TikTok and Instagram, new vectors to promote more responsible fashion? On these networks, temples of unbridled consumption, countervailing influencers seek to promote clothing choices that respect the planet.
Starting with Masego Morgan, who fell out of his chair when a “fast fashion” giant offered him $1,000 for a single promotional publication. Not only has the South African influencer, who has 10,200 followers on Instagram, never been offered such a sum to promote a brand, the latter also represents everything she fights against: the overconsumption of cheap, polluting clothes made by underpaid workers.
Like other global influencers looking to fight the armada of big, brand-sponsored posts on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, their credo is simple: buy, okay! But less. And better when used or extremely durable.
A philosophy she inherited from her childhood, borrowing second-hand clothes from her elegant mother, who saw recycling as a “revolutionary act”.
“For me, wearing second-hand clothes has never been stigmatized,” she told AFP from her home in Cape Town.
This advocate for “responsible drinking” breaks away from the usual fashion posts by posting playful and guilt-free posts full of colorful, recycled, and handmade items that she wears multiple times.
“If we do the same as the fashion influencers” who parade new clothes on video every day, “we’ll end up with the same toxicity,” she believes.
But there is a downside to this choice: it’s impossible to make a living from sustainability-focused content.
While a typical influencer in a developed country can earn a six-figure annual salary with sponsorships and affiliate links, Masego Morgan has to work a part-time graphic design job.
In recent years, social networks have gained considerable importance for brands whose marketing was previously based on print or television advertising. You can now reach millions of people through influencers promoting their clothes in stories or #outfitoftheday posts.
These promotions boost sales: in 20 years, global consumption of clothing, shoes and accessories has doubled.
But that comes at a high cost to the planet. The fashion industry accounts for between 2% and 8% of greenhouse gas emissions.
So many messages that have contributed to the emergence of “new fashion influencers” more concerned about the environment.
Among them Venetia La Manna, a 33-year-old British woman with 197,000 Instagram followers, whose video series “Recipe for Disaster” about the social and environmental damage of companies like Adidas, Amazon and Nike was hugely successful with around 6.5 million views.
Unlike Masego Morgan, she makes a living from her online work, supported by a wider audience and collaborations with powerful second-hand websites like Vestiaire Collective or eBay.
“In the last five years, I really feel like the issue has surfaced,” with fast fashion taking center stage along with “plastic and food,” notes Ms. La Manna.
These influencers are “agents of change,” says Simone Cipriani, Founder and Director of the Ethical Fashion Initiative and President of the United Nations Sustainable Fashion Alliance.
“They counteract the negative influence that you usually find on social media, where we just encourage overconsumption,” she adds.
Especially since at the same time the second-hand market continues to grow: its turnover is expected to reach 218 billion dollars by 2026, compared to 96 billion in 2021. A player like Vinted has thus almost doubled the number of its users in three years, from 23 to 45 million between 2019 and 2022.