Looking toward 2020: are we done with trends forever?

Image via Yeezy
Words by Bianca O’Neill

The rise of populist fashion.

As we approach the middle of 2019, it gives us an opportunity to look back on the decade that was. If there was one thing that culturally defined the twenty-tens, it would have to be the overwhelming and increasing influence of social media on our daily lives.

2010 brought us Instagram, a photo sharing platform that stood apart from the already-established Facebook, with Snapchat following in 2011. Only nine years later, we’re spending a whopping 142 minutes per day scrolling through social media apps. 

The rise of social media has had an undeniable influence on the fashion industry at large. From the emergence of bloggers and influencers, who ushered in a new era of populist fashion content, to the rise of shoppable posts that increase interest in fast fashion, the digital revolution has been nothing short of radical.

As influencers grew in stature, micro-trends emerged. No longer would fashion fanatics have to wait for a new issue of their favourite magazine to find out what trend was declared de rigueur, now they could get their fix daily. Or even by the minute.

Outfit sharing became the cornerstone of Instagram’s most popular content, and those who shared the best outfits the most often, grew in follower numbers at a rapid rate. Their growing audience revelled in the constant flow of fashion imagery, driving recent micro-trends like fishnets under ripped jeans, backwards shirts, ‘hair chokers’ and a bunch of other trends that dissipated just as quickly as they emerged.

Of course, brands followed suit. Genuine Instagram micro-trends, driven by huge influencers who had a combined reach much larger than traditional fashion magazines – and who were able to operate in a much more nimble and immediate way – were overtaken by paid and gifted collaborations, many of which were not disclosed.

The favourite mode of operation for brands? Bombing various fashion weeks with their product – a guerrilla marketing move that ensured not only shares on influencer accounts, but also free publication in large media outlets via street style galleries. 

Followers are becoming increasingly savvy, however. They now demand disclosures. They religiously dob on shady influencers and celebrity endorsements via watchdog Instagram accounts like @diet_prada and @estee_laundry. They have a healthy level of cynicism about trends that appear to emerge out of nowhere, and those that are overtly branded.

So what’s the next step? Will the next decade be one undefined by aesthetics? Will we usher in a new, post-trend era?

These days, fashion moves so fast that nothing seems to stick. Niche audiences follow influencers with a ’90s aesthetic as they head out in ’70s flared denim. Runways are a confusing mix of references as brands increasingly attempt to appeal to everyone on Instagram, rather than deliver a dedicated vision of the future.

Long-standing trends are already so irrelevant to the average fashion consumer, they rarely drive purchases. Instead, purchase is driven by individually promoted items on influencer pages – items offered via one-off posts, far from the context of the artistic vision they were created to convey.

Is this a bad thing? Yes and no. On one hand you have Jacquemus presenting an Instagrammable runway set in a lavender field to drive shares on social media and raise their profile – to the detriment of conveying the actual artistic vision of the clothing that was contained within (there’s a reason why most designers choose to show on plain white runways.)

You have brands increasingly producing influencer collaborations – often a mind-numbing parade of stolen references – simply in order to capitalise on the potential revenue. It may contribute to their rapidly diminishing bottom line, but does this damage their brand? Of course it does.

On the other hand, we have a more equitable opportunity to influence the future of fashion. The everyday consumer has more say than ever on trends, as well as important issues such as sustainable fashion, ethical manufacture and cultural awareness. Just look at Kim K – she’s already backed down on the use of ‘Kimono’ as her shapewear brand name

In the past, only a few industry-insiders decided on seasonal trends that would make or break a fashion brand. Anyone who believes that influencers were the first to be gifted expensive products or all-expenses-paid trips in exchange for editorial, think again.

Now we all have a say. Now we can demand more from our fashion brands. And that future can only be a good one.

Follow Bianca’s fashion articles at @bianca.oneill.

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