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The Trend Cycle is Moving Faster Than Ever

And Gen-Z-targeted platforms support the increase of speed.

By Rachael Dionisio

Photo by Pinterest

Chunky colorful rings are so Summer 2020. Hibiscus-printed dresses are so Spring 2021. North Face puffer jackets are so Fall 2022. Typically, every season births a new litter of trends, but now the quarterly seasons are shortening to singular months, or even scarier, just weeks. Microtrends in fashion are cycling faster than ever, and social media apps and Gen-Z targeted platforms are typically to blame.

Who knew that a video-creating and sharing platform could be a graveyard, yet simultaneously a breeding ground, for trends? With the fake news dumping and fading out of Twitter, and the stigma of inconsistency regarding the Instagram algorithm, TikTok fosters endless cycling of fads. The Gen-Z populated app’s influence is massive with a potential ad reach of 945.2 million users, and its user engagement metrics are off the charts. It should come as no surprise that the platform spotlights and diminishes microtrends at the speed of light.

Usually, the next season’s major trends can be predicted using the 20-year rule, which states that style fads recycle every 20 years. This is evident in reference to early 2000’s trends consisting of low-rise tennis skirts, bedazzled denim jackets, and Juicy Couture tracksuits, which are now labeled as “Y2K” on TikTok and Pinterest. According to this rule, our current fashion trends are expected to recirculate back onto the internet in 2043. However, since the trend cycle is being cut shorter and shorter each season, what will even define the early 2020’s major trends looking 20 years forward?

Way back when, before social media was prominent, the average civilian used to rely on magazines for access to the latest high-fashion collections and runway looks. Followers of fashion had to wait for the latest issue to be released to get the inside scoop on what’s hot and what’s not. To expand the limitation even more, a lot of this style information was controlled and gate-kept by the editorials themselves. Now, the power of trends is in the hands of influencers on social media, stemming from platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and most prevalently, TikTok. As technology advances, limitations on news dissolve. Today, there are new microtrends surfacing the internet left and right at a rate so rapid that it’s almost impossible to keep up.

You may be wondering… yeah, the recycling of trends is occurring without a doubt, but is it really a problem?

The answer? Yes, it is a problem. Before the rise of today’s most used social media platforms, trends were defined by collections and themes, not singular items or accessories. The 90’s are described to encapsulate casual and grudge as opposed to the bulky and bright pieces from the 80’s. The 60’s are labeled as hippy and psychedelic, in comparison to the disco-inspired looks from the 70’s. Every decade of fashion before social media is referred to as a theme. So, how is the wardrobe of the 2020’s supposed to be classified? Fashion today is losing its significance. Every piece that gains popularity doesn’t hold the same amount of value that it would’ve decades ago. Today’s microtrends could never be considered timeless, like a trench coat or kitten heels. If the rate of the trend cycle escalates even more, there is potential for every trend going forward to be acknowledged as a microtrend, therefore concluding that nothing from this generation could ever be timeless.

TikTok’s influence on Gen-Z normalizes the role of fast fashion and shortens each piece’s lifespan. When the turnover for trends is so quick, no one wants to invest in what could be “out of style” by next week. This construct results in overconsumption from retailers like Shein and Romwe, which capitalize off of these microtrends. Gen-Z feels compelled to post a 15-second haul of these brands on TikTok, then upload an Instagram post wearing their new outfit, then scroll on Pinterest to find more styling inspiration. Every digital engagement with fast fashion feeds the cycle.

Gen-Z encourages the exponential speed of the trend cycle. Although organic, microtrends developed from TikTok and other high-traffic platforms prevent the categorization of today’s trends. Today’s fashion is a melting pot of what once was, especially considering the 20-year rule. While micro-trended items have no long term value, new ones surface the internet everyday, and Gen-Z endorses their growth. Nevertheless, we should work towards a tomorrow where the cycle slows down while prolonging and embracing every trend.

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