I started my second-hand influencer page in 2017 to share items I found second-hand. In 2018 I began sharing second-hand outfit pictures, as I began to consume second-hand items for financial reasons, but also for style reasons, to create individual looks. In 2019, I became more proactive about the environmental benefits of consuming second-hand clothing, promoting this through involvement in campaigns such as #Secondhandseptember. Now, my second-hand influencer page promotes information on the three main benefits of second-hand fashion: environmental; price; and style. Furthermore, I also use Instagram to sell clothing on Depop.
The clothing in my Instagram feed (Fig. 1) like other second-hand influencers, are mostly one-offs, as they are second-hand. This can be positive for second-hand influencers, as more consumers are shopping second-hand in order to find fashion statements and unique clothing to dissociate themselves from hyper-consumerism (Gordon and Hill, 2015, p. 26). Fast fashion is producing uniform looks and highstreets consist of chain stores, causing difficulty in finding clothes of not one prescribed style, and limiting consumers’ ability to express their individuality and identity through clothing. (Woodward, 2015 b, p. 90). This ultimately causes clothing to become aesthetically impoverished, making fashion homogeneous and restricting consumers individuality.
Consequently, homogenous fashion causes consumers to dispose of their clothes quickly due to little emotional connection, as well as the lack of context or value associated with the clothing (Fletcher and Grose, 2012, p. 85). Before fast fashion’s development in the 20th century, clothing was an emotionally and economically valuable commodity (Brooks, 2015, p. 76). However, in the current fast fashion cycle, clothes are cheap and relatively easy to purchase. Consequently, this causes clothing to be disposable, rather than something that is valued and mended (Styles, 2014, p. 62). Sass Brown discusses how second-hand clothing provides the new owner with a sense of history and understanding of the original owner (2010, p. 103). Creating a sense of context and emotional value to the garment potentially pro-longs the garment’s use. Second-hand influencers often discuss how they sourced their clothes alongside detailing their emotional connection to the clothing, which in turn encourages their audience to become more sentimental about their clothes and their value as seen in fig.2.
“homogenous fashion causes consumers to dispose of their clothes quickly due to little emotional connection, as well as the lack of context or value associated with the clothing”
Influencers using one-off products does, however, contradict a main influencer role: to drive traffic towards a product and increase sales. Influencers expect their posts to direct as many people as possible to the featured products and initiate numerous sales. However, second-hand influencers cannot show purchase patterns, causing difficulty for brands to work with them. It is important for brands to see influencers’ algorithms and social intelligence, to assess if the posts are generating traffic and sales (Bendoni, 2017, p. 23). This leads to a disruption of the ordinary pattern of influencers and brands working together.
“Second-hand influencers often discuss how they sourced their clothes alongside detailing their emotional connection to the clothing, which in turn encourages their audience to become more sentimental about their clothes and their value as seen in fig.2.”
The problems second-hand influencers face when trying to form partnerships, indicate that second-hand influencers are not fashion influencers, but can in fact be defined as lifestyle influencers. Second-hand influencers are not selling a physical product that produces purchase patterns, but instead, they influence ideals of recycling and patterns of reduced consumption. With many consumers valuing style over ethical or sustainable matters, the second-hand influencer uses their content to influence consumers to take a more sustainable role with the consumer identifying with the influencer (McNeill and Moore, 2015, p. 212). This may then in turn lead to consumers aspiring to achieve the second-hand influencer’s lifestyle, and achieving their own version by changing their consumption to imitate the second-hand influencers (Perthuis and Findlay, 2019, p. 226).
Even though second-hand influencers promote more sustainable ways of consumption, they are still promoting consumption. Second-hand influencers are not affecting the amount of new clothing that is still being produced, nor the fashion industry’s model. Instead, influencers attempt to reduce fast fashion's impact (Fletcher and Grouse, 2012, pp. 63-64). Therefore, second-hand influencers should promote the consumption of second-hand and sustainable clothing, alongside promoting re-wearing already owned clothing. Successfully seen through the #ownclothesoctober campaign on Instagram, where Second-hand influencers promote new looks styled from already owned clothing, much like how consumers dress every day.
Overall, my findings have shown that second-hand influencers can be viable, and change consumption of second-hand clothing, as evidenced through the popularity of campaigns like #SecondhandSeptember. However, I propose that moving forward, second-hand influencers should focus on both lifestyle and fashion, in order to improve the effectiveness of their influence. My research has shown that second-hand influencers are not fully sustainable, through indirectly promoting fast fashion and the use of postage and packaging. Many of these influencers however, do increase the consumption of second-hand garments, reducing the amount of clothing thrown into landfills. I also propose that charity Instagrams need to be professionalized to increase their effectiveness, to increase participation from consumers, and influencers. If second-hand influencers succeeded in stopping fast fashion being produced, it would cause vast social and economic problems around the world. However, it would benefit the environment. Therefore, it would be more successful to only produce clothing that can survive multiple cycles in the second-hand system. Consumers should then continue to mix these with already owned and second-hand clothing.
While second-hand influencers are currently promoting second-hand clothing, more could be done to promote re-wearing clothes, upcycling and garment care. Therefore, I believe second-hand influencers should focus more on these topics alongside garment care and re-styling advice to help create a more achievable sustainable fashion approach.
- Bendoni,W. (2017) Social Media for fashion marketing- Storytelling in a digital world. London: Bloomsbury.
- Brooks, A. (2015) Clothing Poverty- The Hidden World of Fast Fashion and Second-Hand Clothes. London: Zed books.
- Brown, S. (2010) Eco Fashion. London: Laurence King.
- Farley Gordon, J. and Hill, C. (2015) Sustainable Fashion Past, Present and Future. London: Bloomsbury.
- Fletcher, K. and Grose, L. (2012) Fashion & Sustainability - Design for Change. London: Laurence king.
- McNeill, L. Moore, R (2015) 'Sustainable fashion consumption and the fast fashion conundrum: fashionable consumers and attitudes to sustainability in clothing choice',
- International Journal of Consumer Studies, 39(3), pp. 212-222.
- Perthuis, K.D. Findlay, R (2019) 'How fashion travels: The fashionable ideal in the age of
- Instagram', Fashion Theory, 23 (2), pp.219-242.
- Styles, Ruth. (2014) Ecologist Guide to Fashion. East Sussex: Leaping Hare Press.
- Woodward, S. (2015 a) ‘Accidentally sustainable? ethnographic approaches to clothing Practices’. Edited by K. Fletcher. and M, Tham. in Routledge Handbook of Sustainability and Fashion. Oxon: Routledge.