Slow Pop Culture Trend Cycles and End Overconsumption

Tara Djordjevic

   Nowadays, walking into a clothing store one week and coming back the next can feel daunting. In the miniscule time period spanning the course of a few paydays, the clothing items roped to worn out hangers are switched out time and time again, either to be shunned to the ever-growing clearance section or sold to overstock buyers. This dangerous pattern of overproduction is fueled by fast fashion, which speeds up trend cycles majorly (and, in turn, contributes to fast fashion). This snake-eating-its-tail process of fast fashion, trend cycles, and the consequence of overconsumption needs to stop.

   Fast fashion refers to the business strategy retailers use which takes form in mass-produced clothing made to mimic current trends and sold at low costs in stores when the demand for them is at its highest. According to an ethical fashion rating organization, the term was first coined by The New York Times when Zara was first introduced to the city in the 1990s. The intent behind the phrase was to describe the retail giant’s desire to “…take only 15 days for a garment to go from the design stage to being sold in stores” ( This goal that Zara holds is similar to those of other vendors, who prioritize sales over environmental benefit.

   Not only does fast fashion speed up trend cycles, it severely damages nature, with loads of clothing being strewn into landfills everyday. Images of old clothing laying in green shrubbery and sandy deserts are shared on social media platforms daily, yet the situation at hand continues to worsen. According to the United Nations Environment Program, the U.S. alone dumps about a truckload of clothing in landfills by the second. Not only that, but the amount of times a clothing piece has been worn has decreased by a starking 36 percent since 2015, meaning clothing is worn even less before being thrown out (

   This inhumane increase in wasted clothing is fostered from access to cheap and plentiful labor. According to The Guardian, retail giant H&M has repeatedly maneuvered around labor laws which restrict child labor and the amount of hours workers are allowed by utilizing Myanmar factories employing workers as young as 14 years old. Though legally allowed to work according to international labor laws, these children were working up to 12 hours a day on “…a minimum wage of 3,600 kyat [1.72 dollars] for an eight-hour day,” which is simply cruel. These factories were reportedly employing anyone who wanted to work, without checking IDs or establishing fair hours. This is just one example of fashion companies taking advantage of international poverty and desperation to produce clothing at a rate faster than ever before, never stopping to properly compensate workers for their long hours ( This exploitation of workers and cheap labor must end.

   With the ability to pump out clothing at increasingly faster rates, any type of clothing trend gaining online attention can be seen in-person at stores in less than a month. The sense of urgency to replicate any trend seen online results in clothing pieces leaving stores just as fast as they entered them. According to VICE, trend-cycles used to refer to, “…pop culture trends [that] came and went every 20 years.” Anything that reappeared faster was deemed corny over cool, yet fast fashion’s influence has assimilated a culture where seeing fads less than 10 years old on one’s favorite fashion influencer or media platform is completely normal.

   UC High’s Sustainable Fashion Club President Sophomore Carley Connor used the ‘90s as an example of a standard trend-cycle, adding that, “…[the] media makes trends phase in and out so quickly, we are already seeing repeats of fashion trends from [relatively recent] years resurface.” This phenomenon can be recognized with the resurgence of 2014 tumblr fashion in communities online, amongst other tailored styles. Following these trends speeds up the cycle and leads to incredible amounts of overconsumption.

   While some may argue that factors like social media and overconsumption contribute more to trend cycles than fast fashion itself, these would not have even been contributors without the culture that fast fashion first created. The ability to produce clothes at an aggressive rate had to be established before overconsumption could exist, as an absurd amount of clothing is needed to make an absurd amount of purchases. Fast fashion had been coined long before the first social media platform had been created. While these clothing choices may be endless, shopping sustainably is always advised if given the opportunity to. Not only is it an amazing way to purchase clothing at a lower price through second-hand options, it benefits the Earth to reuse clothing rather than purchase brand new clothing. Connor said, “Teens can buy second hand, pre-loved clothing from thrift shops and local swap meets.” There are ways people can avoid promoting this cycle and these should be used to end it.

   The overproduction of clothing is by far the leading cause for accelerated trend cycles as it fosters boredom in consumers who have access to any style of clothing from virtually any time period at the tip of their fingers. If it will always be possible to replicate trends at this speed, it will always be possible for consumers to think of yet another thing to purchase. Shop sustainably and end overconsumption and fast fashion.