The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Fashion trends have been constantly evolving for centuries, and yet recently we have seen the trend cycle changing at an astounding rate. I personally have noticed this since lockdown, with the growth of platforms such as TikTok. For instance, the majority of trends from the beginning of the pandemic would no longer be considered trendy now, some of which may even be considered particularly cringey by many online, though these were trends that only a few years ago people were spending hundreds of pounds on. Personal stylist service Stitch Fix recently found that ‘31% of 18-24 year old’s admit buying on a whim based on the latest trend, with 35% of the clothes they own remaining unworn’, which leaves you wondering what are the effects of this emerging cycle?
Microtrends have existed for years, however the speed at which these trends emerge and eventually fall away has been rapidly speeding up each year, encouraged by apps such as TikTok. These microtrends traditionally were seen to stick around for ‘three to five years’, however they can now be seen to come, and go, in a matter of weeks. An upside to the speed at which trends are changing online at the moment, is that it actually gives many people more room to branch out with their personal style. What’s trendy, or considered to be fashionable online, is changing at such a rapid pace many people feel more free to explore outfit choices they may have never considered before. This is due to the fact many are being introduced to so many styles all at once, whilst also feeling reassured that things considered ‘cringe’ only a few weeks ago could easily be considered trendy at the drop of a hat. Furthermore, TikTok has seen an emerging trend of labeling many niche aesthetics, and in turn clothing, allowing anyone to find likeminded people online to explore expressing themselves however they feel comfortable.
On the other hand, there are of course downsides to this newfound pace to the trend cycle. Many people are attempting to keep up with every popular item that graces their TikTok ‘For You Page’, with many resorting to fast fashion brands in order to be able to afford to keep up. The immense amounts of waste created as a result will inevitably have a detrimental effect, both environmentally and morally.
The fashion trend cycle happens in five key stages: introduction, rise, acceptance, decline, and obsolescence.
Whilst, as previously stated, this cycle has existed for many years, Geraldine Wharry describes the rapid manner in which these trends emerge and die out as the ‘hypercycle’ which is ‘a bit like being on a hamster wheel with the constant chase and obsession with newness’. This hyper cycle inevitably leads to overconsumption, primarily of ‘ultra-fast fashion’ brands. The impact of fast fashion brands has been widely discussed, not only on the environment, but on the people who work for them as well. According to the UN Environment Programme, the fast fashion industry is the second-biggest consumer of water and is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions, whilst a 2021 investigation by The Sunday Times discovered that Pretty Little Thing were paying their garment workers an hourly wage of £3.50 at a factory in Leicester. The prevalence of these rapid microtrends upholds these unsustainable practices, whilst ‘the global secondhand trade is flooded with discarded garments, and waste colonialism continues in communities in the Global South’.
Overall, there is a very serious cost to the manner in which trend cycles speed through microtrends, and it’s only getting worse. However, hopefully with the widespread discussions happening online regarding sustainable fashion, there can be a move in the right direction, allowing and encouraging people to explore all facets of expressing themselves through fashion without having such a detrimental effect on our planet.