Influence In the Time of COVID-19: Fireside Chat with @LevitateStyle

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With shelter-in-place protocol now seemingly extended, influencers and the influencer marketing industry have been forced to innovate and adapt to this new and uncertain landscape. However, agencies, brands, and influencers alike have taken this global “pause” as an opportunity to get creative with their campaigns and original content. 

From a macro-trend perspective, marketers are seeing an increase in purpose-driven content as well as light-hearted quick-hit content on TikTok. In fact, TikTok has seen a global surge in downloads, activity, and content during the quarantine. Many influencers are using this time to experiment with new platforms and styles of creating content, such as TikToks, IGTV tutorials, and podcasts especially as experiential campaigns have come to screeching halt until Fall 2020 at best. The term “stronger together” is proving true for many as influencers and brands as they rely on their developed, trusted, and pre-existing relationships to press onward with sponsored content creation despite drastic drops in marketing budgets and resources.

Leo Chan (@LevitateStyle)–an established fashion, menswear, and travel influencer in New York City has actionable insights into how influencers navigate the new world of brand collaboration, especially those living in New York City, the now alleged epicenter of COVID-19. Leo’s story and rise to “Influencerdom” is a relatable one for many. Uninspired by the demanding schedule of a conventional career in the city, he invested in himself and his skills to align with his girlfriend and co-founder of Levitate Style, Alicia Mara. Together they built a website and brand to leverage his passion for style as a creative outlet. Find out how he’s making the most of the new normal living in New York City.

Q: As someone who’s made the transition to a “full-time” influencer, how has the impact of COVID-19 forced you to innovate or change the way you approach working with brands?

A: It’s understandable that brands are dealing with different issues during this time such as changes to their marketing budgets, if and what products to promote, and how to reach their audiences. Some of my sponsored projects have been delayed or canceled. A few press trips/work trips were also canceled. This is where the relationships I’ve built with agencies and brands have proven to be key. Together we’ve helped each other navigate with the right messaging and light-hearted content such as IG story takeovers. I keep building those relationships so when things turn around, we will likely work together again.


Q: In your opinion, what brands have done a great job during this time? 

A: I love how my brand partner, Express, has navigated through this difficult time without much of a roadblock. Express has shifted its focus to feature WFH outfits that are relatable for most people, has continuously worked with influencers of diverse backgrounds, and stayed true to their ethos as a real brand worn by real people. 


Q: How have you navigated branded and sponsored language or sensitivities around promoting products during this time?

A: At the beginning of lockdown, Alicia and I quickly realized the importance of giving back and helping those less fortunate during this time - whether that be to refugees affected by COVID-19 or essential healthcare workers and medical professionals. Before taking on any new sponsored projects during this unprecedented time, we wanted to use the platform of @LevitateStyle as a vehicle for social good and let our audiences know that we’ve pledged to donate 10,000 meals to Food Bank NYC and have continuously donated to various efforts to help fight COVID-19 such as providing PPE.  So with every campaign and brand we work with, a portion of that goes to COVID relief. 

For any new partnerships, the sponsored content needs to be relatable and light-hearted. My content has shifted to staying at home like dressing up for weekly date night, friends video calls, and casual style TikTok videos.


Q: How has the shelter-in-place order impacted your content creation process, and what are some of your workarounds? 

A: It’s a great reminder to work with what you have. I’ve been cleaning up the apartment and arranging things to capture content in different ways. For example, while tapping into pre-COVID nostalgia with throwback content has been a huge trend, we’ve also been playing around with video backgrounds and leaning into music-based challenges to tell a story with content. Having a routine can help the week become more organized and go by quicker - I shoot all my TikTok videos on Saturdays.


Q; How are you innovating and staying relevant in regard to your content and day-to-day strategy? 

A: Balance is the key here. I’ve been posting some light-hearted TikTok style videos and integrating them into my feed alongside my usual style and travel content. By keeping a pulse on what’s popular and trending on TikTok, I’ve been tapping into “challenges” (ex. the #wipeitdown challenge,  #catwalkchallenge, #mirrorchallenge, or duets with other influencers like charlidamelio) with a fashion twist in the caption, and have seen a lot of growth and interaction on TikTok. 

I’ve also been active on being a guest on multiple podcasts to continue telling my personal story of going from immigrant to influencer, from finance to fashion. People are still consuming content but in more diverse forms.

We started two brands during this time–Levitate Collection, my first design merch line and Wear For Humanity, a t-shirt line in which - 100 percent of the proceeds are donated to Get Us PPE and Doctors Without Borders. We learned how to start a brand and online store while making marketing content in our apartment against a blank wall.

I’ve been growing my TikTok account to 50K followers with daily video uploads and I’ve maintained my YouTube channel by consistently posting 1-2 videos weekly.

Q: What are your predictions for how the influencer landscape will change, and what lasting effects or silver linings do you think will sustain as a result of COVID-19, if any?

A: This is a great time for influencers to try out new things such as sharing their hobbies and interests, testing new platforms like TikTok, YouTube, and podcasts. Brands that have built good relationships with their influencers will continue to work together as they trust each other in their voice and content. Brands will see the importance of social media, online presence, and e-commerce sales as in-person/physical stores/events will be limited in the coming months.



Colin Croughan is an Account Manager at 1000heads. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and visit him at
June 01, 2020
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