A survey by the University of Hull found that the importance celebrity style once had on mainstream fashion may be waning as consumers are paying more attention to “globally important issues” when making shopping decisions.
The YouGov survey examined the attitudes of 2,084 adults across the UK and found that of the four per cent who said celebrity or influencer endorsements impacted their clothing choices, eight per cent were between the ages of 18 to 24 while just one per cent were over 55.
Ethical issues such as sustainability and the treatment of workers in the supply chain were more important to consumers, with nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) saying they were influenced by how fashion brands treated their garment workers.
More than half (57 per cent) said they took the sustainability of how the clothes were produced into consideration when making their sartorial choices.
Additionally, 55 per cent of those surveyed said they are more likely to buy clothing knowing it has been produced in a more sustainable way, with 51 per cent saying they would be willing to pay more for such clothing.
The survey also indicated that fast fashion was falling out of favour among young people, as 43 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds said they are more likely to have changed their buying habits in the last two years for more second-hand or vintage clothes.
Of this demographic, 41 per cent said their shopping habits changed because of environmental and sustainability concerns as well as a focus on reducing waste.
Commenting on the findings, Peter Andrews, senior lecturer in digital and social media marketing at the University of Hull, said: “Despite what we are led to believe – that celebrities and influencers are dictating fashion choices, particularly among the younger generations – this survey suggests the opposite is true.”
He noted that although “mega-influencers” have large followings, usually more than a million, evidence shows they “have less actual influence on their followers”.
In contrast, “micro influencers” who have a highly engaged community “have a much closer relationship with their followers and therefore have greater level of actual influence”, Andrews said.
“These influencers reflect their followers’ interests more closely and are more likely to be similar to them, with deeper connections.
“Unlike celebrities, they are also less likely to be ‘paid’ by brands to promote their products and are seen as being more authentic,” he added.
“It is also noticeable that over the last few years there has been a growth in sustainability-based influencers who have closer relations with their followers.”
Professor Dan Parsons, director of the university’s Energy and Environment Institute, added that the fast fashion industry is “one of the most harmful to the environment”, but many people have yet to realise the “devastating environmental consequences” it has.
“We all know we are facing an unprecedented climate crisis and we are well aware of the conversations around behaviour change associated with addressing other big problems such as plastic pollution,” he said.
“But people are yet to fully comprehend the sheer magnitude of the contribution of the fashion industry to these climate and environmental issues.”
The fashion and clothing industry is responsible for about 10 per cent of total global carbon emissions, and is estimated to increase by 50 per cent by 2030.
The industry also uses vast amounts of water – an estimated 93 billion cubic metres of water every year – and is responsible for 92 million tonnes of textile waste annually.
Prof Parsons said the statistics around the fashion industry’s environmental impact are “incredibly worrying”, but added that the survey shows a shift in the “right direction” in shifting consumer behaviours.
“It is encouraging to see shoppers are becoming savvier to the allure of so-called fast fashion and choosing what goes into their baskets based more on ethical considerations.”
“But this shift is still not fast enough and is not yet at the scale we need to address these climate and environmental crises,” he warned.
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