The dark truth behind fast fashion and microtrends

By James Stein Oct 1, 2021
Image by Isabel Sperry

The biggest trend over the past year has been about being comfortable because of pandemic and very limited social interaction. With concerts, classes and more happening in person, people have drifted away from sweatshirts to participate in the trendy clothes that take over social media. 

All over Pinterest and Instagram people post outfit inspiration that is almost unattainable for people without unlimited bank accounts. When TikTok started gaining popularity it became another app that contributed to posting trending styles. 

There are entire TikTok accounts dedicated to posting where to buy popular clothes for a cheaper price. The main store that provides these kinds of clothes for less is Shein. 

Shein is an online “fast fashion” company that sells mostly womens clothing for the ideal price. Fast fashion clothing is considered cheap and stylish clothes that are created with subtle inspiration from catwalk looks. Another key aspect of fast fashion is that it is mass produced at incredibly low costs and produced very quickly. Often forced labor is a word associated with the fast fashion industry. Fast fashion brands normally do not focus on the time their items spend in production, one of the key goals is to get the clothes out as soon as possible.  

While cheap, trendy clothes may sound like the dream, fast fashion is a real problem in the world today. The environment is seriously affected by this industry. According to BBC, fast fashion contributes to 10% of all carbon emissions in the world. The fast fashion industry is right behind the oil industry when it comes to highest pollution contributors(One Green Planet). As this industry continues to grow the environmental damage is becoming worse.

Shein is not the only company considered fast fashion, but they do have extremely cheap prices and a misleading website which pulls people in. Other fast fashion companies include Forever 21, Zara and GAP. Most people you ask have purchased from Shein. I asked a group of 30 women and over half of them said they have bought clothes from Shein including myself.

The company Shein may sell the latest style of clothes at almost alarmingly cheap prices but it is not even a reliable online store. It takes weeks to ship and sometimes does not arrive at all. The website has no contact information of any kind for issues that might arise. The clothing quality is  subpar, in my personal experience every white shirt I have purchased from Shein has been see through. The store is only running because of the style of clothes they sell and the price.

While fast fashion is terrible for the environment it also affects the fashion industry itself in many ways. The clothes that are being sold are not durable clothes made to last which contributes heavily to the microtrends that are all over social media. 

Microtrends are trends in fashion that rise to the top incredibly fast but fall even faster. Their lifespan can be estimated at 3-5 years. The faster the fashion cycle moves through trends,  the more clothing waste is produced. 

On the contrary macro trends are associated with decades of wearing; an example would be shoulder pads in the 80s. Another example would be bell bottom pants in the 70s. They are very classic looks from a period of time. Macro Trends often last for 5-10 years. 

There have been so many microtrends in such a short period of time. I believe over the last two years so many different items have been at the top then quickly at the bottom. 

Some examples I would say would be patchwork clothing. Whether it is jeans, shirts or jackets, patchwork was huge for a few months. 

Another huge microtrend that I am personally happy I never participated in is cowboy fashion. Cowboy hats and boots were wanted by everyone. People were styling dresses with cowboy boots and literally everyone wanted to buy that pink cowboy hat on Amazon. Microtrends have been very intense over the past 2-3 years. 

While microtrends are a constant in fashion, social media has greatly contributed to shortening their life spans. Influencers can post a dress from Shein on their social media and two days later it is sold out for months. Then by the time you get your hands on the specific clothing item it could very well be  out of style by the time you get your order. 

There are ways around fast fashion and participating in microtrends. Thrifting clothes is great for the environment and allows you to get original, maybe even one of a kind pieces. Thrifting clothes also means you are supporting the community and reducing waste. Another benefit to thrifting clothes would be the price. Thrifted clothing is normally sold at a reduced price because it is used. Shopping less in general to create less waste is a good idea. It is obviously easier said than done but finding and supporting sustainable fashion brands is important. 

Related Post