What is Social Media’s Impact on Fast Fashion? An Investigation

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Social media plays a major role in driving trends in our daily lives. With fast fashion on the rise, social media has inextricably contributed to the fast-paced nature of the current fashion industry. Years ago, the industry had just two runway collections on the annual fashion calendar. Today, we are witnessing brands showcasing 52 collections in a year, which means a new collection every week. What’s more, with the rise of social media, fashion trends are moving at a much faster pace than they have in the past. 

Understanding Our Clothing Consumption Patterns

Social media has contributed to overconsumption in recent years. The rise of shopping hauls and try-on videos with trending hashtags on social media has led to increased shopping sprees as trends change quickly (AKA ultra-fast fashion). While fast fashion already moves at a quick pace, ultra-fast fashion encourages buying and wearing cheap clothes from brands such as Shein, Fashion Nova, Princess Polly and discarding them after only a few wears. These brands have taken the fast fashion business model and increased it almost tenfold. With increasing marketing tactics and collaborations with influencers, the growth of ultra-fast fashion brands has increased exponentially. 

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

While many fashion influencers purchase products and create videos primarily for YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, larger influencers are paid by said brands to promote and sell products. Fashion influencers can earn anywhere between 30K – 100K a year promoting products through their chosen platforms. This way, brands are indirectly able to reach a larger audience, through an influencer’s network.

As consumption patterns continue to rise, brands like Shein, Fashion Nova and Princess Polly are now targeting a highly impressionable audience (Gen Z) through social media. Shein is definitely the most popular one, currently valued at a whopping $100 billion.

Often, influencers and young fashion enthusiasts purchase items in bulk from fast fashion brands only to resell them at a much higher price on Depop, ThreadUp, Poshmark and other fashion resale platforms. These websites are booming with individuals on a mission to sell overstocked products, items that are ‘new with tags’ or items that have only been worn once or twice, as consumers move on to this week’s trendy item.

How YouTube Began the Trend of Clothing Hauls

While newer social platforms like Instagram and TikTok are playing a major role in driving forward fashion trends, the OG platform to drive consumers to shop was YouTube. Launched in 2005, early YouTubers began producing haul videos, and this trend slowly became so popular that content creators started replicating that worldwide.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

In many circles, re-wearing has been taboo. Celebrities, in particular, never dared to be seen wearing the same outfit twice! The rise of social media only magnified the issue. According to UK charity Barnados, 25% of people feel embarrassed repeating the same outfit, with 37% between the ages of 16-24 years. Luckily, there are many individuals working to combat this issue, and #OutfitRepeater has become a trending hashtag with a total of 50,000 posts thus far. 

What is the Future of Social Media in the Fashion Industry?

Despite social media’s detrimental impact on the fashion industry, it has also encouraged sustainability and ethical practices in fashion. While there is an increasing number of fast fashion influencers, the slow fashion community has also grown. However, in contrast to fast fashion influencers, the slow fashion community encourages ethical practices in the fashion industry, including sharing news on policies, wages, bills and changes needed to fix the harmful effects caused by fast fashion brands. The slow fashion community also creates content that is based on thrifting, mending and purchasing good quality pieces. 

This is important because it allows creativity to play a role in our mundane lives. Instead of purchasing a new item, the slow fashion community encourages the individual to be fashion-forward without damaging their bank balance or the planet. Rewearing items and even repeating outfits allow fashion to be more humane. It allows an item to be explored creatively and worn in multiple ways. In addition, the slow fashion community teaches valuable skills like thrifting and upcycling with easy DIY tips.

Although fashion is often downplayed by the masses as just being glitzy and glamorous, it plays a major role in understanding how consumption rules our daily lives. Social media has definitely integrated its way into our lives, but it is possible to learn about slow fashion, practice conscious consumerism and work towards a cleaner future where we don’t judge people for re-wearing their outfits, one where we encourage quality over quantity and one that respects the planet.

Written by: Afifa Bari

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