Permanently Cheugy: Are micro-trends killing fashion?

Two women in niche-fashion jackets. | Newsreel
Mob wife is one of the many popular micro-trends taking over fashion. | Photo: Cocomtr

By Susan Schwartz

Fashion’s hyper drive is in danger of creating its own black hole.

Micro-trends are rising at such a rapid rate that ultimately fashion runs the risk of folding in on itself – of no one being on trend (gasp).

Trends that once lasted a couple of decades are now lucky to last a few months.

Are we all about to become permanently cheugy (the opposite of trendy)?

Traditionally, trend cycles have lasted 20 years and operated in five stages:

  • the runway launch (usually at fashion week but now sometimes niche brands going viral)
  • rise in popularity (worn by early adopters or hardcore fashionistas)
  • peak height of popularity (sold out, or on resale sites for triple the price)
  • decline (so mainstream by now everyone is starting to get sick of it)
  • and obsolete (discarded to the back of the cupboard for fear of being seen until the trend re-emerges decades later).

For example, think of the late 1990s-early 2000s trends like low-rise jeans, slip dresses, and ballet flats which have all re-entered the fashion zeitgeist of late.

Contrast that with last year when we had (in no particular order) Ballet core, Coquette, Mob Wife, Barbie Core, Coastal Cowgirl, Blokette, Old Money, Stealth Wealth, Quiet Luxury, Bimbocore, Vanilla Girl, and Tomato Girl. I’m sure I’ve missed others.

It’s social media’s fault. An insatiable diet for clicks and likes has given rise to fast content which has spawned fast fashion on speed.

And that’s where bad-ass fashion sites like Shein, Temu and AliExpress come in. The cheapest replica versions you can imagine cater for those without the budgets to buy the real deal. Those who argue fashion is unsustainable say that all hope is lost and consumption runs riot at this point.

But will it? The fact that many of these micro-trends are not new – many have been here before – means that it’s also easy to shop vintage or second-hand and still pop an Old Money or Mob Wife vibe.

There is also the argument that micro-trends squash individuality. But it could conversely be argued that micro-trends encourage people to experiment and find their own personal style. There are so many choices out there. Knowing what to adapt and what to ignore is where the real skill lies.

So, if things start to move too fast everyone can just go to the black hole in the back of their cupboards to “shop”. And if no one can keep up with fashion, that means everyone slows down and we can all just get cheugy with it.

Susan Schwartz is a former international fashion editor and has studied fashion and merchandising. She has her own Australian-made sleepwear label Status Quan.