Why following fashion trends is outdated, according to experts

At some point or another over the past decade, a seismic cultural shift has occurred. The fashion industry, once totally dependent on trends, has loosened its grip on the concept. I know this because when I started my career as a fashion editor in 2010, the trends were right. Designers, celebrities, and magazines functioned as gatekeepers, so to speak, and each season a new set of trends was ordained. in – and everyone agreed with that. Fast forward to now, I ask someone (anyone!) what their favorite trend is and the answer is reliably in the vein of: I don’t follow fashion trends.

Going from a society that embraces this concept to one that equates the term with fast fashion or lack of personal style is worth, at least for this writer, a deeper dive. It signals a counter-cultural moment that is undoubtedly the result of the rise of social media and the acceleration of technology. And climate change too.

In an effort to contextualize why trend has become such a dirty word these days, I enlisted a fashion historian, trend forecaster, stylist and editor for their insights into how our attitude towards the virality of the items we wear has changed, why this might have happened, and the implications this has for the future of fashion.

Trendy culture, yesterday and today

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If you want to understand the state of trends in 2022, you have to go back about a decade, to a time when a TikTok video about Twee style wouldn’t amass 216,000 comments and a million and a half views — when TikTok didn’t exist at all, for that matter. “The fashion industry used to operate with a top-down model, where luxury brands and industry insiders determined what was fashionable,” says Kristin Breakell, content strategist at Trendalytics. “We looked to the catwalks, magazines and celebrities for the next big trend. Our access to these people was limited and it took a while for the trends to trickle down to mass market brands and retailers. . »

Celebrities in particular have had an impact on trending culture. The decision to put celebrities on the covers of magazines like vogue had a direct correlation to the fact that women like Angelina Jolie or Natalie Portman were seen as fashion authorities. “Trends 10 years ago were indeed a more celebrity-driven process,” said Eric Archibald, celebrity stylist, costume designer and creative director at Diplomacy. But fast forward to now, trends are no longer dictated by a select few; it has democratized and this shift can largely be attributed to the rise of social media – and subsequently – the rise of the influencer. “Trend-setting is now more about influencers, influencers of all degrees,” adds Archibald. “Whether they have a million followers or a thousand super-engaged followers, people get their style cues from social media.” And he’s right.

“While actors, musicians and performers always have an impact on style trends, social media influencers who are uniquely adept at manipulating the medium are also important gatekeepers,” Michelle Tolini Finamore, curator of the fashion and design. She cites the phenomenon of street style as an example. “He wouldn’t have such a huge platform and such incredible popularity if it weren’t for ‘ordinary’ people who use social media as a powerful tool for self-expression.”

An evolution of meaning

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The tech boom of the 2010s transformed the fashion landscape and the way trends are introduced and embraced, Breakell says. “Our unlimited access to social media gives everyone the opportunity to influence the masses as people discover the latest trends by browsing their Instagram and TikTok feeds.” It is this key element of immediacy that is responsible for the influence of technology on fashion trends. “Historically, when I think about how quickly fashion and style trends have traveled compared to where we are today, the digital arena has been a complete game-changer,” says Finamore. “How long do TikToks and Snapchat posts stay in circulation? It’s all so fleeting, unlike 10 years ago when we still relied quite a bit on paper sources such as fashion magazines. Waiting for a monthly magazine to deliver fashion news seems positively archaic.

So the mediums through which trends are created and consumed have changed – that’s for sure. But has the term itself evolved? For Breakell, it’s more a matter of perception. “Basically, a trend refers to something that is currently popular or a general direction of movement. While that definition hasn’t changed over the years, the use of the word trend has evolved,” she says. “What used to refer to a style that would remain popular for years, now refers to an article that has gained traction on social media and will likely only remain relevant for a few months.” In other words, next week when you hear someone use the term trend, they’re more likely than not “referring to a micro-trend or fad rather than a trend or movement. macro,” continues Breakell. “Trends are now seen as those fleeting moments of mass popularity before they die out, giving way to the next.”

Trend as a “dirty word”

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You may have some guesses as to why the trend word has lost its weight – for starters, it may be promoting a cycle that is too rapid and unsustainable. “The introduction of a trend is quickly followed by its oversaturation and obsolescence,” says Breakell. “And while the democratization of fashion has brought a lot of positivity… the shortened trend cycle perpetuates all that is wrong with the industry: promoting overconsumption, producing waste and encouraging unhealthy social comparison. Just as the beauty industry capitalizes on women’s insecurities, the fashion industry thrives on people’s desire to fit in.

In other words, trend culture has become synonymous with what Breakell calls throwaway culture. “By the time someone invests in a trend, it’s already on its way out. Supporting fast fashion brands is necessary for people to stay ahead of the game, but requires us to come to terms with the industry’s ethical issues, including its harmful environmental and labor practices. While the argument for or against fast fashion is nuanced, it’s safe to say that no one really needs $1,000 worth of SHEIN clothes.

Aside from the environmental factors, there is also the trend culture component operating on a platform of exclusivity. For THE YES Creative Director, Taylor Tomasi Hill, trends have never been his bag. “Those who know me well know that I’ve never been a big fan of reporting on trends – or dressing for them,” she says. “I think the word ‘trend’ can sound negative when used in a strict sense, as it can sound exclusive or critical. You are in fashion because you bought this bag or you are outside because you wear this silhouette. It feels seamless, leaving little room for personal style or self-expression. We are elegant individuals, not lemmings!

This negative connotation, adds Archibald, has always been linked to the concept of trend, but it does not necessarily have to be formulated in this way. “For some, it involves superficiality. I believe there are a lot of people out there who want to stay current and up-to-date — and that’s not inauthentic to me,” he says. “It’s more of an expansive, curious and open mindset. New ideas are always being spread around the ever-changing world. And with this evolution comes the potential for an updated definition of what a trend is and the role it plays in the industry; one that is centered on creative identity and less focused on consumption.

To look forward

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All the experts seem to agree that a sense of self is at the root of why someone may or may not follow trends. “The rise of individual style and self-expression fostered by social media has led people to want to carve out their own space and a unique identity that doesn’t feel too contrived or too fashionable,” says finmore. “I’ve heard my teenagers go through various phrases to conjure up the hip – Gucci, Fire, Drug, Respect the drip, To kill – but I can barely follow how quickly these sentences change. They seem to come in and out of fashion as quickly as style trends (or should I not use that word?). It’s clear from my conversations with them that it’s important to be fashionable, but not so attached to contemporary trends that you lose your own sense of individualism.

So where does that leave things? Fashion trends are unlikely to cease to exist; it’s human nature to engage collectively with an object or idea that resonates with the times. But the power of a trend can weaken. “I think the interest in distinctive self-shaping means that trends aren’t as powerful as they once were,” says Finamore. “The growing interest in buying vintage clothing and consignment or renting rather than owning seems to be a strong indicator that young fashion consumers are no longer as interested in catwalk style guidelines as they used to be. were before.”

Also a probable scenario: A continuation in the evolution of the trend direction. “Talking about the rise of sustainability or co-ordinating tracksuits is more like fashion reporting — keeping tabs on what people are wearing and what designers are creating,” says Tomasi Hill. “So literally, you’re talking about what’s trending. But I think that’s a lot different from telling you what pieces you need to mindlessly add to your closet, regardless of whether it looks good on you or you like it. really love.

Loosening the grip on trends in this “insane” context is undoubtedly for the best and probably a good step forward for humanity. “There’s nothing inherently wrong with trends as long as people participate in them thoughtfully,” Breakell says. “Rather than blindly following the latest trend on social media, we should focus on developing our own personal style, investing in pieces we really love, no matter how popular they are. If we change the way we address, trends could represent an opportunity to be creative and explore our own identity.

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