Why Fashion Has to Ditch Identical Influencers to Truly Commit to Sustainability
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
When I imagine what an influencer Instagram post looks like, I picture a totally formulaic photo that is identical to just about every other influencer on the market, down to the lighting and composition. In fact, I'm sure you and I are both picturing an image of a tall, thin white woman, in a beige-esque outfit in today's of-the-moment silhouette, set against a blissful city backdrop that could be New York, Paris or London, but that is far too pristine to realistically depict wherever the photo was supposedly taken. In a world where we are told that absolutely anybody could be an influencer with only a social media platform (not true), it seems like everyone is an influencer, considering how damn many of them there are. And seeing how clear-cut the formula is, many social media users are content to follow it to receive their big fashion break. Yet, with what feels like a billion influencers out there, they all look exactly the same, and peddle exactly the same wares.
It doesn't take being ~interested in fashion~ to notice that every influencer is a clone of one another, and where you find one there seems to be one hundred more up and coming. And while, in my opinion, this is fair criticism of someone whose profession is allegedly a "thought leader", a "game changer", there is also a sustainability piece to this puzzle that furthers the argument that fashion should progress past the need for influencers. At their core, influencers drive us to consume, obviously. I mean every day is a new trend, a new outfit, lest the masses grow bored. Not only does this encourage us to buy their sponsored content at an insane rate, but I'd argue that the oversaturated volume at which we receive new trends from a million and one fashion girls causes us followers to tire of trends even more quickly. Think of miss leopard print midi skirt of summer 2018. She was cute at first, and sure, she was an of-the-moment thing, but we were so over and beyond that skirt in mere DAYS after watching every influencer and their grandmother parade about WIlliamsburg dressed in her, green smoothie in hand.
"At their core, influencers drive us to consume, obviously. I mean every day is a new trend, a new outfit, lest the masses grow bored."
While influencers obviously drive us to consume, flashing countless new looks per week on their social media, their increasingly identical nature exhausts us of trends much more quickly, driving the trend cycle forward at a speedier rate. It feels like every week we're being inundated with a new silhouette, a new trendy colour, a total shift in fashion, by 100 identical white women. But, I'd continue to argue that not every influencer follows the formula, and it is these forward fashion thinkers, coupled with the small scale brands that they support, challenging Big Influencer™. With so many fashion figures touting a strict style blueprint, it's always refreshing seeing fashion girls with some actual personal style. Girls with big followings, with independent looks, that aren't a total copy-paste of this week's trend.
Oftentimes, these against-the-grain influencers are big proponents of little brands who operate on more sustainable scales, and produce locally, which, as far as sustainability is concerned, is already a bonus. And while supporting these brands is an excellent step towards changing the public opinion of sustainable fashion, they also challenge the visual landscape of uniformity that one experiences scrolling through the "style" page of Instagram explore. The sameness of corporate influencers today suggests to users that we should all look alike and dress alike. Maybe, on an individual scale they don't mean it that way, but it doesn't take a psych degree to realize that any human being seeing identical taste celebrated across the photo feed triggers a response that goes along the lines of "looking exactly like THAT = GOOD". It's this encouragement to dress exactly like these fashion figures that implies constant consumption to keep up. Mostly due to the fact that influencers are quite notorious for never wearing the same thing twice, and constantly reinventing silhouette, style, etc. Even though you or I can't afford to shop on this cadance, buying new to be "fashionable" as often as possible is certainly still promoted by this crowd. Alternatively, more unique fashionistas undercut this need to consume, selling individual taste, and honing personal style and a consistent wardrobe.
"It's this encouragement to dress exactly like these fashion figures that implies constant consumption to keep up. Mostly due to the fact that influencers are quite notorious for never wearing the same thing twice, and constantly reinventing silhouette, style, etc."
All in all, the run-of-the-mill influencer exists as a fashion framework, solely driving profit, often for fast fashion brands like Princess Polly and Zara that read as "affordable" to the average follower. And it's this whole "affordable" concept that allows this average follower to keep up with the wealthy influencer's warp speed spending and consumption. Despite this growing class of fashionistas , those of us in and around the industry who encourage individuality and buying brands with unique styles and short runs undercut homogenous fashion visual culture. If you're looking for fashion guidance, follow the lead of more independent posters and look to small-scale designers that typically reject trend in favour of an established brand DNA that you can't buy at H&M. Fashion isn't about copying trend, but rather constructing a look that's interesting and hasn't been done by trust-fund-Sophie who was born and raised in Manhattan and six of her closest rich friends. It can be hard to hone your own style as we all drown in indistinguishable fit pics, but leveraging personal style that works for you long term is one little way you can work to consume fashion more sustainably.