Why Influencers Are the Missing Component to Sustainability

Influencer sitting on the blue steps of a building in streetwear.

The influencer space has evolved quickly over the past 10 years. It went from non-existent to a bubble of power influencers and now to a combination of super and micro-influencers. Even after all of this, one thing is still being largely overlooked – the power of influencers as a key component to sustainable fashion.

Throughout history, people of influence have swayed public opinion. Literary heroes, military figures, high society, you name it – where there’s power, there’s influence. Currently we’re seeing it in the form of athletes, CEOs, celebrities and of course, digital influencers in the YouTube/blogging/social media space.

With this evolution of influencers has been the adaptation of brands to the current consumer climate. Smart companies have partnered with influencers, often ones with the highest number of followers, but also ones with the highest engagement with the right followers (aka a smaller group of high interest consumers). When the right brand matches with the right influencer, miracles can happen in the form of show-stopping ROIs.

Vanessa Hong, style blogger, snapped at fashion week.
Influencer: Vanessa Hong, MBFW Australia 2015/16, Adam Katz Sinding

Since the start of 2018, we’ve seen big influencer events take shape. Meghan Markle, now Duchess Meghan, got married to Prince Harry in a Givenchy dress after making several high profile appearances in Canadian and British brands that sold out in mere minutes. Kylie Jenner (115M Instagram followers) ranked as one of the highest self-made billionaires, closing in at nearly $1 billion with her makeup line. Chiara Ferragni (11.4M Instagram followers) made Dior a cool $5.2 million just by wearing two custom made gowns to her recent wedding. And these are just a few examples of influencer power before the year is even out.

If you take a look at sustainable fashion, you’ll see even more great things. Stella McCartney and Kering openly leading the way with many other luxury brands following closely behind (check out Positive Luxury for a full list of companies with The Butterfly Mark seal of approval). Journalists and blogs and PR companies are writing about and tackling these things in a more approachable way. And sustainable fashion has started to shed its granola image.

But influencers are still not playing a big enough part when it comes to sustainable fashion. Is it that brands are still afraid to use “green” terms, or is it that influencers don’t want to add it to their brand image? It’s hard to say which one comes first, but one thing is for sure – if they’re looking for evidence that influencer marketing does in fact hold influence, the proof is out there. And it’s big.

Negin Mirsalehi sporting a cluse watch for their 2017 campaign.
Influencer: Negin Mirsalehi for Cluse, Popsugar Australia, 2017

According to The Fashion Law (via L2 Digital), 91% of luxury brands are already including influencer marketing in their campaigns, and a study by WhoSay showed “that roughly 70% of US agency and brand marketers said they “agree” or “strongly agree” that influencer marketing budgets will increase this year.” And the consumer perspective is equally as strong of a factor: with 74% or 3 out of 4 people following the “opinions on social media, including friends, family and influencers” and 49% of consumers who “specifically rely on influencer recommendations.”

The bottom line is that at this point in time, there is enough data to strongly suggest a further rise in influencer marketing. It is evolving, of course, with the rise of video and again the emergence of micro-influencers (up to 100,000 followers), but the upward trajectory remains constant. If sustainable fashion companies begin to add ethical messaging to their brand guidelines when dealing with influencers, and those influencers work their magic as they do, the industry will have the extra push it needs. Sustainable fashion and influencers are a marketing match made in heaven, and their time is right here, right now.

Zendaya Coleman for Dolce and Gabbana in a young influencer fashion campaign.
Influencer and actress: Zendaya Coleman, for Dolce and Gabbana, Kamdora, 2017







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