Given that the online influencer world has blown up in the last few years, it’s only natural that certain trends have started to emerge. Of course, we’re all allowed to have our own tastes and preferences when it comes to the content we create or consume, but I thought it could be interesting to talk about some trends I’ve seen popping up that I’m not personally into.
It’s not because I want to talk shit on anyone, but I do want to try and provide an alternative viewpoint. The influencer world across blogging, YouTube and Instagram can really exist in a bubble, so it can be easy to think that if you’ve seen 3 people talking about something then everyone must be doing or buying it, even if you almost never see that translate over to the people you know in real life. So instead of reinforcing those trends, I wanted to try and deconstruct them a bit, if only to say that while they may work for some people, it shouldn’t be assumed that they’re “normal” or that everyone automatically buys into them.
I’m not saying that I would never in my life consider buying a designer handbag, and I totally understand the appeal and how special a luxury purchase like this is for a lot of people. But I feel like blogging and the online world has blown the idea of designer and luxury fashion, particularly when it comes to handbags, way out of proportion. There are people who own literal shelves full of 20+ designer handbags. Of course, we’re all entitled to have different priorities in life, and I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone else how to spend their money, but I want to comment on this and say that it is by no means normal, and frankly it’s reaching a point where I find it a bit gross.
It’s a difficult thing to discuss because if someone runs a blog, or has a YouTube channel, and chooses to allocate their money that way, then we can’t expect them not to talk about it. Maybe they’re trying to position themselves as a luxury blogger in the hopes that designer brands will want to work with them. Sure, people who are contemplating a purchase might find designer bag reviews helpful, but I think it’s dangerous to give the impression that it’s normal to splurge on a $2,500 handbag every few months. Obviously some people are born with a certain level of privilege, and perhaps their parents are the ones buying a lot of their designer items, but of course this exists outside of the blogging world as well.
Another thing that I think plays into it is the nature of blogging as a job. As someone with a “regular” job, I’m just going out on a limb here, but I imagine since one of the main sources of income for professional influencers is brand partnerships and sponsored content, they are most likely paid a chunk of money once they have completed the work. If a $10,000 invoice gets paid, I can see why it would seem a lot more reasonable to splurge on that $2,500 handbag you’ve had your eye on than it does to say, me, who is paid weekly and would have to save up for it. Of course there’s also brand partnerships - sometimes a website like Net-A-Porter might give a blogger a voucher or say, 80% off their total purchase, and they can spend that voucher or apply that discount to anything they like. The brand isn’t handing over any money, so technically this exchange doesn’t need to be disclosed, so this is another way influencers are able to make designer purchases with such frequency. Buying designer items every other month and calling everything an “investment piece” is kind of a contradiction, is it not?
Like I’ve said, everyone is allowed to buy whatever they like, but the bottom line that I really want to stress is that it’s not even remotely normal for someone to own 10 designer bags by the time they’re 25, or by any age. I grew up in a pretty privileged area of Sydney and went to a very privileged high school and this wasn’t normal, even in that setting. I have never met anyone in real life who owns designer items on the same scale as some bloggers I’ve seen. So to me, this is a trend that some bloggers have made to seem really normal when it’s just not. Imagine being 15 and thinking you need the newest Gucci bag to fit in? Some of these bloggers have very young, impressionable audiences, and while of course they need to stay true to themselves, there has to be some awareness of their own privilege and the message they’re sending as well.
When it comes to the trend of the hustle, I think the first person I saw to actually put their hand up and say “that’s not for me” was the wonderful Rebecca of From Roses who wrote a post called why I’m not a girl boss & that’s ok. I remember finding it really refreshing, especially in this day and age when so many people love reminding the world about how busy they are. Frankly, I’m starting to find that pretty boring. We’re all busy. We all have to juggle any number of commitments at any given time, whether that’s work, study, a relationship, social commitments with friends and family, pets, household chores, personal projects and hobbies, maybe you’re a parent or a volunteer or a shift worker with a schedule that’s all over the place – all of these things take up our time. Sometimes I’ve got a lot going on, and other times things are pretty quiet. Personally, I like a bit of a mixture. If I were busy all the time it would be exhausting, and if I had nothing going on it would be boring. But my point is, being busy isn’t unique and doesn’t make you special, so it’s kind of annoying when people act like it’s something to brag about.
Rebecca is also 100% right to say that work isn’t number one for all of us – of that list I just ran through, work is only one of those commitments. I think people constantly talking about “the hustle” can sometimes make others feel like if they’re not Tavi Gevinson then they’re nothing. But we can’t all be her, there’s not enough room in the world for everyone to be a child prodigy, and not trying to do that doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
I think the whole idea of “the hustle” has blown up so much in the blogging world because professional bloggers are self-employed and many of them probably feel like they need to constantly be working to build their brand because their income depends on that. And that’s perfectly fine, of course when you run your own business you want to succeed, so by all means put in the hours and work towards your goals. The thing is, most of your audience isn’t in the same boat (in terms of being self-employed), so talking about how hard you’re hustling doesn’t really resonate. The majority of us are on a salary and get to leave our work behind at the end of the day, and that doesn’t make us lazy. Further to that, not everyone with a blog is trying to fight their way to the top. I definitely don’t see my blog as a side-hustle, it’s just a hobby for me and that’s exactly how I want it to stay. I don’t think I’d find it anywhere near as fulfilling or enjoyable if became a second job, so that’s not what I’m going for. So does that make me lazy for not #hustling? Of course not.
Although this naturally ties into my first point about designer bags, this one is less about the responsibility content creators have to their audience and more about personal preference. I think it’s very common to go through a big shopping phase, particularly when you’re a bit younger and maybe you’ve just finished school or you’re at uni and you have a part time job. You have your own disposable income and it’s typically a time in life when a lot of us are trying to define ourselves, work out our personal style and learn what we like and don’t like by experimenting. I developed my love of vintage and secondhand shopping during that stage of my life, and I still love a good rifle through an op-shop as much as I did when I was 19.
But at least for me, I have to say I’ve grown out of the idea of the “haul”. I mean, it’s just another word for shopping and of course people who aren’t a part of the blogging world go shopping too, so it’s by no means unique to bloggers. But when someone has been gifted a $1,000 voucher by a brand and they create a YouTube video where they’ve ordered 20 things at once, it’s a bit much. Blogging has always been about documenting the things we enjoy, and naturally that’s going to include a new dress or a pair of shoes that we’ve just bought and that we love. But these days the hauls are so frequent and so huge, and it really shouldn’t be considered normal to shop that way.
Not only does it encourage mindless consumption and drives fast fashion, half the time the content creator will say they’re not sure about something but they’ll keep it anyway. Maybe it’s see-through, or they have 3 other things just like it, or it’s way out of their comfort zone – I mean, we all make mistakes and have bought things we don’t end up wearing, but I feel like as time goes on and you develop your tastes a bit more, the aim should be that that happens less. If I buy something online, or try it on in store, and I don’t absolutely love it and it’s not perfect, then I won’t buy/keep it. I totally get that for professional content creators it’s part and parcel of working with brands, and if that kind of content does well then they’re going to keep on creating it, but it would be just as easy to do a “try on haul” but be transparent about which items are getting sent back instead of letting the audience assume that you’ve kept everything (or actually keeping everything). Basically the “more is more” philosophy just isn’t something I subscribe to anymore and while an occasional collective haul of things that have been purchased over time is one thing, weekly hauls is something else altogether and it’s a part of the online world that I definitely think we need to be questioning.