A few weeks ago, I built up the courage, emptied my bank account, and flew across the ditch to attend Australia’s first Circular Fashion Conference. I spent a few weeks in Melbourne and Sydney beforehand, meeting eco-fashion designers, bloggers, friends, and generally building up an ethical fashion whirlwind around me. When people knew about my travels and asked about what I was doing, I got some funny looks.
You see, some people seem to think that an ethical fashion blogger/influencer/activist (whatever you want to call it) simply travels around, blissfully taking photos, Instagramming, tweeting, Facebooking, and living the life of every girl’s dreams. Whilst sometimes my Instagram may look like that (something I’m now being more conscious of), I can tell you confidently after an 80+ hour week… it’s definitely not.
Regardless of what an ethical fashion blogger is (which I will get into later), it got me thinking:
What the heck am I doing? Am I really making a difference? Was my presence at the conference beneficial to the big picture? Am I really just a fashion-loving female getting caught up in social media? Can an eco-fashion influencer change the world?
So not to let my existential crisis get too much to bear, let’s answer these questions one by one:
What the heck am I doing?
Eco-fashion influencers may have the same goal of advocating responsible fashion, but there are differences in how we work, depending on focus, location, and skills. I like to call myself an eco-fashion AND lifestyle blogger. I write about eco-fashion alternatives for your wardrobe and present ways to live a life with less impact on the planet, and therefore, more happiness in your everyday life.
Brands approach me to represent their company, and we discuss the best way to work together – generally through my media kit which is kind of like a blogger’s menu. I then spend hours taking photos of their products, writing blogs, planning posts, and shouting their brand name from the rooftops! I wear and use their products out and about, style them well so they get attention, and support the brand by sharing their events, sales, catching up for coffee (a chai latte in my case), and usually becoming close friends.
I only work with brands who align with my ethics, and I turn down those who don’t fit my style, or I’m uneasy about. Most of my waking moments involve analysing each brand, and brainstorming how I can show the world that their ethical products are a far better alternative than fast fashion. I live and breathe eco-fashion. I hate the word ‘influencer’. I’d like to think of myself as an eco-activist.
Am I really making a difference?
The earth doesn’t have time for us to think about ourselves as ‘just one person’. If I did that, I could contently attend a day job, and go about life as just another human who will eventually die one day. But Mother Theresa could have thought of herself like that too. Same with Barrack Obama, Albert Einstein and David Attenborough.
When I question whether I’m making a difference, I look through my messages to reflect on the connections I’ve made. I spend up to two hours a day answering messages from people who ask me questions about greener alternatives, send me love and support, or want to discuss how to live more ‘eco-friendly’. I see people literally change their lives because of something I’ve said that has flicked a switch, or hit home to what they already, deep down, believed.
Even if I had only one message in my inbox from someone saying they had felt encouraged to stop using plastic bags, stopped buying fast fashion, and felt more enthused about life because of my ‘you can do it!’ posts… I’d still be proud of the difference I am making.
Was my presence at the Australian Circular Fashion Conference beneficial to the ‘big picture’?
At the conference, I talked and connected with several mainstream retail brands (e.g. Bonds, Kmart, Tigerlily). The messages from these companies, which are generally seen as the monsters of fast fashion, were the opposite of what I expected. I used to spend my time telling consumers to boycott them. But really, they are investing in sustainability initiatives we have no idea about because they are too afraid they’ll get slammed for not being perfect.
Without attending the conference and hearing straight from the horse’s mouth what is going on behind the scenes, my work would become outdated, unreal, and unhelpful to the greater fashion industry. I am a voice amongst the consumers; the people who have all the power in the world to change the fashion industry. By being present, and listening rather than pointing fingers, I can bring real knowledge to other shoppers.
Am I really just a fashion-loving female getting caught up in social media?
I love fashion. I love textiles, colours, clothes with stories, wearing a different skin every day, and the idea that we can express ourselves through the medium of fabric on our bodies. I never planned on being an eco-fashion blogger and activist. It came from my genuine passion and love for clothes that were made from love and respect for people and the planet.
Can an eco-fashion influencer change the world?
Sustainable fashion influencers may be ‘single individuals’ but together, we’re a community and we’re having an impact. Social media has allowed me to spread my reach, and change the habits of people all over the globe. I won’t be able to change the world by myself, I know that. However, if my ideas get passed like Chinese whispers, and I team up with those around me to create louder voices, then my answer is: yes.
Eco-fashion influencers can have an impact on changing our world. It might be small to begin with, but someone has to throw the first stone that creates the ripples behind the huge waves of positive change.