Credit: AJ Duncan

The trouble with microtrends

By Dorota Dziki

Dorota Dziki outlines the harms caused by the rapid trend cycles perpetuated by Youtube and Tiktok.

Microtrends, or short-lived trends, are a plague on the fashion industry, reinforced by huge try-on hauls popular on TikTok and Youtube. Thanks to fast-fashion brands such as Shein, AliExpress and Pretty Little Thing, dupes of expensive and excessive amounts of clothing have become accessible to pretty much everyone, allowing more and more people to find popularity on social media by keeping up with the fast-paced and ever-changing microtrends. And can we really blame people for wanting to join in on trends and experience fashion that would be otherwise inaccessible? 

But the conversation around sustainability and the ethics of shopping “fast fashion” is becoming louder in 2021. Microtrends, and the subsequent large-scale purchase of fast-fashion, have negative consequences ranging from the exploitation of workers, to theft of ideas from small designers, and the devastating impact on the planet. 

Society’s support of excess is frightening. I know every time I see a “redeem your £700 Shein gift card” ad on Facebook, all I can think about is: “Who on earth would need that much clothing all at once?”

And how could we forget the infamous “Pink Friday” sale on PrettyLittleThing, with clothing up to 99% off? One tweet read “Just ordered over £600 worth of clothes from PLT for £6, what is happening?” The fact, too, that people felt compelled to buy so many clothes simply because they were on sale highlights the problem with overconsumption in our society, and how keeping up with microtrends forces people to continuously buy more clothing. 

The infamous House of Sunny dress that everyone was obsessed with comes to mind. The dress itself was almost £100, but fast-fashion brands quickly took it upon themselves to make dupes of it, resulting in floods of TikTokers showing it off for a short period of time before it wasn’t “cool” anymore, and they moved on to the next big thing. 

With people buying far more clothes than they need just to make one TikTok, these clothes end up in landfills or charity shops, impacting the climate, but also having an effect on people who rely on charity shops to acquire clothing. Charity shops, known for being a source of cheap, second-hand clothing have risen in prices as they are flooded with barely worn clothing from fast-fashion brands.

It feels good to be involved in something collective, and on the surface making these clothes accessible to people who would normally not be able to afford it seems like a great concept. But the truth is our relationships with our wardrobes have become unhealthy, and the dark side of fast-fashion and microtrends is something that should be spoken about more, in order for this relationship to shift to one of sustainability and ethics. An alternative to fast-fashion I found recently is the app Vinted, where people sell their own clothes second-hand at incredibly cheap prices. By changing tact and partaking in “slow-fashion”, we can start addressing the negative impact on the planet and the human rights violations that these brands facilitate.


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