Influencers: Buy less to be more relatable
"I think we’re all guilty of hoarding clothes that we never wear for one reason or another. You hoped you’d slim into it (spoiler: you never do), it itches or it was super trendy last season but now you’re over it."
When I had my first bash at blogging back in 2008 it was about makeup. My blogging pals were other girls writing about their favourite makeup and what they’d discovered from a good old rummage in Boots that weekend.
What made it so exciting was that we were connecting with real girls that were just like us, gaining an insight into what they were buying and peeking into their world. Magazines were for the posed, professional photography and journalists biased by brand and advertising revenue. Blogs were a breath of fresh air; finally something trustworthy and authentic.
Fast forward to 2017. Being an “influencer” is now a legitimate and potentially very lucrative career path. Bloggers with hundreds of thousands (some into the millions) of followers work with professional photographers wearing outfits that were sent to them directly from brands that they’re paid to wear and flown around the world first class for luxury resort back drops. With a few clicks you can buy the clothes they’re wearing, racking them up large amounts of commission.
So we’re not peeking into the lives of girls like us any longer. The Girl Next Door on Instagram didn’t buy those clothes with her own money and those #ootds are not what she’s really wearing to pop out to Tesco. Influencer marketing is big business and we’re a really long way from that mid-noughties authenticity.
In a recent study of high school students at independent and state schools in England commissioned by Digital Awareness UK, 56% admitted to being on the edge of addiction and 52% said social media made them feel less confident about how they look or how interesting their life is. (Source)
Another study reported that 47% of millennials said social media affected their purchasing decisions (vs 19% across other age groups). And those who included social media as part of their shopping process were four times more likely to spend more money on purchases and 29% more likely to make a purchase on the same day (Source) – so it’s really clear to see the level of pressure not only to buy, but to impulse buy and spend more to keep up with the images they’re seeing so regularly. And that pressure is having a really detrimental affect on their wellbeing.
I decided to start blogging again recently. I love shopping and I love fashion but I wanted to write about fashion in a way that wasn’t completely centred around buying or showing clothing as disposable.
After having children my body had changed, none of my clothes fit me and I was completely overwhelmed with the task of buying a whole new wardrobe. A bit of Googling led me to the site www.un-fancy.com and introduced me to the idea of a capsule wardrobe. It was an instant lightbulb moment. A framework for buying just the right amount and right type of clothes that I could cherish, wear and love. I realised that if I stopped buying so many cheap, poor quality pieces that I could direct my budget to fewer, higher quality pieces. And let me tell you that one beautiful cashmere sweater is well worth the five cheap acrylic jumpers from the high street.
I think we’re all guilty of hoarding clothes that we never wear for one reason or another. You hoped you’d slim into it (spoiler: you never do), it itches or it was super trendy last season but now you’re over it. A capsule wardrobe says get rid of them all and just stick to the things that you do wear. Not really ground-breaking. I think hand on heart a lot of people only wear the same 20-30 items regularly anyway and everything else is just gathering dust.
Social media has normalised the culture of buying more and more new clothes and only wearing them a handful of times before you’re sucked in to wanting something different. We’ve stopped cherishing our clothes. We no longer mend or alter – cheap fast fashion means clothes are disposable. As well as having an affect on our wellbeing, fast fashion culture is having a huge impact on the environment. The fashion industry is the world’s second largest industrial polluter after oil, accounting for 10% of global carbon emissions. (source).
The average consumer is buying 60% more clothes than in 2014 than in 2000 but keeping each item half as long so the demand for garments has soared (source). However with one cotton shirt requiring as much water to produce as one person drinks in 2.5 years (source) many cotton growing areas that are already short of water are suffering terrible consequences. Man made fibres are no better. In fact, the carbon footprint of a polyester shirt is double that of cotton (source) and when clothing made of polyester inevitably reaches landfill, it takes decades to breakdown into tiny plastic fibres that then make their way into the ocean and food chain.
So not only for our own mental health and well-being but for the future of the planet, it’s so important that we don’t get swept up in the tidal wave of consumption that social media has instigated. Instagram is not real life, it’s an advertisement platform. Appreciate it for the beautiful images but remember those professional influencers make their money from your clicks through to the retailers’ sites. They don’t make money from wearing old clothes but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
Words by Emma Karney, Bristol based Ethical Fashion Blogger