Jul 12, 2022 - Economy

How TikTok drives fast fashion

Illustration of a pattern of white shirts with sweaters around them, bordered with light blue and red to resemble the TikTok logo.

Illustration: Victoria Ellis/Axios

TikTok's monthly minting of new trends is fueling a rise of new aesthetics, including e-girl, clean girl, Y2K, fairy-core, alt, mall goth, cottage-core, coconut girl, dark academia and coastal grandmother in just the last year.

Why it matters: The fast fashion industry thrives on such rapid shifts, creating more and more cheap, lower-quality clothes that will end up in landfills as new trends wipe out old ones.

  • According to a Marketing Charts survey of Gen Zers, 39% were directly influenced to buy a product after seeing it on TikTok.
  • And garment production continues to grow annually by 2.7%, while 25% of garments remain unsold and less than 1% are recycled into new garments, per the 2021 State of Fashion report.

Nil Sani, a 19-year-old lifestyle and fashion YouTuber, told Axios she feels pressure to keep up with fashion trends. Apps like TikTok and Pinterest promote consumerism and fast fashion, she says.

  • "Influencers make their audiences believe they need to purchase specific items in order to achieve their look," says Sani. "If you don't have this shirt, these socks, this mirror, this room decor, then you won't embody this aesthetic."

Zoom in: "Coastal grandmother" is the latest trending aesthetic. The term was coined by TikTok user Lex Nicoleta in March 2022.

  • With a white linen button-down, a cashmere sweater tied around your neck, khaki capris and pearls, you too can live the coastal grandmother life of your dreams.
  • Coastal grandmothers exude sophistication — think Diane Keaton in "Something’s Gotta Give" — while they enjoy leisurely beach walks or morning yoga in neutral tones and timeless jewelry.

This particular trend does have some perks.

  • Sustainability: "[Coastal grandmother] focuses on easily layered, time-honored pieces that can be found in thrift stores or even in the closet of a mom, aunt or grandma," says Chelsea Davignon, a senior strategist at trend forecasting agency Fashion Snoops.
  • Inclusion: Jennifer Ebelhar — personal stylist, TikTok user and grandmother — told Axios that this trend is noteworthy because it celebrates women over 50. “It’s fun because when do you ever see older women, especially grandmothers, as aspirational?”

What to watch: Many young people are resisting the siren song of fast fashion by embracing secondhand options.

  • Sani says she shops at thrift stores or on secondhand apps like Depop and Vinted.
  • "Try to shop sustainably as much as you can," she says. “Every time a new trend comes out, you don’t have to buy a whole new wardrobe but instead just build on what you already have."
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