When Karly Ruesen and Savannah Sauriol launched their Instagram personas, it was to share their love for fashion and their individual, creative approaches to it. The two cousins from the Niagara region launched the Blonde Roast, an Instagram account, from sharing their favourite looks, to mixing and matching items from their closet in order to create a new and lasting impact. Their success led to their work being featured on other Instagram pages – Urban Planet, Boohoo and Pretty & co, to name a few.
Instagram influencers pepper the online landscape, many of them attached to talent agencies, who broker advertising contracts based on the size and type of the influencer’s audience. But with fast fashion and a buy-now culture of consumption, some Instagram influencers are looking to influence their audience to think twice about what they spend their money on.
Instagram influencers are defined as individuals who influence a large number of people about brands, experiences, wants, etc. They play a role in telling others about what they like and what they do not. According to a survey by Nielsen, a global measurement and data analytics company, 92 per cent of customers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement.
According to Influencer Marketing Hub, a resource for influencers, agencies, and platforms, said that the fastest-growing online customer-acquisition method in 2017 was influencer marketing. 37 per cent of marketers surveyed are dedicating a budget for influencer marketing. The study shows that “for each dollar spent on influencer marketing, marketers see an average of $7.65 in earned media value returned.”
Ruesen and Sauriol have evolved their brand as they’ve grown. Over time, they’ve been exposed to a lot of information about the way the fashion industry functions and the negative impacts of fast fashion on the planet. But growing up they only shopped at places they could afford, such as Ardene, Urban Planet and Forever 21. They never fully understood the process of making clothes and what happens after they have been used and disposed of, until later.
They find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place, just like many fashion driven individuals their age. The dilemma lies in those aspiring Instagram influencers who want to be ahead of the fashion trends but cannot afford to spend a lot of money on their clothing. In addition to that, there is a fast turnover in fashion trends, and new and upcoming fashionistas cannot afford to keep purchasing such items. Sauriol said “I don’t think people understand that what they are wearing is affecting it [the environment].
Of course, being a brand ambassador can be ethically challenging. Urban Planet has recently scouted Sauriol to be a brand ambassador. She said, “the reason I support them is because they support me. They want to send me free stuff and with my financial situation right now I can’t really turn that down […] yeah, I do wish I could support a sustainability brand but sustainability brands haven’t reached out to me and it would be financially dumb for me to say no to Urban Planet because they are giving me free stuff to post a picture in, which I post pictures anyways.” The brand provides her to use a promo code that encourages others to buy clothes from them as well. Karly also says “it’s our world, it’s our generation, and our kids that we need to save now, and so it’s a confusion with anyone, […] I think it’s important if we have an open conversation to say ‘yes I did this but I was being mindful about it.’” She says this in the attempt to make others understand and communicate about the impact of fashion on the environment and on our lives.
Sauriol is aware of the implications that places like Urban Planet has on the environment but says it is hard for her to give up this opportunity. She is also a student at Ryerson University. As a fashion student she says, “I couldn’t sleep at night if I created things on this earth that killed it.”
However, she says financial pressure means she has to accept offers from places like Urban Planet. Her solution is to pick up basic clothing from there, focusing on gathering clothes that fall under the long-lasting fashion trends such as plain coloured t-shirts, jeans, and blazers.
On the Blonde Roast, Ruesen and Sauriol are now both trying to influence others to wear more basic clothing and make them more fashionable. They have posted pictures where the same shirt is worn multiple ways to show their followers that fashion does not necessarily mean more new clothes, rather it means new ways to wear them.