The Impact of Influencers on Sustainability

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Between the new Instagram “Shop” button and “swipe up to use my 20% off code” becoming a regular expression, overconsumption has taken over social media. Since 2006
1, influencers have been rating and reviewing products for their followers. These reviews are meant to encourage followers to purchase products because of their trusted “relationship” with the influencer. However, now that the climate crisis is making mainstream news, we need to start asking what impact do influencers have on fast fashion and sustainability? 

The rise of social media and influencers has increased how quickly consumers move from one trend to the next. Consumers now have increased exposure to trends via story swipe ups, paid advertisement grid posts, and Reels/TikTok videos showing the “must haves” of the season. All of this leads to trends coming and going quicker than before. Because trends change so frequently, every new “season” consumers are purchasing almost entirely new wardrobes to stay “trendy”. This is extremely disastrous for the environment because “people discard their clothing nearly twice as quickly as they did 15 years ago”2

How do we know that influencers are impacting the fast fashion industry? Think of yourself to start, when your favorite influencer promotes the “best, newest, greatest, product” don’t you want it? Do you swipe up? Influencers have an extremely strong pull on consumers that is unparalleled to other marketing tactics. Influencers create a “bond” with their followers to increase trust. That increased trust leads to a better chance that the follower will purchase the products being shared. 

Trust isn’t the only tool used to increase sales, fast fashion hauls have become a new favorite among followers. Hauls allow potential buyers to see clothing on a real person without having to leave the comfort of their homes. While this is great it can be dangerous; think of the Tik Tok Shein hauls that contain 100+ articles of clothing. Often during those hauls you’ll hear the user say things like “I only got this because it was cheap” or “Not sure why I bought this, it was really impulsive”. When consumers purchase products they don’t need or even want, the products end up in either the landfill or a secondhand store. 

All of this promotes overconsumption. Overconsumption leads to higher demand that companies can’t always provide. When this occurs, it creates the need for faster supply chains. And we all know what faster supply chains mean – unfair wages and poor working conditions. 

To be clear, shopping fast fashion is not entirely bad. Shopping slow or secondhand fashion is not entirely bad. What is bad is when we over consume. Our need to continually consume is at the root of all this. And I believe that influencers and social media aid and abet this behavior. How do we combat overconsumption in a world that constantly encourages us to buy more? Ask yourself these questions before purchasing:

  1. Do I already own something similar to this item?
  2. Is this a trendy item that I will only wear once? Or will I continue to wear this once the trend is over?
  3. How often will I wear this? If you won’t wear it often, can you borrow it from someone?
  4. If you cannot borrow it, can you find it secondhand instead of new? 
  5. What do you know about the company that makes the item? 
  6. Do I have other items in my closet that I can wear with this? 

 

Truly the best way to avoid overconsumption is to buy less. I know that’s easier said than done but I encourage you to try to avoid buying new for a month to see how it feels. I promise your overstuffed closet and bank account will thank you. Influencers may seem like your friend but at the end of the day they are promoting products to make money. It’s important to remember that before we click “purchase” on the newest oversized t-shirt they are promoting. Finally, despite what we were told by Kate in Lizzie McGuire, being an outfit repeater is a good thing!

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/petersuciu/2020/12/07/history-of-influencer-marketing-predates-social-media-by-centuries–but-is-there-enough-transparency-in-the-21st-century/#:~:text=Influencer%20marketed%20has%20existed%20in,the%20English%20dictionary%20last%20year.
  2. http://untitled-magazine.com/how-social-media-affects-the-fast-fashion-industry/  

Image: https://phillipstemann.com/how-to-sell-your-products-using-instagram-shopping/

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