Claire Hastings


New Consumerism and the Fashion Industry

We are creatures with a love for material things, preferably an abundance of them, and clothes are no exception. In them, we look for and see  the reflection of our ever-changing identity, which in turn creates the urge for constant adaptations in style choices, for the purpose of refining our self-expression and self-perception (Niinimäki, 2010) With the global financial crisis came an alternation in the minds of consumers – it forced us to think in and act on necessities as opposed to desires. At least to an extent, that is.

The factors that made a difference

In addition to the difficult state of the economy all over the world, the evolution of fashion and us, its consumers, has been affected by several other related events. Environmental challenges have also shaped the mind of the consumer to think about the wellbeing of the planet, and the long-lasting effects or need for instant (purchase) gratification.

Growing unemployment rates, decreasing living standards in many corners of the world, and the unveiling of the myriad of unethical practices across fashion’s supply chains all contributed to the altered mindset of the consumer.

In the name of planetary survival the need for slow fashion has given birth to a rising number of brands that prioritize durability over pure numbers, but consumers have yet to follow suit. Young shoppers in particular are still enticed to make purchase decisions that aren’t aligned with their environmental beliefs, as fast-changing trends remain the key factor in their choices (Joy, Sherry, Venkatesh, Wang & Chan, 2012).

While trends have yet to learn this unyielding attitude that doesn’t change with each season (both literally and figuratively), fashion as a whole industry has made tremendous progress in the right direction.

Ethical production trumps quantity, while lasting items on offer have become the primary focus of many old and new brand names such as PACT apparel or People Tree, who bind fine craftsmanship with sustainability. Add to that the creation of authentic pieces that have character and that are deeply relatable, and you have a winning recipe for fashion success in the 21st-century climate.

Organic and recycled thoughts

As opposed to the “throw away” culture that has reigned supreme for decades on end, we’re now witnessing the growth of recyclable and reusable as the new go-to for long-lasting fashion items. Sustainably harvested fabrics and materials are in the center of production, while skin-safe and durable options such as organic cotton are at the forefront of the industry, as well, and the cross of the two qualities makes for a brilliant asset for quality-oriented consumers. Recycling, on the other hand, has also gained in popularity, and brands are doing their best to encourage their consumers to recycle and repurpose as opposed to reject their garments. Campaigns that invite their loyal customers to give their items back for repair, as the outdoor gear brand Patagonia has the habit to do, are leading the way into a new fashion era of mindful shopping and wearing.

Brand success, however, still depends on more than just their sustainable footsteps, as consumers’ decisions are easily swayed by poor in-store attributes and high prices (Chan & Wong, 2012). Such inconsistencies have the power to increase the dissonance between the consumer's Earth-friendly attitudes and their final shopping choice – the latter may ultimately not reflect the former despite the ethical conundrum.

Fashion is no longer, if it ever was, as simple as “I need a pair of jeans, therefore, I’ll purchase the first one that fits”. But the digital rise has added a new layer of meaning to the consumerism game, and that is the notion of experience. We crave for our shopping endeavors to be deeply personal, crafted by brands to accommodate our needs, and the final product is only a fragment of the sale.

So, instead of mindlessly buying, we’d rather opt for just one item, the one that epitomizes an experience. Convenience, availability, uniqueness and the shopping environment are several influential ingredients in this equation, so thrift stores, second-hand and vintage stores along with the DIY movement have experienced a wave of revival and greater interest. They all fit with the modern consumers’ need for clothing as practical items and a desire for fashion as an expression of their authentic, personal style (Reiley & DeLong, 2011).

In this environment, spurred with movement from both the consumer and the designer end, fashion has the potential to change the future of consumerism on a more profound, emotional basis, and with longevity paired with style at the center of this struggle.

Why Is Fashion Such a Big Deal for Millennials?

The fact that members of the millennial generation are the absolute rulers of the fashion world is, by now, a well-known one. However, the reasons behind this need to always be on top of the style game are still left for exploration and examination. This is precisely the question that we’ll be answering today. In a world where the vast majority of Baby Boomers are investing in health care and services, Gen X members in personal insurance and pensions, we’ll try to unveil the secret behind millennials’ preference to place apparel near the top of their list.

The pursuit of uniqueness

Image Source: Anton Dee on Unsplash

For millennials, there are very few things that can trump originality and authenticity, and fashion is one of the most evident, conspicuous manners in which to express oneself. With each new garment, each new outfit they’re telling the world who and how creative they are. This crave for authenticity has actually fostered quite a few changes in the fashion industry, the death of the logo being just one of them.

Yes, in order to cater to the needs of this generation, whose vast majority refuses to play the part of a walking advertisement, numerous companies have been forced to change and minimize their logos – case in point Abercrombie and Fitch who have removed the logo from their sweatshirts and tops altogether as well as Michael Kors who is one among many that have been forced to modify their designs aside from offering goods at a discounted price due to a dip in sales.

Easy access and value for money

Image Source: STIL on Unsplash

In the ‘olden days’ in order to shop, one would have to leave the house and browse numerous stores. Times have changed and now everyone can shop safely, especially the tech-savvy millennials who know everything there is to know about the world of online shopping. This again has had a huge impact on the way brands do business these days.

From cosmetics to apparel, brands are bending over backwards to connect with audiences, particularly through such platforms as Instagram, on which they showcase their latest products, not only directly, but through the endorsement of fashion bloggers as well as supermodels a lot of the times. More than that, knowing their target audience appreciates good value for money, the internet is also the place where brands give discounts and shopping deals.

Of course, online shopping also comes with the perk of checking in with peers and finding out whether a website is trustworthy and the goods worth the money; this generation is often accused of reckless spending, but this couldn’t be further from the truth as most millennials research and evaluate items to a great extent before purchasing. Finally, there is the sheer convenience of it – you don’t have to travel across the country (or the ocean) to get to your desired item.

This is particularly convenient for such countries as Australia, where online shopping has become a real lifesaver because, due to huge distances, physical shopping for most items would be a drag. So now, when amazing over shoulder bags are what one’s craving, a simple click of a few buttons will make them yours. With the ability to get to desired items without so much as a walk, and more often than not at a discounted price, what is there not to love about online shopping?

The future is green

Image Source: Bart Jaillet on Unsplash

While the fact that millennials appreciate good value for money, there are certain items they are definitely willing to spend extra on – sustainable offerings, at least according to a recent Nielsen global online study.  In terms of fashion, this means that most members of this generation will not shy away from splurging on items that are eco-friendly, made from durable and sustainable materials and manufactured by brands that foster fair trade and ethical practices. Although not exactly famous for brand loyalty (millennials will switch stores as soon as they get a better offer from another retailer), the study goes to show that they will stick with a brand if the brand in question ‘establishes a reputation for environmental stewardship’.

There is more than one reason for which fashion has become an essential component of a millennial’s persona, as we were able to depict here. Yes, they may be demanding and perhaps they have turned the world of fashion upside down, but mostly in a good way. After all, couldn’t we all stand to be a bit more unique, a lot more practical and whole lot more green?

Celebrating The Comeback

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind. ― Nathaniel Hawthorne

Recycling isn’t just good for the environment and for societal development, it holds huge potential for growth in the fashion arena too. Creativity is the driving engine and ultimate purpose of a designer’s work, but its expression isn’t limited to a steady stream of innovative styles. 

George B. Sproles in his study “Analysing Fashion Life Cycles - Principles and Perspectives”, stated that "Fashions evolve consistent with the theoretical product life cycle, having stages of introduction and adoption by fashion leaders, increasing public acceptance (growth), mass conformity (maturation) and the inevitable decline and obsolescence awaiting all fashions."
However, at times when muses of fashion design fall silent, many a creator will turn to history in search of ideas and reinvent clothing items which used to be hip in bygone decades or centuries. 

Recycled pieces of fashion history have a habit of going pop again almost over night every once in a while. Blame it on conformism or the limited scope of human skin in need of coverage, but it’s still there. Denim, white shirts, and LBDs are ageless, and we’ve seen them worn as part of countless getup combos over the past couple of decades. On the other hand, there are many era-specific clothing items we’d hardly expect to see on a 21st-century catwalk – and yet, designers at times fish out these fashion relics and successfully reintroduce them into the limelight in a slightly revamped guise. The desire to be unique while drawing on pieces with a universal appeal is the cornerstone of contemporary design, as we can see from the biggest trends that are currently shaking up the fashion tree.
Fashion trends are dictated by creators who aren’t afraid to experiment and draw on the lessons from the past.



A piece of 19th-century attire with a heavy historical undertone (Leona Epstein,, the choker was reinstated into top fashion tiers on multiple occasions. Nowadays, though, 21st-century chokers have none of the connotations the tight necklace might have had in the past.

Namely, in late 19th century, women who wore thin red or black ribbon chokers were regarded as ladies of loose morale, and back in the Depression era, accessories such as black woven close-fitting necklaces were tacitly interpreted as a secret endorsement of lesbianism. Back in 1900s, Queen Alexandra of Denmark brought back the glory to the chic choker: the queen allegedly wore broad collars to hide a small scar on her neck. 

These days, chokers are hip again, but their display has little to do with sexual preferences – or moral flimsy, for that matter. A byword for timeless elegance, the tight necklace makes a perfect finishing touch for a fancy dress, and it can also be incorporated into everyday wear or runway-style clothing combinations to equally laudable effects.


Denim is another piece of fashion history that’s been heavily used – and abused – by clothing designers pressed for inspiration. Originally used to make workwear for miners whose attire had to withstand lots of tough love, denim went wildly popular among rebellious youth thanks to James Dean and Marlon Brando, and it has been going strong across the globe ever since.

In late 20th century, the use of denim spread from pants to jackets and trench coats: everyone had at least indigo-colored overall in their closet, and head-to-toe denim outfits were a common sight in the ‘90s. 

Today, traditional denim jackets are back in vogue, along with distressed and ripped jeans, and both ladies and gents are extremely fond of the heavy-duty blue fabric, both in its unblemished and abused guise. We’ll probably be seeing more of good, old blue jeans in the years to come: after all, denim’s so hard-wearing that its popularity may take centuries to wear off.


Image Source: Elite Daily

Corsets are back in trend these days, but their use in getup mixes is now quite different than it used to be back when the clothing item made a loud entrance on the fashion scene (Drea Leed, The close-fitting bodice has been in use since the 16th century, but it was only in 1700s and 1800s that the stay became an inevitable component of a lady’s attire. Back in those days, corsets were worn as an undergarment whose purpose was to restrain a lady’s curves and give her body a beautiful hourglass shape. The use of the corset as body-shaper persisted until World War I, when bodice-like undergarments gave way to bras.

Nowadays, corsets are no more an unpleasant piece of underwear ladies loathe fitting into: they have become a part of mainstream fashion, and are sometimes flashed around parties and fancy dinners sans any tops. A symbol of femininity, high style, and seduction, corsets now come in a host of styles and cuts, and are especially popular among Gothic fashionistas.


If your first association to lace is a wedding gown or Victorian dress, you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past few years. Lavish lace dresses (, 2016) are a major hit among fashion-forward ladies these days: just like their female ancestors in the 16th century, modern girls can’t resist the charisma of lavish ruffs in a range of cuts and designs. Though lace has always been a symbol of high fashion, it was in the 20th century that it saw its mass renaissance thanks to royal ladies like Queen Elizabeth II, Lady Diana, Grace Kelly, and Kate Middleton. 

Today, fancy frills and elaborate crochets are no longer a privilege of noblewomen as they used to be back in the past (Rosie Swash, Imogen Fox, The Guardian, 2011) a 21st-century princess will wear her lace every day, thank you. Catwalks, movie premieres, and similar vogue venues aren’t the only spot where you can catch a glimpse of lacy dresses: having stepped down the pedestal of high fashion, the lush material has taken to the streets, and is now as common a sight in nightclubs and marketplaces as it used to be at coronations and royal weddings.


Another piece of workwear turned fashion statement, bomber jackets (Jessica Bucci,, 2016) went pop back after World War II, and have since then been in vogue in many styles. Initially worn by aviators who needed sturdy protection from wind and freezing temperatures at high altitudes, the bomber jacket was embraced by civilians as of 1950s and has served a symbol of youth rebellion in the decades that ensued. 

Worn with ripped jeans, plain flannel shirts, and leather boots as part of a grunge-style getup, bomber jackets are now mainstream – or at least, as mainstream as they can be in the world where fashion statements are 100% unique even if they draw on time-honoured clothing items.


If you think heels are a symbol of a lady, you’d better think again. The sexy footwear that reigns catwalks today was once worn by men: King Henry II of England is said to have walked around in pointed-toe heeled footwear in an attempt to conceal his deformed toes, and knights of Richard the Lionhearted also wore heeled shoes, albeit for a reason that had more to do with horseback riding and stirrups than toe shape. The French Revolution took a bloody toll on one of the most fashion-forward European nations, and heel height was collateral damage: since 1794, European aristocrats wore heels sizing up to two inches, i.e. up until 1860, which brought the invention of sewing machine and a re-ignited love for heels among both royals and commoners.

Once a status symbol, heels jumped on the mass fashion wagon and became a part of everyday wear for many ladies. These days, fancy female shoes rock chunky platforms, Louboutin-inspired red bottoms, stiletto heels, and wedges, and few – if any – men would dare take them out for a walk around the block.

Fashion trends are dictated by creators who aren’t afraid to experiment and draw on the lessons from the past. Judging by clothing trends as they stand today, conformity is strong, but the need to be different while complying with widely accepted fashion trends is no less powerful (Samantha Lumbert,, Rochester Institute of Technology) . For this reason, it’s not a wonder that olden frills and fancy feathers sometimes pop up and go pop in a somewhat modernised guise. Repetitio mater studiorum est, as the adage goes, and it holds true in both life, art, and fashion as a form of artistic expression.