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Instagram isn't the space for sustainable fashion

Opinion

Published by:

6 August 2019

Author: Kathryn Bishop

Image: Allbirds Instagram, US

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As more brands strive to be sustainable, it’s time to re-think social platforms that promote incessant newness and instant in-app purchasing.

Shopping on Instagram. Sure, I’ve done it. In fact, in recent months I’ve probably made five purchases directly or indirectly by discovering an item on Instagram. I can tap a post, see the price and make it mine in a matter of minutes.

In recent months, Instagram has made shopping even more seamless, debuting its in-app checkout with brands such as Zara, Nike and H&M. I’d go as far to say that the social side of things is now secondary – Instagram has transformed into an e-commerce platform. Now, it’s an amalgamated space where the latest drops fill your feed, new brands’ adverts entice you as you scroll, and Buy Now banners wink in vibrant colours. It’s like being a kid in a candy shop all over again. And boy, I’m always tempted.

But as someone who – like over 50% of consumers in the UK and the US – wants to see and buy more sustainable fashion, the green credentials of the brands I’m browsing is increasingly front of mind. And this is where the ease of shopping on Instagram becomes a sticking point.

Absolutely, sustainable brands are doing their part to change how the fashion industry functions, and the ability to showcase their goods on a platform with over one billion monthly active users holds vast appeal. But if your brand is all about encouraging people to take a more considered approach to the products they buy, the styles they select and the materials used, does it make sense to exist and engage in a space that’s leaning so heavily towards incessant newness and impulsive purchasing?

'I know what you’re thinking: brands need to make money. But their credentials, quality and long-term vision should be strong enough to drive sales'

Allbirds, US
'In this future, one-click won’t cut it. If you really want something, you’ll make the effort to contact the brand to buy it'

This, at a time when we barely go a day without a new statistic emerging detailing the harrowing impact of our consumption on the environment. It intrigues me further when sustainability-driven brands such as Stella McCartney post each day on Instagram and regularly urge followers to pre-order collections, yet simultaneously launch a campaign featuring members of the Extinction Rebellion movement, which itself encourages consumers to #BoycottFashion.

I know what you’re thinking, though: brands need to make money. That’s a given. But if a brand purports to be sustainable and to champion a more considered approach to consumption, perhaps it’s time for labels large and small to find a new social space to share their work and values?

It's here that Instagram owner Facebook could work in tandem with modern consumers and sustainability movements to envisage and innovate a standalone social platform solely for sustainable fashion and lifestyle brands. Certainly, with ASOS and Net-A-Porter recently launching sustainable fashion edits, demand and interest has peaked across consumer demographics, hungry to go green. Within this new space, brands can be discovered, accrue followers, and promote their work and ethics to people who actively care. But shopping? In this future, one-click won’t cut it – if you really want something, you’ll make the effort to hunt the brand down.

Embodying a Brand Redemption mindset, let’s hope Instagram re-evaluates its shopping tools, and embraces a future in which fashion thrives not by perpetuating sales, but instead championing longevity, quality materials and sourcing, and more considered purchasing.

To gain additional insight on the sustainable retail industry, download our Sustainable Futures Report.

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