Sharon Wu | The Poly Post

Social media and influencer culture guts the artistry of fashion

By Ethereal Violet Reyes, Oct. 18, 2022

Social media’s regurgitation of fashion is causing fashion aficionados around the world to be faced with the decision to become victims of fashion through trends, negatively effecting the environment, or to shop sustainably and be viewed as a fashion bygone.

Social media content like TikTok videos are creating set molds that viewers can select from for their personal fashion expression, devaluing fashion as a form of individualistic expression.

A report by WIRED stated that one in four of the most liked videos on TikTok fall within the length of 21 to 34 seconds, revealing our society’s ever-shortening attention spans. With this phenomenon, even fashion is getting faster as trends takeover social media in a fleeting fashion.

The two polarized archetypes in fashion are the trendy fast fashion fiend who indulges in juggernaut fast fashion companies like Shein and the fashion monger who finds it reasonable to invest in archive and designer fashion, despite the outrageous prices.

People like me who aren’t faced with the full privilege of being able to decide between being the fast fashion fiend or the archive fashion monger are left wondering where our place is in the vast art form called fashion. We are also left asking ourselves why it feels like we are never welcome in the fashion world.

I am a self-proclaimed “fashion lover,” but can I genuinely refer to myself in that way when I can’t afford half of the pieces I can spew knowledge on?

Can I even call myself a defender of fashion as an art form when I have purchased clothing from fast fashion companies that are leaving a devasting impact on the environment and reputation of fashion?

Fashion has become polarizing. It does not matter if you are wearing thrifted clothes, trendy clothes, designer or archive clothes because everyone has become in opposition of one another.

Sharon Wu | The Poly Post

To further this alienation, the sad reality is that even influencers who have the money to choose slow fashion and have the choice to buy quality over quantity, don’t.

Influencers like James Charles have spoken about repeating an outfit in a YouTube video or Instagram photo as if it’s impermissible and how he revamps his closet on a monthly basis.

Other fashion voices like Heart Evangelista tell stories of wearing staple pieces like her nude Lady Peep Louboutins and being badmouthed by a Filipino designer who claimed she was out of style for wearing them, despite them being expensive designer shoes that should be timeless.

With narratives like this being common, the fashion history and its driving forces, like couture and individualistic expression, are being drowned out by the deep sea of social media that has fast and harsh waves, washing up nanoscopic materials of what we used to know as fashion with every passing throwaway trend.

According to The New York Times, more than 60% of fabric fibers are now synthetics, derived from fossil fuels, so they will not decay in a landfill. Throwaway fashion and its fleeting trends will affect the planet forever.

With influencers preaching the mentality of“trends know best,” the influenced are following along closely, causing landfills to grow larger.

Individualism with fashion expression is dying out as TikTok has become a driving force in fashion trends. Social scenes are being filled with folks who look identical to each other and people who dress outside of that trendy box are becoming outcasts.

The developments of fashion after being chewed up and regurgitated by social media and influencers are oddly dystopian as only a few forms of self-expression are acceptable, causing people to look more like one another.

All the individualism has been strained out of the masses because of social media.

There needs to be a conscious effort to invest in quality over quantity and to prioritize personal style over trends. The environment issue can simply be avoided by refusing to invest in those companies.

There’s a balance that needs to be found between buying second hand and purchasing clothes from sustainable brands or boutiques.

If we don’t push back against the current that social media is pushing, uniformity will become common.

This will eventually reach beyond the realms of fashion, with bodies and faces becoming trends with plastic surgery, leaving the less privileged grasping for answers on how to fit into a mold that does not seem to accept them.

Fashion is just the tip of the iceberg of dilemmas made by capitalism. Sadly, social media is progressing these dilemmas speedily. Throwaway trends are a never-ending cycle of ruin, only benefiting those who are branding themselves as “trendy” while pulling in meaningless Instagram likes.

The rest of us are just trying to keep up and soon, the historical significance and art of fashion will disappear, replaced by fast fashion and a huge environmental impact.

It is up to fashion lovers to stop buying fast fashion for the clout and start buying fashion for quality and their individualistic style.

Feature image by Sharon Wu

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