This past weekend in Hollywood showed star power is increasingly being wielded to call attention to the climate crisis, but with sustainable influencers becoming not looked over but lucrative today, the rules of influencer marketing have changed, yet again.
“What started off as a niche concept of bringing sustainability to the forefront of Hollywood’s elite on the red carpet is now becoming a norm,” Hassan Pierre, cofounder of sustainable e-tailer Maison de Mode, said to WWD.
Counterbalancing the sustainability focus of the Oscars red carpet, Maison de Mode held its third annual Sustainable Style Awards in West Hollywood, on the cusp of the Oscars calling on Hollywood’s elite, supermodels and even tech billionaires like Elon Musk, who attended past events.
As a general rule, experts at influencer marketplace firm Octoly find 2 to 3 percent as a good engagement rate for macro-influencers, with 4 to 6 percent for micro-influencers. Prescribed their traditional advice, brands sought out the micro-influencer for better ROI. But with a global environmental crisis, the question becomes — are macro and celebrity influencers more compelling change agents today than the micro-influencer?
“When you have a celebrity like Rosario Dawson showing up to red carpet events in head-to-toe sustainable fashion while simultaneously launching a sustainable fashion collection [Studio189] what she’s doing is telling her millions of fans across the globe that, ‘This is what I care about, you should, too, and it’s cool to care,'” Pierre said, adding that luxury brands get double the exposure when celebs rewear looks.
Caring is “cool,” and conversations can accelerate change.
“Influencers have an important role to play in making the industry more sustainable for the long-term. They can start valuable conversations about climate change and the individual impact of fashion consumption,” Amelia Neate, senior manager at U.K.-based influencer marketing firm Influencer Matchmaker, said in a report on how influencers are addressing the “clothing crisis.”
She finds that while micro-influencers were “originally more desirable due to the niche and small communities they had built,” macro-influencers and celebrities are often “more compelling now.”
Influencer Matchmaker’s core categories demarking the new sustainable influencer include: “thrift-fluencers” and “‘slow-fashion’ advocates,” as well as mentalities like or “lending, swapping and borrowing” or “make do and mend.”
“This new breed of influencer is encouraging us to adapt and mend fashion items that are special to us,” said Neate, on the latter, citing an example in which influencer Rosanna Falconer, also a contributor to sustainability consultancy Eco-Age, partnered with online repair service firm Clothes Doctor, garnering what she calls a “real boost” for the business.
Speaking to the growth of changing consumer behavior, Neate points to the acceleration of rental, and influencers such as Niomi Smart, as newfound opportunity. Touting 1.2 million followers on Instagram alone, Smart indulges unconventional partnerships. She recently wore a dress from By Rotation, a rent and lend app and hosted a “Smart Swap” clothes swapping party in partnership with Clothes Aid.
“It’s actions like this that lay down a marker for other ethical fashion influencers,” according to Neate.
This week, emerging designer Patrick McDowell, in partnership with Global Fashion Exchange, British Fashion Council and Swarovski, will host “The Swap Shop,” to highlight “fashion’s new way forward,” at London Fashion Week.
McDowell told WWD, “For me, it’s been great to see the rise of people with a social presence that are using it for good. I think there is a hunger for these shared lived experiences.”
Alongside the hunger for resale, Neate cites the use of hashtag #thrifted a whopping 1.8 million times, as data which “speaks for itself,” further validating the rise of “thrift-fluencers,” and those in the vintage community. It’s a fervor, no doubt advanced by influencers such as the orange-haired, punk-rock-leaning thrifter Olivia of @themetalromantic on Instagram.
While she advocates for thrifted fashion, she also directs followers to shop her vintage curation via Etsy, which is not uncommon for this cycle of sustainable influencers today peddling wares on resale platforms like Depop, Vinted and more.
Are they not just glorified business owners?
They are, but sustainable influencers today didn’t endure the barriers to entry that early sustainability movement leaders such as Rachel Kibbe, a textile waste consultant and circularity expert, underwent.
“I feel very lucky to be employed doing what I love, for what I believe in but it wasn’t always the case,” said Kibbe, citing her and her peers (what she calls the original “sustainable influencers”) such as Marci Zaroff, designer Katherine Hamnett, Eco-Age founder Livia Firth, among others as the “women — yes we are all women — who really started the sustainable fashion movement as we know it today.” Among the calls-to-action she makes, she vehemently adds: “fund their business ideas” to the list of respects paid to early sustainable fashion leaders.
Kibbe added: “I also think the industry should make sure they are selecting the influencers, both macro and micro, who are truly informed, have paid their dues and have genuine and engaged followings. Do your research.”
As for Neate’s advice to brands, she said: “find the right balance between those that can promote both new and old style, as well as those who are producing creative and impactful content that will cut through the noise.”
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