The Death of the Fashion Trend Cycle

The Death of the Fashion Trend Cycle

By: Jenna Piotrowicz

June 14th, 2023

This article is part of our Winter 2023 magazine. Click here to read the full edition.

In the age of fashion and design, the world has seen trends recycled year after year, giving homage to decades’ past fashion. From the 70s to the 2000s fashion, bell bottoms to low-rise jeans, the fashion scene has typically repeated these cycles on a 20 year basis. However, the pace of each trend has picked up tremendously, introducing its own issues.  

Current fashion trends seem to pay tribute to early 2010 fashion and “Tumblr grunge,”with layers and dark colors. The angst and thick eyeliner have come back to life with a Gen Z twist, including Doc Martens, flannels, and chokers, but swapping out tight jeans for oversized ones. 

These are especially prominent on social media platforms. Social media influencers follow these trends as they come and go, leaving Gen Z hyper-aware of every change in the industry and every trend they must keep up with to be “in style.” 

It seems like just yesterday, the 90s-era trends were here, giving the media a glimpse of corsets, slip dresses and scrunchies once again. However, before those trends could even wrap up, Y2K fashion seeped into many of the current trends, including baggy pants and baby tees.It may be the first sign that the 20-year cycle is no longer running in a typical fashion. 

Tracy Koski, a Michigan State University alum who grew up in the 70s, noted, “I have seen many of the trends I grew up with come back to life in recent years. Bell bottoms, hair clips, parachute pants. However, now things seem to run in a different cycle. I see trends pop up out of nowhere, and suddenly they are popular again. It’s hard to keep track of them all.”   

It is unclear what will come after the current trends. The typical 20-year cycle has not been on track recently, and it seems hasty to restart the cycle. After all, it has not been long since it began. Many fashion lovers have guesses about what will come next. 

“I think we will get a mix of 60s and 90s,” said Alexa Baldini, a fashion major at Michigan State University. 

“We are already seeing these influences, the 60s knee high-boots and mini skirts. But there are also predictions for [the] Spring Season [of] 2023 to have lots of blacks and dark colors, circling into 90s grunge. There’s currently an aesthetic with makeup and hair that’s super clean and put together, but people are starting to do the opposite with dark liner [and] dark lips. Again that 90s grunge look,” said Baldini. 

Baldini also noted that the cycle is curving into a new era for fashion trends. “We always see a [resurgence] in trends from long ago. they always come back. But now, we are seeing the mixing of many eras, and it is becoming a whole new thing,” said Baldini. 

This new era of style trends may be due to the influence of personal style, a timeless wardrobe specific to oneself only. Some social media influencers have already caught on to this trend and have been promoting it on multiple platforms, such as @sustainablychic on Instagram. Although, it doesn’t seem to have caught enough wind yet. 

Some, however, think Generation Z may have ended the cycle. With the refurbished and refined tastes of previous decades, the fashion world has become a mesh of multiple decades at the same time, making it hard to distinguish era trends that may be existing in harmony. 

If anything, social media has played a large role in advancing the cycle, allowing styles to be in one day and out the next. The issue lies in overconsumption, as consumers buy and buy to keep up with these trends. 

Often on social media platforms, influencers are looking forward to what the next big thing will be. Everyone wants to be first and influence the start of a trend. No one wants to be left out and feel alienated for being “off-trend” or not having style. 

Ally Gilbreath, a senior and fashion lover at MSU, noted the cycle she has seen even in just the four years she has spent in college. “Freshman year, all we wore was skinny jeans and bright clothes. Patterned shirts, animal prints, neon. Having baggy pants was not considered trendy. Suddenly, a year later, everyone swore off skinny jeans. Baggy pants were in. Skinny jeans were looked at with dislike, even disgust. It was crazy to witness that change happening right in front of me,” Gilbreath said. 

Some connect the death of the fashion cycle to the fast fashion industry. The lack of sustainability in fashion creates a cycle of decade trends spinning faster than ever before. Brands that follow the patterns of micro-trends take from the most current aesthetics and quickly push them out to their consumers. The most popular styles hit these fast fashion sites, and are gone as soon as the trend is over. 

Not to mention, these trending designs  are often stolen from smaller brands and sold by larger companies at a lower price. Unfortunately, there is not much legal support for small companies, and bigger brands will continue to use these designs to keep up with current fads. 

The pressure to keep buying into these trends is a demand that is extremely unhealthy for the environment.  By quickly and sloppily producing replicas to match the fashion industry’s fast cycle, the resulting product is low quality and unsustainable. 

According to Mariel Nelson of Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production, “in 2019, 208 million pounds of waste were created by single-use outfits”. Nelson also noted that the textile industry is the second largest polluter in the world, after oil. 

Resorting to slow fashion practices would certainly slow down the trend cycle, and save our precious environment, which some companies are attempting to use these practices already. The question is whether such a large industry is ready to do so as well.

The “Slow Fashion” Movement works to create “manufacturing and selling processes that are eco, ethical, and green in one unified [phrase]. It’s a revolutionary approach in the fashion world because it encourages slowing down rather than speeding up production, to emphasize quality over quantity and ensure [a] thorough understanding of a product’s environmental and social impact,” according to Nadine Manson, founder of Bewildher, a slow fashion company. 

As the cycle becomes less rigid, perhaps these slow fashion companies will aid the influencers of today to adopt a more environmentally friendly style. All it takes is one highly regarded influencer or celebrity to start a new trend, and maybe this time for the better. 

Although it is likely to never end, as trends always come back, by adopting a personal style and choosing timeless pieces, wardrobes can escape the fashion trend cycle and its downfalls. Those choices may diminish the importance of trends, and allow everyone to enjoy their own unique fashion choices, as it is meant to be.   

Jenna Piotrowicz is a senior majoring in professional and public writing, aspiring to be a writer or editor in her future. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies, TV shows and working on her own screenplays, hoping to create the next big feature film.