Postmodernity and the Shortening of Fashion Cycles

“What goes around, comes around”. This famous saying is no truer than when speaking about the realm of fashion trends. It’s no secret that most of what we wear today was trendy 20 years ago – open up TikTok and you will almost undoubtedly find a teenager wearing something that closely resembles an outfit worn by Paris Hilton in the early ’00s. However, with our ever-increasing desire for new styles, colours, and prints, it appears that the infamous 20 years recycle of trends is becoming shorter and shorter.

Although on the surface this may not appear to be a serious issue, the shortening of trend cycles could potentially bring more serious effects than just questionable fashion choices. Propelled by the popular haul culture cultivated on social media, consumers are buying trendy clothes that only remain ‘cool’ for a matter of weeks or months. Where do these clothes then end up? Sadly, often in landfills. The UK alone throws away 300,000 tonnes of textiles every year that could have been repurposed. Shortening trend cycles will inevitably only worsen this unsustainable figure as shoppers make a regular habit of throwing clothing away.

Sustainability concerns go further than the incredible amount of waste created when producing these trend-driven garments. Workers’ pay and working hours are hit hard by the increasing demand for what is in-style right now. Brands such as Shein and Zaful have made buying new trends more accessible than ever due to their attractive low prices, cheap transportation costs, and shockingly quick turn-around time from idea to manufacturing. However, this all comes at a price. As you might expect, it is the workers who draw the short straw, having to work around the clock to satisfy our desire for the newest designs.

One prominent example of a clothing item with an extraordinarily short-trend cycle can be traced back to the cult favourite brand, House of Sunny. Known for their mid-priced ‘sustainable’ clothing, the company produced the iconic ‘Hockney dress’ last summer. What began as a viral social media image of Kendall Jenner wearing the dress soon turned into fast-fashion brands mass-producing copies on an unprecedented scale. Within months, a refreshing take on a green dress would be viewed as dated and overworn. In other words, this dress and all its dupes are now sitting at the back of many wardrobes.

In the same way that TikTok has given artists the ability for their music to go viral for a brief moment, it has encouraged shoppers to love their clothes for an equally short time. This is simply not sustainable. With no sign of fast-fashion giants committing to making eco-friendly changes anytime soon, it is largely up to the consumer to change their habits in order for this pattern to end.

Although this effect is by no means the consumers’ fault, we can all make smaller changes, such as caring for our clothes better, in order to encourage brands to adapt to creating more timeless, repurposed clothing . Essentially, quality over quantity wins everytime.

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Elizabeth Woor

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October 2021
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