The Role of Influencers and Social Media in Sustainable Fashion 

The average person spends 2 hours and 24 minutes on social media every. single. day. The Influencer Marketing Hub found the global market size of influencer marketing to be $21 billion at the end of 2023, and only growing in 2024. 

Fashion influencers have proven to be an effective tool for the marketing industry, but the fashion trends and cycles that many influencers promote contribute to economic inequity and environmental degradation. The United Nations Environment Programme’s Sustainable Fashion Communication Playbook calls on influencers to be advocates for sustainable fashion and serve as role models for mindful living. 

In November 2023, Fashion Takes Action hosted Annette Vartanian, Elaine Ritch, and Lindura (who is also the MC of our ReMode event) to discuss the effects of influencer marketing on a panel hosted by me, Lexi Wright. This panel explored how influencer culture can be a force for good in fashion through the lens of sustainability and social justice. We delved into the emerging concept of de-influencing, what to look for in a fashion brand, and provided advice for fashion consumers. 

Read about what these experts had to say below, or watch the full session:

Why are influencers so impactful?

Bringing academic insights to the panel, Elaine noted that one of the biggest assets that influencers bring to brands or campaigns is that they’re multi-faceted and relatable. “They’re not just selling; they’re bringing their personality, sometimes their thoughts, emotions, and vulnerabilities to connect with consumers.” 

Elaine also mentions that influencers can be disruptive forces in the fashion industry if they disagree with its practices, since they impact and shape social behaviour and “ideas around what’s socially acceptable.”

The more influencers critique current trends (i.e. ‘fashion hauls), the more it helps to shift the paradigm away from excessive consumption, and toward reuse and conscious consumerism.

Is ‘de-influencing’ the way forward? What role does it play in limiting consumption?

Annette, Lindura, and Elaine came to a consensus that de-influencing in its purest form is a great thing. However, some influencers and brands use the trend to divert attention from one product to another (in a ‘don’t buy this, buy that insteadsort of way). See this video for an example highlighting that diversion of attention.  

Here’s what Lindura had to say about de-influencing: 

“I don’t think de-influencing can be looked at as a sustainable paradigm shift. I think it’s how you’re using it and what values your audience has. If an influencer is speaking to values that are just purely about saving money, then de-influencing might just be buying less expensive products, which in some cases isn’t even necessarily good because someone’s paying the true cost for that.”

Lindura also notes that sustainability-focused influencers like her and Annette have been ‘de-influencing’ for years; they’re just not naming it as such!

How can influencers or consumers decide if a brand is ethical?

As fashion influencers, Annette and Lindura both engage in brand partnerships, and take who they work with very seriously. Annette shares that if she “would not wholeheartedly wear something or support it,” there’s no way she will partner with the brand. 

When asked what sort of criteria they look for before engaging with or supporting a brand, here’s what they had to say:

  • Production transparency: If the brand is producing clothing, where and how is the garment produced and dyed? 
  • Employee treatment: Are those making the product earning a living wage and being treated fairly?
  • Packaging: What is it made of? How long does the packaging take to biodegrade?
  • Certification: Is the brand a B Corp, Fairtrade Certified, or in line with the Global Organic Textile Standard? This is something to look for, but don’t rule a brand out if it doesn’t have these… Annette reminds us that lots of small brands can’t pay for these certifications. By asking the brands questions, you can vet whether they’re in line with your values. 

However, it’s most important to Lindura that “the brand is striving to continually improve and continually find ways to do things in a more sustainable way.”

How can we all consume media more responsibly?

Advertising is all around us, and the media that we’re exposed to is often not in our control. So, how can we learn to digest the constant stream of advertising, new trends, and products that we see everyday?  

Slow down

  • Lindura encourages us all to ‘slow our roll.’ We don’t need to buy things immediately after we see them, and we certainly don’t need to take what others say online as fact. Do your research, and be comfortable waiting a week after seeing a garment – and then deciding if you really need it. 


  • Annette recommends unfollowing or muting those who don’t make you feel good about yourself. She believes that depending on how you use it, social media can be a wonderful place – “I’ve connected with people all across the globe because of my love of vintage thrifting.” However, your feed needs to be full of people and things that bring you joy, not those who make you feel insecure. 

Practice self-love

  • Purchasing new clothing isn’t always simply about the item – it’s tied to our confidence. Elaine explains that research shows fashion to be extremely linked to our identity. Practicing self-love and being aware of how things on social media make us feel is extremely helpful when trying to minimize consumption. 
  • Elaine notes that confidence is also a crucial piece in learning how to style vintage clothing. With the presence of fast fashion, you often don’t have to think about an outfit – it’s already been styled. Elaine believes that people have lost the ability to put together items from different retailers or decades in a way that makes them feel confident. The confidence to try new things can completely change one’s thrifting experience. 

Educating without dictating

The audience had many great questions for our panelists, including this one – How can I encourage my friends to be ethical shoppers without sounding condescending? Transferring your values to others is a delicate balancing act, especially when you have a strong relationship that you don’t want to break down. My favourite suggestion for how to introduce sustainable fashion to friends was Lindura sharing that she often hosts documentary nights. She believes that “art helps us bring topics into our everyday lives and actually confront them in a loving way as opposed to a judgemental way.” Some documentaries she’s shared with her friends include The True Cost and Fashion Reimagined. Lindura says the best part about this strategy is that you aren’t the one explaining new ideas to your friends, but you’re still sharing.  

Annette also encourages people feeling unsure about how to influence their friends to take them along vintage shopping or thrifting, and teach them how enjoyable it can be! 

For more insights from the panellists, watch the 45-minute session here

Click below to learn more about the Panelists –


Lexi Wright | Community Engagement Youth Ambassador, Fashion Takes Action

Lexi is a passionate changemaker and community builder who seeks to use business as a force for social and environmental good, especially in the fashion industry. She has a passion for educating the next generation, especially about ways they can improve outcomes for the future. (Read more…)

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