What Is A Micro-Trend And How Can It Affect Fashion Sustainability?

Throughout history, fashion trends have come and gone. The '80s were known for shoulder pads and neon, the '90s for its Kurt Cobain-inspired grunge aesthetic, and the 2000s for lowrise jeans, Livestrong bracelets, and Juicy Couture tracksuits. Fashion trends have the power to define decades — what would the '20s be without flapper dresses, or the '70s without bell-bottom jeans and tie-dye?

Following trends can be a fun way to participate in fashion. The way you dress can make you feel more confident and can help you express yourself and shape your identity. But, the advent of fast fashion has changed the fashion industry. Trends, which once lasted for five to 10 years, are being replaced by micro-trends, whose popularity is more ephemeral.

The fashion cycle of a micro-trend is considered to be three to five years, but some — Kanye-inspired "shutter shades" and clear purses, anyone? — boom in popularity and are outdated by the end of the season. Not only is this cycle detrimental to your wallet, to shell out cash on trends that you can only wear for a few months, but it's also terrible for the environment.

Fast fashion is an environmental nightmare

Before the rise of fast fashion in the early '90s, Americans had much less clothing — but the clothes they did have were sturdy, well-constructed, and designed to last. The shifting fashion industry traded quality for quantity: clothing was sewn quicker (which is where the term fast fashion comes from) and imported from countries where labor was cheaper. Exploitative labor practices, lower-quality materials, and less attention to details like seams and buttonholes led to cheap clothing that was generated rapidly and wasn't meant to last (via The Well Essentials).

Micro-trends emerged from this rapid-fire fashion cycle. They come and go quickly, and are usually cheap to purchase, so they're meant to be thrown out when their stylishness has expired. Micro-trends are making fast fashion even faster, which accelerates the wastefulness of the fashion industry.

An enormous amount of energy and material goes into making each and every garment. Textiles must be manufactured and dyed to create garments, and the dyeing process often results in harmful chemicals being released into rivers and oceans (via Forbes). And the hidden cost of two-day shipping is massive carbon emissions from the transport of clothing — 10% of all carbon emissions globally is from the fashion industry (via The World Bank).