Sustainable influencers take on fast fashion

Enduring influencer Masego Morgan was shocked when a fast fashion giant offered her $1,000 for a single social media post to promote her brand.

Not only has the South African social media star never been offered that kind of money, but the company represents exactly what it’s against: the overconsumption of cheap, planet-harming clothes made by workers. underpaid.

And she is not alone. Former ‘Love Island’ contestant and sustainable fashion influencer Brett Staniland says he was offered nearly $5,500 (5,076 euros) for a job at a major fast-fashion brand, the kind of money that most small or enduring brands simply can’t compete with.

Content creators like Morgan and Staniland are promoting sustainable fashion online, where deep-pocketed fast fashion companies have helped flood Instagram, TikTok and YouTube with sponsored posts encouraging viewers to buy more stuff – by much at the expense of the planet.

This growing army of influencers seeks to expose the environmental damage caused by huge fashion companies like Shein, H&M and Zara.

They also encourage climate-conscious fashion choices – what Morgan calls “conscious consumption” – by asking people to buy less, or if you have to buy, better if it’s second-hand or ultra-durable.

“We shouldn’t necessarily compete with (fast fashion) in their way…their model is already unsustainable,” said Morgan, whose TikTok and Instagram pages are full of playful posts full of upcycled and handmade items. hand, many of which she presents more than once.

– ‘Mending is revolutionary’ –

Morgan began borrowing second-hand clothes from her stylish Japanese mother, who told her that “mending is a revolutionary act”, and encouraged her to mend clothes instead of buying new ones.

The 26-year-old, who posts much of her content from her kitchen in Cape Town, said she tries to hold companies to account instead of making people feel guilty for their choices.

Influencers like her are “agents of change”, said Simone Cipriani, president of the United Nations Sustainable Fashion Alliance and founder of the Ethical Fashion Initiative.

“They counteract the negative influence of another type of thing found on social media… overconsumption.”

Social media has become extremely important for fashion brands, which can reach millions of people via influencers who show off their clothes in articles such as #outfitoftheday.

A mainstream influencer in a western country can easily earn six figures a year from sponsored content and affiliate links. And the more followers they have, the more brands they can charge.

Social media has helped boost fashion sales, with global consumption of clothing, footwear and accessories doubling since 2000, according to think tank Hot or Cool Institute.

But this comes at a high price for the planet. The garment industry accounted for around 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 – about the same as the airline industry – according to the World Resources Institute (WRI).

These emissions could increase by 55% by the end of the decade, he added. They would have to decrease by 45% to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as stated in the Paris Agreement.

The environmental footprint of fashion production and consumption must be reduced by 60% in high-income countries to limit global warming, according to the Hot or Cool report.

As well as decarbonizing the fashion industry, their advice is to buy no more than five new items a year and wear clothes longer.

– ‘Against a current’ –

Exposing the harmful impact of fast fashion companies is at the heart of Venetia La Manna’s content.

The 33-year-old influencer has garnered huge following online, with some 6.5 million views on TikTok and Instagram for her ‘Recipe for Disaster’ series about the social and environmental damage caused by companies like Adidas, Amazon and Nike .

She makes a decent living and works with resale sites like Vestiaire Collective, eBay and Depop. But it’s not always easy to compete with fast fashion-backed influencers.

“We are up against it in terms of money and power,” she told AFP from London.

“Over the past five years, I really feel like this issue is on the map. It used to be that plastic and food were front and center in conversations about our environment, but now we’re really talking about fashion,” said La Manna. .

The second-hand clothing market is booming and is expected to reach $218 billion by 2026, up from $96 billion in 2021. This is partly due to a growing number of resale and rental businesses. clothes that appeal to a growing class of conscious consumers.

‘Love Island’ star Staniland hopes good-for-the-planet businesses will continue to grow on social media.

And he had a few wins. The 29-year-old was instrumental in changing the show’s sponsor from fast fashion companies to eBay.

But for now, it can be an uphill battle. Like most sustainable influencers, Staniland has to rely on multiple sources of income.

After turning down $5,550 from a fast fashion giant, he worked with an underwear brand he believes in, ONE Essentials, but still needs his modeling to pay the bills.


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