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Fashion Influencers: Money Over Morals?

Love Island, I’m a Celebrity and other reality TV shows are pairing up with fashion brands to turn contestants into influencers. These people become stylish social media superstars overnight, but are they choosing money over morals?

Let me set the scene… it’s summer, its 9pm and you’re settling yourself down for the next instalment of that hit match making show. Yep, its Love Island. Whilst the show is predominantly about finding love, it’s millions of viewers make it a MEGA marketing opportunity for fast fashion brands. Love Island’s official partner I Saw it First experienced their month on month sales soar by 67% due to their collaboration with the show.

However, the opportunities to cash in don’t stop when ‘the summer of love’ does. As soon as the show ends it’s a battle of the brands to snap up collaborations with the new-found influencers. Several contestants, from 2019, secured lucrative fashion deals including winner Amber Gill’s signing with Miss Pap.

With stars achieving more fame and money and fast fashion giants reaping in the rewards, influencer collaborations appear to be a win-win. The consumer? We get to wear the same dress as the latest star fresh out of the I’m a Celeb jungle.

Back to Reality

However, the reality may not be as sweet (*takes rose tinted glasses off*). Katherine Ryan jokingly asked Love Island contestants, at the 2019 TV choice awards, ‘Which of you has clothing lines and how many outfits can I buy for a pound?’. She’s got a point. In signing with these brands, celebrities are promoting everything related to fast fashion such as low costs, speed of manufacture, waste and environmental pollution. 

Boohoo, made headlines when they sold a dress for just four pounds. It raise questions about how the garment could possibly be made in a way that was ethical and environmentally friendly. Prices like this prompt people to buy items because they’re a few quid rather than because they need it. This can only lead to overconsumption and more waste.

Do influencers think about this when they team up with fashion brands or do, they just see money signs? When I asked conscious fashion influencer Emily, who documents her fashion journey through her Instagram @shmemcloset , how she felt about fast fashion brands using influencers she said:

‘As much as I wish all business was centred around ethics, it’s not. There are many brands who use influencers as marketing, because it’s cheap for them and gives them a good return on investment. As long as the money comes in, they’ll keep doing what they’re doing. I think the change starts with us, our shopping habits, and with influencers who I would encourage to research the impact companies have on people and the environment with their manufacturing practices before they jump to represent them. We can vote with our dollars to send a message.’

Breaking Fashion

In a similar example The BBC Documentary Breaking Fashion followed In the Style, a brand built on influencer collaborations, through a period where they released a new collection every two weeks. This not only gives literal meaning to the phrase ‘what’s in today is out tomorrow’, but also prompts consumers to consistently buy.

Emily expresses the importance of questioning whether you really need an item before you commit to buying it. She says:

‘It’s important to me, before making a purchase, to assess the potential longevity of a piece in my closet. Can I see myself wearing this piece for years? Would this be something I will wear from season to season? Is this more than a trendy item I know I’ll dump before the year is over? Does it fill a hole in my closet, or do I already own something just like it already? Is it well made, and when it does wear down will I commit to mending it and altering it before giving up on it all together? Can I envision at least 5 outfits I’d wear with this piece? If the answer to all of those is a resounding yes, I’ll consider adding it to my wardrobe!’

A Good Influence

It is hard to see how fast fashion brands can be conscious if they are creating an endless window of buying opportunity rather than prompting consumers to buy less often and for the long term. But surely, we can turn the popularity of influencers into a positive? I asked Emily what she thought about conscious fashion brands collaborating with influencers, who possess the same values as them, and whether it may impact the way people buy:

    ‘I think it’s a great way to raise awareness about conscious fashion brands. A lot of people on Instagram follow people whose fashion they like at a glance, so for them to later read about the positive impacts that come from shopping with ethical brands could possibly change the way they buy, or perhaps at first just the way they think. Using influencers as a marketing tactic is still on the rise because it works well. If influencers collaborate more with ethical and sustainable brands, I believe we’d see a shift in the way Instagram users’ shop.’

Conscious Collaborations

Finally, I spoke to Emily about her views on collaborating with a conscious fashion brand herself:

‘I would, and I have! If I believe in the company’s vision of ethics/sustainability or I believe that the products sold by company would contribute to a more curated wardrobe/better shopping habits, I’ll usually review a piece of theirs for my followers and try to be as unbiased as I can so they can determine if their products would be a good fit for their wardrobe. I think it’s extremely important to realize the impact you could have on the people who look to you for fashion and shopping advice. It’s a chance to encourage people to think about their consumption and improve yourself as well.’

So next time we’re tempted by the shining lights of stardom perhaps we need to, like Emily, ask ourselves some key questions. Are we buying this because we want it or because our favourite celebrity is promoting it?


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