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Microtrends, Fast Fashion, and How to Shop Sustainably

Photography by Dylan Ray

Written by Jules Hoag-Fontana

You may not know, but fast fashion is horrible for the environment, cheaply made and (as the name implies) it's fast, affordable, and trendy. Some large contributors to fast fashion culture are brands like Shein, H&M, Romwe, Forever 21, and Zara. Microtrends fill these brands’ inventories and almost all of their clothing is made in sweatshops.

What is fast fashion?

Fast fashion is a term coined by The New York Times in the early 1990’s. It’s used to describe clothing that is cheaply made, follows trends, and is sold by large retailers.

What is a Microtrend?

A microtrend is a trend typically started through social media (mostly Tik Tok, but sometimes Instagram). As the name suggests it’s a type of fashion trend that rises in popularity extremely quickly and falls even harder. Microtrends usually last up to a year, but will sometimes last for multiple years at a time. Some examples of fashion micro trends are Y2K ( Juicy Couture tracksuits, sequin butterfly tops, chunky platform shoes, bucket hats) , That Girl (Collared tops, matching sweat sets, high rise jeans), Tumblr Famous (turtle necks, graphic tees, checkered Vans), Twilightcore (lace tops, big sweaters , converse), Preppy Academia (sweater vests, trench coats, berets, argyle), and Neon (I think this one is pretty self-explanatory). Microtrends are not always bad things, just as long as you wear them sustainably.

The Politics Behind Fast Fashion

The reason that fast fashion is so cheap, is because they use cheap labor, (things like sweatshops and harsh work hours, poor work conditions). This means that by buying from fast fashion brands means supporting global modern day slavery. Microtrends are also not sustainable because they require buying a lot of clothing at once and then throwing away most of it. It also affects the environment because fast fashion brands make up 10% of the world's carbon emissions and produces 21 billion tons of waste each year, not to mention the horrible work conditions that include factory fires, chemical leaks, and VERY long work hours (14-16 hours per day to be exact).

5 Affordable Ways to Avoid Shopping Fast Fashion

  1. Shop at secondhand stores (they don’t have to be super expensive or high end thrift stores, just go to Goodwill). If you do shop at goodwill, please be careful with going overboard because secondhand clothing stores are there for people WHO NEED IT!!!

  2. Support ethical online stores or sustainable small businesses (some examples are ThredUP, Wear consciously, CHNGE).

  3. Buy less clothing in general (try to minimalize your wardrobe).

  4. Try not to follow trends.

  5. Buy clothing you know you’ll like (try clothes on in the store versus buying them and returning them ,find your own style).

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