How social media sites like TikTok and Instagram have germinated micro-trends within fashion.
It's no secret that our attention spans are rapidly declining, and with them, the life cycle of fashion trends are swiftly following suit. In the modern age, we consume an outrageous amount of information a day, amongst this information is what’s 'in' and what’s not. Apps like TikTok and Instagram and the influencers that populate them tell us what’s cool, what’s out of fashion and what we need to Buy. Right. Now. Seeing something nice and wanting to buy it is obviously not a bad thing in itself, we all love to indulge a bit. However, this facilitation of consumption that often spirals into overconsumption can turn from sweet to sour very quickly.
The fashion 'echo chamber'
Social media has long been a means for celebrities, micro-celebrities and influencers to share snippets of their days, lives and fashion choices with the world. Many look to these people as fashion inspiration. Instagram, and more recently TikTok have become outlets for people to express their creativity and originality through their style. And with the last two years leaving us with little to do other than stare at our phones, many of us sought to make their originality our own as well. This, coupled with the new shopping section on the Instagram app, as well as influencers doing paid advertisements for clothing brands has meant that picking up both inspiration for new clothes and the clothes themselves has never been easier.
If everyone’s watching the same videos and viewing the same pictures on the explore page, it's almost like a fashion-echo chamber forms around us and our devices. You swipe down, more content. You give something a like or a share or a save, more content. A lot of the time, the same content or same item will begin to appear over and over again, from items like the Vivienne Westwood Pearl Choker to decadent fast fashion corsets from Amazon. Once the trend has been allowed to live and flourish for a bit, fashion influencers will later brand these ‘old’ or ‘cheugy’ and thus the trend will die as quickly as it began, with the item collection dust at the bottom of a drawer. Then, the next trend begins, and the cycle inevitably repeats itself.
You have sustainable brands like House of Sunny, with their 'Hockney Dress' or Lirika Matoshi’s 'Strawberry Dress' reaching new heights of popularity during lockdown. But as these micro trends peter out, fast fashion takes hold with cheaper, unsustainable sweatshop made knockoffs that will probably be worn once then cast aside because by the time it arrives the hype is over. You also have TikTok stars like Addison Rae posting sponsorship deals with Shein, a notorious fast fashion website that produces poor quality garments that are often rip offs of other designers work. The low prices entice it's customers to buy more, but the quality does not often hold out with the garments often only lasting for a couple of wears, if it doesn't fall out of style first.
The problems and benefits
This form of consumption has inherently negative effects. There is of course, the aforementioned consequence of smaller, independent designs being ripped off by larger companies because the demand for their product is there, but people seek cheaper alternatives. These items, when they eventually fall out of trend, often end up in landfills, especially if they are cheaply made they may break and be unfit for reselling or donation. It can also be considered socially problematic because it may lead to people who cannot afford to keep up with the fast cycling micro trends to feel excluded. Once they’ve been able to afford one thing, it could have fallen out of trend because '*Insert famous influencers name here* on TikTok said so’ then be right back to square one.
However, where there is a way of looking at this glass as half empty there are also ways it can be seen as half full. With the aid of Instagram and Tiktok, smaller, lesser known designers could be potentially brought into the limelight: Lirika Matoshi and her elegant, whimsical designs being a prime example of this happening. These micro trends also have the potential to initiate a domino effect. While one item of clothing might fall out of fashion the overall style of it could stick around and create new outlets and avenues for people to explore. This can be seen with pre-existing styles like ‘Cottage Core’ or more recently ‘Cut-out Fashion' which has risen in popularity throughout late 2021 into 2022.
What can we do about it?
So, what can we take from this and how can we learn? We have to recognise that this mentality facilitated by these social media platforms promotes a negative form of consumerism. It not only perpetuates the ongoing problem we face with fast fashion, this mentality of ‘think later, buy now or I’ll miss out’ also damages individuality, something that fashion is supposed to help people express. One has to ask themselves, who are you dressing for? Do you really like that dress or did your phone screen tell you that you should. Before you see a new ‘Must have it now!’ item, try and remove yourself from the echo chamber and think if it’s something that you’ll still want to wear in a week, a month, a year? If the answers no, probably give this one a miss.