Fashion is ever changing, with new trends emerging by season and year, and others being discarded. Decades are often defined by their fashion trends, such as the flapper style for women in the 1920s or neon and casual sportswear in the 80s. Trends are part of fashion’s life cycle and often they are brought back due to nostalgia or marketed as new. However, with the introduction of fast fashion in the past few decades, the quantity and speed of trends has vastly increased, and so has consumption. These are micro trends.
“Fast fashion is a design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing. Fast fashion garment production leverages trend replication and low-quality materials (like synthetic fabrics) in order to bring inexpensive styles to the end consumer.”- The Good Trade
The nature of fast fashion, in which clothes are produced much more quickly and cheaply than before due to exploitative practices, means that brands are able to release a much vast amount of clothing and introduce many more styles than before. The fast fashion model allows products to go from “design to shipping in as little as 3 days”. This has resulted in an accelerated trend cycle, with brands such as Zara and Shein churning out new styles weekly. Micro trends “come and go quickly, and are usually cheap to purchase, so they're meant to be thrown out when their stylishness has expired.” - The List. This endless trend cycle creates dissatisfaction for the consumer and ensures they feel the need to buy more, to stay on trend. In turn, this accelerates wastefulness as many items are only worn once and thrown away.
Local London writes that “studies have proven that increased consumerism can decrease life satisfaction, vitality and social cooperation. Rapid trend cycles upheld by fast fashion brands, as well as clothing which is not designed to last more than a few wears, fuel the constant desire for more which is ultimately unhealthy”.
The relationship between social media and micro trends is notable, with influencers posting ‘hauls’ and often being sponsored by fast fashion giants Shein and PrettyLittleThing. This encourages young people to buy more than they need, and often purchase items they wear minimal times. Research by StitchFix stated that “31% of 18-24 year olds admit buying on a whim based on the latest trend, with 35% of the clothes they own remaining unworn”. Aja Barber, author of Consumed: The Need for Collective Change: Colonialism, Climate Change, and Consumerism has said that microtrends are “one of the root causes of overconsumption” and that “once the trend is over, many people no longer want the clothes, which creates a lot of waste”. A constant cycle of overconsumption and waste is created, and this lifestyle is promoted throughout social media.
This 52-season trend cycle and resulting overconsumption is highly unsustainable. It is reported that “in 2019, 208 million pounds of waste were created by single-use outfits”- WRAP.
According to Keep Britain Tidy, “the continual drive of ‘fast fashion’ adds to the waste problem, amounting to a staggering 10,000 items of clothing being sent to landfill every five minutes, equivalent to £140 million in value every year”
Shopping More Sustainably In order to combat this, it is important for consumers to commit to build a longer-lasting, more sustainable wardrobe. This can be done in many ways, such as:
Choosing versatile pieces that can be styled in multiple ways, instead of many items that serve the same purpose
Buying timeless items which work throughout the seasons and withstand trends
Focusing on quality- purchasing high-quality items means you will have to purchase less and the items you have will last longer
Creating your own style, focusing on staples that suit you instead of following fad trends
Considering your clothing as an investment, saving and spending on a few good quality items rather than several which you won’t get as much wear out of
Shopping second hand for pre-loved clothing on apps such as Depop and Vinted and in second hand stores
Using fashion rental services which are becoming more widely available
At Bond Morgan, we design with the conscious consumer in mind. Our products are created to be high quality, timeless and adaptable; allowing the consumer to get multiple styles out of one item. We believe the key to a sustainable wardrobe is investing in long-lasting, multi-functional products which suit your style at any time of the year.
What Does Fast Fashion Mean, Anyway? — The Good Trade
The History of Fashion: From the 1900s to Today - Fashinnovation
How to spot a microtrend – and tips for building a wardrobe that lasts | Metro News
Microtrends and the dangers of fast fashion - Gabriella Roe St Philomena's | This Is Local London
What Is A Micro-Trend And How Can It Affect Fashion Sustainability? (thelist.com)
Micro-trends: The acceleration of fashion cycles and rise in waste - WRAP (wrapcompliance.org)
How to dress sustainably – How to make my wardrobe sustainable (harpersbazaar.com)
Waste Less, Live More: The slow-down on fast fashion | Keep Britain Tidy