Staying on trend isn’t worth the economic and environmental damage


Alison Mitchell

THE REAL COST. While it may be fun to participate in the latest fashion trends, the current trend cycle, fueled by social media and fast fashion, promotes over-consumption, a practice that’s both environmentally and economically harmful.

Every week on Tiktok there seems to be a new trending aesthetic, ranging from the edgier punk rock, streetwear baddie, and gothcore, to the lighter barbiecore, coastal grandmas, and coconut girl. And while these new trends may bring exciting fashion inspiration and fun “must-have” clothing items, the practice of over-consumption promoted by the current trend cycle isn’t just unsustainable, it’s economically unfair.
It doesn’t take a fashion expert or a trend analyst to realize that these aesthetic trends seem to be going in and out of style at a faster pace. Traditional fashion trends tend to stick around for a few years, but these new “micro trends” rise to popularity quickly before going out of style after just a few months. Despite the fact that these micro trends don’t stick around for long, influencers jump on every new trend, using their platforms to promote this month’s hot new “must haves”. Oftentimes the products they promote are from fast fashion brands that churn out cheaply and unsustainably made items in order to meet consumer demand, which only contributes to the cycle of micro trends and constant consumption. This cycle is having an increasingly negative impact on the environment. The Guardian reported that the fashion industry has become one of the largest industrial polluters, second only to oil. Discarded clothing has also taken up significant amounts of landfill space, while fabric dyeing and treatment accounts for 20% of the world’s wastewater.

…the products they promote are from fast fashion brands that churn out cheaply and unsustainably made items in order to meet consumer demand…

But the rapid micro trend cycle isn’t just unsustainable, it’s also economically unfair. Various studies from the past few years have found that in countries with higher wealth gaps, such as the U.S., there are higher levels of status anxiety, leading those with lower incomes to spend money on certain “trendy” items in order to improve their image and generate a sense of belonging. But with the current state of the trend cycle, only people with large disposable incomes have the resources to keep up with the new trending items. Fast fashion brands may be able to offer these items at a lower price, but not everyone can afford to be constantly buying entirely new wardrobes, even if the items are cheap.
So while this month’s hottest new aesthetic may seem appealing, think twice before deciding to give your wardrobe a refresh. These new items may seem trendy and fun, but they’re not worth the environmental damage. Besides, they’re probably not as fun as whatever trending items will hit your feed next week.