Influencers and Their Endorsements of Fast Fashion
By Gwynn Vaiciulis
The very point of an influencer is just that, to influence. We are constantly being influenced by the people we look up to online
and on social media, and it is not uncommon that we buy the products they sponsor. We follow them because we trust them.
However, what do we do when influencers promote a product that does not necessarily line up with our values?
This is a common issue with influencers who promote fast-fashion brands. An incredibly popular fast-fashion brand commonly endorsed by influencers is Shein. Shein is a fast-fashion retailer that is based in China. The products sold by Shein are not great quality but are very affordable. However, the affordability comes at a price beyond the bad quality of the clothes. Fast Fashion is known to use sweatshops, which subject workers to inhumane conditions and even child labor.
Fashion Nova, one of Shein’s competitors, was found to underpay its workers in Los Angeles as recently as 2019, paying some workers as little as $2.77 an hour despite wage laws. While Shein claims they do not engage in child or forced labor, the company refuses to provide supply chain transparency, which would mean sharing information about the factories’ working conditions and employees’ wages and rights.
Further, fast fashion is the second most polluting industry, following the oil and gas industry, and is responsible for 20% of global wastewater and 10% of carbon emissions. Shein states that it tries to source recycled fabric such as recycled polyester. However, of the 52,000 dresses currently listed on the site, just 64 are said to be made from recycled polyester. Shein also refuses to share any information regarding the company’s carbon footprint or use of hazardous chemicals.
This becomes an issue when influencers start promoting these companies to make a profit rather than promote values regarding ethics and sustainability. I follow countless influencers who promote Shein and other fast fashion brands. One influencer who often promotes Shein is Sierra Furtado. Many of the comments on her videos concern her partnership with Shein saying things such as “It’d be nice to see you use your influence to promote less harmful practices,” or “the sad thing is, she could definitely afford fair and sustainable fashion but rather she chooses to partner with Shein.” I agree with these perspectives because while influencers have a lot of power over their audience, they also make a good amount of money and can afford to promote ethical and sustainable brands.
Beyond that, influencers can turn down the money made from companies such as Shein and could choose to not promote fast fashion corporations at all. The sponsorships demonstrate that quick money is important enough to influencers to promote products many people do not support. The sponsorships also suggest the influencer does not care about these values and may lead other people to stop caring as well. So even though your favorite influencer claims to love a product, make sure you do your research first and stick to your values when purchasing.