Trendsetters: RISE OF THE Greenfluencer

The influencers encouraging you to spend less and save more

By Milan Charles

Thursday, 29th of April 2021

Fast fashion and sustainability – seemingly incompatible terms with no apparent happy medium, with the former being to blame for hindering the latter.

By now, we should all be well aware that there is a price to pay for super affordable clothing. It’s a relatively small cost to us – a much bigger cost to the environment and third world garment workers. So, what can we do to change this and tackle our fast fashion habits? 

Introducing the Greenfluencers – eco warrior forces for good, encouraging us to spend less and save more (money and the planet that is). 

Sustainability credibility is majorly shaping the way we look at the fashion and beauty industries, and while there have been big influencers from Venetia Falconer and Camilla Thurlow who have long been pushing this message, it’s the micro influencers targeting their friends and family to make little changes with big impact who often go unnoticed for their vigilante work.

For this weeks’ Trendsetters, I spoke to charity worker and sustainability enthusiast, Hannah Jordan of @basicbrecyles, who had some thought provoking insights and advice to share:

Why is it so important to you to encourage others to live sustainably? 

“I had no idea about living sustainably and the negative impact I was making – especially with fashion. I just assumed there were rules that retailers had to follow and never thought I was part of the problem. Upon a quick google search, I was shocked to learn about greenwashing and the other lies we are fed to keep us in the dark. I just want more people to be aware of the problem, especially with the fast fashion content we’re bombarded with on a daily basis on social media.”

What are the warning signs when shopping from a brand we’re not familiar with? 

“If they constantly have new products in, thousands and thousands of products in the ‘new in’ section and anything suspiciously low priced. Take a £5 top for example, if it’s been made consciously with the environment and the workers human rights in mind then it just couldn’t be that cheap. Companies that keep up with all of the seasonal trends, companies that constantly have sales with crazy reductions and discount codes. Also the materials, if it’s not 100% cotton or organic cotton then that’s usually a sign that it’s not been made with sustainability in mind and the people making it most likely haven’t been paid or treated fairly. Also if a brand actually cares about the environment they won’t be sending loads of influencers mountains and mountains of ‘gifted’ clothing for free – this is irresponsible, the shipping, packaging and so on.

“Keep an eye out for recycled collections too – it’s often not the total honest truth and just a marketing ploy. It’s important to do your research.”

What are some of the easy changes you encourage your friends and family to make?

“Instead of buying new things, check to see if you already have something that could work or something similar. Borrow from your friends and family or swap items too. Always think of the ‘30 wears test’ especially if you have to buy fast fashion – before you buy think ‘will I wear this 30 times?’. But mainly if you can, shop second hand, on Depop, Vinted, eBay or in stores, but still apply the ‘30 wears test’.”

Prior to Macklemore’s 2012 hit Thrift Shop, the idea of shopping second hand brought to mind rummaging through racks of tatty and outdated clothing. Today, with over 21 million users (90% of whom are estimated to be under the age of 26), Depop has helped to make shopping secondhand cool and fast fashion ‘basic’. 

Over on TikTok, Gen Z have found clever ways to upcycle their thrifted products with the #ThriftChallenge. They might turn a hoodie into a handbag or Dad’s old shirt into a two piece co-ord. 

But fashion is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more we can do with the guidance of the Greenfluencers to reduce our negative impact on the world’s health. Be it second hand shopping, reducing plastic waste, veganism, upcycling or simply just walking a little more – there’s plenty of ways for us to spend less and save more.

Here are some of my favourite Greenfluencers, using their influence to be a force for positive change:

Tolmeia Gregory

Suszi Saunders 

Nayna Florence Patel

Mikaela Loach

Trendsetters: hun culture – the Most Relatable Woman in Britain

The social media phenomenon which worships soap stars, girl group members and X Factor auditions

By Milan Charles

Thursday, 15th of April 2021

Hun culture is a corner of the internet for British pop culture fanatic ‘girls and gays’ – embodying all that is nostalgic British humour. To be a ‘hun’ is to be a lover of 2-4-1 cocktails, holibobs, online shopping and reality tv. It’s about appreciating ‘jeans and a nice top’ not only as a fashion statement but a lifestyle and way of life.

On Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, hun accounts have become a legitimate part of meme culture. It appeals so widely because it represents the relatable, fun side of the British celebrity – a polar opposite of the dominant, A-lister, perfectly filtered (very American) content that saturates our timelines. Instead, huns are flamboyant, camp and unique, embracing the ugly bits and unapologetically indulging in guilty pleasures.

Meme accounts like @loveofhuns and @hunsnet have seen their follower counts skyrocket over the course of COVID-19 lockdowns in the UK. They’ve become a source of escapism and what’s interesting is that the celebrity subjects and beloved divas hailed by them have fully embraced the culture’s shared sense of humor, where the jokes are so affectionate that the stars can feel in on them, rather than the butt of them, adoring their hun status. The hun community is a place where we can all laugh at ourselves equally. The culture has even stretched to the podcast world, seeing shows like @hunbelievablepodcast and @jackremmington’s ‘Iconic’ emerge over recent years.

Wine-in-a-can brand HUN Wines cleverly tapped directly into the culture with their launch in 2020. The broad individuality of the HUNdred society of influencers leading the launch only further emphases the wide appeal of hun culture. Celebrating all that is unique to the community of huns, their distinctiveness, colourful campness and love of convenient booze, the @drinkhun launch was pretty genius.

British pop culture has a large cult following but you have to be in on it to understand the references. When you’re a hun, you can be in the smoking area of a club and overhear a group quoting Alison Hammond falling in the Thames or Ainsley Harriot’s “WHY HELLO JILL!” and know they’re on the same wavelength as you. Whether it’s ‘David’s dead’ or Dawn the Jocky’s X factor audition, your favourite cultural moment from the past 20 years is certainly the pride of the hun community, along with lesser-known celebrity interviews and blunders that have been dug up from the archives. 

Be it Nadine Coyle, Gemma Collins, Katie Price or the late Nikki Graham as the subject, hun comedy is more than an inside joke, it’s only offensive if it’s not relatable.

Trendsetters: Gen Z on Pinterest

Pinterest is a platform to experiment and explore

By Milan Charles

Thursday, 1st of April 2021

Every month, over 400 million people turn to Pinterest for inspiration. Whether it’s crafting, cooking or party planning, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone. 

Pinterest quickly became a cultural phenomenon shortly after its launch in March of 2010, its key demographic being Millennials and Gen Xers looking for DIY hacks, interior decorating tips, and wedding planning inspiration. Now, alongside Instagram and TikTok, Gen Z is descending on Pinterest as well – primarily for its fashion prowess. 

Pinterest has always been for everyone. Women have largely made up the majority of its users (more than 60% of the platform’s users globally, in fact) but for many of its younger users, across all genders, Pinterest is a platform to experiment and explore.

Spend five minutes on a TikTok ‘for you page’ or a quick scroll through YouTubes recommendations and you should come across a variety of videos where users recreate ‘Pinterest outfits’. Instagram-based Gen Z creators like @oliviagraceherring are also known to create ‘Pinterest Inspired’ Reels content, showcasing their evolving personal style. Other creators such as YouTube-first duo @sophiatuxford and @cinziabayliszullo have shown how they use Pinterest to inspire their Instagram content and interior design style. On TikTok especially, when fashion content goes viral the comments are often flooded with requests for the creators’ Pinterest account.

Aesthetics are more important than ever for Gen Z, according to Enid Hwang, Pinterest’s community marketing manager, with the search for the word ‘aesthetic’ ranking 447% more frequent amongst Gen Z than with Millennials. Gen Z’s journey to discover their identity is ever present. It’s evident that with this image sharing app, the younger generation is creating boards that reflect their dream lifestyle, along with how they wish to dress and present themselves.

Type any aesthetic keyword into Pinterest’s search bar and you’ll find yourself flooded not only with fashion inspiration but a fully developed mood board, complete with accompanying exteriors and It girls who epitomize the style. Just about every time period, “vibe”, and niche has been compartmentalized with characteristic color palettes and key pieces. From cottagecore to streetwear, e-girl to Y2K, Pinterest makes the process of discovering your style effortless and easy for its Gen Z users.

Unlike TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, Pinterest serves as a space for personal exploration in a similar way to Tumblr during its early 2010 peak. In the absence of the added pressures of likes and comments, and without the added need to create and post original content, users can submerge themselves into new personal tastes, and use it as an opportunity for self-reflection without fear of judgement.

Trendsetters:  How RuPaul’s Drag Race invented a new social media subculture

have you been watching  season two?

By Milan Charles

Thursday, 18th of February 2021

As RuPaul’s Drag Race UK approaches the 6th episode of its second season, I want to take a look at the impact of drag on mainstream culture, the invention of a new social media subculture and how social media helped make drag mainstream.

First hitting our screens in the early 2000’s on relatively unknown US cable channel Logo TV, who could have predicted the global influence RuPaul’s Drag Race has today? Drag Race has become a cultural juggernaut, influencing our language and behaviour on social media every day – in ways we may not even notice. 

RuPaul’s Drag Race is a loud and proud LGBTQ+ talent show, combining elements of top shows Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model, and challenging social norms by selecting the nation’s best drag queens as contestants. On the show, they fight for the crown by competing in various challenges, including singing, dancing, lip syncing, acting and comedy.

Over the years, as its popularity has grown tenfold, Drag Race has gone beyond entertaining its ever-growing army of fans. It has helped to open the door of drag, LGBTQ+ and black queer culture for a mainstream audience – introducing and normalising the conventions, habits, rituals and attitudes of these subcultures to the mainstream public. Through Drag Race, the language of drag has not just been recognised and accepted, but gained new life as an art form through memes, GIFs and content that floods our social media feeds. On Drag Race, language stops being just subcultural ‘lingo’ and is a channel for spreading and popularising drag slang and has been subsequently adopted by online pop culture. 

Drag has gone largely unrecognised as an art form outside of the LGBTQ+ community, with many drag queens living on the fringes of society and amongst them are some of those hit hardest by the global pandemic which forced so many into unemployment as their regular gigs were forced to shut. However, following the mainstream success that drag has seen over recent years, many queens have been able to migrate to online ways of working thanks to the relationship it has developed with commercial social media. 

The professionalisation of both drag and social media has seen a rise in drag career YouTubers, social media influencers and content creators. Their parallel evolution towards highly-polished, branded professionalism has provided the conditions for drag culture’s mainstream visibility. A professionalised social media presence is all but compulsory for Drag Race contestants. RuPaul regularly directs viewers to engage through hashtags, and audiences are encouraged to support their favourite queens similarly. In more recent seasons, the size of online followings has been a frequent topic of discussion. There are also debates about whether contestants are ‘social media queens’, who exist solely online, or ‘stage queens’ who perform in a more traditional sense. 

Furthermore, Drag Race contestants often frame their social media participation as entrepreneurial self-branding. Here are some of my favourite UK queens on the rise…

  1. @itstayce
  2.  @herrthequeen
  3. @tastemycaramelle
  4. @lawrencechaney

Trendsetters: A deep dive  into Clubhouse

The Invite-Only, FOMO Inducing Social App

By Milan Charles

Thursday, 14th of January 2021

Clubhouse is the ‘new kid’ of social networking where users can spontaneously join audio-based chat rooms together. The exclusive, invite-only app enables ‘casual, drop-in audio conversations’ with everyone from friends and celebrities to total strangers. What sets it apart from existing platforms is that you exclusively communicate with audio. 

The recent nearly year-long separation and isolation has proven that when we are forced to be separated, unprompted conversation is something we all miss and take for granted. In the office, we crave the small-talk at the tea station with a colleague or reading aloud a funny meme when hanging out with friends. At a bar, it’s the complimenting of other girls (often strangers) in the bathroom or complaining about the weather with another passenger on your train. That’s what we miss so much now that we’re stuck at home…again. 

The app Houseparty reimagined the spontaneity we pined for. It became the breakout must-have app of the first British national lockdown by enabling people to join group video chat rooms on a whim. It saw approximately 50 million downloads in a month, but what Houseparty lacked is the exciting exclusivity of Clubhouse.

While everyone seems to be talking about Clubhouse, just 600,000 people around the world – including celebrities Oprah, Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Hart – currently have access to the platform which is yet to be even a year old. Clubhouse is only in Beta testing and is therefore ‘invite only’ for now. Every new member is assigned one invite – there’s no public app or access. The name Clubhouse perfectly captures the fear of missing out or ‘FOMO’ those uninvited currently feel.

Clubhouse features a number of chat rooms created by its members. Participants are able to join in on conversations, start their own audio chat rooms or simply listen in on the existing discussions. The topics of discussion range from entertainment to industry chat, to social issues and activism-related matters. And once a conversation is finished, it’s gone forever.

So why has Clubhouse become so popular so quickly? It’s because the app is currently only available to a small group – and the chance to rub virtual shoulders with this exclusive network of tech giants, celebrities and public figures is one of its most enticing features. 

Though the concept of a chat room might set us back a decade or two, Clubhouse is predicted to be the next big thing when it eventually becomes available to the public. 

It’s very early days for Clubhouse – so early that it doesn’t even have a website yet, but the buzz its created demonstrates  a desire for a more immediate, unscheduled, multi-media approach to discussion. Think Twitter reimagined. 

Trendsetters: the 90’s Baby Show – Sharing A Platform & Creating A Network

90’s Baby Network

By Milan Charles

Thursday, 26th of November 2020

Meet Temi, Fred and VP, the “big brothers” leading the way in the future of podcasting and creating a YouTube Network. They are setting the example within the industry that ‘everyone can win’ by sharing their rapidly growing platform with other creatives and aspiring content creators.

The 90’s Baby Show is “a podcast exploring the mind of the 90’s baby in an ever-changing society”. Each week, Fred Santana and Temi Alchemy, with VP behind the camera discuss topical world issues and personal life developments, educating each other and their audience along the way. The 90’s babies are attempting to bridge the gap between younger and older generations, men and women, the rich and the poor, whilst trying to unpick life’s unanswered questions. 

They’re also regularly joined by an amazing lineup of guests which has included podcasters Poet and Audrey Indome, YouTubers Annie Drea and Nella Rose, Love Island winner Amber Rose Gill and chart topping musician Yungen.

Fred, Temi and VP have created something to truly be proud of, discussing topics that range from mortgages to holiday destinations, parenting and job applications to hood politics. There is, however, a recurring question that the boys always seem to return to: “What can we do?”. They want to know how they can make a change, and what can be done about racial, sexual, gender and financial inequality – particularly within the Black British community. 

Their answer is to become the change they want to see in the world, which is what led them to create the 90’s Baby Network.

The former 90’s Baby Show YouTube channel that housed the podcast’s visual assets became the 90’s Baby Network, a platform showcasing an “array of honest original content from content creators across the globe”. Temi, Fred and VP released an open invitation appealing to aspiring creatives, asking them to share their pilot content ideas to be in with a chance of joining the network. 

Over the past 6 or so months, the network has grown rapidly, housing a plethora of podcasts and content on subjects such as politics, religion, fashion, music, gaming, art and the list goes on. And it doesn’t stop there, they’ve also hosted several live shows and brunches, an Apple masterclass and have launched their own 90’s Baby merch.

This week, the boys celebrated their 200th 90’s Baby Show episode, and used this milestone as a way to further propel their community and listeners. The opening of the episode was, for example, dedicated solely to shouting out and promoting small and developing black businesses. It’s this genuine admiration and love of their community which sets them apart from other podcasts and networks. 

Still a relatively small platform with such big ideas and so much potential to grow and develop, the future certainly is bright for Fred, Temi and VP. Role models for younger generations and even those who appear to have already ‘made it’, these 90’s babies will soon reep the sweet benefits of creating a platform that everyone can grow from. 

The 90’s Baby Show releases content every Monday on all major podcast streaming platforms. If you would like to be in with a chance of joining their network, be sure to send in your pilot plan to info@90sbabyshow.co.uk

trendsetters: How Footasylum leveraged YouTube

to build brand awareness

By Milan Charles

Thursday, 19th of November 2020

Footasylum is a national highstreet-based streetwear and sportswear retailer, aimed predominantly at the youth and “urban” demographic. The retailer describes themselves as “trend-leading” with a “strong understanding of the core 16-24 year old customer base”, and they are quite right to claim as such.

Footasylum’s understanding of streetwear-conscious Gen Z consumers is evident through their Youtube channel where they share a regular stream of content featuring some of the most well-known YouTubers and influencers to emerge from the UK’s youth scene. Content ranges from quizzes and rap battles, reviewing and rating streetwear, dating shows, cooking competitions and lie detector tests – they even went as far as to produce their own 14-day reality series ‘Locked In’ which is believed to be the first of its kind on the platform.

Footasylum’s Youtube subscription numbers rose by an astronomical 2980% in 2019. Over the course of the 12 months, the channel earned its most engaged audience across all of Footasylum’s social channels, gaining funding from multiple global sportswear brands.

While JD Sports and other competitors appear to lean towards traditional talent and TV advertisements in an effort to attract shoppers, Footasylum seems to have tapped directly into the culture, drafting in the most influential content creators whose highly engaged audiences follow them wherever they go.

Footasylum understands meme culture. This is proven by them not simply utilising existing memes but by producing memeable content themselves that naturally goes viral. June 2019 saw the launch of Footasylum dating show ‘Does the Shoe Fit?’, the channel’s most successful series to date. Season 3 starred YouTubers Chunks and Yung Filly, Love Island-er Jordan Hames and Rapper Konan from rap duo Krept and Konan, who drew in an additional collective of over 4 million followers from Instagram. The series saw countless moments of virality, namely the infamous “Who’s Jordan again?” video from the season finale which sees Jordan Hames pied by one of the show’s contestants. 

These viral moments are often shared to social hubs within the culture such as GRM Daily, Link UP TV and Wall Of Comedy, reaching a further collective of over 3.6 million followers outside of their YouTube audience. 

Footasylum’s Youtube channel currently holds over 700,000 subscribers and it is expected to leverage on this digital success, especially during the Covid-19 crisis which has forced consumers to migrate to online shopping. During a time when it is crucial to keep customers engaged, Footasylum has proven that Youtube is a prosperous avenue to follow.

Trendsetters: “See Nobody” Challenge

How TikTok helped Wes Nelson achieve a Top 5 debut single

By Milan Charles

Thursday, 12th of November 2020

Some musicians spend years attempting to break into the Official Singles Chart Top 100, releasing song after song only for it to fall on deaf ears. So how did ex-Nuclear Systems Design Engineer Wes Nelson achieve a Top 5 hit with his debut single ‘See Nobody’ without any previous music experience or industry reputation?

If you’re not familiar with Wes Nelson, here’s a quick recap. Wes starred in the fourth season of ITV2 reality series Love Island and has since competed on Dancing on Ice and The X Factor: Celebrity. Wes first gained popularity as a part of an on-screen bromance alongside co-stars Jack Fowler and Josh Denzel. While Wes and his fellow Islanders might have rapped a bar or two and hummed a tune here and there, what nobody could have predicted was his sudden post-island musical success.

After the show, Wes’ co-star Jack Fowler dabbled in the music industry, releasing his single titled ‘Back to Yours’ in early 2020. The track barely reached 400,000 streams on Spotify and failed to touch the UK Top 100, despite his coveted social media popularity. In October of last year, Wes competed in The X Factor: Celebrity as a part of a group called No Love Lost, which was made up of former Love Island stars Samira Mighty, Zara McDermott and Eyal Booker. Despite releasing numerous live performances in a downloadable and streamable format, they failed to see chart success. So what was different for Wes this time round?

Introducing the power of TikTok.

For many, TikTok may still feel like a mysterious Gen Z hub of overly complicated dance sequences and bizarre challenges. What you may not realize is how much this app is shifting the music industry and the way that we discover music. Users can upload and create audio or choose from other existing users’ audio to create a video. These audio tracks can include anything from major hits to independent artists, as well as soundbites from popular culture. Many artists like Lil Nas X, Meg Thee Stallion and Drake have been leveraging TikTok to share their music and gain further popularity.

For artists, uploading audio can help increase their popularity from a brand awareness perspective. A large part of the most recent top hits list is owed to TikTok. The apps algorithm is unique to other social platforms in the sense that it works to always expose users to the latest trends, with artists experiencing success from the app because users are repeatedly exposed to the same music when a trend goes viral. 

However, it’s not as easy as ‘just going viral’. In this case, Wes might have Lewys Ball and Olivia Neill to thank for his sudden surge of TikTok virality. Lewys Ball is a blogger, vlogger and spokesmodel who covers beauty and fashion on his YouTube channel ‘lookingforlewys’, while Olivia Neill is a Northern Irish YouTuber who primarily creates beauty and lifestyle content. In early September, Lewys and Olivia took to TikTok alongside their friend Flossie to choreograph the first routine to Wes’ single. The routine was posted to Olivia’s TikTok profile and has since been recreated and shared well over 220,000 times. 

While millions of TikTok users have attempted to create viral dance content, not everybody sees success and neither did Lewys and his friends, until ASDA employee TJ Richardson performed the routine in his uniform. TJ then challenged a fellow retail worker from Tesco to perform the dance alongside him using the apps ‘duet’ feature. After the Tesco worker obliged, a stream of different supermarket employees, including those from Iceland, Sainbury’s, Waitrose, M&S and Aldi all joined in to partake in the challenge that has taken TikTok by storm. 

Wes’ single, which features rapper Hardy Caprio, currently occupies the number three position in the Official Top 5. With the ‘See Nobody’ challenge continuing to pick up momentum and beginning to reach US audiences, Wes might just be celebrating his first number one with his debut single this weekend. 

Trendsetters: Social Infographics and Performative Activism

what is the issue  with these aesthetically pleasing infographics?

By Milan Charles

Thursday, 10th of June 2021

Bright and colourful infographics with bold swirly writing have been flooding our timelines for the past few years. We see them in response to the latest global or local tragedy and they contain bite size information, news and easy-to-follow tips. We see it all the time; a terrible tragedy is followed by a fleet of Instagram slideshows about why we should care and what we need to do to fix it.

It sounds harmless, right? So what is the issue with these aesthetically pleasing infographics?

Oversimplification of Complex Issues

In order to fit into a cute little Instagram carousel, information has to go through a process of generalisation. This, alongside fun fonts, pretty backgrounds and dainty illustrations has the potential to trivialise very serious and often painful topics like racism, human rights violations and civil war. These infographics are unable to effectively address the majority of these events without watering down their severity. These issues aren’t pretty nor are they aesthetically pleasing – they’re dark, gritty and painful for all those involved.

Performative Activism – ‘Slacktivism’

Infographics also generate performative activism and ‘slacktivism’. Sharers get that warm feeling of contentment after sharing these posts when in reality not much is actually being done and no real impact is being made. According to Urban Dictionary, it’s “the self-deluded idea that by liking, sharing, or retweeting something you are helping out”

Slacktivism has created a certain level of satisfaction around activism whereby social media users don’t feel the need to take the next step to translate what they share on social media and turn it into action. Instead of protesting, donating or having difficult conversations with friends and family about these issues, people have become ‘okay’ with simply sharing an Instagram post captioned ‘Why you should care about what’s going on in Palestine’. Sharing this post, however, is self-serving. In reality, much of our online activism is performative – a social phenomenon whereby people feel compelled to reshare social justice content in order to maintain the appearance of allyship with marginalised communities.

It is safe to assume that the creators of these infographics intend to educate and inform in an accessible way, with the purpose of inspiring others to do further research and join progressive movements in order to generate tangible and impactful change. We must, however, also consider the commodification of social media activism. In other words, the motives behind some brands and influencers sharing these infographics can be questionable, with some just looking to increase likes and followers off of the back of progressive movements – creating the illusion of contributing to change without actively committing to the cause or addressing their own contributions to the problem.

Activism Fatigue

There is certainly no shortage of causes to get behind, be it the COVID-19 crisis in India or SARS in Nigeria. All of this contributes to activism fatigue or social justice burnout: a feeling of exhaustion that comes with having to emotionally invest yourself in a variety of causes. 

When it feels like the level of activism isn’t bringing about adequate progress or when we are continuously exposed to new, disheartening content, there can be a lack of motivation to keep fighting for change that might never happen. Social media only heightens this feeling. 

While infographics are an effective way to spread awareness, they do not translate to tangible impact. Alongside protesting, donating, signing petitions and advocacy they definitely serve a purpose. But alone, this type of digital activism can be problematic. 

Digital activism cannot be seen as the solution, but rather as the first step. As social media users, we must hold ourselves accountable. And how much, outside of sharing content online, are we actually doing to make a difference?