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TikTok Shop - The Future of the Fashion Industry or A Catalyst for Fast Fashion?

TikTok Shop has taken over our “For You Pages,” but is it truly as great as it seems? 

By Riya Mahtani

Photo By Anna Wojeck

In the past decade, advertising has dramatically shifted to social media. Influencers have a huge impact on what younger generations spend their money on. With TikTok Shop, the process of viewing an advertisement and purchasing a product could not be easier as users can click on the product link directly from a TikTok video. There are also greater discounts that we would never see directly from a brand. Shopping is now quicker and cheaper than ever. Is this new TikTok feature truly sustainable, or is it the modern catalyst for fast fashion and unsafe labor practices?

The online clothing store Shein sells thousands of low-quality products for cheap prices. The ethics of this company were quickly brought into question, causing many people on social media to debate boycotting the company. Similarly, TikTok Shop sells many products for low costs. This brings up the issue of fast fashion, the rapid production of inexpensive clothes and accessories in response to new trends as they surface. On TikTok, trends emerge every week and disappear within the month. With overconsumption and microtrends, the fashion industry is becoming very fast-paced. As the rate of production increases, the quality of products and conditions of laborers constantly declines. With TikTok Shop selling many discounted products every day, I can’t help but wonder how the workers are being treated and what impact this has on the environment. 

TikTok largely markets to teenagers and young adults, many of whom haven’t learned how to be financially responsible yet and could be influenced by these low prices. The excess of advertisements promotes overconsumption and overspending. But where is all this money going? It’s safe to assume that TikTok, brands, and influencers earn a considerable sum from sales. However, since products are sold at such low costs, how much of that money, if any, is going to the laborers? 

From phony Ugg Boots to off-brand Amika Hairbrushes, many products sold on TikTok Shop are fake (and significantly cheaper) versions of trending brands. However, many big companies sell overpriced products to make a substantial profit, so replicating and selling expensive items for a fraction of the price makes them more accessible. However, I worry that the fashion industry will be reduced to cheap rip-offs that diminish the creativity and quality of big brands. For companies that create unique products, it seems unfair that TikTok shoppers essentially boycott them by purchasing the off-brand product. Although everyone loves a good deal, we must remember that higher quality and (generally) more ethical labor practices make these products more expensive. Many, but not all, of these bigger brands invest in better quality resources and safer labor conditions, which is vital for the future of the environment and the fashion industry. Additionally, the money spent on TikTok Shop could be going to less ethical companies and causes than more expensive name brands, whereas buying the original brands promotes responsible consumption and spending. 

Despite my concerns, there are many advantages to TikTok Shop, and I have personally enjoyed using it just as many TikTok users have as well. It gives small businesses and creators a platform to advertise and sell their products and allows users to gain insight into advertising and marketing skills. I have noticed many name brands, such as Nyx and Revolve, begin to sell their products on TikTok Shop because of the effective influencer culture on the app. Although I do have some concerns about the low prices and sustainability of the products, TikTok Shop could benefit the fashion industry through its advertising and shopping experience. If TikTok Shop users can learn to be responsible and smart about their consumption and spending habits, it could truly modernize the fashion industry and advertising world in the future. 


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