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Micro Trends Are Great For TikTok, But Bad For The Environment

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

If you’ve been on TikTok within these past summer months, you’ve probably seen the coconut girl aesthetic in some shape or another. This look is a mixture of the ever-popular Y2K nostalgia and beachy patterns and silhouettes. Anything with a hibiscus print or halter top pretty much fits the bill. The coconut girl aesthetic is fun, festive, and pretty much everything someone wants from a summer wardrobe, but personally, I’m not a big fan. It’s not that I simply don’t like the look of the trend. True, it does seem a little too soon for me to want to repeat the outfits I wore when I was 10, but the real reason I’m not going to far lengths to recreate this look is that it’s not slated to last long in the grand scheme of the fashion market. In reality, the coconut girl aesthetic is a micro trend in fashion, which means it is the latest contributor in the push toward fast fashion. 

Micro trends, like the coconut girl aesthetic, have taken over the fashion industry as a result of fast fashion’s focus on quantity over quality. While mainstream trends set the tone of fashion for years on end (think of the different styles associated with set decades), micro trends tend to stick around for mere months, at most. Micro trends emerge fast and disappear even faster. Picture all of those tie dye sets people rushed out to buy in 2020 only to have them labeled as outdated in 2021, or the ball heel sandals people just had to have. The draw of these trends centers around how fast-moving they are. After all, wouldn’t having the ability to test out a new style while it’s trending without committing to it as a permanent feature in your wardrobe seem appealing?

Based on the alluring brevity of micro trends, the coconut girl aesthetic definitely qualifies. The aesthetic appeared with no clear origin and has obviously appealed to many as it’s gained TikTok popularity. On top of that, it’s hard to see this trend continuing past the 2021 summer months. Once the weather changes, the coconut girl trend will likely be retired and each purchase of a 2000s beach look will be added to fast fashion’s list of offenses along with acrylic handbags (remember those?) and tiny sunglasses from 2019 and 2020.

In reality, the coconut girl aesthetic is a micro trend, which means it is the latest contributor in the push toward fast fashion. 

While just the coconut girl micro trend itself may not have an astounding effect on the environment, the larger collection of the countless micro trends in recent fashion history contribute to the growing problem of fast fashion. Fast fashion is the practice of getting the newest styles on shelves as fast and cheap as possible in a process that normalizes consumers throwing away the clothing after a few wears. Its existence creates a buzz around getting styles deemed as popular without having to spend designer dollars.

Along with the oversaturation issues caused by fast fashion, including 52 micro seasons and ethical issues such as a lack of worker’s rights, fast fashion has also led to devastating environmental statistics. As fast fashion grows, the United Nations has noted that the fashion industry has become the second-largest polluter in the world, rivaled only by the oil industry. According to a 2013 study, approximately 85 % of the clothing Americans consume is sent to landfills as solid waste — that’s about 80 pounds per American per year.

The facts surrounding the growth of fast fashion are jarring, but the coconut girl aesthetic and other micro trends do nothing to steer the problem in another direction. Micro trends, especially ones like the coconut girl, dark academia, and cottagecore trends that begin on TikTok, create a rapid-paced environment that highlights the basic items of a look and encourages advertisements for lookalikes and similar products without the same promise of sustainability or ethics the original brand may promise. Many of these dupes come from fast fashion giants, such as Forever 21, Zara, Shein, and Amazon. At least according to my FYP, these fast fashion giants accumulate the majority of promotions instead of more sustainable choices. This could be a result of cheaper prices, speedy shipping, or general popularity, but one detail stands out: fast fashion companies jump on the micro trend cycle quickly and play directly into this often overlooked issue. 

Fast fashion companies jump on the micro trend cycle quickly and play directly into this often overlooked issue. 

Fortunately, if you love trying out micro trends, like the coconut girl trends, corset tops, and crochet pieces and want to incorporate them into your summer rotation, there are still plenty of ways to take part without benefitting the fast fashion industry. Because this micro trend likely won’t last past fall, there’s not really a major reason to spend big bucks to get the look. This is where thrift stores and online consignment shops come in handy. With a little hunting, you’ll be able to find quite a few summer items from the 2000s that will play perfectly into the coconut girl trend. They’ll even be authentic to the time! There are also plenty of items listed on these sites for recent micro trends, such as second skin mesh tops and wide leg jeans. If someone doesn’t like a trend they’ve tried, those pieces are most likely heading for the donation bin, so recent micro trends can still be found sustainably and with little wear.

As far as online thrift shopping goes, there are great online stores and apps to set you on a sustainable shopping path. If buying secondhand isn’t your thing, there are sustainable shopping options that are college budget-friendly that you can move your aesthetic hunt to. If you don’t want to spend any money, the coconut girl trend may be the perfect aesthetic to source from your old closet, or maybe even a friend’s. The style the trend is based on is much more recent than other period-inspired trends, meaning you have a great chance of finding accessories or clothes that fit the vibe of the trend buried somewhere in the styles of your past. 

There are so many ways to get started in sustainable fashion, so why not use the latest micro trend to give it a try? Plus, if you need a little help on the way, Her Campus’s sustainable style guide has you covered. So, while I have yet to don the coconut girl pink hibiscus halter top or puka shell necklace, there are ways to break free from fast fashion’s sneaky way of climbing up your FYP through micro trends.

Studies Referenced:

Hobson, J. (2013). To die for? The health and safety of fast fashion. Oxford University Press UK.

Sarah is a National Writer for Her Campus. She's a sophomore at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis double majoring in English and Global Studies. When she's not writing or studying, she can be found exploring downtown, reading, binging Netflix, or stalking travel Instagram accounts.
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