In the fashion industry, a trend is the popularization of a certain style, color, type of clothing, etc. Trends can also refer to the way clothes are styled or worn. Masterclass, a pop-culture platform online, defines a trend cycle as “ a natural cycle by which a fashion trend is introduced, rises to mainstream popularity, declines, and finally gets rejected in the obsolescence stage.” Social media has led this process to go faster than ever seen before.
There are five stages in the trend cycle, introduction, rise, peak, decline, and finally, obsolescence. During the introduction stage, a new style is introduced, usually originating from a major brand, designer, or grassroots style. In this stage, trends exist in small quantities in very limited large retailers; They only become mass-produced after a significant amount of consumers ensure their relevance. The rising stage is when a style goes from new to trendy. This often happens with the help of celebrities and influencers through paid promotions or just genuine appreciation of the trend. The peak stage occurs when a trend reaches its height of popularity with a mainstream audience. The length of this stage is often unpredictable. During this stage, trend forecasters can provide data to brands that rely on how trends are performing season-to-season. Luxury brands often stop carrying trends at this stage in order to keep their “trendsetter” status. After the peak of a trend comes the decline stage. This happens because of market oversaturation and because consumers become tired of seeing a trend and are ready for a change. When this happens, retailers begin to sell the trend at discounted prices before phasing it out completely. Finally, the obsolescence stage approaches. Consumers begin to move onto new peak trends, leaving behind the old trends and making the obsolete and considered “out of fashion.”
Since the creation of social media, people have been on their phones more than ever, causing our fashion to be influenced with greater ease. For example, first-year college students Isabela Garcia and Elizabeth Mendoza stated in “Fast fashion’s Increasingly Rapid Trend Cycles are Driving Major Overconsumption,” that they often look to social media sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and Tik Tok for wardrobe inspiration. Because consumers often look to their social media for inspiration, they will quickly get bored of the same trends and have an increased desire to move on to the next trend, causing the decline stage to move faster.
The rise in social media also makes it much easier for brands to influence consumers through paid sponsorships and ads. According to “The Psychology Behind Trend Cycles and Marketing to Children: Why Students Should Shop Sustainable,” brands determine what their target audience values and sell them the idea that their ideal life is achievable through the product. Once consumers buy into this false idea, they will quickly discover that the product hasn't helped them get any closer to achieving their ideal life and dispose of it, looking to the next product.
There are a lot of issues that can come with this sped-up trend cycle. Trend cycles moving faster leads to increased overconsumption as consumers quickly move from one trendy item to the next and discard the old ones. This leads to environmental issues. Additionally, fast fashion companies, who are the main carriers of trends once they reach their peak, also often have problematic practices, including the use of child labor. A good way to prevent yourself from contributing to these issues is to stick to one style or aesthetic, so you no longer feel pressured to catch up with each trend. Exchanging clothes with friends and thrifting clothes are also good ways to try and break the fast fashion cycle.
In conclusion, the trend cycle has sped up a concerning amount due to the increased use of social media, which can contribute to many problems, such as overconsumption and pollution. We should all try to be mindful of our shopping habits to try and avoid contributing to this issue.