Lolita Mas is a London-based fashion blogger with an Instagram following of more than 60,000. She told us about how her relationship with fashion has changed since she started blogging in 2014.
My career as a fashion blogger started as an unhealthy obsession with shopping. I'm from Latvia, which is a really small country, so growing up there weren't many shops to explore – and online shopping wasn't really a thing. When I moved to Manchester at 18, it felt like a consumer paradise in comparison. I got dragged in very quickly, shopping mostly fast fashion brands, accessorised with designer jewellery and shoes.
I started blogging about fashion in 2014 when I met a couple of bloggers who told me I had really interesting style, and suggested I give it a try. Back then, blogging felt more like a community. People did it because of a genuine love of fashion. Everyone was different and you didn't feel pressured to look a certain way and stay on trend in order to gain followers or book jobs. I don't think anybody expected it to evolve into the huge industry it is now, or anticipated that it would have such a big impact on modern culture.
I still call myself a "content creator" or "blogger", and refuse to be called an influencer. That word makes me cringe, because blogging has never been about trying to influence people.
I used to work a lot with fast fashion brands, because they were part of my lifestyle; I wore them anyway, so it only felt right to support them. A lot of Instagrammers gained their audience because they were relatable and showed people how to look stylish on a budget. On the surface, fast fashion was a good thing, because it made fashion more accessible and inclusive. I don't think anyone really thought about what was going on behind the scenes that allowed for all those delicious price tags, like the use of materials that can be harmful to the environment, or the exploitative working conditions that allow some brands to sell their clothes so cheaply.
Social media has also had an impact on the lifespan of trends. Before social media, a trend could exist for months, but now it's sometimes a matter of days. Some brands have gone from producing two to four collections annually to making 52 "micro seasons" a year, or one collection a week. Instagram plays a huge part in pumping the fast fashion bubble, and it really depends on each blogger whether or not they feel comfortable participating in this. Over the past couple of years, my habits have changed as I've learned about the darker corners of the industry.
Influencers often get unfairly criticised for being sent products that just get thrown away, but we don't receive gifts and PR packages just because – brands would always expect you to write about the products and post them in your feed or story. The same kind of things have been sent to the press for decades, but they don't get criticised. The problem is that when something gets sent to a big office full of people, everyone can find something for themselves, but when you're on your own and you get sent a box with 50 different shades of a new foundation, you realise how harmful and meaningless it would be to throw all the unsuitable shades away.
I think both brands and bloggers are becoming more aware about the environmental cost this entails. Beauty brands now ask you to colour match yourself so they can send you exact cosmetic shades, or even ask which specific launches you want to try. Many PRs are using recycled packaging for all of their send-outs, and everyone is a lot more conscious about the waste we are creating as an industry. With fashion, you rarely get sent unwanted gifts – most of the time you pick a selection from a look-book.
Bloggers and stylists also have the option of loaning from brands and PRs. All the brands have samples of each piece from the collection that normally can be loaned by magazines or bloggers for shoots and fashion weeks. If you're a sample size [a UK 6 or 8] it's a more sustainable option for pulling together interesting looks. A lot of people do this with clothes they've bought too, but I've only ever done that while working as a stylist – it doesn't sit well with me to do it on my own shoots.
Even if returning clothes is more sustainable than committing to a purchase, we do need to be careful to think about the environmental cost of sending back returns all the time. This does, of course, have its advantages: trying things on in the comfort of your own home, with other pieces from your wardrobe, lets you think harder about purchases and be less impulsive. It's great that we have this option as customers, but it’s important to use it wisely. So many places have easy and flexible return policies these days, and I think a lot of people are in the habit of ordering clothes just to wear them once, or order them for a photoshoot with the intention of returning them afterwards.
These days, I wear a lot more vintage clothing. I got to the point where I was sick of my shopping habits. I didn't like the constant rotation of new arrivals or poor quality clothing that I got fed up with after a few wears. I think, when you're looking for ways to be more sustainable when it comes to shopping, you realise that no new clothes can be completely sustainable, even if you wear them multiple times. If you’re "borrowing" clothes or ordering them with the intention of returning them, you're still endorsing this industry. We already have issues with overproduction and overconsumption, so extending the life of existing pieces rather than producing new garments is one of the best scenarios. I don't think I'll be able to switch to vintage only, but I'm happy I discovered the world of pre-owned clothing, and like mixing old and new in my wardrobe.
I have high hopes that the fashion industry as a whole will continue to change for the better, too. I think fast fashion companies will have to rethink their supply chain, because people are becoming more aware of the problems that were hidden for so long. The main challenges that the fast fashion industry will have to face are how to stay accessible but also produce less waste, use harmless materials and create fair working conditions.