The latest news sweeping the fashion media revolves around the general consensus that Gen Zs have cast down the proverbial gauntlet and decried a favorite item from millennial closets. Fitted pants with a slim ankle opening made of a stretchier material than conventional denim have long been a “dress it up or down” staple. Now, at least according to news outlets such as Buzzfeed, Refinery29, Cosmopolitan, etc., this trend has died an inglorious death and must be laid quietly to rest.
Skinny jeans are far from the only trend to cycle abruptly out of existence. This is the cyclical nature of the fashion industry. The jeans we mocked our parents for wearing are now cool. Fast fashion drives these trends with the intention to artificially create demand, encouraging people to dispose of clothing from one season to another and purchase new, trendy items. My mother is a person who loathes shopping for clothes, and has always told me that if you hold onto something long enough, it will become fashionable again. I think I can take this sage maternal sentiment one step farther: if you like a piece of clothing, wear it as long as you want to, make the repairs or modifications you can, and when it no longer fits or works for you, donate it or fiber recycle it.
Tragically, the fashion industry is one of the most wasteful and ecologically damaging. The impacts of this pollution are most acutely felt by members of marginalized communities who frequently have the most direct contact with contaminated air, water, soil, and food. To lay out a few sobering statistics, the clothing industry contributes to a global 13 millions tons of textile waste each year. As an industry, fashion produces approximately 10% of the world’s CO2 emissions, while consuming and polluting water at a high rate. The average consumer throws away a stunning 70 pounds of clothing a year. To replenish their closets, consumers purchase an increasing quantity of clothes. Between 2000 and 2014, the number of garments purchased annually rose 60%. This demand drives increased production, which in turn has devastating environmental impacts. The fast fashion industry built and continues to perpetuate this destructive cycle.
When a trend “dies” advertisements and marketing encourage consumers to throw away the passé clothing and purchase the newest look. In this way, individuals reach that alarming 70 pounds of annual textile waste. Purchasing new wardrobe staples regularly poses a significant financial hurdle. As such, only those with a certain level of discretionary income can follow trends. Classist bias manifests in any statement which declares otherwise functional clothing over. Beneath any trend runs the inherent assumption that consumers have the time and money to discard and replace clothes which are no longer in vogue. Despite the cyclical nature of trends, there is a dominant message that you can’t shop for trendy pieces in thrift stores. And within that lies the most damaging assumption – that the freshest fashion must come from the companies which can churn new pieces out the fastest, most often without regard for the human and environmental toll of their practices.
Trend driven fashion reduces the importance of personal taste. Individuals relinquish their own sense of what makes them feel good in their bodies to meet the standards which the fashion industries advertise to them. In the world of social media and influencers, ads have become increasingly insidious. They suggest a lifestyle associated with certain garment choices. Rather than playing with color, texture, and shape, finding what we enjoy putting on our bodies, we find restricted and ever changing codes for dress established through advertising. Clothing can be a source of whimsy, joy, and individual expression. Polished images of typically privileged influencers invalidates this means of individual expression, reinforcing instead a limited concept of mainstream fashion choices.
Even though we’ve established that trends don’t “die”, of course it’s fun to shake up your style and try something new. Allowing your taste and style to evolve doesn’t have to mean supporting fast fashion and corporate giants. Check out your local thrift stores and come see us at Thrift 2 Fight’s pop-up thrift sale tour! We have tons of pants in all shapes, sizes, and styles, ready to fit you and your personal style.
Proclaiming the death of the style, color, cut, or other category of clothing reflects a classist and environmentally destructive fallacy perpetuated by the fast fashion clothing industry. Even if you have the means to follow trends, the social and ecological impact of treating clothing as disposable poses a significant issue. Embrace what brings you joy, allow clothing to become a means of expression, and wear whatever you want! Shop secondhand when you can, hold onto things you love, and let your own taste be your guide in deciding which pieces of cloth to put on your body.
Eleni Georgiadis is a classically trained horn player currently residing in Kentucky. Outside of music, she enjoys knitting, sewing, composting, kombucha brewing, and spending time outdoors. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to share her thoughts about sustainability and inclusivity in fashion, weaving together her technical knowledge, passion, and research.