I'm not going to give the name but an influencer who we all know and love got a cease and desist from a manufacturer who created the garment that was knocked off and the influencer was promoting the knockoff and the manufacturer told her to remove all of the content that she had ever posted about that knockoff. Something she kind of consistently talked about to remove all of that content from blog, Instagram stories, everything and then demanded the affiliate revenue that she made off selling the fake garment. The question is what is an influencer's responsibility to research whether something is a knockoff and should influencers be promoting knock-offs.
Now in this specific story that we're talking about, I have never heard of a brand suing an influencer to try and get the affiliate revenue back from them. I am not a legal scholar but I don't think that they are going to win that case. I'm not even sure that they can force you to take down a post about a product that is a knockoff. The beef is with the company that knocked it off, not necessarily with the person that promoted it, but I think it does bring up two interesting questions for influencers. One is, is a brand safety question of just like do you know the partners that you are working for? You are in the same way that brands are doing a lot of research now on influencers to make sure that they are brand safe because that brand is giving the influencer their brand to talk about.
It's kind of saying, "Okay, I'm handing this over to you, you kind of tell our story." That's a scary thing for a brand.
As an influencer, you're doing the same thing, especially if you're an influencer who is established, you have a bit of a following and it's a smaller emerging brand, in a lot of ways you have more brand equity than that startup does. It's a big thing that you're doing to promote that brand and I think as an influencer you have to do a little bit of research and understand if that brand aligns with your values if it's a company that you want to work with because, in the same way that this can blow up in the face of a brand when an influencer does something unethical, same thing can happen for an influencer.
If you are working with a company and you've been promoting them and you're one of their long-term ambassadors and then you find out that they make all the uniforms for ICE officers, like your audience may struggle with that, and you may and probably will be held responsible for supporting an organization that doesn't coincide with your beliefs. This is happening a lot more with influencers that care about the environment and being eco-friendly, companies are the biggest abusers of the environment and it is hard for some influencers to align their kind of eco-activism with shopping at Zara, because how much of Zara ends up in a landfill eventually? Probably 98% of it. It's kind of disposable clothing by nature. Nobody's passing down their Zara shirt to their daughter and being like, "I wore this." Whatever.
As an influencer, it is worth you looking into your brand partners to understand do my values align? That is something worth doing. The other thing is just like should you be promoting knock-offs. If you have ever had something stolen from you, an idea or a design or someone's plagiarized you, it is a really gross feeling, it sucks especially when it's a massive organization that you can't fight. Especially if you haven't done the things you should have done like trademark something or whatever it might be, patent your idea. One of the side effects of living in a country that is pro-business is that it is really hard for an individual to protect themselves against the business. If somebody steals your idea and they are Zara or some massive organizations, there's really not much you can do to get back at them. As an influencer, if you are someone that supports fast fashion, those brands are destroying small designers.
They're destroying artists lives, they're literally are stealing money from those places and it may not feel like that. It may not feel like you're complicit in that but I think you absolutely are and if you look at a Venn diagram and you say like, "This is a Celine customer and this is a Zara customer, is there any overlap?" Probably not a lot. I think the people that can afford to shop at Celine on the regular, I'm talking old Celine not new Celine which is obviously total trash.
The people that could afford that aren't probably rolling into Zara to buy the knockoffs but if you're a fashion style blogger and all this creativity is coming from a small group of people and then that is being ripped off, it will eventually probably get more and more difficult for those companies to be viable and to have businesses, and so creativity will just continue to get stifled. Clothes will go the same way as music and everything else and it'll be controlled by algorithms.
It will just start to get really boring because there won't be much business and creativity because that creativity will just get stolen. You have to think as an influencer, "What is my stand on supporting companies that are stealing from artists?" Even if Zara and Celine customers don't overlap, Zara is stealing from these companies and they're stealing from what artists, what fashion designers are at their best, which is artists.
They're stealing from them, and they're taking their art which may be the culmination of decades of craft and inspiration and all of that, and they're just fucking stealing it and slapping a 2,999 tag on it and everyone is just gobbling it up. It's not as pervasive in the net men's space because that just men's wear is just so different. I can't buy Tom Brown knockoffs. It just doesn't exist because there's not a business in that.
It's easier for me to sit here and be like, "I don't shop at Zara. I don't shop at any fast fashion," because fast fashion for men I think is very different and I obviously wear a suit every day, so it makes it exceedingly difficult. I do think you have to think about where you stand on these things and try and stick to that. Stick to some philosophy and whatever that might be. We were going to watch what happens with the influencer in her cease and desist.
If this becomes a more common thing it's going to shake the industry up quite a bit, if designers start coming after the influencers who are posting the knockoffs.
- On the Streets of NYFW, Influencer Responsibility, Swipe Up Feature