Maybe every generation before us has felt this way, but we’re in kind of a weird and unprecedented time, aren’t we? Last week, we were on a family vacation and I don’t remember how the conversation got started, but my dad turned to my sister and said, “I don’t really get the whole influencer thing.”
My sister explained to him that influencers sell a lifestyle. They sell themselves. People buy what they’re selling because they find something in them that they desire: beauty, luxury, edge, adventure, confidence.
From the original Mad Men of advertising to celebrity endorsements, companies have always used buyer psychology to influence our purchasing decisions. We’re sold a lifestyle every time we see those picture perfect couples on Christmas morning with the new Mercedes SUV in the driveway wrapped up in a big, shiny, red bow. I get emails from Vogue magazine every day with headlines like, “J.Lo Wears This Dramatic Accessory While Shopping In Capri”. We’re made to want what other people have. Social media influencers are simply the latest iteration of age old advertising.
Maybe you’ve succumbed to the influencer craze. If so, you’re not alone. The influencer industry, as we know it today, has exceeded 21 billion dollars and more than doubled in size since 2019. Perhaps you’ve gotten sucked into the even newer de-influencing trend, scrolling TikTok videos and Instagram reels for products people tell you NOT to buy… and often, what to buy instead. Yeah, that’s a sneaky one. It’s like the Matrix of social selling!
Whether you frequent the feeds of a handful of carefully selected micro-influencers or whether you distrust anyone selling anything on social media, we need to navigate this era of online shopping with greater intention. So in today’s episode, I’m breaking down my thoughts on influencer marketing, the de-influencing trend, and why buying LESS is the counterintuitive secret to having more.
The Issue with Overconsumption
I’ve confessed my own history as a shopaholic on past podcast episodes. And for the longest time, I thought this pattern worked for me. Get bored? Buy something new! Problem solved! Working in the fashion industry only amplified this habit. I put a lot of pressure on myself to have the latest and greatest, to have a new outfit every time my husband and I went on a vacation or to an event or out with friends. I couldn’t possibly be photographed in the same outfit twice!
But what I ended up with was a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear… and a bank account in the red. (Thankfully, I never accrued credit card debt, but I definitely overdrew my account more than once!)
Overconsumption is a real issue, maybe more than ever. I found a few jaw-dropping statistics that speak to this…
– Fashion consumers buy over 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year. This is over 400% more than what we consumed just two decades ago. (True Cost website)
– While sales have multiplied year after year, the average number of times an item was worn decreased by 36% overall since 2000. (Ellen MacArthur Foundation) Essentially, we’re buying more and wearing it less.
– It’s been forecasted that global online retail sales will exceed $7 trillion dollars by 2025. (Manaferra.com)
The Influencer Effect
A large contributor to these statistics is the rise of the influencer culture. During and following the pandemic, we’re all spending a lot more time on social media, shopping online, and shopping as a way to boost our moods in general. Things have been really hard over the last few years. And for so many of us, the shopping cycle has been one way to cope.
When we see other people’s highlight reels, flawless selfies, and enviable #OOTD posts, it’s natural to want a piece of it for ourselves. It’s easier to copy someone else’s style or shorten the learning curve and add whatever they loved from their latest haul into our own carts. Easy peasy!
I talked in episode 18: Who’s Influencing Your Style? about the importance of following people for fashion inspiration who represent you well in terms of body type, personal coloring, budget, and lifestyle. So if you’re making intentional choices about where you’re taking your style cues, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
But are you really doing that? Are you really thinking about whose advice you’re taking? I’m not just talking about whether these people and their product recommendations are unbiased and trustworthy. Are you making sure you actually need what you’re tempted to buy? Is everything you love about their outfit translating perfectly to you, your tastes, and the gaps in your wardrobe?
Are you buying just to buy? Are you filling a void in your wardrobe? Or are you filling a void in your life?
WHY are you shopping? And why are you letting other people have such a strong influence on where your spending dollars go?
Is this actually working for you? Maybe it is. If it’s not, let’s find the solution.
The De-Influencing Trend
A new TikTok trend emerged at the beginning of this year: De-Influencing
Taking a spin on traditional social media promos, people started posting why you SHOULDN’T buy certain products. Often, less expensive products are suggested as an alternative.
On one hand, this is great, because hearing influencers raise the question of whether a product is actually worth the investment causes us to stop and think about whether ANY of our online purchases are worth the investment. I appreciate the idea of flipping the script. And as we said, times are tough for a lot of people right now. It’s always nice to hear about less expensive options for what’s trending.
But de-influencing is still contributing to the problem rather than solving it. De-influencing is still influencing! You’re still using someone else’s opinion to decide whether you should buy or not buy something. You might be de-influenced from picking up that coveted Fenty lip gloss only to be totally convinced you need the Maybelline dupe instead. You’re still being influenced into buying a product someone else swears by, no matter the cost or the need.
Influencers AND de-influencers are making a living on affiliate links and brand sponsorships.
Instead, Think For Yourself
What I’d rather see you do is think for yourself. I’d love for you to have your own set of filters or parameters to make your buying decisions.
Despite what you might think, I’m NOT anti-influencer. I rely on influencers to get my job done. I use their outfit inspo to curate Style Moodboards for my clients, to discover new stores and brands, to keep up with what’s trending, to gather inspiration on ways to style various pieces, and to illustrate teaching points in my programs.
Did you notice what was missing there?
I do NOT use influencers to influence my shopping or what I recommend to my clients!
Instead, I always go back to the Foundations of Style that I teach you:
- I ask whether something aligns with my signature style
- I ask whether it will flatter my figure
- I ask whether it comes in one of my best colors or a color that will work well with my best colors
- Most importantly, I ask whether it fills a need in my wardrobe or if I love it enough to buy it anyway
- And THEN, I sit on that decision
About 10 years ago, I did a project on my old style blog called 93 Days of Summer. I put myself on a shopping freeze for an entire season and it changed my life. I realized how little I need, how creative I could be with what I already own, and how so much of what I thought I HAD TO HAVE, I really don’t.
Since that project, I stopped making hasty buying decisions. I give myself a lot of time and space to plan out what I want for the season, to shop intentionally, and to ultimately, buy less.
That’s my goal for you, too.
Why Buying LESS Is the Secret To Having More
There is so much freedom in being unaffected by influencers and de-influencers and whatever is coming next.
There’s peace and JOY in knowing what works for you, in having the willpower to say… No. That outfit looks amazing on her, but I actually don’t need that. Here’s what I do need right now. I’m going to shop for that instead. I’m going to feel content when I look in my closet and confident when I get dressed in what I already own today.
Friend, I’m not a minimalist. I still love to shop and I’m very lucky that I get to do a lot of it vicariously through my clients! I love a great statement shoe as you may have heard in the last episode. I enjoy treating myself to something just because it’s beautiful and it makes me smile every now and then.
But if you want to have a wardrobe you LOVE, you need to buy LESS, but better.
You need to shop smarter and with more intention.
Otherwise, you are going to stay stuck on that hamster wheel of needing more and more and more and never feeling like you have enough. You’re going to be in a competition you can never win, because there will always be people on social media who have a bigger budget, more clothes, better style, enviable sponsorships, what looks like a grander life. Not all, but most of it is an illusion. It’s designed to make you want and crave and need and hand over that credit card. You’re buying into someone else’s life. And I would much rather you make the most of living your own.
So if you’re ready to STOP shopping for shopping’s sake. And you want to put an end to this cycle. And you’re ready to buy less, shop smarter, and build a wardrobe you love with intention, then I’m so glad you’re here. That’s what I’m passionate about and the mission I feel called to.
I hope this episode has inspired you to buy LESS. I know it’s counterintuitive, but I promise it will lead to having so much more.
FEATURED ON THIS EPISODE