BY CHELSEA NAJERA
Videos entitled “I spent £500 on X!” garner millions of views on YouTube. Influencers get paid hundreds, if not thousands to regularly upload fashion hauls. These fun and interactive videos ultimately enable their audience to keep up with the latest trends and expose them to a variety of affordable brands. However, while these videos may seem harmless, they often perpetuate the over-consumption of unethical clothing.
Harmful influencer marketing
The rise of social media has resulted in many fast fashion brands partnering with influencers, offering monetary incentives to promote their clothing. For example, a company may offer around £200 - £1,000 per haul video. Unfortunately, these enticing brand deals often divert the attention from the disturbing realities of these fast fashion brands. The affordability of these brands is demonstrated in their ridiculous prices, such as £1 bikinis or £2 dresses.
While low-prices are extremely appealing to shoppers, such prices contribute to the horrific exploitation of workers. On 5 July 2020 it was reported that workers in Leicester, UK, making clothes for giant fast fashion companies were being paid as little as £3.50 per hour. This is illegal. Additionally, working conditions in factories are inadequate and companies are producing masses of waste, but influencers are reluctant to express their opinions in fear of losing sponsorships. Instead, they continue to promote a consumerist culture that pressures their viewers to stay on top of the latest trends.
In a society where we are constantly pressured to keep up with the Joneses, hauls can fuel our desires to stay on top of the hottest trends. This contributes to our obsession with consumption - regularly shopping and discarding products. Paper author and design researcher Kirsi Niinimäki discovered that the average garment use-time has decreased by 36%. As a result, our consumerist culture has led to many of our clothes only being worn less than 3 times. This is shockingly wasteful, with 87% of disclosed clothing being landfilled and incinerated. It has even led to masses of clothes being carelessly dumped in developing countries.
Consumerism can also have a detrimental impact on our mental health. Psychologist Tim Kasser found that those engrossed in materialism tend to have destructive behavior because of their lack of satisfaction and their spending problems. This is particularly damaging for young impressionable viewers who may feel intense pressure to look ‘cool’ on social media. It is clear that haul culture can be damaging to the pre-existing environmental issues caused by the fashion industry, but it also promotes an unhealthy culture of materialism.
How we can make progress
It is not about completely removing haul content from social media. Nonetheless, influencers should be aware of the brands they choose to work with and try and refrain from uploading excessive hauls weekly. There are also amazing influencers out there, such as Kristen Leo and Arden Rose who post insightful content regarding sustainable and ethical fashion. Most importantly, we can do our part by purchasing items we know we would wear consistently, investing in second-hand shopping and educating ourselves on the issues of fast fashion.