How TikTok is Fuelling the Fire of Fast Fashion

BY SOPHIA TRIMBLE

Fashion trends are getting almost as toxic as your ex, and it’s all thanks to our favourite doom-scrolling app, TikTok.

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04 SEP - 2022

Inside TikTok's unsustainable micro-trend crisis.

Yep, you heard me, your mindless skimming on TikTok is contributing to fast fashion. But how?

Unfortunately, our intense online presence today is causing the trend cycle and what’s ‘in’ to speed up. Fashion trends seem to only last a few months, weeks, or sometimes even days. These are aptly dubbed as ‘microtrends.’ Remember the House of Sunny Hockney dress? The Omighty Hibiscus Tank dress? Or maybe you’re familiar with the more recent Moon Boot craze? Most of these pieces were spread around the internet and made popular by social media apps like Instagram or TikTok. Trends have gotten so niche that they are narrowed down to just one particular item of clothing, in one particular colourway. This is all thanks to the instant accessibility of social media.

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'@ClaireGuillon

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'@OmWeekend

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It’s interesting that after the House of Sunny Hockney dress became popular on TikTok, it became unpopular just as quickly, and could now even be considered a bit cheugy? This is where we see the effects of an accelerated trend cycle contributing to fast fashion. Social media is making us adore pieces before shunning them within a matter of months. We end up buying into every trend, before shoving them to the back of our wardrobes just as fast. All to make room for TikTok's next obsession.

Brands like Shein, Fashion Nova, Princess Polly, and Nasty Gal (the list goes on) are the stars of microtrends, creating unsustainable, unethical clothing that is worn once and then tossed aside ready for the next microtrend. As social media latches onto microtrends, these brands produce ‘trendy’ clothing to fit the brief. This is how TikTok contributes to the transient pace of microtrends, therefore promoting mass consumerism. But just like everything in life, there's a balance, and when it comes to sustainable fashion, we have to place most of the blame on the producer, not the consumer.

So where will this heavily promoted over-consumption on TikTok lead us? Will it ever stop? User @OldLoserInBrooklyn (Mandy Lee) on TikTok predicts that the current myriad of what’s ‘hot’ will eventually make trends unrecognisable. Mandy states that nothing feels trendy right now because… well, everything is trendy. This means there's a lot more room for freedom of expression, however, it also means that consumerism is reaching new heights. People seem to either be chasing their own personal style, or chasing a version of what's in at the moment.

We end up buying into every trend, before shoving them to the back of our wardrobes just as fast. All to make room for TikTok's next obsession.

What will happen 20 years in the future, when we’re living in 2042 and the trend cycle inevitably cycles right on back around? How will we characterise the 2020s when everything is in fashion all at once and the trend cycle has collapsed in on itself? This is a question nobody can answer right now. All we can do is shop as sustainably as possible in the meantime, try to recognise and move away from microtrends, and wait for 2042 to roll around.

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Sustainable shopping is all about creating as little textile waste as possible - there are already so many clothes in the world. Reducing, reusing and recycling fashion should be everybody's best friend. In fact, it is estimated that at least 10% of landfills globally are made up of textile waste. With that being said, here are some alternatives to the fast fashion trap that is oh-so-easy to fall into:

Frisson Knits

Pick up an NZ made, chunky mohair blend sweater or cardigan from Frisson Knits! Super cozy, super cute, and always a staple in the colder months.

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'@_Frisson_Knits_

Emma Sofie

If you’re looking for something light and effortless to chuck on as we head into summer, Emma Sofie may be the brand for you. Using locally sourced fabrics from Copenhagen, Emma Sofie designs beautifully unique, hand-made pieces that bring a new meaning to the ‘clean girl’ aesthetic.

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'@EmmaSofie__

Caitlin Snell

Caitlin Snell is a kiwi designer who creates classic hand-made accessories such as masks, necklaces, headbands, and hair bows (which are very on trend right now!). All ethically produced, sustainably considered, and with gorgeous attention to detail - We love!

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'@CaitlinSnell_

Buying Vintage

Buying vintage/secondhand is also a huge yes when it comes to living and buying sustainably. Apps like Depop, Trademe, Ebay and even Instagram are an open doorway into where to find cute vintage pieces. Although genuine vintage can be a bit more on the pricey side, Instagram accounts like @Closet.ByKatie, @Y2KNostalgia and @BazaarThreads__ are some great and more affordable options when it comes to secondhand vintage pieces. Prices vary depending on the rarity of the piece.

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Renting

There are hundreds of websites and Instagram accounts that stock designer dresses available for rent. Why buy a designer dress to wear once when you could borrow one for half the price? My top picks for rental accounts on Instagram are @RentWithIz, @Borrow.Style, and @TheDiff.Rent. Some rental places even offer a backup option! Get it shipped straight to your door and if your first choice isn’t quite right, you’ll have the choice of another dress!

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