How are micro-trends accelerating the fashion industry and its impact on our planet?
What are trends, macro-trends, micro-trends?
We hear the words “trend” and “trending” being used everywhere these days – both online and offline – especially when it comes to style and fashion. With endless articles circulating the internet: “Top fashion trends of 2021,” “What trends are in for winter 2021,” “Fashion trends that will dominate 2022,” “These fashion trends need to go,” so on and so forth. Social media and the internet both accelerate and influence our consumer behavior whether we are aware of it or not. We are constantly bombarded with new information and visuals on a daily basis, it is inevitable that our purchasing decisions are more or less affected by what popular artists and influencers are wearing, low prices, and seemingly never-ending sales.
In an earlier blog post, we discussed what fast fashion is, how it is affecting our environment, and why we must slow down. Fast fashion has dominated the apparel industry since the 1990s, selling the newest trend pieces at affordable prices. For fast fashion to be called “fast” in the first place, and to be able to continue living up to its name, it is all due to short trend cycles and the constant production of “micro-trends” that saturate the media and influence consumers to quite literally buy into the trend.
In fashion, a typical trend cycle consists of five stages: introduction, rise, acceptance, decline, obsolescence. The structure of the cycle itself has remained the same, however what has changed over the years is how short-lived each cycle is. In the past, fashion brands used to launch new collections four times a year to match the traditional seasons. However, nowadays it is common for fast fashion retailers to pump out new “seasons” every two weeks, and sometimes even every week. The traditional trend cycle used to last around twenty years, then came macro-trends that last five to ten years, and now micro-trends, which used to last at least three to five years, only last weeks before the trend dies out and is replaced by yet another “micro-collection” that will soon face the same fate.
Why is this an issue?
One of the main issues with micro-trends is that they are making fast fashion even faster, accelerating and contributing to the already massive waste production of the fashion industry. This is not only an environmental problem, but also an issue with ethics involving workers’ hours, wages, working conditions, etc. having to keep up with the increasing speed of the fast fashion industry.
The rise of social media – especially image and video-based platforms like Instagram and TikTok – along with this new wave of influencer culture are collectively promoting fast fashion trends and encouraging viewers to follow the latest trends. And as we understand the nature of trends, especially micro-trends, they are not here to stay, and even expected to go out of style quickly.
What makes this such a huge issue for the planet is that this is not just the doing of a few fashion brands, a few influencers, and a few consumers. The fast fashion model is backed up by hundreds and thousands of fashion retailers, influencers, consumers, and the growing habit of overconsumption and throwaway culture.
What problems are we dealing with?
Shorter trend cycles means that more clothes need to be made, and made faster, too. This leads to a list of problems such as a decrease in quality and durability of clothing, workers having to work longer hours in unfavorable conditions while being paid low wages, a massive amount of textile waste during production, and even more waste on top of that as people throw out clothes that are no longer on trend or worn down due to poor quality.
The world now consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year. This is 400% more than the amount we consumed just two decades ago, right before fast fashion took over as the predominant model in the industry. With so many pieces purchased, more clothes are also expected to be thrown out; nearly 3.8 billion pounds of clothing Americans consume annually, that’s around 85%, end up in landfills and incinerators. With around 75% of the fashion supply chain alone ending up in landfills, the numbers only increase from there, taking up 5% of landfill space.
Discarded clothing typically sit in landfills or get incinerated, both which lead to the release of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases. Not to mention, the ashes from incinerated textiles end up back in landfills, which along with all the other textile waste, release toxins from chemicals and dyes into the air, land, and water.
What do we do? What can we do?
While the internet and social media enable and promote this type of consumer behavior, creating a pattern and seemingly endless cycle of buying and trashing clothes – viewing clothes as disposable – it is important for us to look towards the source of the problem. When brands and retailers place profit over quality, and sacrifice the wellbeing of people and the planet, there is a bigger price we have to pay; we can’t continue to turn a blind eye to what is, and has been, happening for decades: climate change.
Many brands have adopted more sustainable materials and processes, focusing on creating clothing that are durable and styles that are meant to last. Without placing an emphasis on the latest fashion trends that will quickly be forgotten by people, and instead prioritizing materials, people, and the planet, companies can begin to shift the focus on quality over quantity and profit.
At Koup, we focus on creating performance wear without sacrificing sustainability. Using recycled plastic bottles and cinnamon extracts, we are able to reduce plastic waste and avoid using harmful chemicals that can harm our bodies and the environment. We also base our brand and products around a circular economy model, meaning that our t-shirts are designed to be recyclable and turned into yarn once again to make new products. By designing with the end-life of a product in mind, we are able to generate little to no waste as old products can be fully regenerated instead of turning into waste sitting in landfills, further polluting our planet.
Of course, we as consumers can make a big impact as well. Fast fashion retailers depend on consumers to purchase, share, and promote their clothing in order to profit. If we are able to move away from these micro-trends and not contribute to the waste they create, we can drastically decrease the amount of clothes and fabric that are wasted before, during, and after production. Our landfills and natural environment won’t be piled up with clothing if we consume more consciously and responsibly, buying what we need rather than what we want or see others wear, buying from brands that are transparent with their values and stance on sustainability, and choosing quality over quantity.
We are all interconnected in ways that we don’t necessarily see or feel, but our actions are powerful and can certainly make a difference if we make the conscious effort to open our eyes to the reality our planet and all of us are facing. This is not to say that we can no longer enjoy fashion and follow trends. Fashion is and should be fun, enjoyable, and expressive, and we believe it is possible to do just that while protecting and restoring our planet at the same time.
- the blowup on Unsplash
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- Allan Wadsworth on Unsplash
- Joshua Chun on Unsplash
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