Are influencers and bloggers to blame for fast fashion?

It’s becoming clearer now more than ever before that our fashion footprints are having a huge impact on the environment.

The fashion industry pollutes from the very source; extracting and processing raw materials from thousands of miles away, plunging communities as well as landscapes. Fast fashion is the term used to describe garments that go from design to stores very quickly- sometimes even in the space of a week.

Bloggers and influencers have a huge impact on the fashion industry, as well as consumerism. But are they really to blame for fast fashion?

Being a blogger or an influencer is a job that revolves around social media, it can cover anything from fashion and beauty to food or fitness, or any topic that you’re passionate about. Brands pay influencers to create sponsored content in the hope that with their popularity and following the brand will get noticed and become more known. Influencers on the platform Youtube are often uploading videos titled ‘hauls’ in which they show a collective amount of clothing they have purchased or even been gifted to their subscribers.

Youtuber Zoella posted a video titled ‘Huge Spring Primark Haul’ in which she features 24 purchases from the high street store. The video has over 4.25 million views. In one part she states how: “You can never have too many pyjama bottoms, especially from Primark because they are such good value for money and you can buy a lot for little.” This highlights our addiction to cheap fast fashion, and how sometimes we may not even think about the necessity of items before purchasing them.

Understandably it’s part of a fashion influencer’s job role to share clothing online, and if you were to type clothing haul into Youtube it brings up thousands and thousands of videos. Yet those titled ‘sustainable clothing haul’ are harder to come by. Bloggers like Liv Purvis (whatolivadid), Megan Ellaby, and Samantha Maria (formally BeautyCrush) have all posted videos talking about sustainable brands, and how you can rework your wardrobe. This is an important thing for people to see, especially the younger generation – showing them that it is okay to re-wear things you already have and think about how your clothing is sourced.

Megan Ellaby, a blogger based in Manchester, is a great example of how an influencer can positively use their following to make changes within the fashion industry. Megan hosted a charity clothes sale, selling all her unwanted items to members of the public. She then donated all the proceeds to the victims of the Manchester bombing attack, in which she managed to raise over £3,000 for the We Heart Manchester charity.

According to Future Fashion, it takes approximately 7,000 litres of water to produce one pair of jeans (the amount of water one individual drinks in 5-6 years). A shocking statistic that really makes you think about how much you need all those items in your wardrobe. In a recent survey by the eco-cleaning company, Method, nearly a quarter of 16-24-year-olds said they would only be photographed in an item one to three times on social media before discarding it. This shows how influential social media is when it comes to fashion, people constantly want new things to share online.

Social media influencer Bex Fountain @bexjadefountain says that: “I think influencers have a huge impact on fast fashion, people are constantly doing Youtube hauls of new in items to promote products and brands – I even do so myself. I’m influenced by people who post what they are wearing when it’s new stock all of the time because I like to shop the items myself.”

When asked about how she can personally make a positive impact on reducing our consumption of fast fashion through her platform she said: “I try to wear as much second-hand clothing as possible, and I give away any unwanted items to friends and family or even charity shops. In the hope that the items will find a new loving home, and in turn help the environment.”

Not all influencers promote fast fashion there is a small selection of people online who pride themselves on sustainability and buying less. Vegan blogger Jana @janaschewtschenko says: “Influencers have a massive impact on fast fashion. Today’s youth have a strong interest in social media and what’s new and current. What personally helped me cut back on buying into fast fashion was watching a lot of documentaries about what’s going on in the world and within the fashion industry. Finding your personal style also really helps, as you tend to then buy key pieces that you will re-wear- like a capsule wardrobe.”

When asked about how she uses her platform to make a positive impact she said: “I only promote brands on my platform that I deem as role models within the sustainable industry. I’m always looking for new sustainable brands that I can share with my followers, as it’s really important that everyone is more conscious of the fashion we buy. If we all think more and slow down a little, then we can make this world a better place. This is what I dedicate my whole online account too.”

Beyond influencers and bloggers, we have the root of the issue for consumerism – brands. They generate the demand for products through their marketing, using advertising to make you feel as though you need those products. It targets individuals and taps into our fears and almost in a way makes us feel like our lives aren’t sufficient without those products.

Influencers fall somewhere in the middle of the consumerism hierarchy, they discern which brands deserve the attention of their online followers and then advertise them through the trusted relationships of their audience. At the bottom, we have consumers – everyday shoppers. If consumers didn’t have such a vast wanting for items then it would make things very difficult for influencers, and essentially they would be no use. There is a huge demand from consumers for this content: if one influencer cannot provide then there is always another that will.

This is the way the fashion industry currently works – it’s all part of a cycle. Brands market their products too, including influencer marketing to generate demand; and then the consumers make the purchases. This then generates more money which then means the brands can do further production and marketing.

PR specialist Paige Mooney said: “We get briefed on clients who would like to gift items to influencers/bloggers. Sometimes companies don’t want to pay huge amounts for sponsored posts so we offer items on a gifting basis. It’s a case of looking for the edgy and cool upcoming influencers, who we know will bring customers to our clients. Influencers are massively important to PR and there are now even jobs for people to seek out influencers.”

In theory, influencers play a huge part in consumerism and fast fashion, but they are not solely to blame for the increase in clothing purchases. If we all want to cut down and help the environment then we need to break the cycle and all be more aware of the impacts our fashion habits have on the environment and consider a more ethical and sustainable approach.

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