A survey-based study to discover the attitudes and awareness of social media users towards the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry

  • Tanya Sammonds
Keywords: fast fashion, Instagram, environment, factory workers, sustainability


Fast fashion refers to the cheap, disposable, mass produced fashion collections sold in high street stores such as H&M and Zara. The processes used to make this clothing requires intensive labour which contributes to carbon dioxide emissions and high-water consumption. Harsh chemicals are added to fabrics to treat them, dye them, or create new ones. The health and wellbeing of textile factory workers remains compromised through poor health and safety and low wages. Sustainable fashion conversely is fashion designed from more sustainable processes including the fair treatment of its employees. Sustainable fashion is about adapting to change so fashion is adapted for longevity. Increased internet access has allowed social media to be used as a promotional tool for the apparel industry reaching millions globally and this coupled with the increase in smart phone ownership has given rise to online clothing marketing. Fashion influencers on social media apps, such as Instagram, market fast fashion brands to their thousands of followers promoting mass consumption of cheap  clothing  with just  a couple  of clicks. This study aims to discover social media user’s attitudes and  awareness of  the impacts  of fast  fashion and investigate if they believe fashion influencers should be morally responsible for the promotion of sustainable fashion. Using convenience sampling, 49 participants were recruited via social media to an online survey. Their responses were analysed and then compared alongside other research to discover the similarities and differences of the issue. The dissonance between purchasing fashion and an awareness of its impacts was evident. At the core people were more concerned by cost than sustainability  of clothing  reflecting  an  intention-behaviour gap evident in areas of ethical consuming. Participants care about the welfare of factory workers more than they care about the environmental issues but despite this it is still not enough to change behaviours in consumer purchasing. The majority of participants believe fashion influencers should promote sustainable  fashion indicating social media has significant influence on consumer purchases and could be used as a tool to change behaviours in the future.