Craving Meaningless Fashion: How Influencer-Culture Ruined the Emotional Durability of our Wardrobe

Fashion is faster than ever - not only in retail but also in our digital environments. Social media algorithms know no stop in feeding us new content, as Gen-Z is hungry for it. However, what does this constant need for renewal mean to how we perceive our wardrobe? This article explores how we seem to have lost appreciation for what we wear and how influencer-culture plays a part in this. After all, outfit repeating still seems to be an absolute no-go.

Take a good look at your wardrobe. How many items do you truly cherish and care for? I bet there are less than you expected. Today, clothing has become less and less meaningful to the mainstream consumer. (Online) Shopping is quicker and more efficient than ever before. Next, or even same-day shipping has made consu
mers eager to want the newest in the fastest way possible.  As Eugene Rabkin said: “We have entered a state of pure postmodernism, where anything goes and nothing means anything anymore.” (BoF, 2018). But how did we let it come this far? Fast-fashion seems to be the answer. This construction has created a disposable system, a throwaway society, that contributes to making the fashion industry the second most polluting in the world.

@shitbloggerspost ‘exposing’ influencers

Do it for the gram

One generation that has grown up in a society filled with fast-fashion is Generation-Z; people born in the late nineties to the early-mid two thousand’s. We see that it is mostly this generation that is hungry for the fast and cheap. This raises the question of what role social media plays in this development. Influencers have established a following which aspires to be like them. By being exposed to continuous new pictures of new outfits online, it’s easy for Gen-Z to fall into the trap of wanting the same thing; wearing new garments, resulting in their frequent buying behavior.

Besides buying more, the audience of influencers values the worth of a clothing item not only based on how it wears in real life but most of all on if it will look good in their Instagram feed. A 20-year-old told the New York Times that; “when I’m dressing to go out, I’m dressing to be seen, which is weird to say because we’re not influencers. It sounds shallow, but I think in the back of your head you’re like: I probably should avoid wearing the same outfit twice.” (New York Times, 2019). Girls, and boys, want to stay relevant and show off their curated life in the best way possible. Rewearing an outfit does not fit into that image. A picture says more than a thousand words after all.

Fear of attachment

Influencer-culture has thus added fuel to the fire of the unsustainable shopping habits of Gen-Z. That is not to say that all of Gen-Z is giving in to the desire of the new. Many of them are more and more conscious about the climate crisis that we are currently facing and realize how their shopping behavior can influence this. Yet, not enough people are valuing their garments season after season. Fashion is after all only ‘in fashion’ for so long. One of the reasons that cause the short lifespan of people’s wardrobes has to do with a lack of emotional durability. This term highlights what it means to have a relationship or a connection with your garments, therefore increasing their longevity within the wardrobe. It seems to be a mindset that has been caught up in the fast pace of today’s fashion industry. The curated images on social media give us the idea that we always need to do more, look more like this, and so on. Being continuously exposed to this ideal, it’s not strange that the desire for newness is strengthened through this. We all know that social media is not an accurate reflection of reality and yet we are comparing ourselves to others, wanting to live their lives.

Seems familiar: the unoriginality of influencers’ pictures
We can state that fashion of today has less to do with authenticity as a result of social media. Instagram account @shitbloggerspost exposes influencers by showing how unoriginal pictures of many are, as similar pictures have been taken by colleagues. Because of this lack of authenticity and the frequent exposure to the same ‘trendy’ pictures that influencers copy from one another, it is harder to connect with a garment on a personal level. Emotional durability is therefore more difficult to obtain for the Instagram scrolling generation but it could be the solution towards a more sustainable fashion industry. As public figures that many look up to, influencers have acquired an exemplary role and should lead the change within this topic. By bringing back authenticity in our feed, whether this means influencers changing for the better or us consumers unfollowing those who don’t, fashion can become more meaningful again and return to being an expression of individuality.

“We have entered a state of pure postmodernism, where anything goes and nothing means anything anymore.”

Long live fashion!

With Gen-Z making up for 40 percent of consumers globally (BoF, 2020), the power is in the hands of this future generation. Its digital currency (likes, views, shares) has authority online and should be invested into the influencers who are truly valuing their wardrobe; they who show that fashion can mean more than it being just a one-use-product for that picture-perfect Instagram post. But in the end, to state that fashion has become completely meaningless, partly thanks to social media, would do it injustice. Fashion has not become meaningless at all, its meaning might just have changed. And as it is with any form of art, it’s up to you to decide whether you like it or not.


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Brands and Innovation         Amsterdam Fashion Institute