Plastic? That's Not Hot: The Return of Y2K Fashion



Whenever there is a mention of the early 2000s, I think of Paris Hilton, flip phones, the colour pink and velour tracksuits. I don't think of the beginning of fast fashion and plastic pollution in fashion. But from rhinestones to hair clips, plastic dominated the early 2000s. Let's discuss why the return of Y2K trends is not as glamorous and fun as it seems.


Why are we returning to the noughties?


The fickleness of fashion means that trends are changing constantly. Nothing is ever completely out of style, it could come back the next year or after ten years! But on the flip side, this means that the quick change of trends is encouraging fast fashion, using synthetic materials as they are affordable, allowing for a quick turn around time. A major trend we have seen in the last couple of years is a return of noughties fashion, with Urban Outfitters releasing a collection with Juicy Couture and the Dollskill x Bratz collection making everyone desperate to dress as their childhood favorite dolls. Is this nostalgia? Or a desperation to bring back low-rise jeans?


One of the appeals with 2000s trends is how tacky they can be while also being stylish and affordable. However, a problem with being affordable and stylish is that these clothes are then considered disposable. It is unlikely that anyone trying these trends have wearable garments from the 2000s in their wardrobe, desperate to fit back into them after twenty years! The fact of these styles is that they were trendy then and they are trendy now, people are not buying these clothes for the long run to last them throughout the years.


They are instead, just a bit of fun. But this 'fun' causes plastic pollution as we are wearing these trends for less then a year, with plastic diamantes falling off our clothes, or loosing endless plastic hair clips before finding something new. But these clothes can take hundreds of years to decompose, so how long can this last?


How are brands joining in?


A staple for any 2000s wardrobe is a velour tracksuit. Everyone was wearing them, they were seen on Britney Spears, Sharpay Evans, Paris Hilton and even the "mom" in Mean Girls. A return of the velour, rhinestone covered tracksuits made a comeback when the Jenner sisters, Kendall and Kylie, were seen sporting the 2017 re-release from Juicy Couture. They were given a modern look with high-waited, flared bottoms and rhinestone covered tube tops. While this is a great way to make old styles new again, it makes your OG Juicy tracksuit at the bottom of your wardrobe, unfashionable. These tracksuits are still popular today with Urban Outfitters stocking the re-worked collection and marketplaces like Depop selling Juicy sets for double the original price.


While having second hand options are great, the high price tags means people will go for the newer, more affordable option, in turn producing more plastic and more waste in the fashion world. While velour can be made from cotton, it is more often made from polyester as this is durable yet cheap, making it one of the most popular materials in the fashion industry.


Polyester is a synthetic material which makes it less sustainable, taking years to decompose. This is not the luxurious material you would want your £200 tracksuit to be made from. The most recent release is made from 95% polyester, not to mention the amount of plastic rhinestones that cover the set as branding. The more sustainable, environmentally friendly option is to buy second-hand from a market place such as Depop, but with an even higher price tag as Juicy Couture tracksuits become the 'it' thing again, this is not as attainable for many people. If big brands are cashing in on the rise of nostalgic trends, they need to offer sustainable options to help prevent further plastic pollution and waste as fast fashion becomes 'disposable' fashion.


My own experience with this trend


My friend recently had a 2000s themed birthday - think Bratz dolls, midriffs, chunky shoes, boot cut jeans, and sparkly lip gloss. While this was great fun and we all felt as if we were living through our childhood again, we realised how much plastic junk we accumulated to fit the theme. While most of the clothes were already pieces from our wardrobe it was the accessories that proved unsustainable.


By jumping on this trend we accumulated a collection of PVC bags, plastic hair clips, aviator sunglasses and plastic flip phones. While most of this was bought second hand from online marketplaces, they are now useless gimmicks waiting to be disposed of with little sustainable options. Even when you buy from sustainable sources, it does not mean that what you're buying is sustainable. We are adding to this demand for unsustainable 'trendy' pieces that will not remain stylish for long and become wasteful clutter.


What we can do better


While it is important to not always hop on the band wagon with latest trends as they can come and go with the fickleness of fashion, trends are fun and it is what keeps fashion new and interesting. A sustainable way to join in trends is to shop from sustainable sources while also sourcing sustainable materials that are natural or even recycled.


Become creative with your styling! A normal pair of jeans that you always wear can be given a noughties look if you pair them with a super cropped top. Or even your hair and makeup can transform the style of your outfit. Say yes to circular fashion by thinking of your clothes as having a life - how will you affect this?


The goal is to reuse and resell to avoid disposable fashion. These small steps can alter your actions as well as your mindset. You can follow trends without being unconscious and wasteful to tackle plastic pollution.