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  • Wanique Block

Is the fashion industry in its #TikTok era?

Updated: May 24

Navigating the Maze of Micro-Trends: Finding Your Personal Style in the Age of TikTok


Photo: @thisismazelle

Have you ever looked at your closet and dreadfully wondered ‘What the fuck am I going to wear?’, or perhaps the thought of finding your personal style feels a tad bit overwhelming?


Well...you’re not alone.


Since the rise of Tik-Tok in 2019, the dissemination of micro “core” trends and aesthetics has overstimulated the fashion industry. From the Clean Girl aesthetic and Barbie Core to Quiet Luxury and the Coquette aesthetic...  oh and let’s not forget how the Mob Wife aesthetic caused the girlies to tussle. Point is, the influx of micro-trends and aesthetics we’re noticing and experiencing in real-time right now, and in our algorithm is dominating every facet of the fashion industry and in turn hindering our ability to not only explore our individualism but hindering our creativity.


Images via Instagram (@abby.silverman)


CORE TRENDS AND PERSONAL STYLE


Core trends are micro trends that are short lived fashion fads that are influenced by social media, popular culture, magazines and fashion runways. Predating the era of Tik Tok and Instagram, micro trends are reliant on specific details and factors like colour, silhouettes or styles.


Let’s take the Barbie Core aesthetic for instance, a micro trend pioneered by the iconic Mattel Barbie doll’s all pink aesthetic. Despite being at the forefront of many trends for multiple generations, the Barbie Core aesthetic rapidly saturated following the release of Greta Gerwig’s 2023 feminist depiction of the Barbie film. As a result fashion designers, stylists and consumers across the world emulated and embraced Barbie’s iconic bold hyper pink style.




Similarly, the Quiet Luxury aesthetic is influenced by specific colour palettes, textures and silhouettes. Fuelled and amplified by Sophia Richie Grainge’s wedding, Quiet Luxury has placed emphasis on minimalism, where trench coats, loafers, tailored trousers, silks, cashmere's and neutral colours are some of the staples that are flaunted by many disciples of the trend.


Images via Instagram (@sofiarichiegrainge)


Contrary to what Core Trends personify, Personal Style is simply defined as the expression of one's individuality through fashion and beauty. Khensani Mohlatlole, a South African fashion commentator and designer, defines "personal style" as "the culmination of a person - your nationality, your culture, your values and beliefs, and the experiences you've gathered, brought together visually under the guiding idea of how you would like to be perceived by the world. It's both a social and intrapersonal act".


"Personal style is important because it's one of the visual aspects to identity formation. I think that figuring out your personal style, even if it's not "technically" good or original, reveals an understanding and sense of self", Khensani further tells NIGHTSTAND SERVICE.


ARE MICRO TRENDS AND AESTHETICS ARE DESTROYING THE FASHION INDUSTRY?


As previously mentioned trends are not new. In fact, when it comes to the fashion industry in particular, certain styles and trends from specific era’s are often expected to make a comeback. We’ve seen this with how fashion items like bomber jackets, slip dresses, overalls, faux fur coats and baggy jeans from the 90s have made an everlasting comeback. 


The fashion industry at large is a cycle engulfed in nostalgia. Before social media apps like Tumblr, Instagram, Tik-Tok and Pinterest were used as moodboards for outfit inspo, styles in fashion - typically repeated every 20 years. With the 20-year-rule, popular styles and aesthetics from a specific time periods would go from being trendy to being average, before becoming outdated again, and so the cycle continued, all within a span of two decades. 


Despite this, the duration and cycles of trends have changed drastically. The popularisation of Tik-Tok in fashion as we know it now has been focused on virality and engagement. Since then, we’ve seen how various trends like the Y2K era, 90s era and the 2010 Tumblr era, have all been resurrected in a span of five years, which is kinda worrying if you ask me. Presently, as a result of the instant access to information and products we get through social media, trends and aesthetics only last for a few weeks or months before going out of style again. Completely evading the 20-year-rule.


Images via Instagram (@sister_party and @taff_murda_)


Despite previously sharing the importance of personal style, Khensani Mohlatlole also shares how many of us may be exhausted by "the quickening of the trend cycle". Khensani, who is also a historical fashion enthusiast feels like there may be too much personal style, and insists that "we're clinging to every last bit of individuality that we can". She continues: "In our desire to differentiate ourselves from the mass, we've clung symbols as opposed to action. For example, most Zoomers will probably never be able to afford a house the way our parents did but dressing quiet luxury affords us the chance to cosplay that reality. We also are so inundated with media that we don't often have time to self-reflect so we replicate the personal style of people who are often much older, experienced celebrities like Fran Liebowitz or so".


While the recycling of fashion trends is often expected, the unhealthy obsession and participation in core trends not only affects notions around personal style but it also affects fashion consumption, particularly contributing to over-consumption and exacerbates environmental issues caused by the fast fashion industry and capitalism. With too many trends and aesthetics being thrown around many consumers are compelled to participate in seasonal trends by purchasing more clothing items that are otherwise deemed as trendy, according to Tik-Tok standards anyway, thus (as mentioned before) leading to over-consumption, which if you're not aware is unethical and unsustainable.


WHERE DO WE DRAW THE LINE BETWEEN WHAT’S TRENDY AND PERSONAL STYLE?


Finding your personal style is not linear, in fact it is an ongoing journey of constant evolving, learning, unlearning but most importantly finding comfort with what works for you. Personal style to me is about uniqueness, self expression and being unapologetically yourself. 


Supporting this notion, fashion lecturer at STADIO- the school of fashion, Merie Sutherland tells NIGHTSTAND SERVICE that "the addiction to fast fashion social media can be countered by staying true to yourself" and thus experimenting with your personal style.


Merie who is also a trend analyst, also shared how "imperative" it is to understand that fashion trends are reflective of the personal styles and preferences that are adopted by fashion followers.

"Fashion trends take inspiration from consumers’ personal style but also inspires the development of maturing personal styles. Therefore, what is trendy and personal style is different in the sense that personal style is a driver of what becomes ‘trendy’.


Sutherland continues; "Fashion trends are being adopted based on key items and individualised by combining different colour and style combinations representing an element of authenticity and craftsmanship which speaks to the essence of personal style. Personal style therefore creates a podium for self-expression, individuality and inclusivity".


Similarly, Khensani Mohlatlole adds that trends and personal style aren't mutually exclusive, describing it as the action of "paraphrasing a High School essay. "I think of trends as 'the language'; the actual words, grammar and personal style as the way you specifically pronounce, inflect and intonate. When you have personal style, you can adapt a trend to your tastes and needs as opposed to copying it exactly. It's like paraphrasing for a High School essay".


After speaking to both Khensani and Merie , the one thing I realised is that trends and aesthetics are here to stay, well at least for now. And as it stands now, the fashion industry as we know it is quite literally in its #TikTok Era, driven by nostalgia, virality and newness in certain cases. However, despite this, it does not mean that you shouldn't be cautious or turn a blind eye to the ongoing effects of micro trends and aesthetics in fashion. Now more than ever is a great time to not only use your discernment, but to be intentional about the type of fashion choices you make going forth. How do you do this? Figure out the "Why?". In her quest to help her followers figure out their personal style, Tik Toker Morenike Ajayi placed emphasis on dissecting one's desires when it comes to personal style. According to Morenike's Tik Tok video, to "dissect your desire" means to figure out the "why", asking yourself why you are drawn to certain styles, colours, silhouettes and design processes.


Personal style is an on going journey, so as you try and figure out your personal style, don't forget to figure out your "why" and if that's not your vibe, well then I guess, do you boo boo!





Are you passionate about exploring the intricate worlds of beauty, sex, fashion, wellness, and culture? Do you belong to a marginalized community and have unique perspectives and stories to share? If so, Nightstand Service is eagerly seeking contributing writers like you! Get in touch: info@nightstandservice.com


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