‘TikTok Couture’: the Good and the Bad

TikTok has made trend cycles shorter than in previous years. What's the impact?

Samantha Seidu
9th March 2022
Image: Instagram @tiktok

The fast-paced nature of TikTok will impact the way fashion trends grow

Image: Instagram @urbanoutfitters

We all know of TikTok, the addictive social media platform that grew in popularity over lockdown. In one app, you will inevitably find content you find interesting, squashed into the space of around 30 seconds to 3 minutes maximum. TikTok in its nature is very fast paced; you find one short video to watch or you’re scrolling through to find something else to watch. This new way of producing and consuming content has influenced the way trends emerge in all categories. Naturally, the fast-paced nature of TikTok will impact the way fashion trends grow. Fashion, in itself, is an industry that is constantly evolving and changing. However, our generation’s short attention span combined with the fast stream of content has changed how we now dress and follow trends.

Trends are recycled and readopted; this is what we call a trend cycle

To understand how TikTok’s algorithm has changed fashion trends, we need to understand how trends work. A lot of the trends we know of today did not pop out of thin air, they are recycled and readopted; this is what we call a trend cycle. Before the rise of technology, social media and influencer culture, a normal trend cycle would typically last around 10-20 years (this is a ‘macro-trend'). A good example of this would be the Y2K/late 90s retro look which has now resurfaced about 20 years later. New technology has increased our exposure to fashion, making different styles more accessible than ever before. This means that trend cycles have now been reduced from 10-20 years to around 3-5 years (this is a ‘micro-trend’). The arrival of TikTok has created even shorter trend cycles, lasting no longer than around three months; for example, the Lirika Matoshi ‘Strawberry Dress’ left as soon as it came.

TikTok has created even shorter trend cycles, lasting no longer than around three months, for example

Image: Instagram @lirika.matoshi

By the time you buy your clothes, a new style will be in fashion

Fashion trends aren’t inherently a bad thing, something becomes popular for the moment then leaves, to become popular and reinvented several years later. The issue today is that trend cycles have now become too short. Whilst in the past, trends cycles could give people time to explore the trend and adopt the style, in the present day trend cycles are so short that by the time you buy your clothes, a new style will be in fashion. With influencer culture and ‘try-on hauls’, clothes in styles are bought in bulk from fast fashion sites, only to be thrown out or sent to charity shops a few months later. This is all starting to have a negative impact on the environment, most clothes end up in landfill sites whilst more are being produced en masse to keep up with the high demand for trends that will not last so long. Whilst TikTok isn’t entirely to blame, it has played a huge part in reducing the length of time between trend cycles leading to the increased consumption of fast fashion.

Make sure you observe every trend but do not necessarily follow it

So this brings about the question: what can I do to help? The most important thing to do is to make sure you observe every trend but do not necessarily follow it. If a new trend emerges and you want to try it out, ask yourself if you really like the style or if you are trying to follow the trend. Can you see yourself wearing this in 5 years time, 10 or even 20? Use TikTok to your advantage, it has millions of different styles for you to pick and choose from regardless of whether they are in style or not. Look for styles and aesthetics you like the most and try to stick to it. Shopping sustainably is also hugely important; try to reduce how much you buy from fast fashion sites or avoid it if you can! Avoid buying clothes from these sites in bulk, the cheaper prices may be tempting but these clothes were never meant to last long. Finally, dispose of your clothes responsibly when you no longer want them; donate them, give them to friends or relatives or make something new with the fabric, this way, you can prolong the longevity of the item of clothing.

As mentioned before, trends are not a bad thing, they are new and exciting. But following them irresponsibly can cost us all a lot. Trends will come and go naturally, so use each trend to find your own personal style that you can follow for many years.

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