The biggest fashion trend of the moment? Follow the trends

Telling the hottest “trends” in fashion may sound like a Stefon sketch of Saturday Night Live: Barbiecore, night luxe, coastal grandma, vacationcore, indie sleaze, balletcore. This season has, literally, just about everything – and by the time you read this, it’s likely that half of them will be outdated and a new generation of trending terms will have emerged to replace them.

It seems like the only real, reliable trend in fashion right now is, well, trends. The trending cycle has accelerated at a dizzying pace, of course, and most of that growth is being driven by TikTok, where individual creators can single-handedly create novelty with a single viral video. But the popular social media app couldn’t have done it alone; Would you be surprised to learn that the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role in creating today’s jaw-dropping trend landscape?

“TikTok is such an interesting conversation because it’s really accelerated the trending cycle since 2020,” says Cassandra Napoli, senior strategist at trend forecasting agency WGSN. “Before that, people lived their lives outdoors, and it was business as usual. Then, all of a sudden, we were all confined to our homes, and there was little left to do but scroll through TikTok. We’ve spent all this time on digital media, and as a result, between 2020 and today, the trend cycle has accelerated at an exponential rate.

The proof is in the sometimes staggering numbers: #nightluxe took off on TikTok earlier this year and has been used some 47 million times since. The hashtag #coastalgrandmother now has 167 million views worldwide. And #cottagecore, which first took hold during the pandemic, is holding its own with 10.8 billion views, including 2.1 billion in 2022 alone.

“Aesthetic” culture is now global

Meme-ification of fashion trends is not particularly new – reminder The “normcore” of 2014 phenomenon, for example – but there is a new pressure to keep up with the painful rate at which these tendencies increase and then die down. With more traditional fashion trends, there were always ways people could incorporate these changes into their own wardrobe; maybe it was about adding a new accessory or trying out the latest print in a favorite silhouette. This is no longer possible with these new social media driven trends, which aim to encompass an entire lifestyle rather than one or two key pieces of your wardrobe.

“Before, I could choose what I participated in, but also retain an aspect of my personal style that I didn’t have to sacrifice to have any social relevance,” explains Gabrielle Prescodfashion director at general for White Magazine. “I feel like it’s getting less and less [true] now, because with all the social exposure that all these other trends are getting, it’s kind of old fashioned whatever appeals to you.

But what place should be given to this virtual avalanche of trends? Many of them can be attributed to a single viral video created by a social media user; designer Lex Nicoleta can take credit for “coastal grandmother”, while “indie sleaze” comes from Olivia V. What happens from there, according to senior Vox correspondent Rebecca Jennings, is that other creators see success online that they want to emulate.

“I think there’s this race to name the next thing — whether or not the next thing exists is kind of irrelevant,” she says. “It’s more just like, ‘I coined this cool term; here is an example that may or may not actually happen.

The amplification effect of the algorithm

Once a video like this takes off, it teaches the algorithm that people are interested in this concept – and therefore, a real trend was born. As other creators see a topic go viral, they too want to take advantage of the potential views. “If you have a decent following on TikTok, for example, you’re probably burnt out; you probably feel like you have to post several times a day; you get tired of coming up with ideas,” Jennings says.

“When a new trend comes up, it gives you an idea for a video; like, ‘Oh, I can do whatever I want – savings, beauty, get ready with me – and you can just say, ‘I’m doing a coastal grandma thing like this,'” she explains. “And you jump on a trend, which could increase your chances of getting looped into the For You page on certain people’s feeds.

More mainstream media takes over from there, carrying these microtrends from their originating platforms to the wider fashion industry. In a part for VoxJennings details how a combination of pressure to perform on an SEO-driven internet and the hustle and bustle to be the first to report something buzz created the perfect environment for a viral flash-in-the-pan video to become a real industry-influencer trend.

Fashion industry trends and social media trends are stuck in a cycle

Yet the current trend landscape is definitely tied to a chicken-or-egg situation: as much as social media can influence the trends that occur in the fashion world, the i-capital industry is also responsible for generate ideas on various platforms. Prescod cites the still-popular 2000 revival as an example: when a brand like, say, Blumarine taps into its own archives to put a new spin on older pieces – low-rise pants, handkerchief skirts, butterfly tops – a community The fashion-obsessed Internet will then dig up photos of the originals and even find After things to dredge.

“Whatever the fashion industry does dictates the trend to some degree, then social media can say, ‘If it’s relevant, remember when it was relevant and it happened’ , then they take that and run with it,” she says. “It might be more relevant to more masses because social media has a wider reach than our fashion community.”

And so we find ourselves in a world where one successful Miu Miu collection can lead to a full-fledged renaissance of those ultra-micro-miniskirts you might remember from your high school days, with a generational difference. key: the approach of Generation Y. these fashion moments of comforting nostalgia – “It’s a bit like a big hug, talking about the Backstreet Boys and Y2K and things like that”, explains Napoli – where the generation Z has just enough distance to romanticize the era. (Imagine telling your younger self that your flared dance pants would one day deserve such reverence.)

Yes, Nostalgia East Move faster than ever

And if it seems like this nostalgia-driven cycle is moving faster than ever now, that’s because it is. Once again, technology is responsible for completely upending the generational order. Before, it made sense for the generations to be spaced about 15 years apart; baby boomers had a completely different childhood than Gen Xers, who themselves lived in a different world than millennials. But even by the end of Millennials, things had changed just enough to necessitate a new term for those born within three years of the Millennial/Gen Z split (which would cover between 1993 and 1998, if you are curious): Zilléniaux. With the rate at which our current technology is developing, this will only crumble further.

“The marginal generation becomes more important because our relationship to technology is so different; it didn’t accelerate that quickly back then, and so someone born at the beginning and the end of the generation shared some commonalities,” Napoli says. “But if you look today, the technology that exists for late Gen Z versus early Gen Z, it’s so different and their experiences as adults are going to be very different, because at the time where the youngest Gen Z reach adulthood, the Metaverse could be here.

The result is a breakdown of that nostalgia, meaning where trends might have run on a 20-year cycle before, they now have resurrections closer to the 10-15 year range. This old-fashioned adage that you have to sit on a revival of the trend of something you experienced the first time becomes harder to live with – and, more importantly, it makes you wonder if we’re on the point of hitting rock bottom when it comes to new ideas.

“Now I feel like we’re in the late 2010s to early 2010s, and I’m just like, we don’t have anything else to reference? We’ve exhausted the 60s, the 50s, 70s, 80s, 90s, which we’re now in the 2010s to go back to?” Prescode asks. “It doesn’t seem like we should be that close. original ideas aside from that, I’m concerned about what people are drawing inspiration from now.

To participate or not to participate: that is the question

We’ve been so exposed to the deluge of new hashtags to try out that it’s no surprise that the idea of ​​participating in trends is starting to wear down all generations. Generation Z is always interested in trends, but according to Napoli, their approach to these popular hashtags is centered around the idea of ​​finding community rather than constantly changing styles – hence this aesthetic encompassing lifestyle. They even built a platform, the Aesthetic Wiki, to share and name all the different subgenres. “Gen Z is really turning to social platforms to find camaraderie, to find each other and to feel like they know each other, and part of that is finding like-minded people online,” she says.

“This umbrella term for the ‘core’ aesthetic: if I’m ‘cottagecore’, what does that mean? It helps me identify with other people who might have the same ideas, it helps me find people who share interests and values ​​and things like that,” says Napoli. “There is this appetite to organize our lives and make our lifestyles and who we are fit into an umbrella term so we can understand it and build community around it. This appetite is really a Gen Z-driven trend, rather than a millennial trend.

Maybe it’s time for us to think more like Gen Z: until the next generic terms create a sense of community for you – personally I’m waiting for #BlairWaldorfCore, but that might just stay under #oldmoneyaesthetic already existing (388 million views on TikTok this year) – feel free to sit on the next wave of viral fashion hashtags that are sure to hit in the fall.

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