which tickles everyone’s fancy: living in love, playing with your physical imperfections, enjoying simple things. In short, being happy. And the extraordinary context makes it all desirable.
But there is more. The normality of Chiara Ferragni comes at the culmination of a path that reproduces the one of everyman towards the American dream, the one of the average man without exceptional qualities who dreams of succeeding. One fundamental difference: Chiara is a woman and turns the everyman into everywoman, winking (just like her logo) at the machismo that would like women to be mothers first, and only then entrepreneurs. «Chiara embodies the possibility for a woman to “invent a profession without asking for someone’s blessing”», writes Lucrezia Ercoli, quoting Giulia Blasi about the pedagogical inclination of many accusations levelled at Ferragni as a symbol of the fashion world and vacuity. Therefore, Ferragni-everywoman is the comforting embodiment of the common desire to succeed, to be recognised as unique and talented. It is no coincidence that her mantras are «do it yourself» and «want is power», making her a sort of motivational speaker and exemplum. Indeed, while she could not be credible only as a motivational speaker, given the repetition of banal sentences, her achievements fill the gaps in her speeches and give her the status of a living inspiration.
Speaking authentically = Telling a story
Simplicity, accessibility and positivity are the pillars of the influencer’s intimate and almost diary-like narrative. Criticism, negativity and snobbery have no place in the realm of happy endings that elide (or avoid?) conflict, leaving plenty of room for evidence and tautology. Thus, a dress is beautiful simply because it is worn and described as super cute. On the contrary, those interested in a more complex narrative that adds shadows, tears and the unsaid to the light follow (also) Fedez, who can make Chiara’s pink and glittery storytelling “sustainable”. And yet, even when he seems to be ironically detached from that kind storytelling, as if he were a counterpart to his wife, Fedez «fits it perfectly like the missing piece of the puzzle». For both, the narrative is based on the rhetoric of authenticity, that is the «complex and refined construction» of everyday spontaneity.
The «construction of a grammar of authenticity with the typical language of the contemporary world» makes Chiara Ferragni «more than just a successful marketing phenomenon». The world’s best-known Italian influencer clarifies a paradigm shift: new technologies have catapulted us into an era, the narrative era, which also seamlessly involves marketing. From brand image, we have moved on to brand story; digital storytelling has become a weapon of mass persuasion that produces a collective fable and binds emotions to it, making it a new cultural product. This is where the Ferragnez narrative comes in, in the subordination of sales to the telling of a story, linking the product to a sentiment thanks to the narrator – to the testimonial, to be precise. «Things are no longer just things […] they turn into sentimental things», into «desires for happiness», writes Ercoli. We too prey to a more or less conscious bovarianism, dream and (pretend to) be someone, imitating his/her style to think ourselves different.
Chiara Ferragni promises you happiness
Here, then, is the trigger for the process of imitation, born thanks to the action of a language and a behaviour that implies a promise: you too can be an influencer. That is: you too can be happy. With Chiara Ferragni, happiness is the model to which one aspires, even before luxury, celebrity and a thousand designer clothes. It is inclusive happiness, which on the one hand is based on permanence, affection and domesticity, and on the other hand on nomadism, world travel and conferences. Nothing is excluded. Indeed, renouncement does not seem to be present at all because, at the end of the story, there is everything you could want. No matter that things are not precisely so simple and accessible, «Chiara Ferragni embodies a coming-of-age novel (bildungsroman) for a new generation, up to its neck in mass culture and the consumer system. […] A comforting story that responds to the desperate desire, dormant within each one of us, to be unique and accepted, to make a mark in the world, to discover a talent in which to excel and for which to succeed. And finally be happy».
Ultimately, whether we like it or not, talking about Chiara Ferragni means, to some extent, talking about ourselves, about the «unfinished process of becoming ourselves, of believing in our own desires even if they seem unattainable». We too live in the public space; we build ourselves up inside and outside of social networks, always trying to shape a personal grammar of authenticity that gives us an image of ourselves as close as possible to what we are or what we would like to be.
- L. Ercoli, Chiara Ferragni. Filosofia di un’influencer, Il Melangolo, Genova, 2020
- Lucrezia Ercoli. Chiara Ferragni. Filosofia di una influencer. Il romanzo di formazione contemporaneo, Rai Cultura – Filosofia, https://www.raicultura.it/filosofia/articoli/2020/11/Lucrezia-Ercoli-Chiara-FerragniFilosofia-di-una-influencer-a189f38f-a8b9-4f50-9b62-4050bc830e3b.html?wt_mc
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