- Hannah Meloche/YouTube
- Generation Z helped bring a new term into widespread acceptance this summer: VSCO girls, teens heralding brightly colored outfits and environmentally friendly items.
- The term comes from an aesthetic associated with the popular photo-editing app VSCO, who told Business Insider it played no part in launching the trend.
- Even after the trend has died down, VSCO saw its downloads jump, and some retailers selling items associated with VSCO girls have seen sales increase dramatically.
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Way before the “VSCO girl” became the internet darling of this summer, there was a photo-editing app named VSCO helping teens and influencers add filters to images and shape an artsy aesthetic behind the scenes of their Instagram accounts.
VSCO is essentially a minimalist version of Instagram: a place for editing and sharing photos without the pressure of like counts and engagement metrics. Although VSCO has sustained itself since its launch in 2011 on its steady presence as an insider’s trick for better Instagram photos, its brand shot into the stratosphere this summer on the coattails of the VSCO girl.
The VSCO girl has been described as everything from the Tumblr cool girl of 2019 to a 90s-meets-surfer-girl vibe, all while accompanied by accessories like scrunchies, pastel t-shirts, reusable water bottles, and metal straws.
But there’s still no clear explanation as to what first drove the VSCO girl’s popularity, which started to spike at the beginning of June. VSCO spokesperson Julie Inouye told Business Insider that the company played no role in the trend going viral, and said that the VSCO girl trend originated “organically” from teens on the platform who are being “unapologetically themselves.”
Teens are VSCO’s key demographic: More than 75% of VSCO’s userbase is under 25, Inouye told Business Insider.
However, there’s little doubt that the boom of the VSCO girl has become an advantage for the photo-editing app.
The trend has translated to nearly 200 million total VSCO downloads, according to app analytics tracker Sensor Tower, with 13 million new app downloads during the summer period between June and August – a 20% increase compared with the numbers from the prior three months, Sensor Tower told Business Insider.
And in Google search trends, “VSCO” gained traction at the start of June, and maintained a fever pitch throughout the summer. Even in November, it still remains a more popular search term now than it was before the VSCO girl summer took off.
The VSCO girl origin story
Before the VSCO girl summer revved up in June, mentions of “VSCO girl” were hard to come by across the internet outside of the photo-editing app itself. Mentions of the VSCO girl didn’t take off on Twitter until this summer, and the small number of tweets from before often employ “VSCO girl” as a diss or jab.
In the timeless world of TikTok – where #VSCOgirl tagged videos have nearly 2 billion views – it’s impossible to tell when the trend caught on there.
Over on YouTube, there are only a handful of videos before June whose titles mention VSCO girls, uploaded by creators with minor followings. “VSCO girl” is also the name of a heavily auto-tuned song that was put up on YouTube back in November 2018 from an artist who calls himself Young Dice.
But on June 21, VSCO girl made its way into the title of its most influential YouTuber yet: Hannah Meloche, a recent high school graduate known to her 1.9 million subscribers for her funny vlogs and relatable aesthetic.
In a 11-minute-long video titled, “the basic VSCO girl transformation,” Meloche and fellow YouTube Haley Pham spend the day doing what they describe as “the most basic typical VSCO girl things” – getting iced coffee, going to a drive-in movie, and using the F2 filter on VSCO for their pictures.
Meloche, 18, told Business Insider that she’s been regularly referred to as a “VSCO girl” since she started senior year of high school in the fall of 2018.
“It’s just a new funnier way of calling someone basic! The average girl just following the trend,” Meloche said in an email. “Just to be clear I’ve been editing my photos on VSCO for years! Before it was SUPER popular.”
Meloche’s video hit 1 million views in just four days – that’s according to VSCO, whose public relations company emailed me for the first time on June 25, with a pitch to write about the “#VSCOgirl viral video.” The VSCO girl trend had already started to take off, and VSCO – although they hadn’t pushed the term before – had quickly capitalized.
The VSCO girl summer is over, but sales are not
- Olivia Cara/YouTube
The “VSCO girl” is not initially identified by her personality, although she is known for her favorite turtle-saving habits and vocabulary favorites “sksk” and “and I oop.” At first glance, a VSCO girl is spotted by the her outfit and token accessories, and some of those associated retailers have felt the impact of her rise.
Software company Bloomreach recently found that a number of products tied to VSCO girls have seen a major jump in sales this year. Three VSCO-girl-favored items – Crocs, Hydro Flask water bottles, and metal straws – have each seen over 200% increases in sales between this October and last October.
Business Insider’s Hayley Peterson reported last month that the cosmetics industry has experienced a decline in sales growth this year, while consumers are spending more on skincare, in line with the “dewy, fresh-faced aesthetic” that VSCO girls favor.
The rise of the VSCO girl is something these brands can’t help but notice, even for those who haven’t seen a significant impact on their sales.
Pura Vida, the company behind VSCO girls’ trendy bracelets, told Business Insider that these teens have been a “big part” of their core consumer base for a while, even if they went by a different name in the past.
To some of these retailers, the VSCO girl is just the latest in a long line of viral trends that lead to rapidly changing consumer preferences.
“Kånken has seen a lot of trends come and go, different groups and audiences identifying themselves with it or using it to tell their life stories and express their personality,” a spokesperson for Fjallraven Kånken, the brand behind the VSCO girl backpack, told Business Insider. “Maybe because we are not trying to follow trends, squeeze Kånken into a box or a make it for a specific target group, it leaves room for people to make it their own.”