A big name plus a big fast-fashion brand equals a big splash. Or does it?
Take Megan Fox’s recently announced Boohoo collection or Love Island’s Molly-Mae Hague stepping into U.K. creative director role at PrettyLittleThing. Then there’s the slew of big-name Fashion Nova collaborations, be it with Cardi B or Megan Thee Stallion, or Shein’s competition TV series that inked Khloé Kardashian, Jenna Lyons, Law Roach, InStyle’s Laurel Pantin and Christian Siriano as judges.
But fast-fashion collaborations, even with the latest and greatest talent, are having trouble finding sound footing in the ethical fashion community.
“I’m not excited, it’s not new. I think we’ve had these kinds of talent collaborations for a long time. I think it’s more of who is the brand partnering with — and why? What’s the message?” Samata Pattinson, chief executive officer of Red Carpet Green Dress, said in an interview with WWD. “As of yet, that remains uninspiring, and that’s not anything on the talent — that’s just the formula of fast fashion.”
Stepping into a new style status defined as “pop-punk girlfriend,” heavy on elements of grunge and gender-bending alongside boyfriend Machine Gun Kelly, Fox said she always wanted to design a collection and Boohoo gave her the opportunity to express herself. Meanwhile, Hague had been working with Boohoo-owned PrettyLittleThing as an influencer even prior to her “Love Island” days. Her announcement came this August, with months of Boohoo bad press to sift through since a Sunday Times report on allegations of workers’ rights abuses from July 2020.
Worker visibility is just one aspect of a seismic shift toward questioning fashion, with overproduction being another issue elevated on TikTok and runways — but not so much in influencer collabs.
“It’s so hard watching these collaborations when it’s talent that you like and think are amazing. I think, personally at this stage, the collaborations with fast-fashion brands that are not talking about reducing production are always going to be problematic because that’s the conversation that needs to be had regardless of who the collaboration is with. Are we talking about reducing production? Are we talking about reducing the number of collections we’re reducing each year? If not — why not?” Pattinson continued.
Calling for collaborations with teeth, Pattinson wants to see influential individuals solidify their beliefs (à la Billie Eilish) and pen partnerships with small, sustainable fashion brands.
That’s where strategists are working behind the scenes to help orchestrate these kinds of ethical alignments for talent who know their values but need strategic discernment.
“You don’t have to accept every job that comes in. The money comes and goes,” said Idalia Salsamendi, founder of Idalia Inc. “My personal job as a strategist and a consultant is making sure you’re making the best decisions.” Salsamendi’s influencer clients include Chriselle Lim and Brittany Xavier, among projects for brands like Chopard, Valentino and L’Oréal.
Speaking to the throw of optics, Salsamendi believes Megan Fox partnering with Boohoo, for example, lends the company a “seal of approval” while sweeping past allegations under the rug.
She cited client Lim’s “12 Days of Chriselle,” an influencer-led charitable campaign that runs the first 12 days of December (which has raised more than $100,000 to date for charities like Baby2Baby), and Xavier’s clean-beauty standard as examples of how values-led partnerships can look.
“What’s great about this is it gets the conversation going with brands,” Salsamendi said. “Do you have a charity you’re aligned with? We want to help you and what you believe with.”
Her strategy, of course, stems from her own beliefs: “I have a visceral need to make social media as healthy as possible for the next generation,” she said.
Some may point out that sponsored posts or collaborations of any kind may be frowned upon in a community hell-bent on morals. To that, she says: “If you’re doing something good and you’re moving the spotlight to the negative component then you’re not on the right path in this industry.”