The Problem With Influencers That Support Fast Fashion

As their title suggests, influencers wield considerable power over their followers. With great power comes great responsibility, but what are they responsible for? Some might say that influencers owe their followers honesty, hard work, and even personal information. In today’s climate, the responsibility influencers have to their followers is more ethical. Because followers will readily take advice from and use products/brands promoted by influencers, it’s important that these social media personalities promote ethical companies and practices.  

One of the biggest issues with influencers is their tendency to over-promote—or promote too many companies—solely for the profit and without thinking about the quality or sustainability of the product. They know that their followers are more likely to buy from the brands they share when products cost less, so fast fashion brands are heavily featured in influencer content. Companies like Zaful and Shein have made their rounds through Instagram and YouTube feeds. Because they produce such large volumes of products, they have a wide variety of styles to choose from, so there’s something for everybody. These products are also sold at low price points convenient for teenagers and students whose paychecks are minimal. This is exactly the group of people who are watching and following influencers. While some influencers may think that they’re being more relatable by promoting fast-fashion retailers or they’re helping their followers find the clothing they can afford, they’re really promoting an industry that will never be sustainable.  

Many brands are guilty of "greenwashing", which is when they use green advertising or PR to persuade buyers that they're environmentally friendly. No matter what these brands say they’re doing to be sustainable, releasing 50 seasons of clothing per year isn’t sustainable. Constantly producing poorly sourced and unethically made clothing will never be sustainable. Slow fashion brands like Everlane that only produce a few seasons of clothing per year and don’t mass produce are more sustainable choices, though they’re much more expensive. That’s where many influencers can’t seem to justify promoting them or buying from them. While they may have the money (and more often than not, they do), they aren’t willing to spend that much money on casual, everyday clothing. This comes down to the fact that on social media, larger closets are celebrated over a more minimal, capsule wardrobe. As a society we have this internalized bias wherein outfit repeating and minimizing your closet isn’t the right thing to do, a notion that stems from centuries of class division based on wealth and property; if you had less, you were worth less in society.  

In today’s world of social media, no one wants to post pictures wearing the same clothes because it 'looks better' if you wear a different outfit in every photo. This mindset is extremely toxic, not just for our self-esteem, but also for the environment. Most people can’t pop into Everlane or any other slow fashion sustainable clothing store to buy new clothes whenever they want. Shopping at stores like Forever 21, H&M, Zaful, and Shein makes it possible for people to buy more clothing for less, but their processes are devastating for the environment and human rights. Workers aren’t paid fair wages, are forced to work overtime, and aren’t treated properly. Fast fashion output puts a strain on environmental resources and causes an overwhelming amount of pollution and waste. When retailers mass produce their lines they don’t come close to selling out, so whatever isn’t sold is dumped in landfills and is left to pollute the environment. This poses a serious threat to our environment and has been perpetuated by influencers who promote the brands responsible for creating the bulk of societal waste.  

As climate change has become more of a hot topic, many influencers have begun to share the merits of capsule wardrobes, thrifting, and minimalism. Guilty of outfit repeating, these influencers embrace and encourage the concept of ethical consumption. As time goes on and influencers realize that sustainability is a mainstay among audience interests, more influencers will likely make the switch to ethical consumption. Because they have a considerable bully pulpit with people on social media, using their platform to promote more ethical ways to shop for clothing could invoke a significant change among the members of our society.  

Influencers to watch for sustainable fashion content include @wearilive (pictured), @elenataber, @venetiafalconer, @itsrosacecilia, and @kristenleo. 

Photo Source: 1, 2, 3