Sarah Rodrigues takes a look at five influencers flying a fashionable flag for sustainable wardrobes
When it comes to fashion inspiration, there are unfathomable numbers of bloggers and Instagrammers to follow. Many of them are up at what must be the crack of dawn to style themselves for their morning photo shoot, where they’ll show followers their #ootd (that’s ‘outfit of the day’, for the uninitiated) – whether they’re headed to the school run, the office or the supermarket. Still others take footage of their changing room try-ons and show how the latest must-have dress looks on a petite or plus-sized frame, or post ‘keep?’ or ‘return?’ opinion polls.
As gorgeous as the photos (and the clothes and people wearing them) are, all of this activity has an eco-consequence.
By focussing on fashion that others can easily emulate – aided by ‘swipe’ functions that take you straight to the retailer’s website – it’s undeniable that social media has contributed hugely to the rise in fast fashion. In fact a survey carried out by Fashion Retail Academy late last year showed that 54% of respondents thought that influencers have had, well, an influence in this respect – and that the figure is even higher among younger users, with 68% of those aged 25-34 believing this to be the case.
Fortunately, a growing number of Instagrammers are becoming increasingly aware of the potential of the platform to fly a fashionable flag for sustainable wardrobes. And even though they may not have a gazillion followers, or score loads of lust-worthy freebies, their accounts show loads of engagement, are packed with inspiration and are generally setting an excellent example of just how good second-hand can look.
Here are five of our favourites
Creator of the hashtag #onlywearsold, Ellen’s account is as worth following for her captions as for her conscious style inspiration.
Her conversational, stream-of-consciousness text is an absolute delight to read: peppered with several F-bombs, you’ll hear plenty about her cat, her partner, her thoughts on style and her love of vegan food. She’s also a dab hand at the #rewearx5 challenge, which means showing how to wear the same item five different ways – genius!
‘My daughters inspired me to become vegan– I’d had no idea that meat was such a huge contributor to global warming. Soon after, I became aware of the impact of fast fashion – and that was it for me: I decided to not buy new for an entire year. It was loads easier than I thought and made me so much more aware of how little I actually needed and whether I even needed it at all!
‘Fast forward a few years to now and I’m still vegan, still only wearing old clothes and still making better choices every day.’
On her dreamy and sun-dappled account, Kayt combines her striking looks with swoon-worthy vintage pieces in a series of self-portraits where she plays with light and shadow.
There’s a 70s/ 80s vibe to her look, but it’s mixed with a distinctly modern and wearable edge: expect slide-show posts homing in on details and slow-mo footage demonstrating the gorgeous flow and movement of her finds.
‘My earliest links to second hand and vintage probably came from going to local jumble sales with my Gran and dressing up from her magical box of clothes that my mum and aunty had worn as kids. By the time I was 14, I’d developed a unique sense of style and had little interest in shopping with my friends on Oxford Street. My passion for vintage and second hand has only grown over the years – I can’t walk past a charity shop without going in and it’s such a buzz when I find a gem.
‘I love mixing across the decades and the thought of the history that a piece has had before it comes to me. I’ve also become increasingly aware that buying second hand is a hugely positive step in helping the environment, as well as often supporting some great causes, and this is a discussion that my account often focuses on.’
Picture-perfect Allie has a way of making everything she wears look sensational. You’ll often find her against a plain brick wall, which really lets the clothes do the talking – and, my, do they ever have something to say.
Bold colours, balloon sleeves, slouchy trousers and full, swooshy skirts, coupled with fab details like oversized bows and statement belts make every outfit a feast for the eyes. Get involved with her #prelovedpretties hashtag for more inspiration.
‘I’ve worn preloved for as long as I can remember. As a teenager I got such a thrill out of finding vintage pieces and styling them up in my own way. The joy of shopping second hand is that you very rarely set out looking for a certain item – the pieces just sort of find you and you build an outfit that feels like YOU!
‘Added to this, shopping in this way really does help to slow down the fashion machine and support charities. If I can inspire people to think differently and give it a try by sharing my looks, then I’m a happy thrifter.’
There’s more than a touch of drama to this account – frequently stunning backdrops, full length frocks and Michelle’s incredible long, dark, curly hair – but equally, you’ll see at-home mirror selfies, ‘looking down’ shoe shots and an incredibly cute daughter.
She also goes to commendable pains to wash, restore and preserve vintage clothing that’s in a slightly sorry state. Join in with her #stylingnotshopping and #shoppingfromthewardrobe hashtags.
‘Some of the questions I started asking myself when quitting fast fashion were not just “Do you really need this?” but also – “who is telling you that you need this? What is their vested interest in making me feel that I need to buy it? Am I buying this because I truly love it, or to seek approval or feel better about myself? What emotional gap am I really trying to fill by buying this? Is it going to fill that gap?”
‘I now ask myself these things about all purchases, not just clothes.’
Chic, minimalist style shot largely against a plain white wall, with a couple of covet-worthy houseplants in frame: what’s not to love? If you like your Instagram feeds clean and stylish, and your sustainable fashion, cosy and wearable, then Gillian’s account is for you.
Check out her Story highlights for clothing care and sewing tips, plus capsule wardrobe styling.
‘We don’t need more; we need to want less. When I want to add something new to my wardrobe, my first step is to check out the local thrift and consignment shops. If I can’t find it locally, I look online, such as on Etsy or eBay. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try to make it myself or purchase from an ethical maker – and, if that all fails, I decide that it wasn’t meant to be at this time and keep it on my ‘thrift list’ in the hopes that I’ll come across it someday.
‘This process really makes me slow down – and it also gives me time to think about whether I really want an item or not. Will it be a good addition to my closet? Will I wear it? How often do I wish I had it when I’m getting dressed?’