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Congratulations you have just finished buying the latest dress and are now up to date on the newest trend; however, two weeks later that dress you just bought is no longer in style. Now you are stuck with a dress that you once loved but suddenly want to replace. Then you go on YouTube and click on the “I Spent $500 on Shein” video. All the new latest clothes and at a cheaper cost. 

The example above is a loose demonstration of how trendy fashion is constantly in this cycle. A cycle that no longer has much longevity compared to years prior. Before the fashion cycle would span between five to ten years with new trends popping up periodically. Why is it that the fashion cycle of today is no longer making past six months? 

One answer to this question could be social media. With platforms like Instagram and TikTok, fashion trends are not having in form of inclusivity. People can explore and find brands unlike before with creators even making predictions of what fashions to keep or toss by the end of the month. However, with social media playing such a vital role in fashion trends leading to copycat fashion; this is especially seen with fast fashion sites like Shein. One minute a top is on the runway and the next day a copycat is ready to order for a cheaper price and cheaper material. If copycat clothing is cheaper and matches the fashion trends then what is the harm? 

The harm in this deals with the aspects of overconsumption within this fast fashion industry. Yes, the fashion is up to date with the trends but at a cost. The fashion industry is one of the leading causes of environmental issues. Overconsumption is causing clothes to end up in thrift stores, but with majority of them ending up in landfills. Although there is a solution to this problem, that solution is complex and in some cases even facing a form of gentrification. This solution would be sustainability. 

Sustainability is nothing new, and many people of color and lower incomes families have been using sustainable fashion as a way to meet basic necessities. Thrifting is not a new concept but for the longest shopping at stores like GoodWill was looked down upon and regarded as only something that lower income families use. That was until thrifting itself became a trend and up cycling clothes is a way increase prices on second hand clothing. This is not to say that sustainability does not have its positives but when it comes to the fashion industry it is flawed. Though people still use thrift stores the clothes you will find in them now are no longer of quality or vintage rather fast fashion pieces.

What is a way to have a longer trend cycle? One way is to hold companies accountable for their over consumption of clothing. Many of these companies use extreme cheap labor in order to continue feeding into this cycle. Allowing for companies to constantly be able to stay on top of what is new. Another way that trend cycles had longer shelf life was because clothes were broken down by class. Meaning there were clothes tailored to specific audiences which allowed trends to have breathing room and the exploration of creativity among designers instead of the exploitation. 

Trends in fashion are complex and contribute to an even more complex. Yes, we do have solutions but they are far from perfect. I love fashion, however I have to acknowledge that the fashion industry does contribute to a larger discussion of its environmental impact, attitudes towards class and race, and even how artist work is honored within the industry.

Ayanna Burgess is a junior at the College of Charleston, pursuing a degree in Communication. A native of South Carolina, Ayanna enjoys finding the best restaurants in town, browsing around local record shops, and writing poetry.
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