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Microtrends and their Macro Impact on the Environment

By Vlatka Kralik


Something that evolves for many people once they enter university is their sense of style. Maybe it stems from growing up, meeting new people, self discovery, or a cocktail of reasons. A big influence shaping current fashion trends is the introduction of social media. The internet has fueled the fast-fashion movement through various methods, such as: making articles of clothing easily accessible worldwide (i.e., world-wide shipping) and apps like TikTok, Instagram and Pinterest to highlight what the “cool” and fashion-forward influencers are wearing, which allows for the public to decide what trends brands should produce, rather than the designers themselves. These factors have decreased the time cycle of typical fashion “seasons”, where a trend (or should I say fad) is cool one minute, but passé the next. Were you a victim of the cow print pants? Maybe the Shein hauls, sherpa jackets or the cottagecore aesthetic? I can admit my shoe collection in high school consisted of black retro Vans, Air Force 1s and Birkenstock sandals.

 

Photo from “$200 Shein Haul” by Becca M on YouTube.

           

These trends, a.k.a. microtrends, are the catalyst as to why the fashion industry is the “third highest global producer for greenhouse gases,” (Catt, 2023). These microtrends tend to prey on our insecurities, or the societally induced desire to “fit in”. Most often, these “trendy” pieces are worn under 10 times, and then hibernate in our closets before moving on to thrift stores, landfills, or the global south, contributing to the industry’s staggering production volume. They were never meant to be timeless pieces, but a ticket to the cool crowd- and more money for capitalist pockets. In 2022 alone, the global fashion industry produced “between 80 billion and 150 billion garments,” (Smith, 2023), catering to just 25% of the world’s population.


Not only did this shift in the fashion industry result in exponential environmental consequences, but as expected, it includes ethical concerns. An influx of brands have turned to the fast fashion market (even luxury brands are guilty!) to provide “affordable” clothing at an unsustainable pace. This surge in demand leads to more people forced into working for cheap exploitative labour practices, with less than 2% of workers earning livable wages (Ross, 2021). All of these consequences are to please a small demographic in the global north and expand their black hole of a bank account.


I felt inspired to write this blog while reading Cassandra Pintro’s Vogue article, “Why I (A Fashion-Lover) Am Giving Up Fashion- For Now”. I especially resonated with the following quote:

 

“My attachment to clothing stopped being about freedom of expression, and more about relevance.” (Pintro, 2023)

 

Fashion has always been a response (or rebellion) to societal and cultural shifts. As of late, it’s been capitalized into an unsustainable industry, both environmentally and ethically. Fashion “ins” and “outs” are guided by socially acceptable “influencers”, where the rest of the public majority are judged, for reasons as trivial as not adhering to the latest trends, or being labeled as an “outfit repeater”. Just look up the current definition of fashion (or I’ll just include it in the blog for you).


This interpretation of fashion underscores a shift from a manner of self-expression, creativity, and comfort to evolving into a quest for external validation. It emphasizes how societal perceptions wield significant influence over our current day fashion senses.

 

“Oh, but Vlatka, all you’ve done is explain to us all of these negative consequences of excessive shopping and the external impacts of the fashion business…how can we challenge such a big industry?”

 

Here’s a good list of ways to embark on your sustainable fashion journey and the fight against overconsumption:

-        Read Pintro’s Vogue article! You might see a little bit of your own shopping tendencies mirrored in her words.

-        Try to follow Pintro’s Consumption Project

-        Say no to shopping at the mall. I promise that $70 plain Nike logo t-shirt is something you can live without.

-        Explore alternative sources of clothing: thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, clothing swaps with friends (or check out UOCCC’s annual clothing swaps!), local flea markets or the lovely uO Free Store.

-        Consider your wardrobe: Before making a purchase, assess if you already own something similar. Imagine a few outfits with items from your closet.

-        Prioritize longevity and versatility in your pieces. Opt for clothing items that are durable and can be styled in various ways, emphasizing a timeless and sustainable wardrobe.

-        If you want to evolve your fashion sense, try to understand what makes you feel confident and comfortable. Draw inspiration from friends, T.V. show characters or artworks, adapting it in a way that feels authentic to you.

-        Consider learning to upcycle clothes. Try imagining how you can personalize and transform a piece through dyeing, sewing, crocheting/knitting etc. before tossing it.

 

Through employing slight adjustments to our daily lives, we can send a message to big corporations that we do not condone their acts of mass production, and fight for change!

 

 

Works Cited

Catt, M. (2023, September 15). Climate change threatens fashion industry. Cornell Chronicle. https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2023/09/climate-change-threatens-fashion-industry

M, B. (2018, December 26). $200 Shein Haul. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhqufG18jKU

Pintro, C. (2023, August 3). Why I (a fashion-lover) am giving up fashion – for now. British Vogue. https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/giving-up-fashion-one-year

Ross, E. (2021). Fast fashion getting faster: A look at the unethical labor practices sustaining a growing industry. International Law and Policy Brief. https://studentbriefs.law.gwu.edu/ilpb/2021/10/28/fast-fashion-getting-faster-a-look-at-the-unethical-labor-practices-sustaining-a-growing-industry/

 

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