By Emma Robinson, Co-Editor-In-Chief
Social media influencers and internet culture have created an insatiable demand for a constant flow of new trends at low prices for students in the U.S., and that includes Post. Fast fashion websites such as SHEIN and ZAFUL have made clothing trends cycle so quickly that traditional retail stores, such as Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters, have difficulty restocking their inventory to meet consumer demands before a new trend goes viral.
“Fast fashion is basically trends that go in and out very quickly,” senior business major Alina Chen said. “In the past, we would describe it as fads. But [now], mass manufacturing has made fast fashion so common that it has basically become a staple in people’s closets.”
Sophomore business major at Nassau Community College, Lauren Mehta, thinks that clout culture is the cause of these quick fashion cycles.
“Clout culture runs social media and it also goes hand-in-hand with fashion, causing all of the new trends to fade in and out of style so quickly … Everybody wants to have the coolest, newest, most unique thing to attract attention and praise. So once an outfit is posted [online], it feels old and unusable because it’s no longer unique,” she said.
Mehta frequently sees fashion inspiration and clothing hauls on popular social media apps such as Pinterest and TikTok, and she can’t help but feel the urge to buy new clothing.
“Unfortunately, I do get the itch to shop like every day, but when I do I always end up buying a majority of my clothes second-hand or from thrift stores,” Mehta said. “My closet is very large, so a lot of the stuff I own only gets worn a few times in a single year. After two years with the article of clothing, it starts to feel old.”
Chen believes that while social media is a key influence in so many people buying fast fashion items, it also gives students the opportunity to express themselves and their individuality.
“If you think back even just 10 years ago to 2011, or even 20 years ago to the early 2000s, you see that whatever was in [style] was what everyone would wear. And that was it. If you had your own sense of style, it was considered weird by most other people,” Chen said. “But nowadays, you see people wearing whatever they want and being embraced by society. You won’t be judged for it.”
While some fashion-followers might still look down on others for not keeping up with new trends, Chen advises people to wear what they love despite what’s in style.
“Fashion is a statement of who you are. If the people around you aren’t supporting you to express your most authentic self and pressuring you to just fit in, you should reevaluate who you surround yourself with,” she said.
Chen advises students to cultivate their personal style by considering how much they love their clothing, and how many times they will wear it.
“One of the reasons that I love fashion and am pursuing it [as a career], is because of the way that it makes people feel. You can be having a really bad day, but if you look really good, and you feel really good… It’s going to make your day better,” Chen said. “It’s all subjective to your personal taste. What matters is that what you’re wearing makes you happy. When you’re shopping, you need to buy what sparks joy. If you don’t love it in the dressing room, you won’t love it after you’ve worn it a few times.”
Because of the large influence that celebrities and social media personalities have, Chen warns that students may forget that it’s a celebrity’s job to sell their lifestyle online.
“I think that people follow influencers that they feel they connect with, and they feel like they relate to on some level. Most of the time, that includes relating to their style … But a lot of the time, celebrities are just being paid to promote their clothing. Like Kylie Jenner, do you like what she’s wearing and want to wear the clothing too, or do you just like her?” Chen said.
Another influence on individual style preferences is family members and friends. College students often determine what looks they want to replicate by seeing what their friends are buying and wearing.
“When it comes down to my style, I am most influenced by my environment. Like, when I go to class I probably dress more business casual than other students in different majors. And my mom is a businesswoman, so growing up, I always saw her dressed that way,” Chen said.
Sorority culture can also prompt members to buy new outfits in accordance with recruitment and themed parties.
“Wearing the same thing over and over again won’t always spark joy for you. And realistically, when you’re participating in all of these events and buying new clothes, you need to think about what you will wear again because some girls don’t. Sometimes, I buy a shirt from somewhere like Forever 21, and I only wear it for like Bid Day or something.”
While society often pressures people to keep up with the latest trends, a sustainability movement has blossomed over the past decade, specifically for Generation Z. Frequenting consignment and thrift stores is the most cost-efficient, but time-consuming way to shop more ethically.
“I think sustainability is one of the most important things to think about when shopping,” Mehta said. “The fashion industry is one of the leading causes of climate change, and I think it’s crazy to keep buying new clothes that have such an impact on the environment if old clothes work just as well and have less of an impact. When I was younger I would buy hauls of clothes at the start of school season and on Black Friday, but as I have become more environmentally conscious, I only truly buy what I need.”
While it’s important to students to express themselves through fashion, effects on the environment due to the fast fashion industry are dangerous.
“I learned a lot about fast fashion and sustainability in a fashion merchandising class at Post,” Chen said. “For example, making denim has a detrimental effect on the environment. Is this cute skirt really worth the depletion of our ocean? Entire communities are affected by the pollution caused by the fast fashion industry … Know that your money has power. What you support matters.”