Ethical controversies in the fashion industry never really ‘go’, instead a revolving spotlight shines on them whenever they are relevant to the climate of the society in which they exist. Back when I was a teenage devotee of Vogue, the conversation was all about banning size 0 models from the runway (improved), unpaid internships likened to slave labour (still relevant) and underpaid and ill-treated sweatshop workers (also still a problem). Although these haven’t been resolved, now dialogue has shifted to the socio-political subject of identity politics, where questions of diversity and representation has been pulled into the centre of debate. But right now I want to talk about a distinct problem that has existed probably since our grandparents were born. Previously, it had been dismissed as the anti-capitalist cries of hippies. But I’m a capitalist, it’s 2018 and I like shoes, so here’s my take on how bloggers are driving irresponsible commercialism.
As a collective, influencers are gradually replacing traditional media in driving excess consumerism. This is not our intended role, yet so many of us assume it. From promoting dupes as designer alternatives, mindless weekly shopping edits and endless calls to ‘swipe up’ to buy products on Instagram Stories, where are our limits when it comes to materialism? Perhaps there are none at all. For the large part, consumers aka our audiences look to bloggers for inspiration and a more personalised and relatable source of recommendations than mass media outlets. That much is a responsibility that we are happy to take on. The problem is not that we provide links to what we’re wearing, talk about new and exciting launches or even give out bloody discount codes. To prevent a few more paragraphs of waffle, this is my main point and the real problem: how many pairs of the same style of jeans do we actually need (genuine denim was made to be worn continuously and barely washed)? Do we need more asymmetric skirts or styles of basket bags? Do we?
When the same trends return every season, each enjoying a relatively long lifespan of two-four years, why is it that we keep finding ways to purchase more of the same thing? Aside from all the superficial yet valid answers like, “it’s fun” or “why not? It’s my money”, would we be driven to keep buying more poor to average quality garments and accessories if there wasn’t a purposeful source of influence out there, encouraging us to do so? I like browsing and window shopping and I want to share those unique finds with my audience and friends. But because of my blog, I try my best to avoid outright commercialism. When I curate shopping edits, I look for good quality brands and items that last way past whatever arbitrary season they’ve been assigned to, for example my fairly recent Christmas gift guide or my Valentine’s edit for him.
I’m not writing this post because I think everyone should be like me, because I don’t. I’m attempting to demonstrate the small and easy steps that bloggers can take to play a more responsible part in this insatiable societal machine’s need for more unnecessary shit. We operate in a sensitive space where brands pay us for our reach, content creation and authenticity. However, there’s another facet to this and we have to admit that we rely on people wanting to buy things, in order for us to make money. But I think that all of us, myself included, need to be more aware when encouraging people to spend, spend, spend is becoming too much. Or else a decade later, we may see the same fate as some dying fashion publications, because people just got sick of being told what to wear because the last thing they bought isn’t ‘in’ anymore.
Personal style vs. being fashionable
Usually, I ignore the peacock parade that is Fashion Month. But it clicked with me this season that there’s a huge difference in style substance between the big industry game players and your average show-attending influencers. And before you even think it, this has nothing to do with money or whether or not you were dressed by a designer, because those factors are irrelevant to true style.
When I started fashion blogging, most of the girls back in 2011 or even earlier were showcasing their thrift shop and vintage finds because that’s all they could afford. Whether or not they looked amazing, it was a honest representation of their style journey and had nothing to do with dressing for others.
Today, too many Instagrammers call themselves ‘fashion bloggers’ but in reality, they wear whatever cute tea dress is selling in stores right now that comes with an affiliate link. While relatable and approachable – how does this add value? After this Fashion Week, it became more apparent to me which girls really have a strong sense of personal style, where outfits are an artistic expression and not just a showcase of their knowledge of trends. Why does this matter to the wider world beyond us behind our cameras and laptops?
Because by really concentrating on your personal style rather than the ‘what’s new’ section of Zara, we can encourage others who are passionate about the industry to develop their own and have a stake in it. If you call yourself a fashion blogger you can’t just be ‘fashionable’, keep it safe and play for the likes. As influencers garner more attention, with that comes increased accountability.
It may not have been a point in the job description that we signed up for but it’s something we have to regard more closely if we want to stay relevant in the fashion industry.
shot by Anastasija, @anastasija__je at the Cinema Suite at Taj 51 Buckingham Gate, Suites and Residences