Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Social media influencers are responsible for glorifying fast fashion

Fast fashion is everywhere. You can’t seem to walk more than five metres through the London Underground without eyeballing Little Mix’s latest partnership with Pretty Little Thing or watch Love Island every night in peace without I Saw It First popping up to advertise the latest snakeskin summer bralette. Fast fashion is everywhere, but more recently it’s been aggressively promoted by a new breed of 21st-century celebrity – the influencer.

While influencers come in all shapes and forms, there is no denying that the most popular influencers are those that promote style. They share content on how to dress, what to wear, how to seek out the biggest discounts and what’s ‘in’ this season.

These beacons of fashion and culture amass hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of social media followers who attempt to emulate their outfits and follow religiously their fashion ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. Look closely enough, and you’ll see that nearly all of the wardrobe they promote is gifted, and not just from any place, from exclusively fast fashion brands.

It is up to the consumer to evaluate the ethics of a brand and make up their mind

It is almost impossible to separate the idea of Instagram influencers from fast fashion brands like Pretty Little Thing, I Saw It First, In the Style, Boohoo, MissPap, Missy Empire, and Nasty Gal.

YouTube videos showing young, beautiful and typically thin influencers unboxing an unreasonably gigantic haul of clothes from these labels gain extraordinary amounts of views, only for those same clothes to be thrown out and replaced by the next shipment when the video is no longer trending. Each year a new brand emerges and sponsors another trashy but brilliant reality TV show with an audience of primarily young girls, creating an endless cycle of waste.

Yes, it is up to the consumer to evaluate the ethics of a brand and make up their mind for themselves, but I can’t help but think that the glamorisation of fast fashion by celebrity influencers exacerbates this problem.

We all know how bad fast fashion is

Amber Gill, the winner of Love Island 2019, signed a £1 million deal with MissPap, which is owned by Boohoo, to promote the label, driving annual sales to £1 billion for the first time in the brand’s history. Runner-up Molly Mae followed closely behind with a £500,000 collaboration deal with Pretty Little Thing, and 2020 contestant Shauna Phillips recently launched a loungewear collection with newcomer In the Style.

With all the hype and publicity that surrounds these brand collaborations, a normalised belief has manifested; that fast fashion is the only way for young, self-conscious girls and women to look good and keep up with the latest high-street trends.

This doesn’t have to be the case. We all know how bad fast fashion is. Let’s be real, it’s no secret that the fashion industry produces around 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year, even using around 1.5 trillion litres of water annually. What’s more, 85% of all textiles produced go to the rubbish dump, and washing certain cheap garments release thousands of microplastic fibres into the water supply and eventually the ocean. Essentially, fast fashion is bad news all round for the environment and the animals that rely on it, including us.

You don’t have to be a slave to fast fashion, or what the latest influencer has in their closet

This is why we have to stop supporting and following the influencers who ignore these important and urgent concerns and continue to recklessly promote brands that damage our planet year after year.

Recycled and up-cycled clothing are much more environmentally friendly and stylish ways to benefit from fashion without so many of the negative consequences. Depop is an excellent app that connects users to pre-loved clothing in need of a second home, and lowkey brands such as Weekday now use 100% recyclable and biodegradable materials for their garments.

It’s also always worth purchasing a few investment pieces that are timelessly fashionable and won’t break or fade within the year. While initially more expensive, in the long run, the amount of wear you get from these items far exceeds the cost, and even makes them cheaper per wear than easily ruined and cheaply made items from fast fashion labels. In a nutshell, you don’t have to be a slave to fast fashion, or what the latest influencer has in their closet – there are so many other options out there, just keep looking.

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