The Influence Paid Partnerships have on Overconsumption in Gen Z

September 21st, 2022 by

Shopping and fashion hauls have been embedded in social media content since influencers first came onto the scene. Crowned within the YouTube Hall of Fame, haul videos are where a creator goes through a pile of clothing they’ve either bought or been gifted, and reviews the fit, quality and style. 

Hauls have lasted the test of time and have become popular across multiple platforms—predominantly TikTok and Instagram. The #haul hashtag on TikTok has over 25.8 billion views, and on Instagram has over 2.6 million posts. The majority of hauls posted from influencers and users include clothing and accessories purchased with their own money, but a fair few are a result of paid partnerships with brands.

Most promotional fashion hauls are associated with fast fashion players including Shein, Boohoo, PLT, and Zara. Shein hauls are renowned on TikTok for people spending hundreds of pounds or dollars on a hoard of new pieces; the #SheinHaul hashtag has over 6.7 billion TikTok views to date.

@jodi.opuda I got 91 items total so stay tuned for all the parts:) #shein #sheinhaul ♬ Triple S – YN Jay & Louie Ray

The sheer volume of hauls and clothes purchased has led to criticism from sustainability advocates, saying that overconsumption leads to excessive waste in the buy-and-return cycle. Some advocates and resale brands have attempted to redirect consumers to second hand brands, but this still hasn’t quelled the issue of promoting overconsumption. 

Overall, Gen Z are conscious of sustainability and the overproduction of fashion items, and the negative impact this has on the planet. However, there is a constant “push pull” between how they want to consume, and how they actually do. There’s no doubt there’s a desire to consume fashion sustainably and responsibly, but the influence and urge to keep up with social media trends and brands is hard to ignore.

@katieerobinson_ raise ur hand if you have a fast fashion problem 🫠 #fastfashion #haul #haultok #sustainablefashion #responsiblefashion #fyp #fashiontiktok #ecoactivist ♬ Aesthetic – Tollan Kim

Part of the reason overconsumption is so rife in Gen Z is because social media is used as a discovery tool, in a way that previous generations would have used Google. Nowadays, consumers—particularly those within Gen Z—want product testimonials and reviews that support their purchasing decisions. When they are given this before they have made the decision they even want to purchase something, they are influenced to do so. They have no need to browse for products or brands online because they are shown this in their native social media feeds. 

Gen Z trusts creators to provide them with the latest brands and trends. Through a haul format, Gen Z is given insight into everything they want to know before they decide to make a purchase—including product quality, style, fit and sizing.

@aandygirl H&M autumn haul 2022🍂 @H&M #hmhaul #hmhaul2022 #autumnfashion #autumnhaul #hmnewin #handmhaul #outfitideas #fallfashion #hmautumn #fashion ♬ Suddenly I See – KT Tunstall

However, it’s with this insight that hauls have perpetuated throwaway fashion. When users are constantly presented with new brands, products and trends, they are essentially being told that it’s fine to constantly replace the contents of your wardrobe with the next best thing, rather than encouraging a long-term relationship with clothing. 

Gen Z’s relationship with fashion has changed on a whole with the ease of access to brands and key fashion events. Luxury brands now livestream their Fashion Week shows, and often use influencers to build hype and act as brand ambassadors, bringing previously exclusive events right to their laps. 

One of the main benefits of this is that many members of Gen Z have been able to identify their personal styles and engage with like-minded (or like-styled?) people within their niche fashion communities or “cores”.

@ki11ix Cottage Core fashion isn’t my specialty but I tried 😅 #fypシ #thrifted ♬ sonido original – Fernet

Not only has access to the heart of fashion created new subgenres of fashion, but it has paved the way for new and more creators within the fashion realm. What does this mean? More trend inspiration and more hauls. 

The issue of fast fashion hauls directly competing with Gen Z’s desire to purchase responsibly has been noticed by resale apps and thrift stores. Hauls have blurred the line between commerce and entertainment. A consumption habit study of Gen Z Depop users found that 80% use social media as a source of fashion inspiration.

Even with second-hand brands encouraging consumers to buy second hand, this still doesn’t stop the issue of overconsumption; consumers are still overbuying.

So, how can brands and creators encourage responsible consumption of fashion items?

The simple answer is to promote slow fashion, and encourage consumers to look inside their own wardrobes for new ways to join in on trends.

@chloehelenmiles Gorgeous gorgeous girls love slow fashion @venetialamanna 🌿 #sustainablestyle #slowfashion #secondhandfirst ♬ gorgeous girls love slow fashion – Venetia La Manna

Because consumers are actively using social media for inspiration, brands and creators have a responsibility to provide actionable inspiration to reduce overconsumption. 

A way to provide inspiration while promoting items is through styling videos. Instead of having a creator pull together outfit inspiration using a load of new items, have them use one or two, and show a multitude of ways they can style the items with pieces they already own. The items could be shown in outfits for multiple occasions and seasons, proving how much of a long-term investment the item is. 

A great example of promoting responsible shopping comes from Hissy Fit Clothing. This brand uses its TikTok to show multiple ways to wear one piece—however much the piece costs is how many outfits they show.

@hissyfitclothing Replying to @tiara styling the £32 dress 32 different ways! #smallbusiness #smallbusinessowner #fyp #foryoupage #sustainablefashion #stylingideas ♬ original sound – hissy fit

By brands and creators taking responsibility for promoting responsible fashion, they will help ease the constant push-pull headache Gen Z’s face daily. They can still provide engaging and entertaining content by positioning themselves as an investment, rather than a hub for throw-away pieces.

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