For Fashion Influencers, Social Responsibility is More Than an Accessory

03/16/2017 05:03 pm ET Updated Mar 16, 2017
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Is it just me, or does it seem like a really challenging time to be an American? For the past year and a half, US politics has consumed the news, and oozed into every industry — fashion included — from there. On one hand it’s impossible to ignore; on the other, it’s something from which people desperately need an escape.

I’ve been thinking a lot about social responsibility lately, and in particular, what, if any, role social influencers in the fashion industry should play as controversy unfolds on the world stage.

This year’s New York Fashion Week was a prime example of ways in which industry insiders did and didn’t address politics. As Veronique Hyland wrote while covering the event for the New Yorker, “I lost count of the amount of times I saw someone next to me raise their phone to take a picture and spotted a terrifying news alert on it.” To her, it seemed that Fashion Week misread the public mood by providing fantasy instead of realism in the face of public fears. “At the high-fashion level,” she wrote, “style is not just about escapism or comfort — it should, like any other art form, react to what’s actually going on.”

Some designers did get political, of course, whether by showcasing diversity or incorporating feminist messages into their collections. But by and large, fear, anger, and disappointment — felt keenly as the executive orders rolled out — were not widely channeled emotions.

Designers are one thing, but what about the influencers? Fashion bloggers hold more clout in the fashion world than they ever have before; regular people, like me, are increasingly in the public eye. I’ve seen some bloggers use historic events like the Women’s March as shameless self-promotion; some appear oblivious in their omission, while others still lean so far into politics, they lose their bent for fashion and alienate their audience entirely.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I believe in finding balance. I want people to be able to read my blog and view my photos without being constantly reminded of what’s happening in the White House, sure. But I also want people who may be feeling down and out to know that I’m on their team. Because I have a platform, I have an opportunity to advocate for love and honesty and the things that matter in life as well as politics. Like everyone, I sometimes make mistakes sometimes along the way. But since authenticity is quite literally my brand, I feel I have a responsibility to speak up, when the situation calls, for what I believe in. It’s not just an accessory, either. It’s a necessity.

That’s why, if you do notice a secondary theme to my blog, it’s support for women. From my amazing sister (below), to my friends, to female entrepreneurs I find inspiring, I do my best to make HonestlyKate a platform where women feel empowered.

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As an aspiring actress, I also look to the screen and stage for guidance. In a way, actors occupy a similar position as fashion influencers. They have an obligation to entertain and provide escape, and at the same time have a great opportunity to inspire real change. Whether on Instagram or the Oscars, many actors have been outspoken about their beliefs, even when it put them in the line of fire.

Of course, there is a limit. And believe me, I totally understand those that would rather not alienate any followers along their already tricky path to success.

Is there a way to be true to your beliefs without letting it eat up your brand, or define it? I’m trying to occupy this space as best I can. I’ve been subtle at times, overt at others, and all the while doing what I know I do best: fashion for the girl curating her own future. I’m not a politician; I know people follow me mainly for fashion inspiration, so that is mainly what I provide!

Still, I think it’s necessary to keep in mind that girls curating their futures need more than just fashion; they need support, they need healthcare, they need to be reminded of what really makes America great: all of us together, equally free and equally protected. I would urge other fashion influencers not to tip-toe around what’s going on in the news, but to involve themselves and acknowledge what’s happening organically.

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That’s why I was proud to partner with Planned Parenthood to promote women’s right to healthcare access. I was excited to advocate for the importance of female friendship and self-care in my Galentine’s Day article. And of course, I was proud to broadcast my support for all women on International Women’s Day.

You won’t see this from me everyday, but I won’t apologize for putting in my two cents when it feels right. Fashion doesn’t live in a vacuum, and I try not to either.

I know people think that entertainers of all types should “stay in their lane.” Just look at the backlash Meryl Streep got for her Golden Globes speech. It’s a risk, commenting on politics, when it’s not your niche. But acting is inherently political, and I would argue that fashion is too, in a sense — especially women’s fashion, which has been a vehicle for progressive change throughout history.

This doesn’t mean I’m transforming my feed or blog into a space for activism, necessarily. It just means that every once in awhile, my inner Meryl is going to shine through. And if you disagree with me, that’s okay. Without passion and disagreement in all areas of life, both personal and professional, America wouldn’t be America. I’ll do what I can with what the privileges I have, and if it just one person connects with it along the way, it’ll be more than worth it.

Check out my blog and follow me on Instagram for more fashion inspiration for the girl curating her own future!

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