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HOW SOCIAL MEDIA AFFECTS THE FAST FASHION INDUSTRY

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Social media has brought about a new age of connection that has revolutionized key industries. Whether it be a trend, movement, or individual post, the things that happen on social media can have a huge impact on the real world. The fashion industry in particular has been transformed by social media influencers and widespread trends. Many of these changes have contributed to creating the perfect environment for fast fashion to thrive, causing greater ecological and humanitarian issues. It is important to take a nuanced look at these trends to understand what we can do to turn things around. 

TRENDS MOVE FASTER AND FASTER

 

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A post shared by Venetia La Manna (@venetialamanna)

Social media is best known for its ability to connect people from around the world and share information instantly. One way this affects the fashion world is by speeding up the rate at which fashion trends come into style. Before, a particular style may have taken years to travel from New York City to California, but with social media, the style can spread overnight. No longer will trends be defined to a particular place or time period – now people are mixing and matching pieces from different eras regardless of location. As Savior Flair reports, “the 20-year fashion cycle is dead.” Social media allows us to shine a light on fashion from all eras at the same time and choose the pieces that speak to us the most. 

This increase in visibility also means that trends are going in and out of style faster than ever. The faster a particular item comes into style, the faster it usually falls out of it. Timeless pieces are much slower to rise and therefore stay around longer. This causes people to buy and discard clothing at a much faster rate to keep up with trends. McKinsey and Company found that people discard their clothing nearly twice as quickly as they did 15 years ago. With the lifespan of clothing shrinking, companies are the ones really benefiting. Clothing becomes single-use, causing consumers to rebuy their wardrobe every season to stay trendy. Not only is this bad for the consumer, but it is also disastrous for the environment

CONSUMERS CALL THE SHOTS

 

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A post shared by emma chamberlain (@emmachamberlain)

Another difference caused by social media is that consumers are dictating trends much more than ever. Influencers and small accounts alike can create huge demand with a simple post. For instance, internet personality Emma Chamberlain’s Instagram post sparked a huge interest in flared yoga pants, turtlenecks, and crewnecks almost overnight. Instead of designers and retailers setting trends based on their newest releases, consumers are setting trends themselves and retailers must race to respond to the demand. The change in this dynamic has had a huge effect on how the industry operates and often leads to wasted merchandise due to how fast trends go out of style. 

RETAILERS STRUGGLE TO KEEP UP

 

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A post shared by Aja Barber (@ajabarber)

Retailers are struggling to keep up with the speed of trends. “The fact is that we’re seeing mobile technology drive shifts in consumer behavior and spending patterns at a faster pace than our industry has been able to keep up with,” Dick Johnson, CEO of Foot Locker, said on a conference call.  In order to keep delivering exciting, new styles, retailers are cutting corners and creating faster supply chains. This is the basis of “fast fashion.” Even previously high-quality brands are taking notes from fast fashion to respond to consumer demands faster. 

HAULS ENCOURAGE OVERCONSUMPTION

Fashion hauls are another trend influencing the buying habits of consumers. Typically in video format on YouTube or TikTok, hauls are ways for creators to try on, review, and show off large quantities of clothing at once. Hauls are praised for being honest reviews and showing how clothes really look in person since the images on websites are often misleading. While this can be helpful, hauls can also encourage overconsumption and poor buying habits.

Many videos draw people in by advertising the huge amounts of money spent. Hauls most often showcase trendy, low-cost, fast fashion brands like SHEIN, where many tend to rack up an immense amount of clothing within one single order. Viewers, especially those who are young and unaware of the dangers of fast fashion, are encouraged to value quantity over quality in their clothing. There’s nothing wrong with showing off a couple of new pieces, but excessive hauls like the one above are changing the way people value their clothing. 

HOW DO WE SLOW THINGS DOWN?

Even though many facets of social media encourage overconsumption of fast fashion, there are many working to bring more sustainable options to light. Websites like Good On You offer sustainability ratings to help differentiate fast fashion from ethical brands. There are also sustainable fashion influencers like Venetia La Manna and Aja Barber, who advocate for the slow fashion revolution and other social causes.  Social media is a powerful tool and what matters most is how we decide to use it. If you are looking for more sustainable fashion tips, check out our article on keeping up with trends sustainably.

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