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The Nature of Micro-Trends

Fashion cycles through trends and styles every few years, but recently, trends have been booming in popularity and going out of style by the end of the season. The cyclical nature of these so-called “micro-trends” is not only calamitous to our wallets but also incredibly environmentally unfriendly. It can be seen that the shortening of fashion cycles and micro-trends are becoming a detriment to the environment.

The first thing to address is, what is a micro-trend and what does it have to do with the fashion industry?

A trend is what's popular at a certain point in time. A trend can be in any area and doesn't only reflect fashion, pop culture, and entertainment, but also so many other areas such as politics or economics. A micro-trend quickly rises in popularity and falls even faster whereas macro-trends are the styles we associate with the different decades -- for instance, cloche hats in the twenties, bell-bottom jeans in the seventies, spandex in the eighties, and rhinestones in the 2000s.

Fast fashion is one contributor to the rise of micro-trends and helps to generate the waste produced. Fast fashion is a design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing. The faster the clothes are produced and the faster the fashion cycles, the larger the amount of waste generated. According to textile waste facts, over 17 million tons of used textile waste are generated annually in the United States and this amount has doubled over the last 20 years. The global fashion industry produces over 92 million tons of waste per year and accounts for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. The more we recycle our clothes the less the emissions. Fast fashion then becomes a detriment to the environment because the clothing in landfills emits methane and pollutes the soil and waters with plastic and chemicals while decomposing. These clothes end up in landfills because they lose popularity so quickly.

How did micro-trends become more popular?

Although micro-trends have been around forever, they used to last around three to five years. Now, with the rise of TikTok, Instagram influencers, and fast fashion companies such as Shein and H&M, the longevity of micro-trends is declining. Before the rise of social media, the public’s exposure to new trends was limited to magazines, models, and movies, which kept fashion cycles slower. Now, there is a great number of potential trendsetters who can quickly and easily reach millions of people at a time.

So, you may be wondering -- what can I do to stay sustainable?

  1. Shop secondhand!

    1. There are so many thrift and consignment shops out there just waiting for you to purchase clothes! Another way to shop secondhand is online through platforms such as ThredUp, Depop, Poshmark, and even Instagram.

  2. Donate your clothes!

    1. Every time I go through my drawers, I feel like there’s another item of clothing I don’t wear anymore or don’t fit into. When this inevitably happens to you, you may opt to donate your clothes to secondhand stores or donation centers instead of throwing them away.

  3. Dig Deep!

    1. When you go shopping and pick up or click on an article of clothing, ask yourself if you’ll continue to wear it even after the trend has passed. I know I’ve saved myself a lot of money just by asking myself if I really want it because it fits my personal style or if I just want it because it’s trendy.

As much as I try, I am by no means “perfect” when it comes to consuming fast fashion or taking a pass on the micro-trends, but I do try my best to shop ethically and mindfully, which is what I encourage others to do as well.



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