is overconsumption the hottest trend?
“Link in bio!” “Visit my Amazon storefront!” “You need this dupe.”
(Credit: Basic Thinking)
Overconsumption of clothing is a massive problem in this country and the number one culprit is social media. The fashion industry cannot compete with the speed of social media, so instead it has used it to its advantage. TikTok is a platform made up of over 1 billion users and 100,000 influencers. The platform skyrocketed during the pandemic. People were stuck at home with not much else to do, so they turned to the internet. TikTok began as a social media platform where people could post videos for their friends or the public. It has since become a bloodbath of fast fashion.
Trend cycles did not always form and dissipate this rapidly. It took time to begin a trend, whether that be on the runway or at school. Word of mouth, magazines and windows in department stores were the best way to tell what was ‘in’. Once people caught onto a trend, it was fully fleshed out. Trends that began as designer would trickle down through malls and eventually become more affordable products for the greater public.
Juicy Couture Tracksuits were all the rage in the early 2000s
With the rise of social media, this all changed. People were able to access the latest trends much faster. You could see footage of fashion shows minutes after they occurred and companies would constantly promote their latest drops on their platforms. But nothing seemed to dominate teen fashion like TikTok did.
Starting with the Y2K and indie trends that circulated in early 2020, TikTok took over the trend cycle. The style consisted of tiny purses, graphic crop tops and overly saturated selfies. So, like all good trends, people wanted to be a part of it. The only issue was teenagers didn’t own these clothes, and since we were in a lockdown, there was only one way to get them: online.
People wanted in on this trend and they wanted in on it fast. This is where the now largest fashion retailer in the world with a $100 billion valuation steps onto the scene. Shein is an online-based Chinese clothing retailer that saw a 250% growth in 2020 during COVID-19 (Digital Commerce). The clothing is inexpensive, on-trend and accessible. It served as the perfect source for teens with no current income to shop and not feel left out of the quick-paced fashion cycle.
Things on the internet move pretty fast, if you don’t stop and buy this product RIGHT NOW you could be out of style!
This was just the beginning of the overconsumption due to social media that we have now embraced in our everyday lives. The rapidity of trends coming in and out of style was ludicrous. Could you imagine wearing cow print pants with a lace-up corset top to class? Maybe you think that would look awful, maybe that’s what you were wearing just a year ago.
There is no doubt that fashion is fluid. There are constantly beautiful, innovative styles being produced by designers. It is an art form that will never die because it is partially a necessity. But the attempts to keep up with what is trending on social media is forcing the fashion industry into a box. The image below is from Paris Fashion Week, designers Viktor & Rolf created a line of traditional gowns presented in a non-traditional matter. Some critics were pleased with the shows while others were detested, but what is undeniable is that this is art that strays away from trends.
(Credit: New York Post)
Gorpcore, clean girl, barbie-core, and coastal grandmother are just a few styles that have briefly been in the TikTok spotlight. It leads people to make purchases of entirely new wardrobes on a whim because we are made to believe that this is what looks best. On TikTok, everything is an ad. If a creator is showing their outfit for the day, they are fully expected to provide a link or details for everything they are wearing down to their makeup and hair routine. The need to be in the know is taking over. It has come to a point where creators are not only promoting products but ‘dupes’ of products. These 'dupes' are typically far less expensive and come from places like Amazon.
We are our social media presence, so why would we not want to look the best?
Why does any of this matter? If I want to spend my money on clothes I will, and if they go out of style I’ll just buy more. The issue is greater than us. Shein alone releases the same amount of CO2 as 180 coal-fired power plants, leaving about 6.3 million tons of carbon dioxide behind a year (Time). Fast fashion has a massive impact on global warming, and the speed at which people consume excessive amounts of products is only encouraging the growth of these companies.
There are of course rationales to why people shop on these websites, it is very affordable and useful for one-time wear. But that mentality is something that needs to be abandoned. Personally, I have begun practicing indulging in staples. A high-quality pair of jeans you know will last years, a formal dress in a timeless pattern, or a simple pair of classic boots are all investments one can make to start curating a meaningful closet and not spending frivolously. Purchasing from thrift stores or charity shops can be time-consuming, but is a resourceful and economically-friendly way to shop.
Small differences in our shopping choices can make an impact on the environment, and it is our job to do what we can to preserve our planet for the future.
Jacqueline Schaffer is a writer for Rowdy Magazine. She is constantly worrying about the state of the environment.