Every season fashion trends are reestablished through mainstream media and celebrities. New trends are born and old trends return. In the early 2010s, there were usually one or two styles of clothing that enter the trend cycle replacing one or two older styles. Regular people would look to celebrities in magazines or on the runway to declare the current trends. This was a small group of people and therefore modern fashion styles were precisely curated. For example, capris would go out of style as crystal-embellished jeans entered the market over the span of 6-12 months as various celebrities would be exclusively photographed on red carpets every now and then. From 2020 onwards, consumers no longer look to magazines or red carpets as the only source for fashion inspiration. Trends have begun to fade in and out in the span of eight weeks or sometimes even less.
How did this happen?
Social media platforms such as Instagram, Tiktok, and Youtube have instigated rapidly changing trend cycles because of the oversaturation of clothing-related content. The average demographic of people who are subjected to these trend cycles are women in their late teens and early 20’s. Content-creators on Tiktok or Instagram are expected to be posting almost every day to maintain their following basis, if not, multiple times a day, and with that comes pressure to have different outfits in each piece of content. Now, when users on these apps are watching their influencers in new clothes every day, they feel inspired to replicate fits that they liked. Most people in this demographic can’t afford to purchase high-quality clothing for every item that they purchase, especially when consuming it in such high volumes. This exchange between content-creator and watcher has been occurring for the past few years and now led to the development of trend cycles that are especially short, also known as micro-trends. In order to comply, consumers turn to fast fashion companies for the majority of their wardrobe. “Why invest a lot of money in a clothing item if it will no longer be in fashion in a few months?” Consumers are asking themselves.
Typically, the manufacturing process of clothes takes a lot of time and money. Generally across weeks, a product is taken from the drawing board to production and then doorstep. Compare this with the lightning speed of production cycles of $5 clothing produced by fast fashion companies. These companies can take a product from the drawing board to the doorstep in as little as five days. In this process, the clothes are created with little care and quality assurance, making the $5 that someone paid for it a waste in the long term as that piece of clothing deconstructs and loses its structure.
What the majority of buyers of fast fashion fail to understand is that while they may be spending less money on clothes in the short term, they are actually going to find that maintaining such a pattern of consumerism will cost them more in the long term. For example, white jeans go in and out of style every year because they are more prominent during the summertime. Knowing this, fast fashion companies advertise the summer-time exclusive jean to their consumers as trendy pieces. Social media influencers adopt this trend, therefore driving their viewers to spend a quick buck on the same jeans. Women are convinced that these jeans will also be in style for a short period of time, so they go out and buy an affordable pair of white jeans from a fast-fashion company. They don’t realize that next year they will shop online and do the exact same thing, looking for new white jeans because they threw out their old pair as soon as their quality gave in or it went out of style.
This example not only applies to white jeans but to almost every article of clothing, seen on fast fashion brands. Shein, the leading online retail store in 2021 made record-breaking sales in 2020 of close to ten billion dollars. This comes to show that now more than ever, people are consuming fashion at higher rates, speeding up fashion trends, and thus driving further consumerism.