By Melissa ‘Lissy’ Alderton

Now I’m sure we have all noticed an influx in advertisements on social media throughout the years. This is because of a little something called ‘targeted ads’. Now according to Instagram themselves, this is a cleverly curated piece of algorithm which uses your information and data to specifically create advertisements for you. But when is it all a bit too much? Over the past 10 years, we have seen the custom of social media in our everyday lives skyrocket. We have permitted ourselves to be fully indulged in a life of picture taking, ‘like’ counting and ‘follower’ chasing. In the end, this created a vast collection of people, all with short attention spans, who are all waiting in anticipation for the next ‘on-trend’ thing every season.

Bailey Prado’s designs (left) are getting copied by the likes of Shein (right) whilst being advertised and branded as their own designs. (Photo credit: @Diet_Prada/@BaileyPrado/Shein

Instagram states on their website that they will collect not only information on who you follow and who follows you, your searches, and interests but also information on what websites you’re going to frequently and the apps you’re on. This is a playground for brands who want to easily pump out their products to not just people, but people who are certain to fall into the honey trap of online shopping. This is where fashion brands step in. Instagram even recognises that a lot of businesses want to advertise their items on their app, and fashion brands are the perfect easy advertisement for both parties to make as much money as possible whilst spending the tiniest amount. Now what is exactly wrong with this? A vast array of fast fashion brands are using social media to target users into obtaining their garments through this technique. It’s an affective but controversial way of coercing users as they know the advertisements will be shown only to those where it’s relevant. This is thanks to the algorithm Facebook (Instagram’s mother company) has developed and used for years. Users who are shown these types of brands are those who will be easily led into buying things from them. This is where the problem lies – the lack of knowledge about the origins of these garments. Not to mention the concern connecting to the target user where there is an underlying pressure on them to make purchases. If they’re being retold constantly through their screens that they need to have the latest trends on their backs, they’re more easily (unknowingly) coerced into helping brands create revenue.

Fast fashion websites such as Shein, Asos and Aliexpress are pouncing on users like their prey by creating dupes of smaller fashion brands’ clothing but selling it as their own. Obviously, the garments look great on picture, but it’s a false reality they’ve curated from fabrication. These are not originally curated at all, and instead of feeling guilty and creating their own original ideas, they profit from this. Why? The bigger companies such as these have more currency to advertise compared to the others. This is where it becomes a problem. People are stuck in this full circle escapade, where capitalism wins, and the smaller companies are going unnoticed. But has it gone too far? Now we don’t see where our clothes are manufactured, and we will never know without digging. Many Instagram ads today are only for profit, not for popularising someone’s skills in dress making or design. It’s a guilty profit, but who is feeling the guilt? Now of course this isn’t all bad. Not all the targeted advertisements we see are the most popular ones, and we will occasionally see some original designs by actual designers who worked hard. However, the online world will never care what these advertisements are, just that they’re there and receiving the correct number of taps and clicks enough to keep them on the ‘front page’. So, it is indeed more likely to be pushing the more popular ones to you. “You’re interested in fashion? Here are items by Zara and Asos.” Both brands known to plagiarise work. Unfortunately, the lack of copyright protection for designers is still a problem. Therefore, the vast majority of these dupes and copies won’t get taken down, but instead go unnoticed still with the ability to gain coinage and popularity.

So, in light of this, why don’t we fight back? Enjoy the art and creativity that is fashion. Fashion is symbolic, artistic and metaphoric. It’s not just about trends and crazes, it’s about how it makes you feel when you wear it, how the quality of the garment hangs on your shoulders. Let’s fall out with the advertisement gimmicks, lets recognise when garments are stolen, let’s do our research and help small designers, not their plagiarised counterparts.

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