Students shopping for vintage clothing in a Hull shop

Celebrity style a turn off for savvy shoppers who say environmental and sustainability concerns top reasons for changing buying habits

Whether its Scarlett Johansson’s red-carpet glamour, Emma Watson’s chic style or Kate Middleton’s royal charm, celebrities have been setting the fashion agenda for decades.

But according to a new survey, celebrity style is no longer in vogue as shoppers say they have less interest in dressing like famous faces.

The YouGov survey, commissioned by the University of Hull, reveals just 4% of people now choose their style based on celebrity or influencer endorsements.

Instead, shopping habits are being influenced by globally important issues such as sustainability and ethical considerations, including the treatment of workers in the supply chain and the sustainability of the way the clothes were produced

In addition to this, 43% of 18-24-year-olds say they are more likely to have changed their buying habits in the last two years swapping the mass marketed, fast fashion carousel for more second-hand or vintage clothes – more than double that of the over 55 group (19%). Of these 18-24-year-olds, 41% say their habits have changed because of environmental and sustainability concerns as well as a desire to reduce waste.

The survey examined the attitudes of 2,094 adults across the United Kingdom on a National Representative sample.

It revealed:

  • Just 4% of people said celebrity or influencer endorsement impacted their clothing choice (8% of 18-24 compared to 1% of over 55s)
  • Nearly two thirds (65%) said they were influenced by the treatment of workers in the supply chain
  • 57% of people said the sustainability of how the clothes were produced was a factor in the fashion choices they made
  • 55% of people said they are more likely to buy clothing knowing it has been produced in a more sustainable way
  • More than half (51%) said they would be willing to pay more for clothing knowing it had been produced in a sustainable way.

When it comes to behaviour changes nearly triple the number of people say they have been motivated to change their habits in the last two years due to environmental and sustainability considerations (45%) rather than because it is cheaper (16%).

Peter Andrews, Senior Lecturer in Digital and Social Media Marketing at the University of Hull, said: “Despite what we are led to believe - that celebrities and influencers are dictating fashion choices, particularly among the younger generations - this survey suggests the opposite is true. In terms of influencers, whilst mega-influencers might have a large number of followers, the evidence is that they have less actual influence on their followers. Every day influencers - micro influencers - have a much closer relationship with their followers and therefore have a greater level of actual influence.

“These influencers reflect their followers interests more closely and are more likely to be similar to them, with deeper connections. Unlike celebrities, they are also less likely to be ‘paid’ by brands to promote their products and are seen as being more authentic.

“It is also noticeable that over the last few years there has been a growth in sustainability-based influencers who have closer relations with their followers.”

Professor Dan Parsons, Director of the University of Hull’s Energy and Environment Institute says the so-called ‘fast fashion’ industry is unquestionably one of the most harmful to the environment yet many people are yet to wake up to the devastating environmental consequences it is having on the planet.

He said: “We all know we are facing a unprecedented climate crisis, and we are well aware of the conversations around behaviour change associated with addressing other big problems such as plastic pollution. But people are yet to fully comprehend the sheer magnitude of the contribution of the fashion industry to these climate and environmental issues.”

It’s reported the industry consumes 93 billion cubic metres of water every year – enough to meet the needs of five million people. Globally, the sector is also responsible for around 20% of industrial water pollution as a result of textile treatment and the use of fabric dyes.

The carbon footprint of the fashion and clothing industry is responsible for about 10% of total global carbon emissions, and is estimated to increase by 50% by 2030. And annually, the industry results in the release of about half a million tons of plastic microfibres into the oceans – the equivalent of more than 50 billion plastic bottles.

Plastic fibres from fashion items and clothing have been found everywhere, including by University of Hull and British Antarctic Survey scientists who discovered high levels of microplastic particles accumulating in remote polar oceans around the Antarctic. These are areas previously considered a pristine wilderness, but the levels found were much worse than expected – 100,000 times higher than first predicted.

Clothing and the fashion industry is also responsible for 92 million tonnes of textile waste annually, much of which is either burned or sent to landfill. Less than 1% of used clothing is recycled.

Professor Parsons said: “These statistics are incredibly worrying. To turn the tide, we need to see a fundamental shift in consumer behaviour and urgent changes within this global industry. This survey shows we are heading in the right direction. It is encouraging to see shoppers are becoming savvier to the allure of so-called fast fashion and choosing what goes into their baskets based more on ethical and environmental considerations. But this shift is still not fast enough and is not yet at the scale we need to address these climate and environmental crises.”

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