Trends Are Trending: Suddenly Everything Is In — & Out — Of Fashion Faster Than Ever

Rattling off fashion’s current hottest “trends” can feel something like a Stefon sketch from Saturday Night Live: Barbiecore, night luxe, coastal grandmother, vacationcore, indie sleaze, balletcore. This season has, quite literally, just about everything — and by the time you read this, it’s likely that half of these will be outdated and a new crop of trending terms will have popped up to replace them.

It seems like the only real, reliable trend right now in fashion is, well, trends. The trend cycle has sped up to a dizzying pace, to be sure, and most of that growth is driven by TikTok, where individual creators can single-handedly create the newest thing with one viral video. But the popular social media app couldn’t have done it alone; would you be all that surprised to learn that the COVID-19 pandemic had a hand in creating today’s head-spinning trend landscape?

“TikTok is such an interesting conversation because it’s really accelerated the trend cycle since 2020,” says Cassandra Napoli, a senior strategist at trend forecasting agency WGSN. “Before that, people were living their lives outside, and it was business as usual. Then, all of a sudden, we were all confined to our homes, and there was little else left to do but scroll TikTok. We spent all this time on digital media, and as a result of that, between 2020 up until now, the trend cycle has accelerated at an exponential pace.”

The proof is in the numbers, which are staggering in some cases: #nightluxe took off on TikTok at the beginning of the year and has been used some 47 million times since. The hashtag #coastalgrandmother is now at 167 million views worldwide. And #cottagecore, which first took hold during the pandemic, is holding strong with 10.8 billion views, 2.1 billion of which happened in 2022 alone.

“Aesthetic” Culture Is Now All-Encompassing

The meme-ification of fashion trends isn’t particularly new — recall 2014’s “normcore” phenomenon, for example — but there’s a new pressure to keep up with the punishing pace at which these trends rise and then die out. With more traditional fashion trends, there were always ways for people to incorporate those changes into their own wardrobe; maybe it was a matter of adding in a new accessory or trying out the latest print in a favorite silhouette. That’s no longer possible with these new social media-driven trends, which are meant to encompass an entire lifestyle rather than just one or two key pieces in your closet.

“Before, I could pick and choose what I was participating in, but also still maintain some aspect of my own personal style that I did not have to sacrifice to have any kind of social relevancy,” explains Gabrielle Prescod, fashion director at large for Blanc Magazine. “I feel like that is becoming less and less [true] now, because with all of the social exposure that all these other trends are getting, it’s kind of pushing whatever you are drawn to out of style.”

But how much stock should we be putting in this virtual avalanche of trends? Many of them can be traced back to a single viral video created by a social media user; creator Lex Nicoleta can take the credit for “coastal grandmother,” while “indie sleaze” came from Olivia V. What happens from there, according to Vox senior correspondent Rebecca Jennings, is that other creators see an online success they want to emulate.

“I think there's this race to name the next thing — whether the next thing exists or not is kind of beside the point,” she says. “It’s more just like, ‘I coined this cool term; here’s one example that may or may not actually be happening.’”

The Algorithm Amplification Effect

Once a video like this takes off, it teaches the algorithm that people are interested in that concept — and thus, an actual trend is born. As other creators see a topic going viral, they, too, want to get in on the potential for views. “If you have a decent following on TikTok, like, you are probably burnt out; you are probably feeling like you have to post multiple times a day; you are sick of coming up with ideas,” Jennings says.

“When a new trend comes along, that gives you a video idea; like, ‘Oh, I can do whatever my thing may be — thrifting, beauty, get ready with me — and you can just say, ‘I’m doing a coastal grandmother thing like that,’” she explains. “And you’re hopping on a trend, which might increase your chances of getting looped into the For You page on certain people’s feeds.”

The more traditional media outlets pick up the baton from there, carrying these microtrends from their original platforms to the broader fashion industry at large. In a piece for Vox, Jennings details how a combination of pressure to perform on an SEO-driven Internet and the hustle to be the first to report on something buzzy has created the perfect environment for a flash-in-the-pan viral video to become an actual, industry-influencing trend.

Fashion Industry Trends & Social Media Trends Are Locked In A Cycle

Still, the current trend landscape is definitely tied up in a “chicken or the egg” situation: As much as social media can influence trends happening in the fashion world, the capital-I industry is equally responsible for sparking ideas across various platforms. Prescod cites the still-popular Y2K revival as an example: When a brand like, say, Blumarine mines its own archives to put a new twist on older pieces — low-rise pants, handkerchief skirts, butterfly tops — a fashion-obsessed Internet community will then dig up photos of the originals and find even more things to dredge back up.

(+) Blumarine Fall/Winter 2022 Pietro S. D'Aprano/Getty Images Entertainment1372589876 (+) Miu Miu Fall/Winter 2022 Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images INFO 1/2

“Whatever the fashion industry does, they dictate the trend to a certain extent, and then social media can be like, ‘If this is relevant, remember when this was relevant and this happened,’ and then they take that and run with it,” she says. “That might be more relevant to more masses because social media has a larger reach than our fashion community does.”

This is how we end up in a world where a hit Miu Miu collection can lead to a full-fledged renaissance of those ultra-micro-miniskirts you may remember from your days as a high school student, with one key generational difference: Millennials approach these fashion moments from a comforting nostalgia — “It’s kind of like a big hug, talking about the Backstreet Boys and Y2K and things like that,” explains Napoli — where Gen Z has just enough distance to romanticize the era. (Imagine telling your younger self that your flared dance pants would one day be worth such reverence.)

Yes, Nostalgia Is Moving Faster Than Ever Before

And if it feels like that nostalgia-driven cycle is moving faster than ever now, too, that’s because it is. Once again, technology is responsible for completely shaking up the generational order. Before, it made sense for generations to be spaced about 15 years apart; baby boomers had a completely different childhood experience than Gen X, who themselves lived in a different world than millennials. But even by the tail end of the millennial generation, things had changed just enough to require a new term for those born within a three-year span of the millennial/Gen Z divide (that would cover between 1993 and 1998, if you’re curious): Zillenials. With the rate our current technology is expanding, that’s only bound to break down further.

“The fringe generation is becoming more important because our relationship to technology is so different; it didn't accelerate as quickly then, and so somebody born at the beginning and at the tail end of the generation shared commonalities,” Napoli says. “But if you look at today, the technology that exists for the tail end of Gen Z versus the beginning of Gen Z, it’s so different and their experiences coming of age are going to be vastly different, because by the time the youngest Gen Z reach adulthood, the metaverse might be here.”

The result is a collapse of that nostalgia, which means where trends might have operated on a 20-year cycle before, they’re now having resurrections closer to the 10 to 15 year range. That old style adage about sitting out on a trend revival of something you lived through the first time around is getting harder to live by — and, more importantly, it leads one to wonder whether we’re about to hit rock-bottom when it comes to new ideas.

“Now, I feel like we’re in the late aughts to early 2010s, and I’m just like, we don’t have anything else to reference? We’ve exhausted the ’60s, the ’50s, the ’70s, the ’80s, the ’90s, that we’re now up into the 2010s to harp back on?” Prescod asks. “It doesn’t feel like we should be that close. If we do not have any original ideas outside of that, I’m concerned about what people are now drawing inspiration from.”

To Participate Or Not To Participate: That Is The Question

We’ve been so exposed to the deluge of new hashtags to try out, it’s hardly a surprise that the idea of participating in trends is starting to feel exhausting to all generations. Gen Z is still interested in trends, but according to Napoli, their approach to these popular hashtags is centered around the idea of finding a community rather than constantly switching up style — hence, those lifestyle-encompassing aesthetics. They even built a platform, the Aesthetics Wiki, to share and name all of the different sub-genres. “Gen Z are really looking to social platforms to find camaraderie, to find themselves and to feel like they know themselves, and part of that is finding like-minded people online,” she says.

“This umbrella term of the ‘core’ aesthetics: If I’m ‘cottagecore,’ what does that mean? That helps me identify with other people who might be like-minded, it helps me find people who share interests and values and things like that,” Napoli explains. “There’s this appetite to curate our lives, and make our lifestyles and who we are fit into an umbrella term so that we can understand it, and we can build community around it. That appetite really is a Gen Z-focused trend, rather than a millennial trend.”

Maybe it’s time for us to think more like Gen Z: Until the next umbrella terms sparks a feeling of community for you — I personally am waiting for #BlairWaldorfCore, but that might just sit under the already-existing #oldmoneyaesthetic (388 million views on TikTok this year) — feel free to sit out the next wave of viral fashion hashtags sure to hit come fall.

9 Fall Fashion Trends To Add To Your Closet Now

With Labor Day taking place this weekend, we are officially in the final days of summer and ready to transition to a new season. With that, you will be seeking to update your wardrobe for cooler weather and adding the new trends of fall to your closet. Below, here are 9 fall fashion trends that fashion lovers are all over, along with shopping recommendations for each one.

1) Fashion Puffers

Puffers are a timeless classic for fall and winter, but the 2022 variation is oversized and colorful to pack a big statement.

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Jil Sander Down Coat | $3210 Jil Sander

This marigold yellow down jacket from Jil Sander will brighten up even the cloudiest of days.

2) Cargo Pants

As more Y2K trends come back around, prepare for a resurgence in cargo pants. Gen Z loves to wear this style low on the hip and paired with a baby tee, but I’ve also found plenty of high-waisted versions if you are looking for a mature take on the trend.

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Amiri Cargo Pants | $1090 Amiri

These neutral cargo pants are perfect for incorporating a current trend into your workwear style.

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Tom Ford ​​Lustrous Viscose-Linen Wide-Leg Cargo Pants | $2150 Tom Ford

How fun are these eye-catching blue pants? Leave it to Tom Ford to bring the party to a pair of utilitarian pants.

3) Equestrian Style

If “dark academia” was the preppy style of 2021, equestrian-inspired pieces are the name of the game in 2022.

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Smythe Rifle-Patch Equestrian Blazer | $795 Smythe

This equestrian blazer from Smythe is a great staple to add and will instantly make any outfit look tailored and put-together.

Gucci Knee-High Boots With Harness | $2050 Gucci

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Riding boots are a timeless classic (that just so happen to be trendy this fall) so invest in a well-made pair from Gucci.

4) Clogs

Clogs had their major moment in the 70s, but everything comes back around again. In 2022, you’re just as likely to find modern and minimal clogs as you are retro-inspired pairs.

Chloe Joy Clog | $1025 Chloe

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Not only are these Chloe clogs perfect for any lover of 1970s fashion, but they are also major statement makers with their fur trim.

5) Unitards

Dance has always had an influence on fashion, with ballet slippers trending in the 2010s or leg warmers in the 1980s. This year, athletic unitards have popped up everywhere. Whether you wear to your next barre class or out to the club, there’s a unitard for you.

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LaQuan Smith Cutout Mesh And Velvet Catsuit | $700 LaQuan Smith

I adore this disco-inspired LaQuan Smith catsuit for a night out on the town. Turn on Beyonce’s Renaissance and get dancing.

VAARA Technical Knit Unibody

VAARA Technical Knit Unibody | $169 VAARA

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For a fitness-minded option, you cannot do better than this “unibody” from VAARA.

6) Mohair Knit

Sweaters are a must-have for fall. This year, it’s all about textured mohair.

R13 Oversized Distressed Edge Cardigan | $695 R13

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Embrace a mix of prep and punk with this oversized argyle print cardigan from R13.

Marni Mohair and Wool Crewneck Cropped Sweater | $790 Marni

This bright blue cropped sweater from Marni is the perfect fall layering piece. Throw over a collared shirt or a midi dress for fun layering, or pair with a low-rise skirt for a sassier look.

7) Vests

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Remember when sweater vests were huge? For 2022, we’re going back to regular old vests—or waistcoats, if you prefer.

Anine Bing Marina Vest | $249 Anine Bing

Influencer Matilda Djerf has been wearing button-down vests like this one as shirts and pairing them with matching trousers, making for a business-like (but not really office-appropriate) ensemble.

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Co Princes Seam Linen Vest | $550 Co

For the lady who loves black suiting, this will make a fine addition.

8) Sheer Maxis

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Remember when I said the 90s and early 2000s are having a comeback, style-wise? If Kate Moss would wear it back in the day, it’s cool again now, and that goes for the sultry sheer maxi dress.

Kim Shui SSENSE Exclusive Pink Maxi Dress Cover Up | $295 Kim Shui x SSENSE

This printed pink maxi from Kim Shui is so fun. Wear it as a cover-up on vacation or over a bodysuit for a daring look.

2020's biggest fashion trends reflect a world in crisis

Written by Fiona Sinclair Scott, CNN

To look back at the year in fashion is to look back at a year of crisis. In the first few months of 2020, as the severity and scale of the coronavirus pandemic became clear, businesses around the world faced incomparable challenges posed by the largest global public health crisis in generations. The fashion industry was not immune.

Making clothes became extremely difficult, and many of us -- forced to stay at home amid job insecurity and health concerns -- lost our appetite for buying them.

recent report by consulting firm McKinsey and The Business of Fashion showed that fashion sales in China dropped significantly at the beginning of the year, while in Europe and the US they fell off a cliff edge in March. The same report predicted that fashion companies' year-on-year profits will decline by approximately 90 percent for 2020, following a 4% rise the year before.

But the pandemic wasn't the only crisis the industry faced. While the fashion world was already reckoning with uncomfortable truths about its impact and practices -- from its role in the climate crisis and poor working conditions for garment factory workers, to its failure to create inclusive, diverse workplaces -- the events of 2020 have only served to further highlight these problems.

Suddenly, fashion had to find its place in a world ill-at-ease with the ideas of fantasy, frivolity and indulgence that it has long depended on.

Dita von Teese walks the runway during a Jean Paul Gaultier show in January, shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic brought physical fashion shows to a halt around the world. Credit: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images

For Shefalee Vasudev, founding editor of India's Voice of Fashion magazine, this year has heralded "the great unmasking" of fashion. "The unseen other side of what we bring back home as a beautiful garment or product was revealed," she wrote via email from Delhi. "Migrants walking back to their homes in villages, disowned as they were by the cities and their employers, was among the most poignant images that surfaced from India."

Vasudev, who authored "Powder Room: The Untold Story of Indian Fashion," pointed to "poorly paid laborers, unequal profits and (lack of) copyright credits to artisans," as some of the most pressing issues laid bare by the pandemic in India. Meanwhile in the United States, and then countries around the world, the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement put the issue of systemic racism firmly on the industry's agenda. Brands awkwardly grappled with how to respond. Many got it wrong and were quickly called out for making token gestures.

A protester holds up a sign during a Black Lives Matter protest in front of the US Embassy in Vienna, Austria on June 5, 2020. Credit: Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

"Plain and simple, I don't think there is the intention behind (online gestures) to make long-lasting, sustainable change," said Teen Vogue editor-in-chief, Lindsay Peoples Wagner, in an email to CNN in June. "Everyone can hop onto the BLM movement right now on social media, but what are you doing in your home, in your corporate office, with your connections, with the power you have?"

Months later, Wagner launched the Black in Fashion Council (with publicist Sandrine Charles) to drive better representation, advance opportunities for Black people in fashion and hold the industry accountable.

Writing from Nigeria, a country that experienced its own set of crises this year, Omoyemi Akerele, founder of Lagos Fashion Week, said along with the coronavirus pandemic, "civil unrest across African countries and the pandemic of racism, have been human disasters of epic proportions with countless lives lost, reminding us of the one thread that binds us all together: our humanity."

To talk about fashion trends following a year defined by crisis may seem nugatory, but the themes that emerged offer a window into these extraordinary times.

Read on for one last look at fashion around the world in 2020.

Functionality

Face masks became the unrivaled accessory of the year. People made their own, brands produced unique designs and, almost overnight, they became the finishing touch to many outfits.

A face mask by Burberry Credit: Courtesy Burberry

Some labels went a step further by marketing new accessories -- and in some cases, entire clothing lines -- as having antimicrobial properties. While experts say it is difficult to assess whether antimicrobial treatments can protect wearers from Covid-19, the concept of protective fashion is itself a defining trend. We also saw high-fashion riffs on the idea, including Kenzo's fetching beekeeper-inspired looks presented during Paris Fashion Week in September.

Comfort

Fashion platform Lyst looked at search data from over 100 million online shoppers and, in its annual report , found that Birkenstock clogs, Crocs, UGG slippers and Nike joggers were among the year's most sought-after items of clothing.

Anna Wintour shocked the fashion when Vogue posted a photo of her wearing sweatpants to Instagram. Credit: From Vogue Magazine/Instagram

Reflecting a shift in both reality and mindset, loungewear replaced office attire, and floaty "house dresses" -- comfortable enough to take you from home office to daybed -- rose in popularity. The term "cottagecore," an internet trend encapsulating the spirit of cozy, rustic living, generated huge buzz as TikTok users showed off their attempts to channel the aesthetic at home.

Pop culture, of course, helped underscore these trends. BTS' music video for "Life Goes On" showed the boyband in matching pajamas, playing video games and staring wistfully out of windows. Oh, to be a young, rich, self-isolating idol.

From Big Hit Labels/YouTube

Statements

Statement-wear took on an entirely new meaning in 2020. From protest T-shirts in support of the Black Lives Matter movement to political merchandise in the lead up to the US election, people dressed not to impress, but to convey powerful messages.

A protestor wears a T-shirt reading "I can't breathe" during a Black Lives Matter rally in Marseille, France. Credit: Clement Mahoude/AFP/Getty Images

According to Lyst data, searches for terms including "vote" were up 29% week-on-week in the US the month before the presidential election. And when When Michelle Obama wore her now famous "VOTE" necklace, designed by Chari Cuthbert, demand for the item skyrocketed.

Pre-election, Instagram was awash with celebrities posting selfies in hot pink power suits thanks to a campaign launched by workwear brand Argent and advocacy group Supermajority, encouraging women to exercise their voting power and further bolstering the power of pink to signal strength and female solidarity.

Whether intentional or not, Savannah Guthrie's choice of pink suit (not by Argent) to interview President Trump during the NBC town hall did not go unnoticed.

Savannah Guthrie pictured during an NBC News town hall event in October 2020. Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

Conscious

Growing demand for local, handmade, sustainable clothing isn't a new trend. But the pandemic saw a rise in values-driven shopping, reflecting a shift in mindset among more prudent spenders, who, perhaps, also had more time to think about the brands they lent their loyalty to.

In a report issued in April, Lyst noted a 69% increase in searches for "vegan leather," year-on-year.

In Nigeria, Akerele said that sourcing materials internationally became challenging, so designers and the wider community were incentivized to build more vertically integrated businesses. This, she said, reduced the industry's carbon footprint: "It's helped reduce waste in the system in a way that only sourcing locally on demand can; and empowered our community of artisans, craftsmen and local supply chains by generating income for them in the midst of inflation."

Vasudev said that, in India, she noticed two shifts in behavior, both benefiting local artisans: "One was the overwhelming response to artisans selling directly online (aided of course by NGOs and crafts collectives). Two, a number of artisan funds and charities went up," she said. "Indian consumers went out of their way to support the 'karigars' (artisans). By buying, donating, by prioritizing Made in India."

Digital

From Shanghai to London, fashion weeks throughout the year went digital to present new collections safely. During London Fashion Week in September, Burberry streamed its show -- filmed live in the woods -- on Twitch, a social media platform more popular with gamers than fashionistas. Later that month in Milan, Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott swapped models for marionettes , cleverly presenting a micro-sized version of his collection in a video that embraced the absurdity of the moment.

Fashion designer stages show with puppets

Months before in May, Congolese designer Anifa Mvuemba, founder of the label Hanifa, streamed a mesmerizing 3D collection of her latest designs on invisible models. The innovative idea went viral, racking up millions of views on Instagram.

While e-commerce has been growing in popularity for years, the luxury fashion sector has, historically, been slow to embrace its digital future. The industry's common gripes are about the loss of the physical luxury experiences like walking into a beautifully designed store, flipping through the pages of a glossy magazine or attending exclusive fashion shows.

While these attitudes were slowly changing before the pandemic, this year has drastically accelerated the shift to online. According to the aforementioned McKinsey report, we have "vaulted five years forward in consumer and business adoption of digital in a matter of months."

Grégory Boutté, chief client and digital officer for Kering (which owns Gucci and Saint Laurent, among other brands), spoke to the Business of Fashion in December, telling the title : "Our e-commerce revenue during the first half of 2020 went from 6 percent to 13 percent of overall retail revenues year-over-year. In North America we were as high as 26 percent e-commerce -- so already ahead of the 20 percent McKinsey expected for 2025." He noted that he expects these gains to normalize, given these numbers reflect the fact that the businesses brick-and-mortar stores were closed for large parts of the year, leaving buyers with no option but to shop online.

The future

Fashion's recovery from the pandemic is set to be slow, with experts predicting a difficult year ahead for businesses. Trends seen during a year defined by crisis will not be left at 2021's door, and they may permanently change the shape of the industry.

Some of these changes are positive and, when it comes to questions of inclusion and sustainability, long overdue. This year may have also accelerated fashion's compulsion to look ahead in search of a brighter future. This is, after all, an industry filled with dreamers.

Louis Vuitton Spring-Summer 2021 collection presented in Shanghai Credit: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Bohan Qiu, founder of Shanghai-based creative and communication agency Boh Project, said he can already see more exuberant fashion displays emerging in China as the country returns to some semblance of normalcy. "I feel like people are actually going more vibrant, more experimental, more interesting rather than going more conservative," he said via voice message. "And you can really see on the streets or at parties or at events in China, or at shopping malls, all the brands are displaying really colorful patterns, prints and embellishments. I feel like that's really coming back, it's like we're celebrating."

Maryan Barbara
Maryan Barbara

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