As brands struggle to stay above water, marketing budgets have been reduced, and now influencers, in particular, are feeling the pressure. According to Launchmetrics, sponsored posts represented 35% of influencer content in February; that number fell to just 4% by April. So it's not surprising to see more content creators partnering with companies that they usually wouldn't. You may have even seen your favorite sustainable fashion Youtuber advertising for, gasp, a fast fashion company. In reality, it's not just the pandemic that has caused influencers to shift away from small sustainable brands and market for larger companies, in turn, receiving a bigger paycheck. More than a few consumers have seen influencers "sell out" as their followings have grown. It is understandable. Larger brands have more money to spend on influencer marketing, and most sustainable brands don't have the size to pay Instagramers thousands of dollars for a single post or send them on trips around the world, like fast fashion retailer Revolve. After working for years to build followings in the millions, of course content creators would want to make more money, even if that occasionally means abandoning their ethics.
Then there are those who say a "sustainable fashion influencer" is an oxymoron because it is impossible to care about the environment and push consumption on your followers. While this is a valid point, the flip side of the argument is that content creators not only influence their fans to shop, but also to learn more about fashion and its impact on the planet and people. Sustainable fashion influencers are educating consumers about a topic that wasn't widely discussed a decade ago, and most people agree that creators deserve to be paid for their content and the easiest way to get money is through sponsored advertising. So what are the best brands for influencers who want to make big bucks, but stick with their morals and promote conscious shopping?
ThredUP is an online consignment store started in 2009 that has recently made quite a splash in the world of women's thrift shopping. The brand makes buying secondhand clothing more accessible to everyone, carrying hundreds of thousands of items and shipping to areas where in-person thrift shops are scarce. ThredUp is also expanding its influencer marketing. Last year it created the campaign #secondhandfirst, which was used on 681,100 posts by September 2019. The online thrift store has also sponsored YouTube videos like popular thrift-flips -- where thrifted clothes are altered and made stylish again. Great news for influencers, the resale market has been growing during the pandemic, meaning that ThredUp appears to be on track to spend even more on marketing in the future.
Reformation has long been involved in influencer marketing, and basically became recognizable as the "cool girl brand" thanks largely to its social media presence. In 2017 the Los Angeles based sustainable brand was the subject of articles by websites like Man Repeller that reported on its appeal among influencers. While it is not always clear if posts are #sponsored (the influencer is being paid) or not, it is clear that Reformation relies on social media and social media personalities to drive sales. Considering the recent scandals the brand now finds itself wrapped up in, they may choose to rely even more on outside influencers as opposed to their own marketing team.
A final option, that many influencers already use to resell their old clothes, is Poshmark. The platform is a bit like eBay but for women's clothing, and it has grown a lot since influencers like Emma Chamberlin and Ashely aka bestdressed sold on it. Poshmark has an influencer program called Posh Affiliate for anyone with at least 5,000 Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube followers, making it an option for big and small influencers alike. It is not a sustainable company on its own, but by enabling secondhand clothes to be exchanged more easily, Poshmark has become a big name amongst sustainable shoppers.
"Sustainability" has gone from a word that consumers rarely heard, to one that seems to be losing its meaning because of how often it's used. Influencers, especially younger ones, have grown their brands thanks to terms like "sustainability", and while many consumers can agree that influencers have helped spread the message about environmental issues, some content creators have used the topic as a way to make themselves more appealing to their audience. Instead of thrifting once and calling themselves "eco-warriors", influencers who actually want to build an image on ethics, should partner with the like-minded brands. That means no more Revolve or PrettyLittleThing and more sponsored posts with companies that are at least making an effort to protect the environment.