With a nose-to-the-ground approach, these Instagram watchdogs are not afraid to pull punches when they sniff out lack of diversity, marketing missteps or copycat behaviour in the beauty and fashion industry.
TEXT: BEA TAYLOR
One thing is for sure; the internet never forgets.
Nor is it easy to ignore. Today, with the rise of ‘call-out culture’, a brand can barely put a toe out of line — be it a marketing fail, serious cultural appropriation or plagiarism — without the watchdogs raising their hackles. And, the worst thing a brand can do is ignore the noise because, in the silence, the dogs will just keep barking louder.
The first watchdog to really make an impression was Diet Prada (if you haven’t already heard about them, I’m shook). With a following of 1.8 million on Instagram, Diet Prada fills their feed with side-by-side images of copycat designs. In a not so pass-ag approach, they tag the copycat culprit and straight out ask whether it’s a homage or an outright rip-off (ps. It’s never a homage).
Their most well-known takedown was in 2018 when their coverage of the widespread accusations of racism from Stefano Gabbana led to the cancellation of Dolce & Gabbana’s Shanghai fashion show (no mean feat).
Last year the fashion watchdog called out Elle Germany’s ‘back to black’ issue, which featured a white model on the cover, btw. In one ‘black is back’ spread, where Elle featured prominent models of colour, they mistakenly identified Naomi Chin Wing as Janaye Furman. Added to this, one of their cover lines read: “beautiful, successful, committed: Models of colour were never in demand as they are now. But these great women also inspire us off the catwalks.” As Diet Prada said, “you can’t make this stuff up.”
From Prada’s frightfully misjudged Little Sambo-like mascot production (above) to Comme Des Garçons’ latest misadventure with cornrow wigs (below), it seems even the biggest and highly respected fashion brands fuck it up from time to time.
Diet Prada’s thoroughly well-researched and on-the-pulse commentary is just the type of transparency the fashion industry was missing. They’ve reached such popularity that they (for a short period) had a watchdog account keeping tabs on them too; Diet Ignorant. Granted this account only has 1006 followers, its last post was in 2018 and some suspect it was hatched by Stefano Gabbana (he has flat-out denied this rumour).
Hot on the heels of Diet Prada’s work in the fashion industry is Estée Laundry, the beauty industry’s watchdog. With 164,000 followers (and growing), this account describes itself as a beauty collective that brings transparency, honesty and equality to the industry. They call out plagiarism, cultural insensitivity and misleading advertising, but also encourages their community (laundrites) to share their opinions and reviews on trending products.
Their most famous call-out came in April 2019 when they blasted Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty launch of a rose-pink highlighter called ‘Geisha Chic’. Unsurprisingly criticism swiftly flowed in and, within a week, the brand apologised on Instagram and pulled the product until it could be renamed.
Estée Laundry have also been vocal about Beautyblender’s limited foundation shade range, many of Kim Kardashian-West’s products and, more recently, have called out Mecca Cosmetica for refusing to disclose full ingredient lists in their sunscreens — which has spurred further discussion about La Roche-Posay being similarly cagey about the pH levels in their products.
Speaking to Refinery29, one of Estée Laundry’s team of five said, “People see the beauty industry as something that’s glamorous, so we wanted to show that there’s actually a dark side to it.” These industry watchdogs do something that should really be second nature to us all — they don’t take every ad, post or comment at face value.
In fact, if you’re sick to death of all the #spon posts from your (not so) fave influencers, you need to check out Gelcream. As well as being very aesthetically pleasing, Gelcream, which is run by magazine editor-turned-photographer Yana Sheptovetskaya, is the future of beauty Insta influencers (the rest just don’t know it yet). You won’t find any ‘applying my make-up with a condom’ crap on here; it’s all honest, concise, no-ad, no bullshit beauty reviews — and a long-awaited breath of fresh air.
My favourite post of Yana’s was when she called Kim Kardashian’s body fragrance “the symbol of consumerism”. She said, “Copy-paste designs, basic formulas, generic products… isn’t Kim just a mirror reflection of our generation?”