The Tyranny of Trends

Where does your clothing go when it's not needed anymore?

Every second, a truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill. Every year, 92 million tonnes of fast fashion items are thrown away. Every year, 79 trillion litres of water is consumed by the fashion industry. Consequently, every year, more than $500 billion of value is lost due to clothing underutilisation.

These were just a few of the many facts illustrating the case of ‘TYRANNY OF TRENDS’.

With new trends taking over the market everyday, fast fashion is blooming like never before, leading to excessive carbon emissions, imprudent waste generation, giving birth to a new water crisis and to top it all, the lack of recycling is worsening the existing situation of climate change.

It is imperative for the world to know that it takes more than just a piece of cloth and a few designers to design the trendsetting high-on-bling clothes that influencers wear, the head-turning long trails that brides want to wear or the gorgeous Italian-cut tuxedos that men wish to wear. The essence of sustainability lies in finding plausible alternatives to the existing resources being used because soon there will be a time when we won’t be left with any. It’s high time that we buckle up and start working in the direction to find new resources in order to keep the existing ones available for generations to come.

Before we wrap our heads around finding implementable solutions to the problem of fast fashion, let’s get into the nitty gritties of the concept of fast fashion. As a consequence of the fickle trends, which seem to change while you are reading this article, there exists a never ending demand for affordable, high-in-fashion garments to fulfil the quest of the masses to be in-trend. Which in turn compels and gives fashion brands and garment manufacturers a new avenue to mint money by producing cheap, in-trend fashion to keep up with the demand.

Fast fashion is a by-product of trends, so let's take a look at how this frenzy around trends is created? Saying that trends come and go like seasons would be wrong in this day and age as these trends are way more volatile to be able to stay for a full season. The real question is how are these trends set in the first place, compelling people to be in trend all the time. The following are a few ways in which trends are introduced to the world:

  • Runway Trends - Many-a-times certain runway looks created by designers catch the eyes of people and the next thing we know is every other brand starts incorporating those elements in their collection to be able to fill their pockets by pushing trends and fast fashion forward.
  • Celebrities - Trends are fuelled by celebrities the minute they are spotted wearing something which no one has seen before. People who idolise celebrities are always on a hunt for similar pieces eventually paving a way for a new trend to enter. 
  • Social media and influencers -  The impact social media has on one’s life is immense so much so that everyone wants to follow and replicate the well-fabricated lives portrayed by influencers on their well-curated handles. To top it all, designers and brands approach influencers just as they approach celebrities to make new trends enter the market.

The main problem which fast fashion brings with itself is the problem of disposal. Once a piece of clothing goes out of trend, both the consumers and the fashion labels do not think twice before dumping huge heaps of clothes which no longer continues to quench their thirst for trends so much so that every second, enough clothes to fill a garbage truck full are either burned or sent to a landfill. Extortion of environmental resources, excessive waste generation, carbon emissions are all consequences of a choice that we have opted for, a choice to simply wear clothes for a shorter span of time.

All the aforementioned heinous consequences of fast fashion pose one question to mankind, should we stop buying clothes at all? The answer is NO! You can still stand out and manage to be a trendsetter just by being a little mindful of your actions and choices. 

The most efficient way of tackling the problem at hand is by adopting sustainable fashion in order to achieve a circular fashion economy. 

Circular fashion economy proposes a progressive system of circulating a piece of clothing in the economy till the time its maximum value gets exhausted and the cycle is completed by safely disposing off the no-longer-in-use piece back to the environment. 

Sustainability is a two-way stream, brands and consumers are the two main players who can pave the way for circular and sustainable fashion. Before looking at how long is the road ahead, let’s see how far we have come on this long journey of achieving sustainability in its true sense. On the manufacturer’s side we have brands like H&M, which is now planning to deviate from the well-trodden path of fast fashion to reduce their environmental footprint by introducing sustainable collections made of organic cotton and recycled polyester. 

As a brand which has now stepped up its game in circular fashion by accepting and recycling unwanted garments from customers, H&M has set a benchmark for brands in the similar line. Levi’s, on the other hand, has been trying to reduce the notorious amounts of water required to make a pair of jeans by 96% which is a huge step towards making judicial use of existing resources. Like H&M and Levi’s there are many more brands which are working in the same direction but there is still a lot to be done. On the other hand, consumers of fashion can adopt the following steps with a motive to convert their vision for the fashion industry into reality:

  • Keep and wear the clothes for a longer span of time.
  • Think twice before dumping clothes which no longer please you. Instead, upcycle, alter, repair or donate them. 
  • Buy sustainable fashion, go for upcycled, thrifted pieces.

The bigger question is, can sustainability and profitability ever go hand-in-hand? It’s the demand which can make or break a brand’s fate. With more and more consumers becoming environmentally conscious, the demand for sustainable fashion has hiked up over the course of the years, which has led to brands supplying more and more sustainable garments. 

Aware and conscious customers, especially Gen Z and millennials are ready to buy sustainable clothing even if they have to shell out more money for it, which makes it profitable for brands to go sustainable. And the ones whose pockets are holding them back from supporting the cause, they tend to take another route by turning to thrift stores which are sustainable and pocket friendly too. 

These small measures are just a few steps on the ladder towards achieving our goal of a sustainable and circular fashion economy which is all about covering one full circle from growing, designing, wearing, thrifting to finally passing the cloth to the biosphere by safely composting it.


Khushboo Agrawal

An undergraduate student majoring in commerce and minoring in doodling. K is on her way to convert can'ts into cans and dreams into plans.

The Pangean does not condemn or condone any of the views of its contributors. It only gives them the space to think and write without hindrance.