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Influencers Are Facing a Fast Fashion Backlash

By Hugo Douglas-Deane

Are followers and shoppers alike starting to see through the gloss of fast fashion and ask more from influencers and creators?

A growing backlash is forming against the influencer and creator community.

Awareness is growing about the damage caused by fast fashion giants like SHEIN, H&M and Zara, as more and more articles are published about countries like Ghana which are having to deal with the textile waste left behind.

Fast Fashion is Forging Ahead

Fast fashion giants like SHEIN and Pretty Little Thing may be posting soaring growth – but bad press is coming with it.

In 2020 there was public outcry when Black Friday came and Pretty Little Thing launched a 95% off sale.

As if it couldn't get any worse, they followed it up the next year with a 99% and even 100% off sale.

Yes, cheap clothing given away for free.

That doesn't just set a terrible precedent for the value we put on the labour of garment workers and materials – it also creates a huge amount of waste.

But just when we thought the fast fashion model couldn't get any worse, SHEIN burst onto the scene and set new precedents for the sheer amount of clothing items and styles churned out a day, and set the bar to a new low when it comes to quality and care for the environment.

SHEIN has tried to clear up its image, but not through any tangible efforts to improve things for the better. In 2023 they hired influencers and creators to do a PR visit to one of their factories, painting a picture of a clean, rosy life of their factory workers and the care they dedicate to their garments.

A photo of a rubbish tip filled with textile waste with birds flying above against a blue sky

Fast Fashion's Environmental Toll

More often than not, most of this clothing is made from synthetic materials like polyester and nylon. Synthetic materials like these are made from petroleum, derived from fossil fuels.

So not only do many of these clothes go to waste, due to the fast fashion, hyper-seasonal model created by retails companies like SHEIN, they're fuelling the oil and gas industry.

OK, they may have come from fossil fuels, but is there anything wrong with synthetic fabrics like these?

For one, plastics like polyester and nylon don't break down for hundreds of years. And when they do, they shed millions of plastic microfibres.

So while shoppers are stunned by the tiny prices – and the poor working conditions and materials that come with that price – there's a hidden, long-term impact at stake for both planet and people.

Influencers Are Facing Backlash

It's not just the retailers that are facing negative press over fast fashion. Famous figures across the globe are getting negative press for supporting fast fashion giants like ASOS, SHEIN and Pretty Little Thing.

an influencer sitting in an orange chair taking a photo with her phone

Khloe Kardashian was criticised for her partnership with SHEIN due to ethical concerns surrounding the company's lack of transparency and fast fashion practices:

"The announcement was met with plenty of pushback in her comments thanks to ethical concerns surrounding Shein and similar fast fashion brands, including its negative environmental impact, labor violations and ongoing accusations of "knocking off" other designers' work."

Source: Paper Mag

And ex-Love Islander Molly-Mae Hague was recently criticised for her appointment as Creative Director for fast fashion brand Pretty Little Thing.

Her high-salaried appointment came in the wake of the company's worker's rights scandal in Leicester:

"In June 2020, an investigation by The Sunday Times found that a factory in Leicester producing clothing for PLT's parent company, Boohoo, was paying its workers just £3.50 an hour… John Lyttle said the company has a "clear strategy" to make 20% of its autumn range sustainable but did not define what "sustainable" would mean."

Source: The Independent

It's not just the papers that are criticising, either – we've spoken to several influencers who have had floods of negative comments from followers after doing sponsored posts for the fast fashion world.

A photo of someone reading a newspaper on a bench

Shoppers aren't just getting savvy and making their own decisions to switch, they're spreading the word and casting judgement on the people who are helping fast fashion succeed.

So this shift in the way people shop isn't just happening in a vacuum – they're spreading the word and convincing others by simply raising the issue.

In an internet age where everyone can find information at their fingertips, companies like SHEIN, Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing are finding it hard to keep things covered up.

5 Ethical Fashion Creators To Follow

OK. Now that we've covered some of the influencers and creators who work with fast fashion, let's highlight some of the brilliant people who talk about climate change issues.

Here are five great folks who help their followers live more sustainability and shop more eco-friendly.

Go give them a follow on the links below...

A photo of Besma Whayeb in a white shirt and black jeans

1. Besma Whayeb

Besma runs Curiously Conscious and is the founder of Ethical Influencers.

“My blog started in 2014, when I was living in Paris. During my time nestled in the tiniest sixth-floor flat in Montparnasse, I began to explore the French way of doing things; buying fresh food from the organic market next door, bringing my own bags to the shop, and buying investment pieces over fast-changing trends.

“My time there has inspired my ethos today: to look for the better things in life. That means better for the earth, better for others, and better for myself too. I want every item I own to tell a good story, and to retell them to you here on the blog.”

Follow Besma on Instagram

Lydia Cooke with her chin resting on her hands

2. Lydia Cooke

Lydia is a model, humanitarian and environmental activist from Cornwall.

“As an outdoor lover with a degree in Ba Geography from the University of Exeter and a jumble of careers from the past, Lydia seeks to spend her days outside in nature exploring the Cornish coastline. As well as being seen working for and alongside all varieties of brands, Lydia uses her social media for discussions based around environmental activism, mental wellbeing and Cornish living. Her voice has been heard as one that promotes the importance of escapism and its unprecedented impact on our mind.”

Follow Lydia on Instagram

Amma Aburam sitting on a chair in front of bookshelves

3. Amma Aburam

Amma is a writer, podcaster and digital content creator passionate about sustainable and ethical fashion. She is the founder of Style and Sustain.

“For me, it started with fashion but it wasn't long before I started looking at other ways to live a more sustainable life because it's more of a mindset change than anything else. What are you passionate about? Take that and start doing it in the most ethical and sustainable way possible, then watch as that new way of living out your passion trickles down to other aspects of your life.

“Style and Sustain is a space to inspire fashion lovers like myself to turn to fair fashion.”

Follow Amma on Instagram

Emma Slade Edmondson standing in front of a red building

4. Emma Slade Edmondson

Emma is a sustainability marketing consultant and award winning podcaster.

“Emma Slade Edmondson heads up ESE Consultancy, a creative strategic marketing agency working to elevate brands, initiatives and organisations who are looking to focus their business to harness social or environmental good.

“Emma is also the creative strategist behind successful campaigns that celebrate thoughtful fashion consumption, including Charity Fashion Live & The Love Not Landfill pop-up stores and campaign.”

Follow Emma on Instagram

Marielle Elizabeth sitting on a chair wearing a long jacket

5. Marielle Elizabeth

Marielle is a slow fashion and plus size influencer.

“One of the greatest privileges in having a platform to share my thoughts on is being able to champion brands I believe in.

“To continually add my voice to the call for ethically made garments and goods, to inquire and challenge makers to design for all body types, and to encourage those around me to invest in quality over quantity. “

Follow Marielle on Instagram