Arts & CultureDo TikTok’s Fashion Trends Mean More to Gen Z than Sustainability?

Do TikTok’s Fashion Trends Mean More to Gen Z than Sustainability?

What do collared knit halter tops, silk scarves, and Pucci-inspired prints (on everything) have in common? Good ol’TikTok…and Gen Z. If you’re a fashion follower, the chances of you witnessing these trends on your FYP this summer are pretty high.

But when the rate these trends emerge at and disappear from TikTok move faster than the fashion calendar, and Gen Z shoppers embrace and reject them even quicker, one can’t help but question: is Gen Z really all that woke about fashion? 

Digital Trends in Fashion

Since it gained global popularity, TikTok has been a hub for emerging and re-emerging fashion trends, adopted by the upper echelons of the fashion industry all the way down to the general consumer. With its quick, 15-to-180 second videos, users can get bite-sized style tips, discover new brands and learn about the shoe trend of the moment.

Gen Z Spending Power

According to McKinsey & Company’s 2019 State of Fashion report, Generation Z holds  $150-billion spending power across the United States. By 2020, this cohort was set to represent 40 per cent of global consumers. What defines this generation compared to their predecessors is their increased focus on social responsibility in fashion or, rather, woke fashion. 


Sign at a protest reading "you'll die of old age, we'll die of climate change"


What is “Woke Fashion”?

The idea of woke fashion has made its rounds across media outlets, trending Twitter hashtags and Instagram feeds, often aligning with some of the world’s most timely news. During the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, consumers called on fashion’s biggest brands to speak up about racial injustice. With the ongoing threat of climate change, the industry is under extreme pressure by shoppers to commit to sustainability initiatives in hopes for a more circular fashion world. In other words, Gen Z apparently wants fashion to be ethical, or they don’t want it at all.

It seems remiss to assume Gen Z is all about woke fashion and sustainability when the platforms they digest their information from changes by the second. Yes, Gen Z might be the demographic making people give a shit about climate change and a more sustainable, inclusive and diverse fashion system. However, it’s also important to acknowledge this demographic is largely influenced by social media, where the constant desire to keep up appearances and reimagine one’s identity hinders these values and beliefs.

But there is hope.

A person is wearing a crocheted hat my Memorial Day, a brand made popular through TikTok fashion trends

Slow Fashion, Upcycling and Sustainable Materials

With the lockdowns that shut down the world in 2020, users took to TikTok to share the ways they were upping their style game responsibly, be it through upcycling old clothes or creating new pieces with sustainably-sourced materials. Take Delsy Gouw, founder of US-based crochet label Memorial Day, for example. Gouw started her brand during the pandemic as a hobby; but her slowmade pieces rose to fame on TikTok and garnered 29.5k followers in four months. Now, her designs have been worn by the likes of Kaia Gerber and Bella Hadid.

So maybe there is space on social media to share sustainable fashion sources, and there is a demand for more ethically made clothing from Gen Z, but I think we need to combat this trends-driven world, and the way we digest social media hypes, first.



Bianca Zanotti is a Masters of Fashion student.


She is interested in the intersection of luxury fashion and storytelling, and daydreams about jetting off to London.
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