Kristen Leo is redefining what it means to be an influencer. “If our clothing could talk, it would be screaming.” The anti-influencer’s thought-provoking YouTube content is setting a new agenda for online fashion influencers.
“Opinions and education are in, apathy is out,” declares online activist and ‘influencer’ Kristen Leotsakou, “sustainability is in and greenwashing is out... loving animals is definitely in, and exploiting them in the name of fashion is totally out.”
Laying down these laws in a short fashion film she created earlier this year, Leo is resolute in her fight to promote ethical values across all areas of modern life. Her central focus is fashion; her digital content ranging from showcasing her personal ‘thrifted’ style, to exposing the colossal industry behind fast-fashion – she explores these topics in video format via her successful YouTube channel, boasting over 280,000 subscribers at the time of writing.
The Athens-based creator and activist expertly showcases the benefits of following an ethical and vegan lifestyle, standing firmly behind the idea of ‘voting with your wallet’ by being conscious and selective with the brands you buy from.
Since 2014, Kristen has shared over 200 videos and longform visual podcasts on her YouTube platform, exploring the vegan lifestyle, ethical beauty and sustainable fashion. She has also created a number of powerful exposé pieces on major fashion brands, providing compelling evidence as to why we all need to stop engaging with these damaging high-street and online fast-fashion retailers.
As well as naming-and-shaming unethical fashion production, Leo explores issues like misogyny in fashion, use of animal-derived products in fashion, and the capitalist and ethical implications of these.
“I mix education with entertainment to create engaging YouTube videos about veganism, fair fashion, low waste – and making ethical living as easy as possible…” – Kristen Leo, via Patreon
Charismatic Online Activism
Leo’s particular brand of online activism is infused with a passion and charisma which implores the viewer to sit up and pay attention to her message.
Her videos hold a deeper purpose than most influencers’ content holds, and are created to educate, inspire and entertain, brimming with a playfulness and satire which lightens up some otherwise sombre topics. Satirical videos like ‘Makeup’, ‘Honest H&M Advert’ and ‘Five Ways to Die in 2050’ expose big brands’ unethical business practices through playful mockery and fact-based satire, taking a clear anti-fast-fashion stance which viewers are rallying behind.
“Real fashion is about following movements that bring us into a better future, and the greatest movement right now is sustainability… Real fashion is not a tool for destruction, it’s a response to the world around us.”
– Kristen Leo, ‘How To Be A Real Fashionable Girl’
Leo’s Take on Influencer Culture and Social Responsibility
As an ‘anti-influencer’, Leo isn’t afraid to share her personal views about the influencer community, attacking problematic haul culture in ‘How Influencers Are Manipulating You Into Spending Money’, in which she draws parallels between The Truman Show and the sly sales tactics of modern influencer marketing.
Of influencer culture, she has commented on the difficulty of navigating the Internet without engaging with unsustainable brands, and that building a strong code of ethics and an environmental conscience is the key to seeing through ‘friendly’ influencer marketing.
In contrast, Leo has made clear that she is acutely aware of the responsibility that comes with her platform, explaining that “these videos make me feel like I can change the world in a really tiny way.” Putting these principles into practice, she will only ever accept sponsorship from brands who are up to her own ethical standards, regardless of the size of the cheque on offer.
The 2050 Morning Routine
Throughout all of Leo’s informative content, whatever the topic, she threads it with well-sourced facts and statistics, substantiating her passionate opinions. She is skilled in deconstructing huge issues to create straightforward, shareable videos with the intention of spreading her message through widespread sharing.
This was achieved by her ‘2050 Morning Routine’, garnering over 3 million views, and the Inditex Zara exposé also amassed a huge audience, with similar fast-fashion-focused content becoming some of her most-viewed. Kristen herself celebrates the fact that she is “good at finding creative ways to promote ethical fashion and veganism.”
“If You Aren’t Outraged, Then You Just Aren’t Paying Attention”
Kristen’s integrity and dedication to truly high quality content is so genuine that in November she ‘froze’ her monthly Patreon donations. This meant the 146 financial supporters of her content wouldn’t make their recurring monthly payment, as she felt it would be “unfair” to receive their donations whilst struggling with her own creative exhaustion. She explained that “pausing all donations will give me the head space to take a break without feeling guilty that I’m letting you down.”
Hi, I’m an anti-influencer
Kristen’s passion and commitment to tackling fast-fashion and consumerism is indisputable, and her keenness to generate real change is wonderfully clear and powerfully motivating. By now we’ve all heard a version of ‘that’ Lisa Borden quote; “If you aren’t outraged, then you just aren’t paying attention,” and it perfectly encapsulates Leo’s passionate, charismatic online activism.
“I love fashion, and I love how much depth and history there is to fashion,” Kristen notes in one recent video, reminding us that we can all continue engage with fashion as an art form and a passion, whilst remembering we have the autonomy to detach ourselves from the marketing-led pull of fast-fashion.
“I want to keep making content that has a huge positive effect, not just a neutral, feel-good, fun effect. There’s so much entertaining content online and not enough educational content, not enough content that pushes you to think and act in a better way.” – Kristen Leo.