I’ve never been ‘fashionable’. I wore a pin stripe waistcoat and trousers to my prom. I don’t consider myself a ‘fashion blogger’ and my monthly affiliate income reports reinforce that only a very small amount of people reeeaaallly give a shit about what I’m wearing. But that is a small amount of people that wouldn’t have been ‘influenced’ to indulge in fast fashion, if I didn’t have my online platforms.
You may be a ‘micro-influencer’ like me. We’re never going to be ‘regrammed’ by Vogue, or shot with a DSLR outside of Somerset House. But we might, on the odd occasion pose in our latest garments and Insta Story our newest ‘high-street picks’ that might just influence another person to add one of the items we’re promoting to their online shopping baskets.
That means we are part of the problem.
I say ‘we’ because none of this is meant hypocritically at all, this is as much about me learning to change my habits as it is about other influencers reflecting on their’s too.
We shrug our shoulders and pass the responsibility on to ‘real fashion bloggers’, YouTubers, reality TV stars, celebrities, the head honchos at the high-street fashion brands – that’s easy to do.
For some of us, affiliate bounce-backs and collaborations with fast-fashion led brands are our sole sources of income. So it’s in our interest to throw our hands up and say, ‘I’m not THAT influential,’ or, ‘I’m a very very small cog in all of this,’ or, ‘Everyone else is doing it,’ but at what point do we stop?
Fast fashion, over consumerism and the acceleration into this, ‘buy, buy, buy’ capitalist economy IS ruining the planet and it IS ruining the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people.
At what point do we quit the Primark Hauls? When a factory, making cheap garments for the brands we constantly shop, collapses and kills over 1,000 people because profit would’ve been minimalised if the working conditions were made fit for purpose?
At what point do we stop sharing 100 links to the newest items in ASOS, Topshop and New Look? When the fashion industry becomes the biggest producer of carbon emissions, instead of *just* a quarter of it?
At what point do we stop telling everyone that THAT cotton leopard print dress is a must-have? When you realise that producing 1kg of cotton in India consumes 22,500 litres of water? And I’m sure you know just how quickly the world’s water supply is depleting.
It’s hard to see whether ‘haul culture’ has led to the rise in the consumption of fast fashion or whether it’s the other way around.
With a study that shows over a quarter of 16-24 year olds would not wear an item of clothing more than once, it could be argued that for some influencers, their core audience are demanding more hauls, newer outfits and exposure to new styles.
OR are those same audiences just being convinced that they can’t wear an item more than once because their favourite influencer would never?
The fast-fashion industry and its problems is a complex and oft-political issue. One that most of us would much rather bury our heads in the sand over.
When austerity, climate change, world politics and Drake’s stupid little beard are being shoved down our throats, causing us distress, is it any wonder we turn to social media, Instagram especially, to escape? To see people living their ‘best lives’? To then emulate living our best lives?
But change HAS to happen. Watching Stacey Dooley’s documentary and The True Cost on Netflix, it becomes glaringly apparent that something has to give. As Doomsday Preppers as this sounds – time IS running out to make a difference.
And of course, we could bury our heads and blame others, or continue to promote high-consumerism. It would mean for some of us, that our bills are paid, our Instagrams are always looking fresh and our followings continue to rise – because nothing screams success than someone who appears to have a lot of STUFF.
Or we could change.
And I don’t mean suddenly becoming Eyal from Love Island and fucking off to a Shepherd’s Hut, wearing a potato sack and using only products made from oats.
No, I’m not on my high-horse here. I’ve done the Primark Hauls, the Insta Story swipe up links, the photos posed entirely in clothes made of synthetic fibres that I’ve only JUST learned give off micro-fibres when washed, that pollute our oceans.
Colour me cancelled. Because I’m not here to ‘cancel’ anyone for doing what I’ve been doing constantly up until I finished those documentaries, read a billion articles and blog posts, about 6 and a half hours ago.
But we can make changes that not only protect our online spaces (wallets) but that also influence a change in other’s consumption habits for the better.
As influencers, I always think there’s one clear message we should keep in mind and that’s, ‘what is our legacy?’. When this online sphere evolves into its next stage, what do we want to say we contributed?
Yes, styling clothes, unnecessarily triple-cleaning our houses with toxic chemicals or filming hauls may provide people with an ‘innocent’ way to escape and unwind but if we’re, in ANY way, contributing to the degradation of our planet, or the degradation of the lives of those who make our clothes and products – like the farmers dying of brain tumours, or the children of those farmers born with severe disabilities due to exposure to pesticides, then that will be our legacy.
It’s unrealistic to expect every single influencer or person on this planet to stop making the content they enjoy making or that they rely on for their monthly wage but there ARE steps we can all take.
It’s unrealistic to expect each person to stop shopping fast-fashion because for some it’s the only way they are able to clothe themselves.
But for those of us that have the privilege of choice and the privilege of a platform, here are some things we can do.
Moderate How Many Links We Share For Things We Don’t Own Ourselves
We don’t need to see daily lists of 50 things that could be bought for under £50. Especially when a big part of the problem is the illusion of the, ‘must-have’ and how the fashion industry has evolved from seasonal drops to tri-weekly ‘new-ins’.
Sure, there may be something you think everyone will love, that’s super accessible and will work well in their wardrobes but why not link to things you already have, wear and love? Things that you can prove last?
Style ‘Old’ Items
Use your platform to show that good quality pieces can last. Sure you may want to show new items – but why not show how those new items can be worn with your old faithfuls? This is something Instagram fashion extraordinaire Erica Davies has set out to do.
To the unnecessarily excessive ‘blogger mail’ packages that you’re not *that* bothered about. To the collaborations with companies who are not transparent about their supply chains.
I know that’s easier said than done if your entire influencer income comes from these companies – biting the hand that feeds springs to mind.
Promote Ethical Brands
But mindfully. It makes people feel like shit when others get on their high horse and tell them to spend £100 on a jumper that will last when they’ve only got £100 to last til payday BUT there are actually quite a few high street brands that are changing their policies and becoming more transparent over how sustainable their products are. You just need to know where to look.
Because then you can educate your followers too. Watch the documentaries. Read the blogs, articles and books.
Lots of bloggers have set up clothes swaps before where you can rock up with a bag of unwanted items and swap them with bloggers who may have some items you’ve fancied.
If you don’t know of any nearby – set one up, even if it’s between friends and family.
I am going to try and organise something like this soon and I’ll let you know when I’ve managed to sort it.
This is most definitely already a thing, but I am not going to buy any new clothes for the rest of the year. Yep. I’ve deleted the apps off my phone and to be honest, I can’t really afford it any way.
Any photos I post on Instagram of myself will NOT be in new clothes, they’ll be of me wearing ‘old’ pieces over and over again and I’ll be using the hashtag to show that we don’t HAVE to always have the newest clothes just for the likes – hopefully you’ll join in too!
Just Take Some Time And Have A Think
Change doesn’t happen over night. If blogging is your business and you need affiliate income and high-street fashion collaborations to pay your rent, it’s absolutely impossible for you to fuck it all off straight away.
I know I can’t afford to! But I’m going to fulfil my contractual obligations and then I’m going to take some time to think.
We could all take some time out from chasing certain brands. Some time to re-strategise. Some time to research brands we could try to align with instead.
But more importantly, take that time to reflect on what you’re using your platforms for and who and what you are influencing.
Is it excessive consumption? Is it the pursuit of fast fashion? Is it the feeling of being a ‘must-have’ influencer? Or is it to be the change you want to see in the world?
Here are a few things you can watch, read and share to help you make these changes…
The Fashion Revolution website is a great resource that publishes a yearly ‘transparency report’ which rates the world’s biggest fashion brands supply chains – more importantly, how transparent they are about how their clothes and materials are made and supplied.
‘You Will Never Be On Trend,’ My friend Laura’s blog post which inspired me to look into things further.
Tolly Dolly Posh is a great blog I discovered today with reams of information and practical ideas.
The True Cost on Netflix
The World’s Water Crisis (Explained series Netflix)
My post on attempting to curate a capsule wardrobe and shop less.
I’m a total newbie to all of this, having preferred to bury my head in the sand before (hey don’t judge me, I’m not judging any of you!) so please send any further reads, tips or resources my way.