Due to the increased use of social media, a big part of our culture is changing: fashion. In order to understand the significant changes that are happening to this industry, we need to go back to the 1800s.
The middle of the 1800s saw the beginning of the industrial revolution. Technology advanced and the first main industry to come out of it was the textile industry. Clothes were easier and faster to make, and eventually the middle class was able to buy clothes like the rich did. After the industrial revolution, people had more leisure time, access to entertainment, and the ability to spread ideas faster. The two factors combined, clothing became a more prominent aspect of everyday culture with trends forming. People started to read fashion magazines due to the surgence of consumerism, and they started to express themselves with different patterns, styles, and accessories. The rise of social media can be described as a revolution of its own in the way the industry is changing today.
Instagram and Pinterest are two clear tools that reflect these changes, speeding up the pace of how the fashion industry runs. Now with Instagram, companies can find and make models out of influencers in less time than before, so the originally long process of selecting models is easier on both the ends of companies and applicants. These influencers and models are consumers as well as contributors to trends through their own digital platforms, so fashion goes both ways causing the trends to evolve much faster. Pinterest, too, has a great impact on the industry. The app caters to the individual user’s personal interests through an algorithm that constantly brings up images they would most likely save. A lot of people save fashion inspiration and clothing ideas on the app, making it a tool to spread and market your own brand as well as a way for trends to spread.
The fast paced nature of social media further contributes to the increasingly fast paced fashion industry. Constantly, our phones stimulate us with notifications while the algorithm shows us endless posts that will give us the satisfaction we are looking for. This constant stimulation affects the way our brains work, making us desire more and more, and affecting how we buy clothes. Online shopping is similar to social media where we can scroll for hours on countless apps adding items to our cart we like; the addition of ads on regular social media doesn’t help this either. We constantly look for a new item of clothing, and desperately await the package’s arrival with little patience, only to satisfy us in the short term. Customers often don’t wear impulse purchases as much as they should, which is why fast fashion is so prevalent in shopping today.
Today, fast fashion functions to provide consumers with the newest trends in the quickest way possible, but these items are meant to be thrown away after a few wears because of the fast moving trends. The quality of clothes is deteriorating as well, because when it comes down to it, big companies would prefer keeping up with trends and attracting customers over having quality material; so would customers desiring to keep up with trends spending the least amount of money possible.
Consumers are constantly fed the idea that we need to keep up with the newest trends, but our contribution to fast fashion affects the environment, animals, and the people making our clothes. Today’s clothing uses toxic dyes and polyesters with microplastics that pollute our environment, and even then using cotton wastes a lot of water. Consumers get rid of their clothes quicker because of cheap quality and new trends, which contributes to textile waste. This all harms the environment and animals living in it. Finally, workers are made to labor in tiring, dangerous conditions, getting paid very little.
While we don’t have to stop wearing trends we like altogether, it is important to keep a few things in mind when shopping. For one, try to be more aware of if you like something solely because it’s popular on social media as a short term trend, or if it is actually something you would continue to wear far into the future. Rather than buying a bunch of clothes at once that fit a certain style, buy more basics so your clothes will be versatile to fit trends based on how you wear them, and invest in good quality pieces that you will be able to wear for a while. Even though these individual changes might not completely change the fast fashion industry, keeping them in mind when you continue to shop will reframe how you think about clothing and the industry as a whole.