Sinead O’Carroll

July 16, 2020

“Haul culture”: Can we blame influencers for the rise in fast fashion?

“Haul culture”: Can we blame influencers for the rise in fast fashion?

Sinead O’Carroll

The rise of social media and “influencer culture” has resulted in the general public being exposed to a surge in advertising that ranges from the questionable, to the covert. 

Young people are particularly vulnerable to the mounting consumerist pressure that comes from “influencers” and the way in which they promote consumerism in the form of “shopping haul videos” and encouraging followers to “swipe up” and avail of their affiliated discounts.

When searching “bikini haul” on google; the first result is a sponsored video on youtube where the influencer shows off the EIGHTEEN bikinis they recently bought from the unethical, fast fashion brand Zaful. Promoting consumption at these levels is incredibly dangerous and misleading.

Sponsored or not, there’s a multitude of these haul videos online, and all are promoting the bulk purchasing of clothing. An unfortunate trend in many of these hauls is the influencers mentioning that they’re not even sure if some of the products they’ve purchased will be worn, but then say that the low cost means that doesn’t really matter. In order to produce clothing at such low costs, ethics are largely ignored in favour of profits and sustainable means of production are shunned in favour of massively polluting methods.

Who holds the responsibility?

Social media influencers need to be held accountable for the impact they have on the actions of large swathes of people, especially when the action in question involves promoting a culture that places value on the large-scale purchasing of ethically-dubious clothing that embraces quantity rather than their quality. With power comes great responsibility, and it’s important to note that these same influencers see the negative implications of their actions. The frustration comes with the fact that these individuals have the power to sway viewers in the opposite, more positive direction.  

For companies like Shein, Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing who are looking for cheap means of advertisement, there are very few downsides. They benefit from integrated advertising on social media means they can get their message across to millions for comparatively small fees, and enjoy huge traffic to their websites as a result. On top of that, the general volume of the consumption allows them to cut down on costs by mass producing the clothing, feeding into the cycle even more.

Change is possible

In a time where thrift stores, charity shops and depop are readily available – and often cheaper than their fast fashion counterparts – it’s absolutely key that those with online significance use their platform for good. Young people looking to venture into the world of fashion commonly look to the people online they already follow and admire, and when those people tell you to buy fifty things from fast fashion retailers, it’s easy to go along with it thinking it’s the best option. 

Demanding accountability

Fast fashion is the second largest polluter facing the environment, often opts for profits rather than respecting human rights, and unfortunately is still only gaining in popularity. Those who have been on the internet for years are aware of all this to a certain extent and choose to ignore it, or just as bad have avoided educating themselves on it because it makes them feel guilty for their consumption habits. Rather than shaming those who know no better, those with platforms need to finally be held accountable for recommending habits that do nothing but harm.