Instagram is a funny old place: an alternative universe run by algorithms, ruled by influencers and home to 700,000,000 users. A staggering 400 million of those check it every day, and a good percentage of those might do so every couple of hours. It’s all too easy to pass the time scrolling, only to realise that an hour and a half has passed and you've somehow landed on ‘Percy the Pug’s’ profile.
Now for my confession: I’m Florrie and I'm addicted to finding new brands on Instagram. It’s my number one objective, though I also love the part it plays in inspiring my wardrobe, home interiors and lifestyle. That said, I equally love the nosy aspect of peering into people’s lives. When I find a new brand (preferably based in a village somewhere, niche, and handmade) I get a rush of excitement, partly because a huge part of my job involves staying in the know. But really, I think it’s the sense of discovery that brings me joy. I get the same feeling in a vintage store, or better still the sort of second hand store displaying a lycra Kookai top in the window: the Kookai top wouldn’t be for me, but I live for the moment when, after a quick flick through the rail you find a perfectly worn pair of vintage Levis in your size. It's that special feeling that you are the only person in the world to have stumbled on this special find.

As one of the millions, I’m not alone in using Instagram for research purposes. Pandora Sykes, fashion journalist and influencer is of the same mind: ‘I just discovered The Frankie Shop, through Man Repeller’ she explains, ‘And I recently discovered Oresund Iris, through Emily Weiss’.  Like Chinese whispers, only insta-style.

This year, as summer approached and my mind went on a one-track road to baskets, so my photos folder became clogged with screen grabs of brands I’d found while insta-trawling. The discovery of Posse - a clothing and accessories brand based in Australia who stock Balinese basket bags - was a revelation, until I calculated the cost of shipping. Next, Abaca, the most beautiful woven backpacks, also for sale in dollars. Finally, I chanced on Chene, this time based in Stockholm and launched by writer and stylist Fanny Ekstrand. Versatile simple woven baskets at a reasonable price - I’d hit the jackpot.

Although I now own more baskets than any one person needs, it’s this enthusiasm for hunting down new brands that is helping small brands grow. ‘Instagram has been fundamental in growing our brand and creating a world where we show our audience how to get the Missoma look,’ says jewellery label Missoma’s founder, Marisa Horden. Times are changing (or have changed, should I say) and the world of social media is helping the discoverers and the would-be discovered.

For small brands, it’s the way forward: instead of waiting to be featured, they feature themselves; rather than costly wholesale they instead sell direct to the consumer. Pandora agrees: ‘Why do Realisation Par, for example, need to be in other stockists when a picture of a supermodel in one of their little dresses can shift thousands of frocks in the immediate aftermath?’ Horden agrees, ‘Instagram allows us to control how the brand should be seen and what it should look like,’ she explains ‘I feel like we found our brand voice through this platform.’

So, in a world where big consumer brands rule, perhaps my virtual rummaging in the back of the vintage shop is a good habit to adapt, after all.