Are influencers really to blame for fast fashion?

It’s no secret that influencers promote fast fashion across social media but with so many media organisations pointing the finger, are influencers really the ones escalating this issue? Eco Style investigates.

News outlets such as The Guardian and The Huffington Post have written tirelessly about this especially since Stacey Dooley’s documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secret, highlighting ethical problems with our high street brands. With recent sustainability debates in parliament, shocking statistics were released regarding fashion.

Infographic showing the dangers of fast fashion.

When depicting an influencer it can be hard to stray from stereotypes of haul-loving, brand-oriented youth. However, some influencers such as Roanna Dunsford, a model and blogger at RoEco Fashion, base their work around ethics.

When she created her website, she didn’t care about making money and just wanted to make a difference. She said: “I think influencers need to take a step back and reflect on their impact. What are they doing and why? Question themselves and their own beliefs and then follow their hearts. I don’t think these people mean to cause harm. They think they are being helpful. But they could chose to be helpful in a positive manner by advertising eco friendly and ethical products instead, which will influence people for the sake of good.”

Lucy Siegle, a journalist renowned for writing on ethical living, has covered this issue and believes that influencers are adding to fast fashion complications but it is not that easy for them to change their ways.

She said: “They tend to copy content that is already popular which explains why ‘haul videos’ spread like a contagion. The more sustainably focused influencers there are the more younger SM users will copy those. So partly we need more of these breakaway influencers. However, platforms such as instagram are engines of consumption and many influencers will find themselves locked into revenue deals through aggregate sales and these largely involve unsustainable fashion brands. Once locked in it can be hard for influencers to lose this revenue.”

Whether intentionally or not, internet stars are advertising fast fashion, but it must be considered there are other factors involved in sales. Brands use influencers as cheaper options to magazine or billboard advertisements. Not only does it save money but influencers using affiliated links, LikeToKnowIt, ‘swipe up to buy’ or the new shopping feature on Instagram can give brands exact evidence of sales.

Julie Bradford, Senior Lecturer in Fashion Communications at Northumbria University and author of Fashion Journalism, said: “We might moan about influencers but let’s look at what magazines did all those years. You didn’t see them pushing sustainable fashion very much. You didn’t see them holding back on provoking the desire to consume. Quite the opposite. So, I think with the increased diverse landscape of the influencer world and of the social media world, that could be the cracks where things open up.”

Those impacted by fast fashion have had to make changes to keep sales going including high street brands competing with the likes of Missguided and Boohoo and catwalk designers producing ready-to-wear pieces at a faster pace. While influencers may be a marketing tool, it’s consumers who are deciding to buy into it.

Paige Mooney, an account executive at Grove Communication who works with influencers believes they are great for brands but is unsure of how long this will last.

Photo Credit: Paige Mooney

She said: “I think we’re buying into the influencers and so are brands and so are designers. I don’t know who to pinpoint the blame on. But, I think influencers – and there’s a lot – who are really really smart at what they do, have seen an opportunity and taken it and thought hold on a second, I can sit at home, edit pictures all day and make a living out of it.

Were talking £30,000 for a post, sometimes for one Instagram post which is mindblowing. I wouldn’t just pinpoint it on them because I do think we’re to blame as well for being the ones buying what they’re selling.”

With the power that influencers have online, it is up to them what message they want to send to their followers. Small changes appear to be taking place across areas of the community.

Fleur De Force, one of the most popular beauty and fashion bloggers in the UK recently explained in her February haul video ‘Winter HAUL – Knitwear & NEW HANDBAG’ how she has received comments regarding sustainable fashion and became more conscious of it so produced less hauls and reduced the amount of buying she does.

Mollie Sheperdson who blogs at www.molliemooreblog.com and has 32.9K Instagram followers believes that fast fashion will always be a part of our culture because people will always want to stay on trend but can’t always afford designer prices.

Photo Credit: Mollie Sheperdson

She said: “Even before ‘influencers’ and Instagram became popular, we were all shopping at Forever 21 and the like. I do my best to reiterate the fact that the items I’m sharing are meant to inspire, and that if they don’t need it in their closet then they shouldn’t buy it.

I’ve noticed a lot of influencers taking this stance lately, and making it clear that our job is to show consumers what’s available and give them ideas on how to style it, but that we’re not saying they need to go out and purchase every single item.”

We appear to be in a stuck in a vicious cycle when it comes to fast fashion and although changes are being made, it’s going to take a huge amount of people involved to break the circle. But, there is more to blame than just influencers.

Tweet us your thoughts at @EcoStyleTweets.

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