Forever 21, Shein, Romwe, I am looking at you.
In fashion, there is a little trick called the 20 year trend cycle. This cycle tells us that what was once fashionable will be soon fashionable again. The best way to look at it is when we used to look back on Y2K fashion and cringe at the layers, baby tee’s, low rise jeans, and patterns that were trendy then. But, if you were to go into any store right now, you would see a sea of baby tee’s, skinny scarves, and other Y2K ensembles. It just goes to show that our childhood trends can be adaptable to the modern fashion scene.
Tiktok user Mandy does an excellent job at explaining the importance of having personal style versus being trendy. She goes in depth to explain the trend cycle, and the impact singular pieces have on the trend cycle as a whole.
The problem with the trend cycle as we know it today, is that it is rapidly changing. Trend cycles are moving at a rapid pace, that we not only have to keep up with trends, but now, micro trends. These micro trends can be influenced by those random pieces we have seen on influencers. Like that House of Sunny dress we saw on every influencer, died down, and has now disappeared- laid to rest in a fashion graveyard.
These microtrends lead to over saturation and overconsumption of a singular item. We then are led to believe this one thing is trending right now, and if we do not buy it right this second, we will be left in the dust. This “right now” mentality when shopping is fast fashion’s dream scenario. The basis of fast fashion is these ever-changing micro trends. With people thinking that you have to wear this piece today in order to be fashionable inspires consumers to buy it up. Since fast fashion can mass produce the trends for cheap, they reap the benefits as they are able to create turnover for the next trend.
Fast fashion is destroying the trend cycle as we know it because pieces are trending instead of themes. When we look back in fashion history, we can find peace in knowing that trends will always come back. However, singular pieces for the first time are trending, like a TikTok sound, rather than an overarching theme of fashion. Because pieces trend, the theme is rushed through a trend cycle, and instead of lasting a few years, will only last 3-6 months.
There are many factors behind this, but I think the acceleration is linked to social media influencers, as they wear new clothes every day, and people who look to them for inspiration are sent in a frenzy on fast fashion websites to buy clothes that are trending for seconds. Then repeating this process in two weeks when the next must-have item is born.
This over consumption in the fashion sense has led to consumer’s buying from fast fashion more than ever, but there are so many impacts that this new phenomena has. The trend cycle previously gave time for producers to dwindle out the old and create the new. Fast fashion is all about constant production, and this plays a major role on the environment.
The limited production time it takes creates a tremendous amount of waste left behind. This waste left from dying clothes will often be dumped into ditches, streams, etc., thus harming that ecosystem, and polluting the water. These companies also use cheaper, synthetic materials like nylon and polyester, but do not realize that these fabrics take hundreds of years to biodegrade. On top of this, they leave behind microplastics which are found in almost everything now- water systems, sea life, etc.
So, are we going through trends too quickly? Yes. It’s so important to understand your style and accent it with a trendy piece every once in a while, rather than being consumed by the trends and buying new clothes with every micro trend. Getting in touch with your personal style can protect the trend cycle and put an end to harmful fast fashion based trends.