TikTok Influencers Promote Overconsumption of Fast Fashion

by Vins

It’s no secret that TikTok trends and influencers are shaping fashion, but users’ feeds are being flooded with “microtrends” and marketing techniques that promote overconsumption and the fast fashion industry, Nurayn Kahn reported for the Harvard Political Review in August 2023. Influencer culture, Kahn wrote, has “normalized a mindset of overconsumption” and allowed fast fashion conglomerates to profit from “faster trend cycles… often at the expense of the environment and low-paid workers.”

Trend cycles have shortened by half, and TikTok is constantly running through microtrends, described as single items of clothing or beauty products that peak quickly. Shortened trend cycles have distorted consumer mindsets into accepting impulse buying and overconsumption over individual style. In turn, fast fashion giants have boosted production even as they shorten timelines and slash costs.

On social media, influencers are everyday people who have gained an online following for the content they post, with followers connecting based on individuality and occupation of a specific niche. Social media influencers have become a prime marketing tool for companies, as paid advertisements and affiliate links can connect products directly to their target audience through the influencer.

Unfortunately, in trying to keep up with the rapid trend cycles, consumers turn to cheaper fashion brands. One of the most popular is the online clothing brand Shein, based in China. They are known for their extremely low prices and constant production of new items, which are only possible through their unsafe working conditions, underpaid employees, and unethical production methods. The brand works with a range of influencers who promote the company through massive hauls of clothing and offering discount codes, further encouraging their followers to over-consume from a brand that is widely known to be unethical.

Corporate media coverage—including reports by Forbes, CNN, and FOX Business—seems more focused on the rise of “deinfluencers,” social-media users who argue against making needless purchases. While this is a welcome anti-capitalist trend, the corporate focus on exceptions, rather than the rule, distracts from the long-term changes being made to the consumer mindset in favor of low-quality, unsustainable products.

Source: Nurayn Kahn, “The Influencer Revolution: Increased Accessibility & Super Fast Fashion,” Harvard Political Review, August 27, 2023.

Student Researcher: Jessica Griffin (Frostburg State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)