'In recent years, fast fashion brands have taken advantage of digital platforms, scaling up marketing with million-pound partnerships deals and influencer endorsements. PLT even appointed an influencer as its CEO, where it is reported that they earned £11,000 per week from Aug 2020 to Aug 2021.'

Influencers &
Over-consumption

Friday 12th Nov

The fashion industry produces over 100 billion garments per year worldwide, with the majority of items being worn a handful of times before they are discarded. Over-consumption has been normalised and rewarded, marketed as ‘retail therapy’ and sold to us as something were obligated to take part in.

 

In recent years, fast fashion brands have taken advantage of digital platforms, scaling up marketing with million-pound partnerships deals and influencer endorsements. PLT even appointed an influencer as its CEO, where it is reported that they earned £11,000 per week from Aug 2020 to Aug 2021 (more on this coming up).

 

2021 saw brands such as H&M and Primark partner with influencers to launch their green initiatives, including the hiring of celeb ‘sustainability ambassadors’ like presenter Laura Whitmore and actor Maisie Williams. This sparked debate over greenwashing tactics and the hypocrisy of brands paying influencers but not properly compensating their garment workers.

 

**Greenwashing is a marketing strategy that exploits our concerns for environmentally and ethically produced projects. For example, using green branding or incorporating language like sustainable/natural/ethical - appearing to be green when they are absolutely NOT**

 

Last year a factory in Leicester was alleged to be running in sweatshop conditions, producing garments for fast fashion brands Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing - reports suggest they were paying workers as little as £3.50 per hour (many black and brown workers, with few legal rights to work in the UK). 

 

Where do influencers come into this? Well... influencers get paid big money to promote fast fashion. Ultimately creating a glossy, luxury image of these brands without questioning a) where the clothes they promote have come from b) who made them. This is also a racial and feminist issue, a lot of these influencers are white women - whilst around 85% of garments workers are black, brown or indigenous women. Personally, I don’t believe you can be anti-racist, at the same time as promoting brands that exploit BIPOC. All these fast fashion brands screaming “girl boss!!” are talking about white women only.

 

& do you really think Molly Mae (who took a 7-figure deal with PLT) is wearing £5 dresses?

 

The influencer business model (within fast fashion) only works by peddling products. So it can be argued influencers are just doing their job, regardless of the products consequences (for example, ending up in landfill or being exported). I don’t think the majority of fashion influencers are knowingly promoting over-consumption. Fast fashion and social media work seamlessly to encourage wear-it-once culture and the disposable mindset towards our clothes - a power beyond influencing?

 

Quote from Aja Barber's Consumed 'Someone once said ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ and social media runs of that fuel, as it drives you to consume in ways which you don’t need to. There are very few people who can be in spaces which focus on material possessions without weighing themselves up against the person above or below them on a feed. It’s part of the human condition'.

 

My conclusion: I think influencers that promote fast fashion are part of the problem. I want to see influencers publicly turn down partnership deals and using their platforms to instead ask ‘how much are you paying your workers’ that would be sweet. But maybe I’d feel differently if I’d had a ridiculous offer to promote something? 

 

  1. As for ‘sustainability ambassadors’ I am unsure whether you can really challenge something from the inside?

  2. Sustainable fashion and climate change are both very complicated areas – making them easier to ignore. I guess, most people would take the cheque. 

  3. We have a choice of where we put our money and a responsibility for the things we buy. If an influencer is promoting something, still do your research before you purchase! 

  4. Don’t forget that influencers run as businesses - they make money to advertise and sell you things.

  5. LASTLY if you don’t see any black or brown faces on your explore page, you need to diversify your following lol. Go follow some non-white influencers, give em your money, likes and subscribes.

  6. 'Act your level of influence' a mantra from The OR Foundation.

Let me know your thoughts!