For a university assignment last year I interviewed Maggie Zhou (last minute) about her thoughts on fashion and the reason why she decided to start #IStillWearThis. Except for the interview never made it into the assignment. This is the interview.
Thank you, Maggie, for letting me interview you!
I just want to mention, that my questions were definitely shaped for my assignment.
Would you define yourself as an Instagram influencer? What about a fashion influencer?
I involuntary shudder at the term ‘influencer’ for a multitude of reasons. It feels so shallow, narcissistic and superficial. It also assumes that your followers are blindly influenced by what they see online. I usually call myself an Instagrammer – a term anyone on Instagram can technically use. When I do call myself an influencer, it is usually accompanied by air quotes. But yes, sigh. I think I’d consider myself a fashion and lifestyle influencer.
How important is it for you to have your own style? Has Instagram influenced this?
Good question, I’ve never thought about that. I think I’m drawn to a lot of different fashion styles, ranging from very eclectic and colourful, to neutral staples. I think that has definitely been influenced by Instagram because I follow a whole range of fashion accounts. I care about having my own style in the sense I want to know what I love wearing. But not in the sense that I have to be individualistic.
Do you believe aesthetics are important when it comes to fashion?
Yes. Very much so. I don’t view clothes as a necessity merely here to fulfill a practical purpose. It sounds so cheesy but I do think they hold so much power. They say so much about a person, they change moods and perceptions too.
How would you describe fast and slow fashion? What is the difference to you?
I would say fast fashion is the unsustainable overconsumption of clothes manufactured in unethical ways to fulfill consumer demand. This includes unfair and unsafe work environments and treatment of workers, the production of unsustainable materials and low-quality goods. Slow fashion encompasses both ethical and sustainable fashion (I’ve been told there’s a difference between the two but I have currently forgotten). This may include respectable living wages and conditions for workers, smaller runs of clothes, thoughtful materials (eg. linen/cotton) and a limitation of carbon emissions produced. They’re big terms and this doesn’t begin to define them.
What influenced you to start supporting slow fashion?
I could say the Internet because that’s where the majority of my education of slow-fashion comes from. But I would almost just say my own gut. There was always something in me that felt wrong purchasing fast fashion. And at times when I do now, or if I work with a fast-fashion brand, I can’t help but recognise that deep, unsettling feeling that this isn’t right. Cognitive dissonance, some call it, when your morals and actions don’t align.
Would you say that you promote slow fashion?
Yes, I would say I do. But I do it tentatively because I’m aware that I am far from perfect and still collaborate with fast fashion brands. I would also say the majority of my followers are in similar positions as I am; mainly young 20-somethings in uni without a lot of money. The reality is not everyone can purchase from beautiful ethical brands. What I hope to teach is the magic of op shopping, of styling your own clothes in a myriad of ways, of consciously and critically purchasing clothes and of treating your pieces with love and care.
Has Instagram made it easier for you to promote slow fashion?
Yes, if it wasn’t for Instagram, I wouldn’t have a platform to do so. Also, there are so many amazing accounts that provide awesome information about slow fashion, as well as cool ethical brands and accounts that praise op-shopping. Some of my favourites include: @thesustainablefashionforum, @fash_rev, @thriftedthis, @mabel.thelabel, @sister_studios.
Do you believe we all need to start focusing on where are clothes come from and the impact they’re making?
I think we do. I also think that most young people are aware of the dire impacts our clothes are creating. But it is so hard to make a shift because of how normalised fast fashion and shopping is in our society.
Do you believe that Instagram is a tool we can use to promote the importance of slow fashion?
Yes for sure. Users have the option of following ethical bloggers which in turn, helps to educate themselves.
What was the idea behind #IStillWearThis?
I pride myself on wearing my clothes for years and years. I have jackets nine years old, shoes that are seven, tees that are six. While buying ethically may not be an option for many, wearing and making the most of the clothes you already own makes sense for all of us. #IStillWearThis seeks to champion the clothes we cherish as well as going against the mentality that new is better.
How important are brand collaborations to you? Are you looking to collaborate with sustainable brands? And have you had to turn down offers?
Honestly, brand collaborations are cool. I get to work with brands I grew up loving and it’s super fun creating content for them! I’m also hoping to work in the media industry so I view Instagram as a career advancement too. But yes, I would 100% love to be working with only sustainable brands. I have seen a small shift of ethical brands reaching out to me which is super encouraging. On the other side of that, I turn down more offers than I accept. I really weigh up the pros and cons and it’s getting easily saying no.
What do you hope to achieve in the future in terms of being an influencer and promoting slow fashion?
Selfishly, I’d love to continue to grow my audience and improve my content. I’m a very opinionated gal and I am so thankful for the platform I have. Ultimately, I’d love to be a source of inspiration for slow fashion. I can picture myself working with some kickass ethical brands, but also showcasing more accessible forms of ethical fashion such as thrifting, upcycling, clothes swapping and styling pieces in different ways.