Style in the Age of Instagram and Fast Fashion
By Sonia Kovacevic
Each day you dress yourself is an opportunity to embrace your individuality and tell a story about who you are. This can be used to reflect priorities such as self-expression, functionality or art. More often than not, I see people dressed in a ‘fashion uniform’ – to be noticed, but not stand out. Which got me thinking about what personal style means in 2018. Is it dead? Serious question.
Albeit the similarity between the words ‘style’ and ‘stylish’, there is a significant difference that people often overlook. Style is an alluring distinction in the way someone is dressed, coupled with a flair of personality. This is different to simply being stylish, which has more emphasis on sophistication and being fashionably ‘on-trend’.
A study last year surmised that the average user will spend five years of their life on social media. It allocated 15 minutes a day for users of Instagram. Some millennials would argue this is little on the short side, but even so, 15 minutes of consistent scrolling is a long time.
The value offering of Instagram and most other social media platforms is the ability to is share real life updates in real time. With the rise of influencers and brands that have an online presence, the idea of ‘real time’ is blurred with thought out marketing through endorsements for content, leaving us with not true representations, but highly curated business strategies. While it is no secret that for these Insta-famous millennial personalities and celebrities, each post is a precious commodity, the victims of the scrolling generation subconsciously succumb to buying pieces they don’t actually need or personally connect with.
A great example is last month’s ‘it’ dress from Zara, which divided the internet due to it being objectively unappealing and rose to popularity just five days after its release through being seen on various influencers. With monumental budgets and social reach, these fast fashion brands create ‘trendy’ uniforms produced on mass scale and remove us from the realm of individuality and personal style. After Kylie Jenner’s 21st birthday, Fashion Nova produced rip-off’s that Kylie and her sister Kim wore to her party in under 24 hours that sold out immediately. This expeditious rate of recreation and imitation is disturbing to say the least.
The Cut describes Fashion Nova as a brand “made for social media: meant to be worn once, maybe twice, photographed and discarded”. It’s not the only one. A recent UK survey also found that “one in ten shoppers admits to buying clothes to post photos on social media and then returning them”. Various algorithms coupled with sponsored content, expose us to images that are ultimately diminishing our creativity, connections and choices.
Now Instagram in itself isn’t bad. It is a great platform for self-expression and has opened up a democratic voice for not only the Fashion world, allowing smaller and more independent brands to have a voice, as well as individuals like you and I. Though scrolling can be a mindless action, being conscious of your feed and aware of what content you are drawn to and why. Couple this with some inspiration beyond the screen. Old school. By that, I don’t just mean flicking through high-end editorials, where most of what we see is out of our reach, but leaves an impression allowing us to be slightly more creative in our outfit choices. I mean real life. Look up when you are walking to your next destination or waiting for public transport etcetera. There are a plethora of colors, textures, materials and images that surround us – both in nature and the momentum of the world, which we have the opportunity to draw inspiration from.
A question to reflect on is who are you really dressing for? Aligning to stereotypes or trends for a sense of belonging or social recognition is not fulfilling those desires on a deeper level and will leave one forever searching for answers in the external world. It not only confuses your sense of identity but diminishes a connection and relationship with clothing as a form of self-expression made to be worn with love and longevity. It seems we have abandoned trust in ourselves to honor both our quirks and simplicities.
There is no doubt that social media offers an opportunity to have a voice. In the fashion world, creativity and individuality hold high regard, but it seems most of us have forgotten that. Next time you are drawn to a piece of clothing, ask why? Personal style is an opportunity to tell your story, so lets start thinking from the heart before we label it dead.