Influencers are impossible to avoid if you have social media, but offscreen they are increasingly prevalent in the real world of fashion and beauty, as well. Inspired by the Kardashians who turned their notoriety into profitable businesses, influencers are embracing their entrepreneurial side and starting their own brands, creating a host of environmental and social issues in the process.
Thanks to social media, anyone with a large enough following can create a product.
Apps like Instagram and YouTube have made it possible for ordinary people with a knack for creating attention-grabbing content to become mini-celebrities.
Established companies jumped on that and started paying social media stars to promote their products.
More recently, influencers have realized that instead of promoting other people's products, they could create their own and reap a bigger monetary reward.
More brands than ever are popping up in the clothing, accessory, and beauty sectors.
Influencers are most frequently choosing to create brands in the fashion and beauty industries as they are easy to set up.
Small product lines can be used to test out the market. A few lipsticks, for example, launched Kylie Jenner's cosmetic company. Negin Mirsalehi launched her haircare brand with just one hair oil product. Emma Chamberlain started her one-time clothing line, High Key, with four styles, including popular scrunchies.
Small initial collections allow for smaller investments, making the fashion and beauty industry especially popular for influencers who don't have tens of thousands of dollars to invest upfront.
Then there is the sourcing, which is a big issue for influencers who may be more experienced in marketing and sales than supply chain intricacies.
Luckily for them, there is an ample number of wholesale retailers that create customizable products ranging from lipsticks to sweatshirts.
The combination of cheap and easy production makes fashion and beauty popular categories for influencers looking to establish their own labels. Clothing and beauty are also appealing for consumers who want to buy something small and affordable to support their favorite internet personalities.
The needless creation of more new stuff contributes to overconsumption and pushes unknown designers out of the industry.
Consumers are finding that for everything they could ever want, five brands provide it.
There is practically nothing that influencers can create that does not already exist, yet new brands continue to sprout from social media platforms.
This contributes to the massive overproduction — and subsequent overconsumption — problem plaguing the fashion and beauty industries.
The way that influencers are pushing their followers to buy their products certainly does not help either.
But the damage goes beyond just environmental. Unknown designers and entrepreneurs are being pushed out as influencers take their jobs.
Whether because influencers are taking on designer roles at established brands or influencers are creating their own brands and hiring themselves as designers, graduates from fashion schools are finding their job opportunities are limited.
It will continue to worsen as the fashion industry suffers financially and more influencers turn down entrepreneurial paths as advertising money dries up.
Influencer brands are also contributing to the influx of low quality, fast fashion like products.
"Virtually all influencers selling physical products rely on contract manufacturers, so the success or failure of their brands largely depends on the capabilities and competence of the third-party suppliers they select." -econsultancy.com
Back in 2019, Jaclyn Hill, a beauty influencer, launched her own cosmetics line of lipsticks.
The lipsticks sold out quickly thanks to Hill's devoted fan base, but the devotion ended when the products arrived.
Hill's lipsticks did not go through quality control and were deemed defective by customers who bought them.
Social media posts showed mold and hair in the lipsticks, and Jaclyn Cosmetics was forced to issue full refunds on all products.
The scandal highlighted just how little control influencers have over the production of their products.
Most influencers rely on wholesale distributors to create and ship their products while just slapping their name on to promote sales.
Wholesale products are typically lower quality and less ethically and sustainably produced than small scale products.
Even though creating a brand requires more business knowledge, many influencers still approach it like “merch” production, where they can create a custom design on a stock t-shirt and sell it as their own product.
The Bottom Line:
Influencer brands are not only leading to more unnecessary overconsumption, but they are also creating social issues like job loss and the perpetuation of cheap products. Unfortunately, these are issues that look unlikely to end as influencing takes on a new meaning and the fashion and beauty industries go through a period of change following the COVID-19 outbreak last year.
The rise of influencers monetizing their own brands (The Blogger Programme)