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The Life Cycle of Fashion Trends

What people choose to wear–whether it be top hats, pantaloons, hoop skirts, or designer brands–has been curated by a culmination of personal style, culture, and aesthetic. This phenomenon of fashion’s ever changing cycle is often referred to as the “fashion life cycle,” composed of 5 main stages: introduction, rise, peak, decline, and obsolescence. For the longest time, it has been said that the fashion life cycle circles back every two decades. (I mean, Y2K style has taken over so many stores, influencers, and social media trends.)

Before going into how the fashion life cycle has been changed, let’s look into what these five stages include.

  1. Introduction:

As the name entails, the first stage of a trend’s life cycle is created when the new style is introduced. This can be as simple as a color and patterns to broader things such as fabrics or structure and more. During this stage, the origin of the trend typically finds itself at the hands of a major brand or designer during the on-season of Fashion Week.

2. The Rise:

The second stage of the life cycle is a trend’s rise to popularity, in which a style shifts from being “new” to “trendy”. Today, this often happens with the help of celebrities and influencers who popularize a style either by paid promotion or genuine appreciation. Stylists and media strategists often play a big role in this form of popularization, curating which influencer will wear what.

3. Peak:

The peak stage is where a trend reaches the climax of its popularity among a mainstream audience. Most major retailers now carry the trend and render it accessible to all consumer types. When a product peaks, it is often sold at lower prices than during the increase stage, and most luxury brands no longer carry the trend as a result of the easy accessibility and supply.

4. Decline:

The decline stage closely follows the peak stage because it lives behind the fine line of market oversaturation. No one wants to be wearing the same thing as everyone else around them, and as a result a trend’s popularity is often its downfall because consumers tend to grow tired of seeing too much of a trend or mainstream.

5. Obsolescence:

The final stage of a fashion trend’s life cycle is called the obsolescence stage, where a style once widespread becomes “out of fashion”. People who once enjoyed the trend move on to new peak trends and leave the obsolete trends behind. In this stage is where donation centers and Goodwill get piled up with fast fashion names and outdated styles.

But over time, the fashion trend’s life cycle has become severely influenced by the rise of social media. While social media has brought many positive changes to the fashion industry, it has also had some negative impacts on the environment and society.

  • Faster trend cycles: Social media platforms have made it easier for trends to spread quickly. As soon as a new trend is spotted, it can be shared and replicated by millions of people within a matter of hours. This has led to a faster fashion cycle, with trends changing much more quickly than before.

  • Increased demand for fast fashion: With the faster trend cycle, there has been a rise in demand for fast fashion. Consumers want to keep up with the latest trends, and fast fashion retailers have been able to capitalize on this by producing affordable clothing that is in line with the latest trends.

  • Rise of influencer marketing: Social media has given rise to a new kind of celebrity: the social media influencer. These influencers have millions of followers and can have a significant impact on fashion trends. Brands often partner with influencers to promote their products, which can lead to increased sales and exposure. However, greed for money can often skew this range of positives when influencers choose to promote brands that are not reflective of themselves or when these companies don’t promote sustainable practices.

  • Greater transparency: Social media has made it easier for consumers to learn about the ethics and sustainability of fashion brands. Consumers can research brands online and share information about sustainable and ethical practices with their networks. This has led to a greater demand for transparency from fashion brands.

In all, social media brings a lot to the table. It is a source of inspiration for many - including myself - through apps such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Tik Tok. However, with this rise of social media influence comes its drawbacks. Being aware of these consequences with social media is pertinent in living a sustainable lifestyle, as well as keeping a sustainable closet.

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