A microtrend is a specific, prevailing fashion material good or aesthetic that is fleeting. This can be anywhere from a matter of days, weeks, or months long. These fashion trends usually last for less than a fashion season long, and oftentimes this creates a culture that churns out ‘new’ and ‘improved’ fashion at an ever increasing rate. With the normalization of social media trends such as Instagram, Tik Tok or YouTube, to name a few, society has normalized overconsumption of clothing and fashion accessories for a consumer to accumulate per year. Before social media, magazines were the way to view the latest fashion trends, and these were produced at a much slower pace. Trends used to last for a couple of years or even decades before falling out of fashion, becoming a fad.
Instead, we see social media platforms overexpose fast fashion and luxury goods, which only exacerbates microtrends. On Instagram many celebrities, influencers and average users post their #OOTDs, “outfit of the day”, posts with the latest fashion trends of the week. And as fashion brands like Fashion Nova, Shein, Misguided, Romwe and Pretty Little Thing continue to gain popularity, our social media feed more often shows ads for the latest collection drop from these brands. We see celebrities and influencers sporting the newest collections before they launch. Luxury names like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Bottega Veneta and even Vivienne Westood are appealing to a wider audience of consumers that use social media. This is also done through celebrities and influencers constantly posting themselves wearing the luxury goods to advertise to their followers.
What is especially interesting is the increased rate of microtrend cycles, which were a few months long when Instagram was the mainstream platform, circa 2013-2017. And have recently became a mere two weeks long due to the rise of Tik Tok users showing off their latest Shein hauls or the Alabama Sorority Rushing #OOTDs, that are a product of hyperconsumerism. Even before the rise of Tik Tok and Instagram, we saw and still see on YouTube the fast fashion clothing hauls. Oftentimes these haul videos are sponsored by fast fashion brands, for YouTubers to market to subscribers the fast fashion brands and the “latest and greatest” fashion trends.
What these platforms all have in common is the normalization of buying hundreds of dollars worth of clothing in a short span of time. How much is too much? Ina 2015 congressional report, “The Economic Impact of the Fashion Industry” report by the Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress stated that “Fashion is a $1.2 trillion global industry, with more than $250 billion spent annually on fashion in the United States.” This was six years ago, and in 2019 we saw that American consumers consumed around five times the amount of clothing than American consumers did in the year 1980. This was according to the article, “The High Price of Fast Fashion: Workers and the environment suffer as trendy, inexpensive clothes are swiftly mass produced in subcontracted factories and sold in chain stores world-wide”, by Dana Thomas of the Wall Street Journal.
According to fashion company Rent the Runway, in 2018 from the same article by Thomas, about 68 new pieces of clothing were bought on average each year. In addition, these clothing pieces were on average only being worn about seven times until the garments ended up in a landfill. Another report from a Chinese fashion company, Y Closet, claimed that the consumer will only use the new article of clothing only a mere three times before its eventual destination into the landfill.
It is absurd that there can be such waste produced by the microtrends that are fleeting. Let’s take this year and last year for comparing how fast microtrends come and go, to “justify” why many unaware or impressionable consumers religiously follow these microtrends of the month. A short-lived trend that we saw was the Gucci Marmont belt, and every influencer was sporting it until it fell out of fashion, soon after so many people were seen wearing it constantly. Just recently, the Vivianne Westwood “mini bas relief choker” was adorned on Tik Tok influencers, YouTubers, Instagram models and celebrities in 2020. Just a year later, the mini bas relief choker is very old news. Another trend that was seen in 2020, was the Lirika Matoshi Strawberry Midi Dress that Tess Holiday wore on the red carpet, and other influencers put on their Instagram grids. Now the hype for the coined “Strawberry dress” is no longer considered cool. All of these luxury goods came with tons of knock-offs soon after the hype was reaching its peak, so these looks were relatively accessible for the average consumer to copy the influencer.
There is so much waste created to fuel the delusion to look or feel like the ultra-famous and rich. Let’s not fool ourselves; exploitation of third-world countries of extremely underpaid child labor and vulnerable workers are forced to work in sweatshops for long hours, to create garments that a person will wear a few times and toss into the trash. The mainstream social media culture has in recent years preached to its consumers and followers to be “green”, “eco-friendly”, “vegan” and buy “ethically sourced” goods. Yet, these same influencers would wear fast fashion for money and sponsorship deals. One cannot have their cake and eat it too.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Torch.