Fashion influencers have existed throughout history- yes, not the ones on social media, but famous figures have always dictated new trends and cycles in fashion.
However, with the rise of consumerism and over-consumption, fashion influencers have become more problematic. The job of a fashion influencer is not to inspire you or make you feel seen in your personal style: it’s to get you to buy as many of their sponsor’s clothes as possible.
With fashion brands such as Shein, Zara and Bohoo being hit with accusations of labor violations, sweatshops and environmental pollution, can we continue to support the cycle of consumption that fashion influencers promote? Or is it time to hit the unfollow button?
Why are Fashion Influencers so Problematic Nowadays?
Fashion influencers continually push you with content about the newest trends. From what’s in and what’s out, to predictions of next season’s likely trends, to outfits that look “cheugy”, fashion influencers constantly try to shape your opinion about the clothes surrounding you.
The issue is that social media algorithms constantly push you to this content after you first get into it. So your entire social media feed is just adverts for influencers’ Amazon storefronts and partner brands.
Considering that the average person is on social media for almost two and a half hours a day, there’s a high chance sooner or later that you’ll impulse buy something.
When it arrives a couple of days later, you’ll look at it in disgust. How could you ever buy something so cheap and unflattering? What were you thinking? It looked good on the skinny, blonde influencer you follow- what’s wrong with you to make it look like a bin bag?
At best, you’ll leave it to molder for a couple of months at the back of your wardrobe, wear it once where it almost falls apart, and then donate it.
At worst, it’ll end up in a landfill, leaving a hole in your pocket and contributing to the continuing pollution of the earth’s environment.
Body Image and Fashion Influencers
Fashion influencers are also problematic because they represent an ideal of beauty. Women follow them because they want to look like them and buy the clothes they recommend to achieve this.
Unfortunately, many fashion influencers use tricks to make their clothes fit better and look skinnier. Many use Photoshop, something which fitness bloggers have also been accused of recently.
Other tricks like clips from the bag are also secretly used to make clothing look better and more desirable for followers.
The dishonesty fashion influencers perpetuate all leave you feeling bad about your body, which despite wearing the same clothes and same makeup, will never become the same as hers.
What About Thrifting Influencers?
The solution to this problem seems to be thrifting influencers. You still get the same dopamine hit of fashion content, but without endless advertisements pressuring you to spend money. The joy of thrifting is its uniqueness. The likelihood of you finding the same item that an influencer owns at your local Goodwill is slim.
Thrifting influencers; however, are not entirely without blame. Many of them also act as resellers of the second-hand clothing they find. Some critics online have argued that this is stealing clothes from those who rely on thrift stores.
Others have said it’s simply greedy to resell clothes. You can read more about this controversial debate here.
However, I would like to focus on another problematic element of thrifting influencers and resellers. The way that they continue to contribute to the cycle of overconsumption of clothing.
These influencers post extensive thrift hauls, holding them up as the baseline for the quantity of clothes to buy on a thrifting trip. Yes, they are cheaper than new clothes and arguably better for the environment, as they likely would have ended in landfill otherwise.
Nevertheless, these models of behavior continue to perpetuate the fast fashion cycle, meaning that many still use these same attitudes towards new clothes as well.
Nobody needs so many clothes in such little time. If your favorite influencers are creating unattainable ideas about the number of clothes needed for a successful thrifting trip, it might be time to hit unfollow.
So Who Should I Follow Instead?
Creators Sharing Anti-overconsumption Tactics
There are plenty of creators making anti-over consumption-themed content. The first to mention is Tess Montgomery, discoverable as @tess.montgomery on TikTok, who gives you ideas on how to curate your purchases and save your money.
The De-Influencing Trend
Other creators have hopped onto the “De-Influencing” Trend, pointing out the poor quality and wearable life of influencer-recommended products.
These creators point out that in the long run, investing more now in some pieces of clothing with cost you less in the future. If you wear a workout set a hundred times versus ten times, the cost per wear slides down. You save your time and money.
Pointing Out What To Look For To Avoid Poor Quality Garments
Jennifer Wang is discoverable on TikTok as @wangjenniferr reviews brands’ new collections. Looking at the stitching, composition of the fabric and many other factors, Wang highlights what’s worth your money and what isn’t.
Give her a follow to be more mindful about your next shopping purchases.
If you feel able to control your shopping habits and are spending money on clothing you enjoy and will last you a long time, feel free to keep following your faves. Otherwise, it might be time for a re-think.