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Clocking up clicks: a new fashion era is here. It’s called ...

Lifestyle

Clocking up clicks: a new fashion era is here. It’s called TikTok Couture

Fast fashion is all the rage and it seems nothing does it faster than the social media platform

Journalist
Starting with 15-second videos, TikTok users were able to connect using hashtags and could create fame within the app’s community, giving smaller subcultures the space to express themselves.
VIRAL VIRILITY Starting with 15-second videos, TikTok users were able to connect using hashtags and could create fame within the app’s community, giving smaller subcultures the space to express themselves.
Image: 123RF/vichie81

In the 1920s, after the suffragettes starting fighting for women’s rights, skirts became shorter. In the 1960s the youth revolution rose when the UK became a pop-culture hotspot. In the recession of the late 2000s, when fashion sought to become glamorous, we were immersed in bling.

Fashion has never been frivolous. It reacts to the times, with today’s trends propelled by social media. More specifically TikTok.

At a time when social media is flooded with image-based platforms, creators are noticing a gap in video-sharing platforms. In the early 2010s this market was dominated by Dubsmash and Vine, whose users uploaded lip-synced videos and six-second skits.

In 2014 Musical.ly joined the fray, but couldn’t dominate because giants such as Snapchat, with young creatives in fields including fashion, led with their volumes of users. In the year Musical.ly was founded, Snapchat had 186-million viewers, the highest ever on the platform.

However, a huge shift would come for Musical.ly when the Chinese company ByteDance merged the app with its platform, Douyin, becoming TikTok. By September 2018 TikTok led the social media race with a billion downloads, surpassing staples such as YouTube, Instagram and now-declining Snapchat.

TikTok’s advantage was that it was built with the intention of going viral more quickly than most apps. Starting with 15-second videos, users were able to connect using hashtags (much like Instagram) and could create fame within the app’s community (much like YouTube), giving smaller subcultures the space to express themselves (as with Twitter).

A number of things happened on the app as it rose to prominence. Some young users used it to communicate about difficult issues that were often ignored. In the heart of lockdown two years later, youngsters used the app to create study groups. The compression of information saw users enlightening others and creating “how-to” trends that now dominate.

This did not exclude those interested in fashion, who wanted to demonstrate their knowledge of different subcultures and how well they could imitate trends.

As a result, bigger trends were broken down and quickly emulated. A fascination with the 1990s or 2000s was easily replicated in one video rather than over a number of years, taking the resurgence of a trend to a week.

Soon enough, thrift stores or fast-fashion e-tailers such as Shein became popular choices for the app’s users as they allowed them to imitate trends more quickly and inexpensively.

According to Vox, all th aesthetics, trends and fads have become TikTok Couture, a catchall term for the fashion movements people follow on the platform.

Unlike regular trends or high fashion as we know it, TikTok Couture unveils those outside the 20-year returning trends cycle — it only takes a few viral videos for microtrends to appear and much like seasonal fads, it can take weeks or months for them to die out.

But as with every social group, you had to earn your seat at this cool kids’ table. Those who couldn’t keep up with the ever-evolving trends and over-consumption of TikTok were called “cheugy”, a term also attached to millennials on the platform.

Yahoo’s In the Know found that when TikTokers criticised millennials’ obsession with skinny jeans, it resulted in a decline in the purchase of the 2010s staple.

Even though the majority of TikTik Couture creators have often been wrong when forecasting trends on and off the app, their opinions on what’s happening now are trusted, to the point that many dependable names in fashion, such as Luke Meagher or Lily Fang, have used large platforms to remind trend lovers of the dangers of trends.

While cancel culture was one way of pushing brands to be more inclusive, being called out by TikTok Couture has more impact than being criticised by fashion’s pope, Anna Wintour.

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