An Influencer’s role in sustainable fashion

Sophie Elkus, American fashion blogger from LA, recently showed her followers all the packages she received after a two-week vacation she took. Boxes after boxes, from beauty products to dresses to hats, there was a lot! So, with all these excess products, what do the influencers do?

Photo -by-Hong-Nguyen-on-Unsplash-whos-that-influencer-3

Photo by Hong Nguyen on Unsplash

The editorial team behind the Sustainable Fashion Gift Card was curious about the influencer phenomenon in relation to sustainability. Being in the spotlight all the time, sharing your personal life, is that even a sustainable lifestyle at all? And to what extent can you be sustainable as an influencer when you promote “stuff?” In this four-piece series we try to unravel the influencer phenomenon with an eye on sustainability.

Instagrammer Ashley Torres told us she usually donates products she doesn’t use or want to the Ronald McDonald Foundation. Other influencers have mentioned they give them away to friends and family. Despite giving the products a second use, you can question how sustainable the lifestyle of an influencer is.

How sustainable is fashion?

Of course, there are many sustainable influencers out there, promoting natural beauty products, raising awareness about the environment and advertising sustainable fashion. Victoria Onken is one of them. The 40 year-old mum based in Amsterdam launched her fashion blog after working as an Art Director and developing a career in advertising. Victoria believes that being a sustainable influencer doesn’t allow for as much income as a regular influencer but she is satisfied with doing it for the greater good.

Victoria shares with us that sustainable brands often tend to pay much less than non-sustainable brands as their marketing budget is usually much less. And, despite her blog being her sole income, she is more focused on using her platform to do good while looking good. Her motto is “Making Sustainability Fashionable & Fashion Sustainable” and her purpose is to help her followers make the right choices when it comes to clothes. She recently mentioned, during an event organized by the Sustainable Fashion Gift Card at the Student Hotel Amsterdam, that the biggest challenge in regard to sustainable fashion, as well as sustainability in general, is changing the public mindset. This is where influencers may be able to provide a solution.

Sustainable influencers: do good, while looking good

Aspiring to a sustainable lifestyle

When becoming an influencer, you will have to make a decision: what is my niche? We’ve mentioned earlier in this series, to be successful in influencing, you have to show an attainable lifestyle and create a community. The same goes for influencers passionate about sustainability, except they face an extra challenge: promote an overall change of lifestyle.

We are all becoming more aware of how unsustainable the fashion industry is. This is due to many reasons, but the first two that come to mind are the environmental implications as well as the ethical issues. However, even though a lot of us are becoming more aware, how many of us are taking action to be more sustainable? Most try their best at recycling or eating less meat but, what about our clothes? As mentioned, changing the mindset of a multitude of people is not an easy task. But, if influencer marketing is the new and effective way of promoting brands, maybe this is where the answer lies to the following question “How can people consume more sustainable fashion and ditch fast-fashion?”. If we are being influenced by our online “friends” about what products to buy, then surely, we will tend to consume more sustainable products if we are told more about them.

Social media remains a popular choice for many to raise awareness and sustainable fashion is no different. With a growing community of conscious consumers, influencers may have to up their game and start partnering with more sustainable brands, or they may face a lot of shaming. Similarly, sustainable brands may need to increase their investment in their marketing strategies and opt for influencers as their main advertisers.

Sustainable brands may need to opt for influencers as their main advertisers

The fashion industry

However, when it comes to the fashion industry, can it ever be truly sustainable? Despite the industry is taking measures to improve, we have to face that our consumption behaviour may be the biggest problem. We live in a world in which we see a new product and we want it. We, as humans of the twenty-first century, are materialists. In the UK alone, during the last ten years, there has been a 10% increase in the amount of clothes we consume and buy. And shockingly, not only are we buying more, but we are buying faster. The main perpetrator? Fast fashion. Think Zara, H&M and Primark. These big fashion retailers create new collections every 6-8 weeks. So, even if they promote a sustainable line or a conscious and organic collection, they are still creating more fashion. They still fabricate more garments and fabrics instead of reusing the millions of tons of textile waste already out there.

According to The True Cost, we now consume about 80 billion new pieces of clothing each year. So, while we’re all for supporting influencers and their usefulness as a marketing tool, as long as the main focus is promoting more clothes, it’s hard to say whether they really contribute to a more sustainable fashion industry. We can change the mindset of the people and make them more aware of the issues of the fashion industry, but we have to be honest: if we keep on creating and buying more textiles, that aren’t fully circular, we will only create more waste and pollution.

If the main focus of sustainable fashion influencers is promoting more clothes, it’s hard to say whether they contribute to real positive change

Watch this video to learn more about circular fashion

This four-piece series is derived from the research internship about social media influencers of Hannah Ospina for SFGC magazine. The series was edited to make it fit for our magazine by content creator Donna Brouwer.

Read all articles in this series
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