The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Trend cycles are ruining the fashion industry and environment

Yu Yu Blue

I might not be the most fashionable person you will ever meet, but I have still fallen victim to “trendy” pieces of clothing.

I bought Birkenstocks when everyone else in my high school had them. I had skinny jeans and then swapped them all out for “mom jeans” a few years later. And I bought Lululemon leggings, even when my mom gave me an incredulous look when I asked for a pair.

All of these pieces of clothing were popular in the early 2010s and gradually faded into the past, but I have a feeling they won’t be gone for long.

Pop culture and clothing trends used to resurface every 20 years or so.

However, that 20-year cycle has collapsed and given way to a shorter cycle with rapid turnover, according to NewsNation.

I believe faster trend cycles are destroying the fashion industry and taking the environment down with it.

Alejandra Lopez, the owner of McShane’s Exchange Consignment, a second-hand clothing store in Lincoln Park, worked at the store in the 2000s when she was in high school. In 2020, she lost her job and bought McShane’s Exchange from the original owners when she saw a “store closing” sign on their door.

Lopez noticed the increasing speed of trend cycles while working in the fashion industry.

“Back then, within a year, there (were) seasons for trends, like summer, spring, fall,” Lopez said. “Now there’s mini cycles and mini seasons.”

According to Vogue Business, trend cycles used to start on the runway and trickle down to the general public.

Micro trends became popular on social media platforms such as TikTok, where one piece of clothing is popular for a very short period of time and becomes obsolete just as fast.

I understand the novelty of renewing your wardrobe every time another influencer shows off a new dress. However, I also find it exhausting, and I do not know what trend I should be paying attention to on social media.

Corissa Draper, a junior studying psychology at DePaul, said she sees trends go viral more frequently because of the internet.

“People are always wanting to be … on a trend before everybody else is able to identify that it’s a trend,” Draper said. “But if that’s everybody’s intention … they’re constantly moving on to new things.”

Lopez said with increasing trend cycles, “we’ve gotten away from individualism,” because so many people are trying to dress like each other.

When I go to class, I worry three other people will wear the same shirt. Not to say that is bad, but it is becoming increasingly harder to express one’s own individual style through fashion.

Andres Ramos-Miguez, a sophomore anthropology major at DePaul, noticed how trend cycles are affecting footwear. He said the speed at which new shoes are being released is “a little bit in excess.”

Ramos-Miguez worries about the quality of clothing as trend cycles speed up.

“I fear that fashion companies will view the demand for more as negative,” Ramos-Miguez said. “The way they produce the articles of clothing, I feel, is going to be a lot worse, and it’s going to make it to where stuff doesn’t last as long.”

To keep up with micro trends, fast fashion brands churn out new clothing at alarming rates. Zara has a design-to-retail timeline of about five weeks, releasing over 20 collections per year, according to Vox.

The increasing speed of fashion output has put stress on the environment, as people rush to buy more clothes and throw away pieces that are no longer “trendy.”

A clothing landfill in Chile has an estimated 30,000 tons of textile waste. Decomposing textiles emit greenhouse gasses and release toxic chemicals into waterways. Producing clothes also uses massive amounts of water. In 2015, the textile industry used 79 million cubic square meters of water, according to Forbes.

Draper said the amount of clothing in landfills is hurting the environment for many reasons.

“Anything that we just dump in the space that we have is going to take up more space, spilling into oceans and spilling into like rivers and into indigenous lands,” Draper said.

One way people have tried to curb the environmental impact is through thrifting or consignment shopping — which, ironically, has become a trend as well.

In addition to consignment stores, websites such as Depop, ThreadUp and Poshmark have given clothes a second life.

However, packaging and delivering the items also emits greenhouse gasses. Overall, the fashion industry emits 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, according to the World Economic Forum, so thrifting at local shops may be ideal. 

Lopez said it is smart to shop consignment instead of buying new products.

“I think giving your money to corporations that keep pumping out clothes and ruining your (expletive) earth is terrible, and you shouldn’t shop like that,” Lopez said.  “And if you do, then you should keep those clothes in your closet for as long as you can.”

At this point I cannot keep up with all of the trends that I scroll through daily. I probably will never be as “trendy” as Gen Zers on TikTok, and I will never go back to wearing low-rise jeans.

But we need to stop ruining the fashion industry and environment with our consumerism and dump the faster-trend cycles.

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