Some influencers have complained about gifting from public relations reps for environmental reasons and now the original influencers — fashion editors — are following in their footsteps.
Gifting is certainly nothing new, with p.r.’s sending free products to fashion and beauty editors for decades and it being widely considered one of the perks of the job, especially given some of the surprisingly low starting salaries at glossy magazines (just take a look at the media industry pay spreadsheet doing the rounds on an open access Google doc).
But the rise of social media has taken it to a new level over the past few years, upping the stakes when it comes to elaborate attention-grabbing packaging and the amount of swag sent. During the holidays, this trend can avalanche, with editors’ desks covered with cardboard boxes and paper bags — as well as the mess left from the Instagram-friendly smash cakes.
Now some New York-based fashion editors are taking a stand ahead of the holiday season — although not completely rejecting the idea of free gifts from p.r.’s.
At a recent Maje breakfast hosted by Julia Gall, accessories director of Marie Claire, and Gabby Prescod, style lead and senior market editor of Bustle, a number of fashion editors gathered to discuss the problem of sustainability in fashion and what role they could play. The result is an open letter urging p.r.’s to rethink gifting, posted to the social media accounts of those in attendance, including Vanity Fair fashion market director Nicole Martine Chapoteau and Town & Country fashion market editor MaryKate Boylan.
“In an effort to reduce excess, we, in the fashion community, are seeking a mindful awareness this holiday season (and beyond!). We urge p.r. agencies and brands to refrain from blind gifting and using excessive ‘unboxing’ materials,” the letter said. “Thoughtful packaging, as well as advance notice, choice of product or the option to respectively opt out of gifting would be appreciated as we set the intention to shift industry norms.”
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One of the most wonderful parts of my job is the early access to fabulous new fashion and beauty products. However, the popularity of digital “unboxing” has led to an overwhelming demand to promote product in a splashy and wasteful way. Not all surprises are welcome! If you have any questions or notes about how to shift this kind of promotion, please leave them below or in my DM’s. Thank you for helping keep this in check 💚
On her Instagram account @eiffeltyler, Fashionista.com editor in chief Tyler McCall, who was at the breakfast, wrote that every editor present expressed an awareness that gifting is, in many ways, a privilege of this job and “no one is ungrateful for the very kind gesture of being gifted to begin with.” But they are all aware that — for the well-being of the Earth — “things have to change.”
“There is a lot of excess in the industry, whether that’s makeup sent in wrong shades, clothing sent in wrong sizes or one-off items branded with logos for promotional purposes. And the packaging alone can get insane over the holiday season,” she added.
Of her decision to cohost the breakfast, Gall told WWD that sustainability in her personal life has been top of mind after she challenged herself to try to ban single-use plastic for the month of April and she thinks “this is a good time for brands to be more conscious about how to target editors responsibly.” Her goal is to work with brands on their selection of gifting to reduce waste that affects the environment.
Prescod was unavailable for comment, but a spokeswoman for Bustle Digital Group, Bustle’s parent company, said: “Many women’s lifestyle publications have come together in an effort to promote sustainability this holiday season. We applaud their efforts to set a new standard around preventable waste.”
Among the companies already practicing sustainable gifting is Brazilian footwear brand Cariuma. Instead of sending a gift to an editor recently, it donated five trees to be planted in her name.
“We thought it was important to instead of gifting the editor with more material goods, to give back to the environment in their name instead,” said Michelle Katz, its public relations manager. “Given the topic of conversation and the core of Cariuma centering around sustainability, we thought it only appropriate to continue that effort in something that would give back to them and our planet in a more meaningful way. This is definitely something we will continue to do for editors in order to continue our sustainable initiatives.”
Cariuma’s move fits in with the practice adopted by many fashion brands in recent years, which have opted for giving to a particular charity in a journalist’s name rather than any gift at all (apart from a, presumably recyclable, Christmas card). The perfect way to avoid “excessive packaging.”
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