The influencer world is full of glam and the latest fashion trends. As fun and enjoyable as fashion is, the promotion of fast fashion (cheap affordable mass produced fashion that follows trends, with new collections out very frequently) is more harmful than we think. Throughout the pandemic we have spent more time on our phones and online. This is confirmed by trend after trend showing an increase in online activity. TikTok and Instagram are more fast-paced and we are influenced by what we see on these platforms every day.
One trend that I was particularly sceptical about was the sudden obsession with the clothing brand Shein. Shein is a fast-fashion brand with very low prices. What became popular were the Shein hauls that went up to hundreds of euro, with many items in the bag. I took the liberty to scan through the website, and I was shocked with how cheap the items were – with prices much lower than the average fast fashion store. The clothes are cheap, but at what cost?
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Like PrettyLittleThing, Shein’s clothing items are mass-produced, arguably creating more items of clothing than are actually needed on the planet. Another problem is that they take their designs from independent artists or other brands and sell them at a much cheaper cost. Design theft is another major issue with the fast-fashion brand, Shein.
Shein has been confronted before for selling offensive items on their website, including necklaces with the Swastika symbol on them. Since Shein has apologised for using this symbol, pleading a cultural misunderstanding:
“The Buddhist symbol has stood for spirituality and good fortune for more than a thousand years, and has a different design than the Nazi Swastika which stands for hate. But frankly, that doesn’t matter because we should’ve been more considerate of the symbol’s hurtful connotations.”
They made their awareness of the symbol’s historical context clear in the statement. Whatever their intention, it was highly insensitive for the brand to advertise this product in this way in the first place, as they knew it would hurt so many – highly insensitive and commercially ill-advised.
The adored summer show, Love Island, has certainly brought an increase of influencers to Instagram, many of whom promote brands such as BooHoo, Missguided and PrettyLittleThing. The surge in influencers undoubtedly brought attention to these brands as they act as catalysts for trend promotion. We see these celebrities being the poster people for these brands, of course bringing attention to their clothing, making their sales increase.
Women’s rights and fast fashion
Fast fashion is indeed a feminist issue. PrettyLittleThing promotes women’s empowerment in its posts; but, how much support do they have for the female workers that make their clothes? Workers for fast fashion brands are overworked and are paid very little, how is this fair? It simply is not. If you look on the PrettyLittleThing site, you will see sale promotions and price reductions plastered across your screen- this isn’t occasional, this is all the time. Not only does it give consumers a sense of a fake bargain, the clothes being at a low cost links back to the worker’s low wages. The brand had, and still does have, a section for International Women’s Day 2021 on their site. This confuses me as this performative celebration of women does not align with the morals they have for the people who make the clothing for the brand.
Who would have thought that the purchasing of clothes would come with health hazards. First off, PrettyLittleThing has been confronted by horrified consumers who believe that their clothes have cancerous chemicals. This has not been the only issue: recently, many consumers found fleas inside their packages. This was not only one incident, but happened to many PrettyLittleThing customers.
PrettyLittleThing tweeted in denial of the bugs being found in customers packaging. Although many had posted video evidence of this happening to them, PrettyLittleThing still denied that they had come from their warehouses. So, did they just magically appear in the packaging?
There is no doubt social media has a major influence on our consumerism and is the newfound way of marketing. With this, social media influencers have more of an influence on their followers than we think. A 2019 study showed that around 86% of the clothes advertised on influencer’s posts are bought. However, as we see new apparel almost every day on the average influencer, there is a high possibility that these clothes are being used for the one social media picture rather than being a well used long-lasting piece of clothing in their wardrobe.
Although I blame the fast fashion companies themselves for paying their workers a low wage and being detrimental to the environment, we should not endorse them as consumers or promoters. The overproduction of clothing items at such low costs is having serious effects on human rights and environmental rights. These clothes are made not to last, meaning their customers have to go out and buy more every time. And, with the cheap costs of the clothing items, it makes it easier to do so. This is not sustainable at all for the planet or the livelihoods of workers who make the clothes. As I have said above, if they are selling clothes at such low costs, how much are they paying their workers?
With this, I think it is important to avoid these brands and focus on brands that are publicly ethically aware. These days, investigation is necessary to find the truth behind brands. While I advocate for vintage, second-hand clothing, many independent brands state that they do not mass produce and are ethically aware. Unlike PrettyLittleThing and Shein, whose clothes contain microfibres that release CO2 and are harmful to us, there are many other brands out there that are consciously aware of the materials they use, work hard to make their own unique designs and know who makes their clothing. Brands like Lucy and Yak and Elsie and Fred are ones to support rather than PrettyLittleThing, Boohoo, Missguided and NastyGal.