What are trend cycles?
We are in a very interesting time regarding fashion. Individuals and influencers taking their own path in fashion are becoming more and more popular, as can be seen with @tinyjewishgirl, an influencer who is known for her unique sense of fashion that many may consider slightly peculiar. Vogue has already published articles on the indie sleaze style and microtrends are also taking over the media, making the trend cycle shorter and shorter every year. We are also in the year 2022, around 20 years forward from the decade of the 2000s, which, if following the 20 year fashion cycle rule, would be the time of the revival of the fashion and cultural trends that were popular in the media at this time. But what are trend cycles? And why are they changing? What is it?
What are trend cycles?
Firstly, I would like to state that I am going to be talking about trend cycles in fashion and the media; however, they can happen with businesses and many other things. Trend cycles are part of everyone's lives, and most of the time we subconsciously fall victim to them without even realizing, so knowing what they are and how they affect us is important. Trend cycles are the cycles in fashion and the media that trends go through. Just like with writing where there is a structure of introduction, rising action, climax, falling action and conclusion. There is the introduction of the trend, the rise, the peak, the decline and the obsolescence (when something becomes outdated).
There are various types of trend cycles, including micro and macro trends, and The 20-year trend cycle. A micro trend is a trend that is extremely popular for a very brief period of time (usually not more than one year and a couple of months, sometimes even lasting for just a season) that returns around 3-5 years later. They are popular for this very brief amount of time since the rise to popularity of this trend happens extremely quickly. On the other hand, macro trends are trends that are popular for around 3-5 years. Finally, the twenty-year trend cycle is the belief that major trends that really impacted a decade (or around a decade) return every 20/30 years.
How are we affected by trend cycles?
With the media becoming more and more impactful on regular day to day life, we are getting more and more affected by trend cycles. A good example of this effect is the amount of micro trends that have happened in the past few years. The reason why we are so impacted by trend cycles is because the elements of the cycle in fashion are everywhere: they are in magazines, in social media, on the runway, on big time celebrities trying to bring back the trends more quickly. Everywhere in the media we see them, and since a large percentage of people are influenced easily and are big consumers, a lot of people easily fall victim to switching their whole wardrobe because of a trend.
Just because you do switch your wardrobe because of a trend does not mean you are a bad person. However, it is not the most ethical thing to do.
Why are things like micro trends and switching your wardrobe every season unethical?
We are not in the best moment regarding climate change. Our global temperatures are rising, pollution is getting worse and wildfires/falling icebergs are becoming more and more common. And something that really does affect the climate is the clothing industry - especially fast fashion. Most of the stores that have clothing from micro trends are fast fashion stores, since they usually have new collections coming in and out quite frequently.
With people wanting to be “trendy” and purchase micro trends to be “cool”, it is usually cheaper to buy from a fast fashion brand. However, the impact that this has on the environment is crazy. The fashion industry is one of the industries that releases the most pollutants, and fast fashion is the main reason for pollution in the fashion industry. Most of the factories are in more vulnerable countries, because it is easier to hire more people and pay them way less, meaning the company keeps and makes a lot more. These countries usually do not have the financial resources needed to help their environment, and they do not feel very motivated to all of a sudden change their environmental laws to become more strict. The amount of water used for producing clothes is very high, and a lot of the dye used to color is also very harmful to the environment. Some other ways that fashion harms the environment is through the amount of energy used, and the amount of carbon it emits.
This makes it very clear that excessively buying and supporting these brands is extremely harmful to the environment and to your bank account. Yes, the clothing is cheap, but the quality is bad, and think to yourself the amount of high quality clothing you could purchase with the amount of money you spend on fast fashion. Buying from these brands a couple of times and not spending mass amounts of money is totally fine and normal, however when people start to post these $700 Shein hauls online, it really makes me wonder why they don't just go to a store where the clothing is more comfortable and better quality for the same price.
I am not trying to bash people who purchase from fast fashion brands. I, myself, enjoy going to Zara, looking at the new collections, and possibly purchasing something cute. However, everything is bad when you do it excessively, including shopping - especially from fast fashion brands.
What are some other things that are impacted by trend cycles?
Trends and fashion are some of the (if not the most) impactful things in the media. How very impactful celebrities dress is going to influence a lot of peoples’ styles, no matter what age. However, with different fashion trends, different aspects of things in the media will be trendy to be able to match with whatever is hot in fashion. Some of these ‘trends’ are things such as music, body standards, makeup styles, hair styles, art, decoration/interior design, films and more. A big example of trend cycles being implemented beyond fashion is Kim Kardashian. Kim was known to have “the perfect body” in the decade of the 2010’s and was an inspiration to various girls; however, when the trend cycle restarted this year, she removed quite a bit of plastic surgery and lost a lot of weight, with her even admitting she lost 16 pounds (7kg) in 21 days for The Met Gala to be able to fit into a dress. Her weight loss can be a reflection on how people lose massive amounts of weight since that was what was “trendy” in the late 90s and the 2000’s. This example is the perfect way to explain why we need to accept things the way they are, and not do everything for the trend. For example, a huge criticism of pop music has started happening because of the revival of the “I wanna be different, I am so cool” personality (which started blowing up again in 2020). However, does this mean that I will stop listening to pop music because it is deemed as a mainstream uncool girl thing? A large number of people probably would, and that is because the media has such a large influence on them. This huge chokehold the media has one can end up bringing them bigger problems, with things such as, for example, eating disorders developing for them to be able to match with whatever ‘body style’ or whatever is cool online and looks “flattering” on whatever style is trending.. And celebrities just like Kim or maybe even Kate Moss can end up influencing young people to try and fit into whatever beauty standard is considered cool, and whatever matches the clothing style/lifestyle that is cool, even if this means they will take large risks in their health. This is not me trying to attack these celebrities, I fully understand and respect the fact that people change, for example Kate herself taking back her most controversial quote and saying she regrets it. But these words still heavily impact people, especially younger generations who are more vulnerable and tend to ‘idolize’ and believe stuff like this.
The media influences us, of course, but we should still be able to enjoy things without feeling the guilt of it not being “trendy” or “cool”.
Why should I care about trend cycles?
Knowing about trend cycles is very important if you enjoy things such as fashion and pop culture, because it is a pattern that repeats itself quite often. It is easier not to fall victim to spending loads and loads of money on micro trends when you know how it works. As long as you know you like it a lot and WILL wear it, it is perfectly fine to buy influenced by micro trends.
Caring about trend cycles also goes beyond consuming trendy clothing because it is also part of things such as the way you think for yourself, have your own opinions and accept yourself, which are some of the most important things in life.
Being aware of what might be a temporary trend and what might be individual preferences is one of the most important skills in modern society, and learning how the trends function is the first step to being able to do that.