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Mood Board to Moneymaker: How Instagram Pages Turn Into Brands

Profiles like @hidden.ny and @jjjjound are cashing in on clothing drops with collborators like Vans, New Balance, and Star Trak.

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Instagram accounts aplenty — @hidden.ny, @jjjjound, @seereverseforcare, @yungwatergun — curate what many call "mood boards." Better explained as ever-growing visual archives spanning reference images, snippets from runway shows, paparazzi photos of particularly memorable pop culture moments, music videos, and sports highlights, they've become quite the sensation — and scalable resource.

“Anything can become a mood board,” the anonymous poster behind account @archivings.stacks said in an interview. “I don’t see my account as a mood board necessarily. It’s just a reference or the base of a thought and things catapult from there, a random stream of consciousness that’s based on what I see and appreciate in the moment.”

These random streams of consciousness flow together surprisingly seamlessly. On a Friday morning, for example, @hidden.ny might post a slideshow comprising portraits of planets without a caption. Hours later, they'll post a picture of metallic green Jordan 1s — again, without a caption. But their crowd gets it. Every single upload is further context for what's to come. It's cumulative, curatorial work with, up until a few years ago, no clear end goal.

Nowadays accounts like @hidden.ny and @jjjjound can parlay Instagram posts into physical products. Namely, collaborations with much larger companies, pop culture icons, and other designers. And these usually sell out quick! Like, really quick. Because these Instagrammers have a better sense for what the streetwear consumer wants, the drops rarely flop.

But the hype can fade fast. Surprisingly, these pages don't do much to slow it down. Alongside a post promoting their own drop, @hidden.ny will introduce another collab coming out the same week from two totally different designers. In the world of uber competitive consumerism, spotlighting someone else's product while you still have inventory left to sell might seem like a cardinal sin. But, by no means are they undermining their own launch.

The account's followers understand the role a page like theirs plays. It's a melting pot of what's new, what inspired it, and who wore it — with a mix of humor and a hefty dose of hedonism. You're supposed to feel inspired by their posts; encouraged to ogle at the nice cars and fancy clothes; prompted to shop a brand-new release; doomed to compare covetable streetwear drops you don't own to the items you do.

Is it the fault of any of these pages that the Internet's turned into one giant shopping mall? No. But, they've proven something: if you can captivate an audience you can surely turn them into consumers. It's why brands like Aimé Leon Dore, Rowing Blazers and Knickerbocker run mood boards, too: Source (formerly Leon Dore), @rbmoodboard, and @knickerbockersocialclub respectively.

These may be a bit more focused, but they provide behind-the-scenes access to the brains behind the brand: what they like, why they gravitate toward a certain style over another, and who they look up to. Further, they're a way to occupy space in the feed of someone who actively avoids advertising. On the occasion when they do cross-promote, it's in the context of the other posts — a part of the puzzle rather than a glaring interruption.

These few brands may be doing it the other way around, but it's clear, evident by @hidden.ny and the herd that follows, a transition from mood board to brand remains entirely possible and plenty profitable. Look no further than @jjjjound's New Balance 990v3, a $285 dollar shoe at launch that's listed for $4,875 on StockX two years later.

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